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Warren County School Board to pursue $44 million project

By Josette Keelor

The Warren County School Board hopes to break ground on construction of a new middle school by next March or April.

At a School Board meeting last week, the board voted to approve an application for funds that it plans to take to the Warren County Board of Supervisors next month, according to Melody Sheppard, assistant superintendent for administration.

"The thought is that we're trying to secure financing at this point," she said. If funding is approved, the School Board will bid for contractors and plan to break ground on construction in March or April. Sheppard said the board anticipates a 24-month building project and aims to open the new middle school in time for the 2017-18 school year.

She said the School Board's estimated budget ranges between $33 million and $44 million but that the board intends to ask supervisors for the full $44 million.

The higher projection includes plans for an auditorium that Sheppard said might not be in the final building plans. She said the board intends to bid for prices with and without the auditorium before making a decision on spending.

Warren County schools have no capital improvement funds for the coming school year and no other major building projects planned for the near future.

"Capital improvement is anything that is really expensive, and this is the one project that we have going on this year," Sheppard said.

"The Board of Supervisors will have to approve the financing or we won't have a middle school project."

Other topics at the Thursday meeting covered the approval of new staff, including a school nurse at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School and dean at Brighter Futures in Front Royal.

Jerry D. Cave will replace LeeAnn Rhoton as dean of Brighter Futures, effective Aug. 25, and Jean. A Mauck has been appointed Ressie Jeffries school nurse, replacing Susan Berry, effective Aug. 21.

Board members voted to approve funds that would contract speech therapy services to Talk L.C. Teaching Articulation & Language to Kids, which has offices in Charlottesville and Richmond. The county's schools already employ six speech therapists or pathologists and previously have contracted services from Talk L.C., according to Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent of instruction for schools.

"It somewhat depends on the year," Drescher said. "Speech therapists at this point in time are at a premium and high demand."

He said speech therapists work with students with specialized education needs in and outside the classroom, depending on their individualized education plan.

"Generally, it's going to be [an] individual or small group," he said.

Meeting materials stated that Warren schools will pay Talk L.C. up to $70,000 from money previously budgeted for the job position for a contractor working 24 hours a week at $65 an hour, including drive time daily beginning after the speech therapist has traveled for 30 minutes. The position started Monday.

The School Board also announced speech pathologist Amanda Smith as a new hire, She started Aug. 15.

Three advisory committees already in effect at Warren County Public Schools were approved for the coming school year: the Special Education Advisory Committee, the Threat Assessment Advisory Board and the Career/Technical Education Advisory Committee.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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