by Madison White Franks
KILMARNOCK—The Lancaster school board on December 13 received an update on the ongoing study of future school facility needs and authorized “conversations” with owners of possible new school sites.
The school facilities committee has held two of three public meetings scheduled to gather information regarding possibilities, said consultant Bob Moje of VMDO Architects.
“So often people get excited and they are ready to shoot. We would rather spend a lot more time aiming so we can make sure we can help you get the best possible solution,” said Moje.
Proposed sites for possible school construction are on Harris Road across from the Northern Neck Family YMCA and behind Lancaster Middle School in Kilmarnock.
Moje said the public consensus so far seems to be a combination of renovation and new construction. Suggestions have included renovating the current middle school to serve as a primary school and building a new middle and high school.
Committee chairman Jimmie Carter requested authorization to begin related discussions with property owners.
“I have talked to both owners conceptually and they both said yes,” said Carter. “We would like your tactical approval to enter in with conversations with these property owners that would be non-binding, but we are just at a point now to figure out if these are viable sites.”
Board member Joan Gravatt moved to approve the request and board member Kenya Moody seconded the motion. Board members Robert Smart, Bob Westbrook and Audrey Thomasson supported the motion and it passed unanimously, 5-0.
The third schools facilities meeting to receive public input is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, January 5, at the LCPS Annex, 235 School Street, Kilmarnock.
The board approved and signed two memorandums of understanding documents.
Superintendent Steve Parker said the first, a memorandum with the Virginia Department of Education, is non-negotiable because the middle school accreditation was denied.
Although the middle school has shown growth in individual testing, the overall pass rates did not rise to the level that would allow a partially accredited status, he said.
“LMS has made significant process in improving the literacy of our middle school students. We are encouraged by these results and remain committed to positive outcomes for all of our students,” said Parker. “The school board and the school staff will be involved in developing a corrective action plan that is based on the data.”
“If our schools are fully accredited, this all goes away,” said Westbrook.
“This memorandum of understanding is binding unto us until we reach full accreditation or we reach the end of our three years,” said Parker.
The board will hold work sessions on the Thursday before monthly school board meetings to make sure the schools are on the right path with the corrective action plan.
The board approved another memorandum of understanding between the school board and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
The purpose of this document is to establish a mutually beneficial framework within which the school system and law enforcement can work to achieve shared goals for the benefit of the students and to promote their future success, said Parker.
“This is bringing the whole community, law enforcement and the school system together for the benefit of the kids, to intervene early on for kids who may be going in the wrong direction,” said Smart.
Moody moved to approve and Smart seconded the motion, which passed, 5-0.
The board will host the Virginia School Board Association Eastern Region Spring Forum on March 1. Former Sen. Paul Trible will be the guest speaker.
The board voted to have the forum at the Tides Inn where a dinner will be provided to include a salad, entree, sides, dessert and beverages.
Parker recommended a registration fee of $50 for any guests planning to attend.
“They gave us a special rate and we are being very efficient with our money,” said Moody.
“We have to consider what the Tides has already done for our schools,” said Thomasson.
“I think it says something about Lancaster County if we have it at the Tides Inn. I think it’s a no brainer. There may be parking problems but we can overcome those. I would be proud to have it at the Tides Inn,” said Smart.