Board names new school for Warren County

FRONT ROYAL — The name of a new middle school in Warren County will sound like the name of the county’s existing middle school.

At a Thursday meeting, the Warren County School Board voted 3-1 to approve a name change for the existing Warren County Middle School, so a second middle school planned to open in the fall of 2017 can have that name instead.

The existing school on Luray Avenue will be named Skyline Middle School.

Vice-Chair Joanne Cherefko was the only board member to oppose the name change, citing her previous decision when the district surveyed the community on names to give Skyline High School, completed in 2007.

Previously the building at Luray Avenue housed Warren County High School before it moved to Westminster Drive. Cherefko said she chose at the time to support the interest of the majority of survey respondents, who wanted the building to retain the name of Warren County, when it looked as if the middle school would move in.

Ideas at the time included naming a second middle school Warren County Middle School also, with east and west campuses, or building the new school on 15th Street, situating both schools in the Skyline High School district lines and allowing easier naming of the new school Skyline Middle School.

Instead, the new middle school will be east of town off of Happy Creek Road and Leeds Run Parkway and serve Warren County High School.

“I do understand the logic,” Cherefko said, “but I’m going to honor my original choice to keep the Warren County title.”

Other board members present – Board Chair Catherine Bower representing the Fork District, Shenandoah District representative Douglas Rosen and Happy Creek District representative James Wells – voted in favor of the name change. North River District member Arnold M. Williams Jr. was absent.

The board’s decision weighed heavily on the results of a survey the school division posed to the community last month.

Of 2,091 responses, nearly 72 percent of respondents answered they would be in favor of a name change.

In a second survey question, nearly half of the same respondents voted for the name Happy Creek Middle School, should the board have decided instead on keeping the name of the existing school and only naming the new middle school.

Of four name choices, 46 percent voted for Happy Creek Middle and almost 31 percent for Mountain View Middle. The remaining two choices tied for 11.5 percent of the vote.

Switching school names “makes sense,” Bower said. Students from the new Skyline Middle School will matriculate into Skyline High School, while those attending the new Warren Middle School will ascend to Warren County High School.

Herself a graduate of Warren County High School on Luray Avenue, Bower said the building’s history will remain there regardless of a name change.

Though present for the decision in her last board meeting as superintendent of Warren County Public Schools, Pamela McInnis said she would not offer any further recommendations on the board’s decision. However, she pointed out that a name change will require updates to the Luray Avenue building, mainly replacing letters on the front of the school and resurfacing the gym floor, which bears the colors and logo of Warren County Middle School.

“It’s a periodic need anyway,” she said.

The existing Warren County Middle School will retain its name for now, with changes to occur in coordination with the construction schedule of the new middle school.

In other meeting business, the board awarded a construction contract for the new middle school to Howard Shockey & Sons Inc. for the total contract cost of $32,820,000, which includes the cost of an add alternate auditorium that the board also approved at its meeting.

The company offered the lowest bid of five general contractor offers — at its bid of $32,223,000 — which fell below the district’s $33,148,395 budget by 2.8 percent, or $925,395. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard recommended that difference be allocated toward change orders.

The add alternate platform stage, similar to the one at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, was included in the contract for $597,000.

The board also approved the change order procedure for the new middle school, technology expenditures of more than $15,000 and the 2015-16 local consolidated grant application.

The district’s personnel report includes the resignation of Robert Rimmel, assistant principal at Warren County High School.

Kenneth Knesh has been named new assistant principal, effective July 16.

McInnis thanked the board for its support during her 14 years as superintendent.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said.

The next School Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. July 9 at 210 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal.

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