WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County School Board members have unanimously approved a resolution in support of the countywide meals tax referendum on Nov 5, and are urging voters to approve it.

The board took the action at its meeting Thursday, noting that the division's capital program funding of $1,000,000 is "at a level below the identified capital needs of the Shenandoah County Public Schools" and is "creating a backlog of projects and resulting in inequalities compared to other jurisdictions with adequate capital funding." 

The meals tax in the county's towns generates $3,257,253 and county administrators have proposed a meals tax of up to 4% on county establishments.  The tax must be approved by voters.

Board Chairwoman Karen Whetzel said the schools could use that additional revenue. 

“The longer you put off capital improvements the more expensive they become,” she pointed out. “We just felt it was a good thing to support.”

It is also another avenue to help the county diversify its revenue stream, which it is attempting to do, Whetzel said.

Also Thursday, School Board members heard from the members of the executive board of the Central High School Drama Club, which is composed of Shelby Baker, Katty Becerra de Melo, John Byrd, Margaret Haun, and Noel Shenk.

The students made a presentation for the construction of an auditorium to be used not only by the Drama Club but also by other performance groups such as concert band or for other events such as club banquets, hosting all-district and all-county events, and lectures and seminars.

“We have all been to other schools. We can’t help but feel jealous,” Shenk said.

The students have to use what they call a ‘gymnatorium’ for plays, events, and practices. The space used now acts as a multi-use space with hard bleachers to sit on. They said tarps have to be placed on the floor so furniture and musical equipment do not damage the floors.

The club has not been asked to host any county or regional events because the space is not adequate, the students said.

Shenk noted that a new space is not just for them but would also be more comfortable with better access for the public.

The students showed photos of their space versus dedicated stages and auditoriums at other schools, such as the ones used by East Rockingham and Broadway high schools. The students presented three options:

• Option A: Convert the "gymnatorium" to an auditorium.

• Option B: Find a property and transform it into an auditorium.

• Option C: Build a new building giving them a custom space that could act as an auditorium, community center, and an additional government building.

The group pointed out a few empty lots already owned by the school division: the 3.4 acres behind the School Board office, the property behind Sandy Hook Elementary School and the land behind Peter Muhlenberg Middle School at the corner of Ox and Hoover Roads in Woodstock.

After the presentation, board member Cyndy Walsh said she has witnessed the problems caused by the use of the "gymnatorium," including watching a senior citizen who wanted to attend a production but had to walk away because she was afraid of the tripping hazard of the tarps on the floor and sitting on the hard bleachers for the duration of the production.

Contact Melissa Topey at mtopey@nvdaily.com