School Board discusses facilities

WOODSTOCK – In anticipation of the coming school year, parents in Shenandoah County continued to press the need for long-term solutions to the overcrowding of schools like W.W. Robinson Elementary and Sandy Hook Elementary at a School Board meeting this week.

Three members of Parent’s Alliance for Strong Schools spoke during Thursday’s meeting on agenda items about the study of county school facilities in progress. Superintendent Jeremy Raley and the board discussed community and administrative concerns on overcrowding and the evaluation process.

Woodstock parent Michelle Manning commented on an email she sent to the board that asked members to include long-term solutions along with short-term ones.

Although the board recognized the need for both, members discussed options to see the committee’s proposal through to the October presentation or to review the plan and possibly add items back that were dropped off.

Board member Kathryn Holsinger began discussion on the agenda item with a more urgent view on the issue after attending the community stakeholder’s meeting last week.

“I just can’t get over the frustration that I saw in our staff and some of our community, and I have the same concerns,” she said.

She asked the board to reevaluate and expand the study to include more discussion of those long-term solutions, and mentioned her grandchild starting kindergarten in a Winchester classroom of 16.

“The education that my grandchild is getting in Winchester is so much better funded than here,” she said.

Vice Chairman Karen Whetzel said she wanted to hear what the committee would have to say after the update at the second stakeholder’s meeting on Aug. 25 and the recommendation to come in October. Chairman Richard L. Koontz Jr. called for patience to hear out the first step of the plan, which he said still addressed the immediate concerns of the community.

“We don’t even know what they’re going to come back with,” he said. “I think we need to hear their recommendations.”

HBA Architecture and partner firm DeJong Richter began evaluation on July 27, including interviews with staff and community members. Koontz informed those at the meeting that the firms would present data for public discussion at the Aug. 25 stakeholder meeting.

Superintendent Jeremy Raley reminded the board that there is a long-term add-on option to the scope of the request for proposals the board approved in May. The add-on, however, will require additional future capital improvement funding and approval.

Ultimately, no formal action was made to revisit the original proposal at Thursday’s meeting. A final presentation and recommendation is scheduled for the Oct. 8 School Board meeting.

School Board member Katheryn Freakley thanked those who supported the study and called for their continued presence at future meetings to voice concerns.

“We can have the perfect road map – we have to be able to fund it,” she said. “And that’s a community-based decision, your community has to want that for your kids.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com