Shenandoah school land valuable, not forgotten

Almost nine years later, 70 acres of land purchased for about $2.6 million by the School Board and county supervisors in 2009 remains untouched and vacant, despite a shortage of space and crowded class sizes in several of the Shenandoah County schools.

The land is an asset and has not been forgotten, according to Superintendent Mark Johnston.

“While there has been no discussion or specific plan about how these properties would be incorporated into the long term facilities master plan, the School Board can use it for construction or leverage it for other capital investment as needed,” Johnston said.

The master facilities plan suggests, along with several renovations and expansions, the construction of several new buildings. The plan at the elementary school level recommends replacing Sandy Hook Elementary School during Phase 1 in six to 10 years. W.W. Robinson Elementary School would initially receive renovations with potential replacement in 15 to 20 years. Ashby Lee Elementary School would close after the constructions of a new high school and a replacement for Sandy Hook.

A new high school would also be constructed with a 900-seat capacity in a centralized location between the central and southern campuses in Woodstock and Quicksburg.

“Those lands most certainly have not been forgotten and, in fact, is quite valuable to us. Those decisions to acquire the parcels were quite prescient,” Johnston said.

The purchases made during the recession are now assets of substantial value, especially since parcels large enough to accommodate school facilities are becoming scarce, he said.

The School Board owns the properties for future use with no outstanding debt, Johnston said.

Of the 70 acres purchased in 2009, 37 acres are near the central campus at Ox and Hoover roads, and 30 acres are at the northern campus in Strasburg, adjacent to Sandy Hook Elementary.

In November 2008 a School Board resolution was approved directing then-superintendent  Keith Rowland to find two potential sites for intermediate schools, one in or near Strasburg and one in or near Woodstock. Rowland did so and contracts were negotiated.

The 37 acres were purchased at a price of $1.87 million from the Sallie W. Gochenour Trust after half of the property’s total cost was gifted to the School Board by the owners, Johnston said.

The 30 acres were purchased from Ralph D. Stickley and Gloria S. Stickley for $690,000.