Superintendent search, new middle school lead meetings

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County Public School Board this week continued its discussions about its search for a new superintendent and plans for the county’s proposed new middle school.

Following a community survey conducted by Real Synergy, a firm hired by the School Board to consult on the search, David Martin told the board on Tuesday that area residents enjoy a school district that models camaraderie, communication and a family atmosphere. What they don’t want is high teacher turnover.

The new superintendent needs to be visible in schools, active in the community and should exhibit authenticity, he said.

“Real people can communicate with all segments of the community,” he said.

To further involve the community in the advertisement of a superintendent profile, the School Board will host an online input forum through Dec. 18, beginning with a Dec. 4 public input session, with the time to be determined. The board hopes to hire a superintendent by April.

Access the survey after Dec. 4 at the public schools’ website, http://www.wcps.k12.va.us through the link “Superintendent Search.”

At its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 11, the School Board plans on voting to approve construction drawings of the new middle school — a subject that raised questions at Tuesday’s meeting.

Not exactly what the School Board expected from Ballou Justice Upton Architects of Richmond, the design should better reflect the school division’s budget, according to Fred Hughes, principal architect on the project.

Most notably different from original plans is a downgraded auditorium, which instead of stadium seating offers a flat-floored room with a raised platform stage, movable chairs, a storage area and access to a school band room.

More cost-effective than the performing arts center the district might have pursued, the auditorium add-on isn’t free of challenges, as board member Joanne Cherefko pointed out.

“It’s an add-on, so if we don’t get the funding for it, we don’t have an auditorium at all,” she said.

But according to Hughes, designing the auditorium as an add-on allows the district to address architectural or budgetary problems independently from the rest of the design, so they won’t risk stalling the rest of the building project.

Praising the detail of the $44,274,527 budget provided to his company by Melody Sheppard, assistant-superintendent for administration, Hughes said it’s a tribute to the project that the add-on is so flexible.

“Usually in a middle school, what you might see is a low platform in the dining area, so this is quite a step up,” he said.

By current estimation, the auditorium will seat 350-400, though County Administrator Douglas Stanley observed the county’s other middle school, originally built as a high school, has a 900-person capacity and can fit the entire student body in its auditorium.

Said Cherefko, “Certainly this is not the auditorium that Warren County Middle School is, but we’re hoping that we get this. We need this.”

Closely situated to the school kitchen, the multipurpose room will offer the county a second shelter location in the event of an emergency. The first location is at Skyline High School.

Also featured in the design is an unobstructed first floor through way from the front door to the back door, with a security vestibule at the main entrance where visitors can check in at the front office.

Along the passageway, a circular media center with a barrel vaulted walkway allows clear visibility through glass doors and features bookshelves, offices, a library checkout area, workroom and one of the school’s several computer labs.

Special education classes will be on the first floor to allow for quick evacuation during emergencies. Other classrooms are intended for the second level.

Also stricken from the new design for budgetary reasons is a geothermal mechanical system that uses heat from the earth to fuel the school’s HVAC system.

Instead, rooftop units will provide a cost-effective but environmentally friendly way of heating and cooling the school. The alternative system will offer a quicker return on costs than a geothermal system would have done, according to Eddie Evans, architectural project manager.

Unsure of the life expectancy of the rooftop units, Evans said he would follow up with the School Board before its vote. The roof, which uses algae-resistant asphalt shingles, fiberglass shingles and PVC membrane roofing, should last 40 years. The PVC sections provide walking paths for easy maintenance.

Brick and pre-finished metal provide the building exterior, and a second-story popup section of windows allows an abundance of daylight into the school’s main floor corridor and dining area.

“This is what we think a school in this county ought to look like,” Evans said.

The school is expected to open in fall of 2017, with access points to Happy Creek Road, Shenandoah Shores and new roads expected to be complete during the previous fall.

Other board action:

• The approval of a part-time bus caretaker position with an expected 10 hours a week at or around minimum wage, with job potential for an individual with special needs.

• Awarding of a $26,000 contract for purchase and installation of a vehicle lift at the county transportation building.

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