, 2014

School facility study
offers six options ranging
from $36.8 to $55.7 million

by Audrey Thomasson

KILMARNOCK—Architects estimate the price tag to bring Lancaster’s aging school buildings into the 21st century could range from $36.8 million for heavy renovations to existing buildings, to a high of $55.7 million for a new combined high and middle school and a renovated existing middle school that would become a primary school.

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The architectural firm of RRMM of Chesapeake and DeJong Richter of Dublin, Ohio, presented the results of a $55,000 facility study in a two-pronged program February 23 and March 9. Both sessions had a light turnout, but last Saturday’s presentation on possible building options attracted only 30 people, including just five parents.

School superintendent Dr. Daniel Lukich criticized the county’s lack of interest in economic development “...because they do not invest in its schools.” He said two things lead to a better community, schools and economic development—and not the addition of a dialysis center.

“The future of this community is not a dialysis center,” said Lukich. “It’s people with young kidneys, not old kidneys. We need young people...What’s the long-term effort in effectiveness? It’s not how many administrators you can cut.”

Lukich was referencing county supervisors’ past comments indicating dissatisfaction that the school system has made budget cuts by eliminating teaching positions while preserving administrative positions.

Architects Duane Harver and Larry Simerson presented six options at Saturday’s session. They said the cost estimates are based on current economic conditions.

Option A would involve moving early childhood through grade 4 students to the middle school building in Kilmarnock, locating grades 5-8 at the existing high school, and building a new high school for grades 9-12. The price tag, including the purchase of property for the high school, is estimated at $52.3 million.

Option B would move early childhood through grade 4 to the middle school building, build a new middle school for grades 5-8, and renovate the high school for grades 9-12. The estimated cost is $49 million.

Option C involves renovating the existing middle school and high school while building a new primary school for early childhood through grade 3. All grades would remain the same at each school. The estimated cost is $41.1 million.

Option D moves the primary school to the existing middle school building, repurposing the existing high school into another function such as a community center or school board office, and building a new combined middle and high school for grades 5-12. The estimated cost is $55.7 million.

Option E involves extensive renovations at all three schools with grades disbursed as they currently exist. The cost is estimated to be $36.8 million.

Option F would consolidate grades 5-8 and 9-12 at the existing high school site, adding a computer technology education center. Early childhood to grade 4 would move to the existing middle school building and the old primary school would be repurposed. The estimated cost is $41.3.

“You didn’t address moving the fourth- and fifth-graders out of the middle school,” said Grace Goodman. “I think it’s inappropriate to have them at the same school with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.”

Lancaster High School principal Dr. Lori Watrous also asked about fitting Pre-K through fifth grade at the existing middle school after renovations.

“That’s not an option we’ve studied. We’d have to talk about it with Dr. Lukich,” said Harver.

“I bring it up because that’s what you said the community was most interested in,” Watrous said.

The ideal situation, said Simerson, is to have Pre-K through grade 5 together, grades 6 through 8 and 9 through 12. The options were based on costs. “We have to look at how we maximize the existing complexes...working with what we have.”

One citizen asked how the addition of fourth-graders at the primary school might impact Title I federal programs which provide funding for programs assisting disadvantaged kids.

“As long as it’s housed in the same school, the other grades would have access to the Title I funds,” said Alicia Carter, who administers grant programs.

One citizen asked the architects to make a professional recommendation.

“There’s a mindset to be thrifty on education,” said William Hakos. “It could help the school board move this forward.”

“We try to be objective about the options,” replied Harver. “But I agree, it [the option selected] should be a strong recommendation and clear path.”

Harver said the next steps include selecting an option, further study of that option, refining costs and obtaining funding, land acquisition, soil testing and environmental studies of selected sites.

“The scope of this study is very limited,” said Lukich. “The next step is to present it to the school board and supervisors.”

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