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Residents discuss Fauquier High renovations at town hall

Thursday, Dec. 13 | By Alisa Booze Troetschel
Supervisor Chris Granger, left, and school board member Brian Gorg, right, lead at town hall discussion on renovations to Fauquier High School Wednesday at the Warren Green building in Warrenton. Photo by Alisa Booze Troetschel
A lack of trust in local elected officials came through loud and clear Wednesday night during a town hall meeting on the renovations of Fauquier High School.

School board member Brian Gorg and Supervisor Chris Granger convened the meeting to get public input on the renovation project at the Warrenton school.

The meeting was held in the Warren Green Building in Warrenton. Both Gorg and Granger represent Center District. Roger Sites, the principal of FHS, was also on hand at the session.

A common theme was that spending for the new addition seemed to take precedence over renovations to the existing structure.

"The [school] board has their agenda," said Janet Evans, a parent of three FHS students. "I'm beyond being fed up with this."

There has been little opportunity to express her views, she said, except for the three minute pubic comment period during school board meetings.

Although she comes to school system building committee meetings, the public is not allowed to speak, she said.

Several individuals expressed appreciation to Gorg and Granger for taking the initiative to listen to them.

"I want to be able to trust my board of supervisors and school board members," said John Green, adding that seeking additional funds to complete the renovations violates the funding and scope agreement made in 2011 between the board of supervisors and the school board.

The agreement specifies a cost of $32.8 million for the addition and renovation of FHS. Additionally, it states that the school board will not request bond funding for a period of 15 years.

Gorg was critical "of a school system that allowed itself to be locked into the agreement." He called the action "poor governing."

Supervisors Granger and Peter Schwartz, members of the school board/supervisors liaison committee, asked school division staff for cost estimates to complete renovations to the 300 and 700 wings, and modifying the 1979 section of the 100-200 wing to make it inhabitable after demolishing an older section built in 1963.

The total funding required is $4.1 million. Cash funding is not readily available from either the school division or county coffers.

"If you fix it with cash," Granger said, "it's going to come right out of the classrooms." Therefore, bond funding would be necessary.

"I'm as concerned as the next guy about the money we're spending," said Gorg.

However, he supports renovating the 700 wing and getting the performing arts area up to par with Kettle Run and Liberty high schools.

The liaison committee discussed retaining the 1979 section of the 100-200 wing and tearing down the 1963 section. This is the proposal that Granger and Schwartz will bring to the board of supervisors. Granger cautioned that six members of the school board and board of supervisors combined favor demolishing both sections.

Parents from the community and FHS faculty have argued the advantages of keeping the entire wing, stating that it provides needed storage space, and allows classes taught in the windowless Annex building to relocate.

Should part or all of the 100-200 wing be retained, it would facilitate moving about 200 students from Kettle Run High School to FHS to alleviate overcrowding at Kettle Run, Granger said.

Otherwise, FHS will gain at most three classrooms from the addition/renovation project.

Lack of involvement by school staff in planning, to the detriment of the project, was another topic of discussion.

Granger said that it would have been advantageous if school staff had more input.

"I know from the past that the people over in the school understand the issues," he said.

Gorg concurred.

"We had a top-down approach to this," he said. "We did not talk to people on the ground."

FCPS encountered a backlash protesting the destruction of the FHS mosaic as part of the project, Gorg said that he received more than 200 emails, some of which were from other parts of the nation.

The mural, illustrating a variety of academic disciplines, has existed since FHS opened its doors in 1963.

While neither official said that the cause was hopeless, neither offered any encouragement.

Granger offered assurances that, details would be spelled out in the new agreement describing the completion of the renovation.

"I'm not beyond putting all that minutia in the agreement," Granger said.

A new agreement is contingent upon the board of supervisors' approval of the funding request for $4.1 million.
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