School Board Squabbles over 13th High School Design

| October 22, 2015 | 0 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.

In discussing the hybrid Patriot model or “Price model” for Prince William’s 13th high school at Tuesday night’s School Board meeting, members grilled school officials and questioned the equality in the building of schools on different sides of the county.

The new prototype for a western Prince William high school, to open in 2020, is designed to add capacity and reduce cost; the high school would relieve crowding at Patriot, Battlefield and Stonewall Jackson high schools.

The design was on the school board agenda for “info,” but it will not be voted upon until Nov. 4.

Associate Superintendent of Finance and Planning, David Cline, explained that hybrid “Price model” prototype could accommodate 504 more students than Patriot or Battlefield high schools while costing $6.25 million less than the Patriot High School model and $4,000 less per student than the Battlefield model.

This model saves money by simplifying Patriot’s façade, reducing the auditorium to 800 seats and eliminating the rotunda and some high vaulted ceilings. It adds more capacity by reconfiguring seven classrooms and adding a second floor to the CTE wing.

Cline suggested the Price model is modern like Patriot and provides natural light through an abundance of windows.

Brentsville School Board member Gil Trenum worked with staff create the Price model. Knowing Battlefield and Patriot had both been over capacity within three years of opening, he said he began to think in terms of cost per student.

“The bottom line is…comparison on a per student basis, we were spending about 20 percent more [than Loundon county] for the schools we were building,” Trenum said. “It’s opportunity to not just catch up but do a little anticipation for the future.”

He also said it would be an attractive school that the community would appreciate.

Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville) applauded the new model and what the administration had been able to do.

“Both of us was concerned with capacity for Battlefield High School, Stonewall Jackson High School and Patriot High School and to bring forward a plan showing us an increase for 24 classrooms and adding capacity for 504 students was beyond what I had expected. I am very, very excited about this,” Satterwhite said.

Satterwhite expressed concerned that with a larger student body the 800 seat auditorium might be insufficient to serve students along with faculty members during a class meeting. She requested cost comparisons and feasibility for building a 1,000 seat auditorium. The auditorium at Patriot has 1,200 seats.

Other Board members raised questions how a new prototypes could easily be designed, without incurring prohibitive costs of creating new architectural plan.

Dr. Michael Otaigbe (Coles) asked Cline if it was so easy to find millions in savings in less than a month, would it be possible to build the school for free.

Lisa Bell of the Neabsco district thought if it could have been done, it would have been offered for Charles J. Colgan, Sr. High School, which includes an aquatic center and came in as the most expensive in the Commonwealth.

“It’s very frustrating when we were presented a plan like Colgan, we were told we cut every inch of what we could cut off, and now we come with a hybrid plan modifying Patriot, so I guess that’s the frustration for me,” Bell said.

Superintendent, Dr. Steven Walts said that modifications are included, but new architectural designs would be costly. Additionally, Cline said it would set them back an entire year.

Chairman Milt Johns told Bell that she was off topic. He said he prefers to listen to the professionals in the administration instead of listening to people commenting on the Internet.

Johns said in this situation he would support the Price model but he would have also supported the Patriot model.

Lillie Jessie (Occoquan) detailed what she perceived as an inequity between schools on the western and eastern end of the county and questioned if additional capacity was necessary since western citizens have expressed that they did not want the Stone Haven Development because they did not want additional people.

She applauded Trenum and Satterwhite for effectively advocating for their districts, but said it’s time she did the same for the east.

“I’m going to have to become the Trenum of the east,” Jessie said.

Particularly, Jessie complained that elementary schools in the east are overcrowded and students, even second graders, were in trailers. She said that the western end is now caught up and their three newest elementary schools: Christopher Yung, Haymarket and the Nokesville School were all under capacity.

The issue of inequity was not off topic, because it would affect how she voted on the issue, she said.

Claiming the capacity issue seems to her to be a ploy to get a nicer school, she asked Cline if he believed the 13th high school would really be over capacity. responded that his projections do indicate that the 13th high school will be over capacity by year three.

Furthermore, he also said that there is relief for those eastern elementary schools in the current comprehensive plan that will come online before the 13th high school opens.

The current school board will still be in session when the prototype comes for a vote on Nov. 4.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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