Board votes for second design, new school buses

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County School Board voted unanimously to approve a second alternate add-on space to the auditorium design of the county’s new middle school, as well as the purchase of two school buses Thursday evening.

The second alternate will cost $92,500 to design and $880,000 to construct. Unlike the first design, which featured a movable stage akin to choir risers, the second alternate will be a permanent stage and allow up to 350 folding seats. The new design will set construction back by 60 days.

The cost of the design will be covered by a $205,000 surplus in the school’s $44.27 million construction budget.

Melody Sheppard, assistant superintendent of administration, said the School Board has both the funds and the time for the design.

Doug Rosen, the Shenandoah district representative, said he is satisfied with the second design, citing more choices moving forward.

“We don’t know how the bidding process will work out, so it’s nice to have this option there for when the time comes to approve the overall design,” Rosen said. “There was something missing and I think this alternate rounds out the overall design.”

Pam McInnis, superintendent of Warren County schools, said while the new design will set back construction by 60 days, approval by the board would allow her office to contact the architects and start the design work immediately.

The board also approved a $191,998 purchase of two Thomas 77 passenger school buses.

Following a brief presentation by Sheppard, Roy Boyles, the North River district representative, asked if there was any possibility the county could lease, rather than buy the buses.

Sheppard said there was already a surplus in the school district’s budget and leasing the buses would cause the School Board to allocate $10,000 to $20,000 to the School Board budget annually for five to 10 years.

Robert Ballentine, the school system’s director finance, said the purchase made financial sense, citing the school district recently paid off a seven year lease-to-own agreement for some school buses.

“Because this is one-time surplus money, we can use it for a one-time cost, as opposed to something recurring that will have to be built into the budget every year,” Ballentine said. “We certainly don’t know if the money will always be available in the years to come.”

Catherine Bowers, Fork district representative and board chair, asked Sheppard what the lifespan of a bus is. Sheppard said a school bus typically lasts about 12 years but can be extended to 15 depending on how many miles it accumulates and regular maintenance.

The School Board also approved a resolution to authorize bill payments in emergency situations and months when the School Board only meets once. Before Thursday’s vote, the School Board had to approve the payments before the finance office could actually pay.

Ballentine said the resolution would save the district money in interest charges, late fees and penalties and the costs would still be submitted to school board after the fact.

Along the same lines, the board also approved a resolution to pay district employees and bus drivers under contract without School Board approval.

Ballentine said, “We’re not going to be hiring or paying anyone else without your approval. This only applies to those already on the payroll.”

The School Board also accepted donations of school supplies from Wal-Mart to Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School and Kye Ann Mumford’s 2002 Buick to the automotive repair program at Blue Ridge Technical Center.

It also approved the addition of a new AP studio art class and a biomedical class to the 2015-2016 curriculum.

The School Board will meet again at 5 p.m. Jan. 22 in the Warren County School Board Office conference room at the Warren County Government Center.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com