Board picks firm to evaluate school crowding

WOODSTOCK — At a special Wednesday night meeting, the Shenandoah County School Board approved a vendor that will provide a facility evaluation of schools.

Board members voted to hire HBA Architecture and partner firm DeJong Richter for the sum of $26,000 to provide a short-term solution to overcrowding issues that schools can begin implementing by the fall of 2016.

The board received 13 responses to the request it submitted on May 27. District 4 board member Katheryn Freakley said she felt comfortable in the firms the board chose.

“They’re here to make sure our kids are going to be taken care of,” Freakley said. “That’s why they’re in business.”

Though the bid was a little higher than the $22,000 ballpark rate board members proposed earlier this spring, Director of Finance Cynthia Page said the bid of $26,000 was discounted from a first bid of $32,500 for 252 hours of work. The final bid includes $4,000 for estimated expenses.

The $22,000 estimate was what the board paid for an evaluation of schools in 2006, said Board Chairman Richard L. Koontz Jr.

“That was a starting point,” he said.

The board approved the short-term plan after considerable discussion on the benefits of investing in a quicker solution at the possible risk of not completely solving crowding issues in two of the district’s three elementary schools.

The board also asked that the firms evaluate the district’s current use of space; demographics of school enrollment, based on the first five school days of the 2015-16 academic year; and consider the district’s future needs before it might implement a long-term plan.

Said Koontz, “I’m only willing to spend the money if we’re going to get some answers.”

The board turned down the offer of a long-term plan for $150,000, an expense that Page said is “more than we could bear at this moment.”

The board’s approval of the memorandum of agreement authorizes Superintendent Jeremy Raley to make further changes to the agreement in the best interest of the School Board if merited and if those decisions maintain the essential terms of the agreement.

Other meeting business included a discussion about closing schools on Nov. 3 for Election Day so the community has access to schools without having to deal with so much traffic on the central campus. The board plans revisit the discussion at its July 16 meeting and vote on whether or not to close schools this year and continue to allow the electoral board access to school after the upcoming school year.

Closing schools that day will add another instruction day to the calendar next June.

The board will meet for a 5 p.m. work session on July 16 before its 7 p.m. regular meeting at 600 Main St., Woodstock.

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