13th High School ‘Price Design’ Fails to Win School Board Approval

| November 4, 2015 | 0 Comments | Education
Image from above showing the side view of the new high school prototype.

Image from above showing the side view of the new high school prototype.

A motion to approve the 13th High School “price model” failed Tuesday, in a four-to-four vote by the Prince William County School Board.

The prototype for the school to open in 2020 in the Brentsville district proved a divisive topic. Gil Trenum (Brentsville), Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville), Betty Covington (Potomac) and Milt Johns (Chairman) approved the new prototype, while Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Loree Williams (Woodbridge), Michael Otaigbe (Coles) and Lisa Bell (Neabsco) opposed it.

The prototype was dubbed the price model because it would reduce costs by eliminating some of Patriot’s expensive architectural flourishes. It would also add capacity for 502 more students.

As the new prototype failed, the school division will default back to a previous board vote, which approved the adoption of the Battlefield model without additional capacity. The model would have to be brought to current code.

In advocating for the new design Trenum noted that student populations tend to surpass projected estimates rather quickly, “in one aspect you can say we’re planning to fail.”

He said the price model saves money by delaying the building of another high school and by lowering cost per student by approximately $15,000.

Satterwhite added that new projections show the school will be overcapacity by its third year and there will be nearly 1,000 students that the school division does not yet have a plan for.

However, not all Board members see the issue as Trenum and Satterwhite does.

Williams said it does not make sense to add capacity for classrooms while keeping facilities, such as the auditorium, smaller than at Patriot.

Bell said instead of adopting this hybrid model, it makes more sense to contract an architectural redesign, or to utilize existing buildings that will soon be under capacity.

Otaigbe also opposed the new design explaining, “We have other urgent and important needs like reducing class sizes. We have children in trailers right now.”

But, Jessie went so far as to call the capacity issue a “guise.” She said the real issue was that the community wanted a school more like Patriot.

She juxtaposed the new school issue with existing problems in her district.

“I just have a real problem with providing more space and more visibility and windows and lighting,” Jessie said. “There are second graders in trailers without any windows.”

Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts said new schools and additions would be open by the time the 13th high school was built.

Satterwhite responded with an uncharacteristic emotional plea.

“I’m going to do something I don’t usually do; I’m going to get mad. I’m going to advocate for my kids. Five members of this board voted for Colgan High School with a swimming pool,” she said. “What we’re asking for this 13th high school is 500 extra seats for students we are going to have. We are asking you to support our students…Let’s stop this east west garbage! It’s about all of our students in Prince William County.”

Johns explained that some school board members were slammed in the community over the aquatic center and their fellow board members did not come to their defense. This could be retribution, he said, but he would hope people would not vote that way.

Following the exchange, Board members defended their positions, saying they were considering what is best for children.

Trenum explained that as well as meeting capacity, he also desires to build a nice school for the community. Yet, he still believes he is offering a very fiscally responsible plan. He reminded them that he was the board member who initially suggested a less expensive plan for the school in his own district.

Whether the issue could be revisited depends upon the will the newly elected  board as well as time allowances for the already tight project.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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