Board OKs design for new school

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County School Board voted Thursday to approve construction documents for a new middle school, exchange surplus property with the county for land on which to build the school and authorize a search for building contractors.

The new middle school will cost an estimated $44,271,527, as proposed in plans from Fred Hughes and Eddie Evans of Ballou Justice Upton Architects, originally presented to the School Board in a Nov. 25 meeting.

Included in the plans is space for one of two add alternates allowing for a stage in the student commons area and up to 350 seats. One alternate would offer a flat floor with a built-in stage and the second a platform stage.

Designed for 800 middle school students, the school will be 154,800 square feet on 31.91 acres.

The building site is intended for the Leach Run property, which the county owns and the School Board can obtain in a trade of surplus land on the south end of John Marshall Highway east of town — 107.06 acres that the county Board of Supervisors approved for conveyance to the School Board at its March 17 regular meeting.

It’s a win-win for the School Board, which escapes claiming the land as debt, and the county, which can use the property as park land or something similar, said Superintendent Pamela McInnis.

“I think it’s a great way for the county to use the property,” she told the board. “… and for us to have the Happy Creek property that is certainly much more suitable for us.”

The surplus Environmental Study Area was federal land deeded to the county in the 1970s to use for educational purposes for at least 30 years, Director of Finance Rob Ballentine explained. The school system has used the land for classrooms and nature trails, but he said its distance from town makes it impractical for placement of a new school.

The exchange would take place under Section 22.1-129 of the Code of Virginia, concerning surplus property and declaring that the sale, exchange or lease of real and personal property allows for the exchange of real property; and Section 22.1-129(A), stating the board may sell or convey property it determines not of use to the school district.

Other meeting business included the election of School Board South River District representative Joanne Cherefko as vice chairman, following the April 1 resignation of Vice Chair Roy Boyles.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Greg Drescher announced Amy Gubler as the new principal of Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School, replacing Brenda Ring; Justin Mafei as instructional specialist of the county’s STEM program, replacing Diedra Cardamone; and Michael Smith as principal of Skyline High School, replacing Andrew Keller.

Smith, previously dean of students at Skyline and now assistant principal at Sherando High School in Frederick County, will begin effective July 1.

Gubler and Mafei are both leaving Rappahannock Public Schools. Gubler will join Warren County schools on July 1 and Mafei on Aug. 1.

The board also announced it will accept letters of interest for a new School Board member to fill the North River District seat. Applicants have until 4 p.m. April 17 to submit letters of interest, and the board plans to hold interviews before and, if necessary, after its next regular meeting at 5 p.m. on April 23.

State law and the School Board’s policy require the filling of a vacant School Board seat within 45 days of the office being declared vacant. The deadline to fill the seat is May 16.

At its next meeting, the board plans to approve the fiscal year 2016 budget, salary scales and Special Education Annual Plan and discuss names for the new middle school.

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