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PRICE Design Fails to Win Enough Support

| June 16, 2016 | 2 Comments | Education
Prince William County Schools shared this image of the front exterior of the 13th high school, according to the new redesign.

Prince William County Schools shared this image of the front exterior of the 13th high school, according to the new redesign.

For the third time, the Prince William County School Board failed to secure the necessary votes to replace the Battlefield design with the PRICE design, which could accommodate more students.

The vote was split evenly four to four.

The decision means that when the 13th high school opens in 2021 in the Brentsville District, it will more resemble Battlefield High School than more recent schools such as Patriot and Colgan, the 12th high school.

The design will include some modern updates, especially those necessary to bring the school to code. It will save the division $10 million in the short term, but cost more per student. The cost is estimated at $115 million for the facility not including land acquisition.

According to Dr. Steven Walts, Superintendent of Schools, the “Battlefield model” was created in the 1970s. The county first purchased it to build Hylton High School, a school that opened in 1991.

In contrast, the PRICE design (Patriot Redesign Increase Capacity Effectively) originally proposed by Gil Trenum (Brentsville) and Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville) was adapted from the design used for Patriot High School in Nokesville, which opened in 2011.

Last October, the proposed PRICE design added additional classrooms on the second floor and Trenum argued the included addition was well worth the cost per student.

At the time, Woodbridge representative Loree Williams said she would prefer the school not only add seats and classrooms but better accommodate those additional students as well.

In response, the updated design placed on the agenda by Willie Deutsch (Coles) and Justin Wilk (Potomac) went further to accommodate those additional students. It increased classroom space by 50 square feet, widened hallways and provided more auditorium seating.

Wilk liked the plan and did not see it as an issue between east and west.

“To me, this is simply financially and fiscally responsible,” he said, explaining that an eight percent increase in cost that yields a 25 percent increase in seats is a good deal.

He noted the egregious overcrowding the west would experience by the time the new school opened with Stonewall Jackson at 179 percent capacity, Battlefield at 156 percent capacity and Patriot at 147 percent capacity.

“This is commonsense for more, and I’m going to support it,” Wilk said.

Trenum and Satterwhite advocated for the school, saying addition capacity was needed as there is only one more high school the school division is planning  and it is not planned in the west.

Satterwhite argued that incorporating the 500 additional seats is cost-friendly. The extra $10 million it costs is less than what any addition added to an existing building would cost.

Trenum explained his process. He looked at comparisons, specifically at high schools Loudoun County built in the last decade. He found that where PWCS was spending above $40,000 per student, Loudoun was spending in the mid-high $30,000s.

He concluded it would be cost efficient for PWCS to spend in the low to mid $30,000s per student.

However, not everyone agreed that the PRICE model should be evaluated on cost-per-pupil.

Occoquan school board member Lillie Jessie once again called the school the “pricey” model. She noted that once land has been purchased, roads and sewers installed, the school could cost the school division $160 million.

Meanwhile, Jessie said her schools have second-grade students in trailers.

The school division’s representative and other board members explained that the eastern end of the county will have its elementary additions, most before the 13th high school opens, but Jessie was not swayed.

Williams stuck to her argument that PWCS should scrap the PRICE model and instead buy a new design. This time, she emphasized it is not just about more space, but building a school for the future.

David Cline, Associate Superintendent for Finance and Support Services, explained that it will cost the school between $5 million and $8 million more to purchase a new design and account for rising construction costs. Moreover, it will push back the school another year: a school that had been delayed three years already.

However, perhaps the biggest impediment is that no one can predict the future; they cannot know what best educational practices will be in 20-40 years. If anything, Cline predicted it would likely include more telecommuting.

Deutsch said if a modern school is what one desires, members should support the PRICE design.

“If we’re talking about a new design, the PRICE design is that,” he said.

Diane Raulston (Neabsco) boiled it down to one sentence about the school, saying “the cost is really high.”

Chairman Ryan Sawyers said he did not know which way he would vote until the end.

“This is one of those decisions that I’m not 100 percent or zero percent on, but that’s the only way to vote at the end of the day,” Sawyers said.

He explained that his decision is not about pitting the east against the west.

Sawyers even said his children might even be zoned to attend the new school, but added, “I wasn’t elected for my two kids.”

Wilk made a last plea for his fellow board members to support the motion.

“The west is still growing…Literally, I just don’t know where we were going to put these kids,” he said.

Ultimately, Sawyers voted against the PRICE model. Jessie, Raulston and Williams joined him. It failed with a tied vote.

Satterwhite said she was saddened to have to go back to her district and tell elementary parents that when their children get to high school there will still be portable classrooms.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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  1. coachsteve says:

    My question is where is the story on the vote after the PRICE model vote? Chairman at Large Sawyers was already fuming over losing his vote on Dr. Bishop when Mr. Trenum sought to suspend the rules and vote that night on a revised board policy that would have avoided the debacle that arose over Dr. Bishop. When Mr. Deutsch objected to the Chairman at Large’s summary dismissal of Mr. Trenum’s motion the Chairman at Large became positively unhinged. He was completely in the wrong twice. He acted in a dictatorial manner, was rude, violated the new bullying policy, and then he “unrecognized” Mr. Deutsch in a manner not permitted under Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised. A. Mr. Trenum may move to suspend the rules and vote on the policy which was there for a third reading, not a first reading. B. Chairman at Large Sawyers may not unilaterally rule his motion out of order. C. Mr. Deutsch may raise a point of order. D. Once raised, Chairman at Large Sawyers may certainly rule incorrectly, at which point…D. Mr. Deutsch may appeal from the ruling of the chair, which he did. At that point, Chairman at Large Sawyers is required to put the appeal to a vote, not unilaterally take control like a Stalinist Bully Dictator.

  2. KuroHouou says:

    This seriously makes me want to move! I can’t believe these idiots who did not vote for a better school for our children. It’s just a shame for all the money that is coming into the western part of PWC now with all the new development, were getting stuck with a smaller and a 30 year old design that will adversely affect the learning ability of our children. Just sickens me. These people that voted against it should be fired and never allowed to work for children again!

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