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Supervisors give go-ahead for funding FHS renovations

Tuesday, Jan. 15 | By Alisa Booze Troetschel
--Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
With a 3-2 vote, the board of supervisors approved the issuance of up to $4.1 million of general obligation bonds to fund renovations to Fauquier High School (FHS).

The vote came during a public hearing Thursday night in the auditorium of Warrenton Middle School.

Supervisors Chris Granger (Center District), Holder Trumbo (Scott District) and Peter Schwartz (Marshall District) supported the measure.

Supervisors Lee Sherbeyn (Cedar Run District) and Chester Stribling (Lee District) opposed the bond application.

The renovations are part of the overall FHS renovation project that includes the construction of a four-story addition at the front of the school.

Total project costs were initially budgeted at $32.8 million.

The vote followed a public hearing. Five residents spoke for 10 minutes, largely opposing the bond application.

The actual estimated cost of the renovations is $3.6 million. It may cost as much as $500,000 to pay for the sale of the bonds.

However, County Administrator Paul McCulla told the supervisors that staff expects the total funding to be below $3.65 million.

The money will pay to renovate the 300 and 700 wings of FHS, as well as the part of the 100-200 wing that was built in 1979.

The 1963 section of the 100-200 wing will be demolished this summer.

As part of the renovation, the heating and cooling system will be upgraded to the new geothermal system, plus more efficient lighting will be installed.

Design is 95 percent complete for the 700 wing, which includes biology classrooms.

Design has yet to begin on the 300 wing.

The renovation of the 1979 section involves sealing up the building and putting in a small addition for stairs, an elevator, restrooms, and connecting utilities. The existing heating and lighting systems would be retained.

The 1979 section is 18,000 square feet, and houses 12 classrooms.

Some parents had advocated keeping the entire 100-200 wing. Melanie Burch from Scott District said at the meeting that residents do not want to hear about building another high school in five years.

The student population of Kettle Run High School is expected to exceed its maximum student population in the 2014-15 school year.

FHS is located in Center District that Granger represents. The four-story addition is intended to replace the space provided by the 100-200 wing, he said.

By keeping the 1979 section, as opposed to the original plan of demolishing the entire 100-200 wing, the maximum student population of Fauquier High School becomes 1,800 students, which places it at 67 percent capacity.

Tom LaHaye from Marshall District said that the requested $4.1 million would be insufficient. There will be "more trips to the trough," he said.

Granger cautioned that these renovations are not the end of the work required at FHS.

"We're living in a dream world if we think we're not going to renovate in 15 years," said Granger.

The additional funding will bring "all core areas of the high school up to snuff," Granger said. And it will allow all core classes to get out of the windowless annex, which can be used for storage.

Trumbo spoke of how special-education classes are now held in annex classrooms.
"They're nothing but a dungeon," Trumbo said.

Schwartz told the assembly that a new high school would cost $75 to $98 million.

"At the end of the day, we will have spent about $37 million," Schwartz said, and will have a "superb facility for our children."

But Sherbeyn said he wanted to have a clear picture of what will be done before giving approval.

Stribling objected to placing the debt burden on taxpayers. And he likened the school board to children on a shopping trip. "You might as well get the wallet and keep it out," he said.

"You get into projects, and you don't always know what you're going to get into," said Trumbo, regarding the additional funding.

"We have kicked the can down the road too many times," Trumbo said.

"My eyes are set on doing what is right for our children," Trumbo said. He has three children, one of whom attends FHS now, one who did, and one who probably will.

"I'm sure the rest of the board will be as pleased as I am," said Donna Grove, school board chairman. "The end result will be a much better school, a more efficient environment and a better learning environment for our students and staff."

In a school board meeting Monday night, Raymond E. "Duke" Bland thanked the supervisors for their approval.

The supervisors are modifying the Funding and Scope Agreement For the Renovation of Fauquier High School, said Janice Bourne, assistant superintendent for administration. Once finished, they will send it to the school board.

The agreement was made in June 2011. Among other stipulations, it caps the total cost of the addition and renovations at $32.8 million. And it specifies that the 100-200 wing remains intact.

Several residents -- one of the most vocal is budget hawk John Green -- have cited this agreement in their opposition to funding the renovations.

The school board will apply to the Virginia Public School Authority to participate in the spring bond sale. Funding may be available in June, said Bourne.
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