Vote to include request for new school design

FRONT ROYAL — At tonight’s meeting, members of the Warren County School Board will vote to consider a second alternate add-on space to the building design they have yet to approve for the county’s new middle school.

One of two possible add-on alternates, it would provide the school with an auditorium attached to a dual-purpose dining space, Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard told county supervisors at a special Wednesday morning board meeting.

Not currently in the building design provided by Ballou Justice Upton Architects, the add-on would require the board to spend $92,500 for a new design. But Sheppard said the cost would be covered using some of the $205,000 saved from the construction budget.

The current budget for the school is $44,271,526.

Neither add-on is necessary to the building of a new middle school, Sheppard said, but without it, the school’s only auditorium space will fit 250 folding chairs and a stage similar to a chorus riser she said will fold up “like a ping pong table” and store away when not in use.

“You wouldn’t be able to use it during the school day, so I think that is the biggest con,” she said.

The first add-on, approved by the Board of Supervisors and included in the base bid, will cost $2,271,800 and allow for a full-height stage, theater-style sound and lighting systems and flat-floor seating for 330 folding chairs, or 500 if extended into the student commons dining area.

Significantly less expensive at $880,000, the second add-on would seat up to 350 in the student commons. It adds 16 feet of auditorium space to the commons, instead of 48 feet added in the first design. Although without theater-style lighting and sound, it offers platform staging.

Students rehearsing programs would have use of the stage during the first, second and fourth period blocks, rather than having to disassemble the stage to accommodate lunchtime crowds.

Superintendent Pamela McInnis suggested the second design for bid, citing other projects the district might pursue if it can save $1.5 million by choosing the cheaper alternate add-on auditorium.

“We can certainly make due with a moveable stage, but that to me would not benefit our students and the community as much as this model,” McInnis said.

“We have so many outside community agencies or groups that use our facilities on a regular basis,” she said. “They are always looking for some kind of space like this where there is some kind of performance capability.”

Chair of Supervisors Richard Traczyk praised her words as “a really good sales pitch,” and Supervisor Archie Fox called the idea “the best compromise.”

“I think this would be acceptable,” Fox said. “You’re not getting the Taj Mahal, but you’re getting a workable solution.”

The board expects a new design within 60 days to consider before approving and authorizing construction documents to bid in March. Starting four months later than intended, the new schedule plans for completion in June 2017, with school starting that August.

“We’re still ahead of the curve,” Sheppard said.

The board will meet for its regular meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at 210 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or