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New Kerr Elementary plan moves forward

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A Winchester School Board panel has backed a proposal to build a new John Kerr Elementary School farther down the hill from the current facility. Dennis Grundman/Daily

City School Board to consider panel's recommendation

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A city School Board panel on Friday backed building a new John Kerr Elementary at the existing site.

Specifically the buildings and grounds committee forwarded to the board a recommendation that the system build a new, 90,000-square-foot John Kerr to serve about 650 pupils on the existing site. Early estimates put the cost of such a school building at more than $28 million.

But the board also needs to quell overcrowding at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, and the panel supported the installation of modular classrooms for more space until the division can afford to expand the building.

"We have a problem right now at Frederick Douglas and that's why the first recommendation was the modulars and get them going and get them configured," board member David W. Heglas said.

Meanwhile, John Kerr has outlived its life after 40 years, officials have said.

"John Kerr is done," Heglas said. "It's useful life is over. We're living on borrowed time and, knowing that, the closer we are to an unexpected expenditure, not in the tens of thousands of dollars but in the hundreds to a million dollars, with the HVAC, the roof systems, if some of those systems fail."

Board Chairman Barry Deuel noted the school system has an opportunity to build a new John Kerr on land it owns. But funding remains an issue and, as Deuel said, the board may need to wait until 2014 to request City Council begin funding its requests for the Kerr project.

An elementary school expansion feasibility study conducted by Grimm and Parker estimates it would cost $28.6 million to renovate and expand the current John Kerr. The study shows an estimated cost of $28.3 million to build a new John Kerr on the existing school property. It would cost an estimated $27.6 million to build a new John Kerr on a different site, according to the study. If the board chose the middle option, and built a school on the current property, the field area downhill from the facility, the former building would be demolished and the area then turned into a soccer field, officials said.

As Heglas advised, the estimates do not include many other costs associated with the construction of a school facility, such as designs and environmental work.

The project steering committee also recommended the school system look at the expansion of Frederick Douglas once the Kerr project has completed.

Options for Frederick Douglass include renovation and expansion of the existing school, with each choice to include more additions for classroom space and other amenities.

Ultimately the last option calls for the addition of eight classrooms, a new gymnasium and music suite, a bigger kitchen and cafeteria, better bus and car drop-off area, and a reduced enrollment.

The study estimates the cost for such options to range from $7.9 million to $15.4 million.
City Council member Les Veach asked how much time the money spent on the projects would buy the school system until it would need to look address space issues again.

McKew didn't specifically answer Veach's question. However, McKew said that the population did not level out as predicted years ago. Rather it increased. McKew said Frederick Douglass could accommodate additional growth in the pupil population.

The panel agreed to forward the recommendation to the School Board for its next regular meeting at which members could approve the measures.

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