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Shenandoah supervisors get plans for old school, courthouse

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Officials are reviewing plans to open a regional school for special-needs children in the old Edinburg Middle School. Rich Cooley/Daily file

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK --Preliminary plans show that converting the old Edinburg Middle School into a special-needs school and renovating the historic county courthouse would cost an estimated $5.7 million, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors learned Thursday.

Ben Motley, of RRMM Architects, presented partial site and design plans to the panel.
Last September, the supervisors agreed to enter into an interim agreement with Caldwel and Santmyer Inc., which had submitted an unsolicited Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act proposal to the county.

That agreement resulted in a 35-percent project design, 80-percent site plan and a cost estimate done by RRMM Architects.

Remaking the old school into an educational facility for emotionally disturbed and autistic students, as well as a space for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging senior center and parks and recreation programs, would be the larger of the two projects.

"As a firm, we always try to be very respectful of the context that we're working in," Motley said.

That's why the school's large front yard will be preserved, he said.

Motley said the school was in good condition.

"The facility has not been messed with a lot over the years," he said. "There's not a lot of things that have to be undone. In our opinion, it's a good investment for redaptive reuse."

On the first floor, there would be three classrooms for autistic students, a multi-use classroom and a training room as well as the cafeteria and gym.

"One of the main challenges of this project ... is there's five different floor levels," Motley said.

The cafeteria is several feet lower than the main floor, while the gym is several feet higher. There is a raised stage in the gym, as well as a second story.

Elevators would be added to the school, as well as Americans with Disability Act-compliant ramps.

The entrance to the school would be through a second-floor vestibule, which, because of the site's grade, is ground level at the rear of the building. That would be in a new addition, which would have a horticulture classroom on the lower level.

Besides a vestibule and waiting room upstairs, there would be a director's office, a conference room and five classrooms for students with emotional disturbances.
"We really are able to use a whole lot of the existing school," Motley said.

While the school's "bones" are good, he said, the electrical and plumbing systems need to be replaced. The windows will be replaced with ones that will keep the school's historical integrity, according to the architect.

While the Edinburg school project would cost an estimated $4.4 million, the courthouse plan would run around $1.3 million, Motley said.

The latter project would include upgrading the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as stabilizing the structure, Motley said. He said the exterior is in pretty good condition, but recommended that the roof be replaced.

The historic courtroom, which is in the original 1700s portion of the courthouse actually requires the least amount of retouching, Motley said. A visitors' center is planned off of one side of the courtroom, and Shenandoah County Historical Society offices on the other.

Judge's chambers would go where the holding cells are off of the more modern courtroom.

And, the former clerks' offices would be converted into two community rooms, according to Motley. The building would also be made ADA-accessible. Offices and a work room for the historical society would be upstairs, he said.

Assistant Shenandoah County Administrator Mary Beth Price said the next step in the process would be a comprehensive agreement.

"You need to respond," Motley said. "Have we hit the mark? Do we need to adjust anything?"

If the board approved of the plans, the fine points of a comprehensive agreement would be negotiated, he said.

Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley said the board would be taking the plans under consideration and thinking of some further questions.


With all due respect to Supervisor Helsley, here is the first question that I thought of, "How are we going to pay for this?"!

By increasing the 'placeholder' for our Real Estate taxes back up to 8 cents and then probably voting for a 10 cent hike in the end.

maybe it's time to replace our aging County Administrators, Poling and Taylor have out lived their uselessness!!!

I am tired of paying more for special needs groups. What is our tax dollars going to for education? Is not special needs included in this part of the process. 4.4 million for what?

I agree with Old Clunker, I too am tired of paying for more special needs groups. These are the types of issues that our elected officials need to confront head on and just say flat out, we no longer can afford to fund these projects.

I may be getting old and out of touch, if I am someone will certainly point it out in this forum however; are there really $4.4 million dollars worth of emotionally disturbed and autistic students? What consitutes the meaning of emotionally disturbed and autisitic students anyway.

If we are to fund this type of facility, when broke, someone better get out in front and explain (WHY?).

This type of investment will, in the end, bring in the revenue we need to help fund our school system. Does anyone have any idea how many special needs children in this county we ship out to other organizations and school systems so that these children can get the help they need that we cannot provide, simply based on the numbers? There are plenty. This will remain as part of our public school system and will allow us to take in other students from other counties, charging them for thier students to come to our facility, the same as we are doing and paying now for sending kids to other schools.

ED and Autsistic kids have a hard time functioning in social settings and need special help adapting to social situations so that "normal" people will stare less. This also helps them gain some type of employment, which in many cases, can help to reduce or eliminate thier need to use the welfare system....less of tax payers money paying for people who can work and choose not to.

As for where the money comes from? There are ways of getting money without raising taxes. There are grants to do what the school system wants to do here. SPecial education is a very costly type of education to provide to our kids, but the rewards are great. Most people complain because their school system is not doing enough to educate their children....not when they are trying to find a way to provide that education and to help offset the cost of that education to the public. I don;t like paying any more taxes then the next person, but I can certainly see how this endeavor can be beneficial in the long run...to the students, the school system and the taxpayers.

I hope Edinburg is ready for the influx of criminal activity given a free pass under the guise of ED, etc.

Most of these "alternative education" facilities are nothing more rubber rooms for trouble kids until they meet the state mandatory minimums. The people needing the services the most benefit the least because of the disturbances created. Don't take my word for it, a kid was just convicted in Warren Co. for bring a gun to one of these "schools".

Think "Mainstreaming" instead of isolating Special Needs kids. It's less expensive, more effective and less disruptive. The only problem is educating our teachers and other students to be more supportive of creting a positive environment.

In a perfect world with unlimited resources our schools could provide the staff and facilities needed for special education, but that is not the reality of today's schools. No Child Left Behind and other laws REQUIRE all children to be taught in our public schools, regardless of their physical or mental disabilities. Money that might be spent on educating the gifted and/or future, producive citizens of tomorrow is redirected to children with special needs. And every year the song and dance begins, "where will the money come from?" This current situation is illogical and if the rich folk had to send their kids to the public schools, you would see change or serious REFORM, but like everything else, decisions are made by those who do not live by them.

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