Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Parents want community to band together to support school renovation
The Caroline County School Board and the Board of Supervisors will continue discussions this week about funding for the renovation of Bowling Green Primary School.
The school board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at Caroline Middle School to see what additional cuts can be made to lower the cost of the $12 million project to turn the primary school into a pre-K through fifth grade school.
Supervisors will meet with school board members again at their regular meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. after no progress was made at a joint meeting last week.
A parent-led meeting will also be held Monday at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Bowling Green Primary School for an informational session in preparation for Tuesday’s meeting.
The School Board has only $9 million to complete the project, and an additional half-million dollars is needed for architectural fees. They requested an extra $2.5 million to complete the project, but supervisors were weary of giving more money because unexplained mathematial errors were in the school board’s presentation and the project was expanded to hold 900 students, compared to 800 students when they originally asked for funding.
School board chairman Mack Wright said the bigger school is needed because the current schools are already at capacity. He said it would be better to build a school that fits the needs of the county than to have to spend more money later on for additions or trailers.
The Board of Supervisors borrowed $3 million earlier this year to contribute to the renovation.
Funding this project added about 2 cents to the real-estate tax rate for the next 20 years, according to board Chairman Floyd Thomas.
In March, the Virginia Department of Education announced that it would allocate $6 million in low-interest bonds to expand and renovate Bowling Green Primary, which opened in 1959.
The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides funding for the Qualified School Construction Bonds. Criteria include school consolidation projects, facilities more than 35 years old and projects in economically stressed areas.
A letter from two Caroline County residents/parents:
Talk of a new school in the Bowling Green district has been on the minds of residents in Caroline County for many years. Negotiations of cost, size, and location have been on the table even before the building of Lewis and Clark Elementary in Ruther Glen. With the passing of its October ground breaking and with the funds still being debated the parents and residents of
Caroline County are concerned that our children will be lost in the battle amongst the Board of Supervisors.
At a September 17, 2009 joint board meeting representative and former Chairman Wayne Acors stated “both boards affect our children and it will affect our children long after they are gone.” As a community those are our sentiments exactly and this is why we are advocating for our fully funded 900 student Prek-5th Grade Bowling Green Elementary School.
The school board initially asked the Board of Supervisors for 9 million dollars for a school to hold 800 students due to a feasibility study done in 2009. After the 2010 census it was determined a larger facility was needed to accommodate the projected growth in enrollment, with that the school would now need a 3 million increase in funding.
The School Board received 5 bids all within $600,000 proximity, the lowest bid coming in at $12 million. They were hoping that with the slow economy they would receive 12 bids that were more competitive.
Currently we have 865 students that would need to attend the combined school. Therefore the 800 student school approved by the Board of Supervisors would be inadequate for our current needs. Parents and residents alike feel as though this constant backtracking would continue our cycle of full capacity at all of the County’s elementary schools. “We were promised a school without trailers and we need to hold them accountable” is how Lynda Keath, long time supporter and advocate of full funding for the Bowling Green Elementary project feels regarding the Board of Supervisors suggestion of an 800 student, 6 trailer school.
The difference of 800 students’ vs. 900 student school equates to 6 trailers vs. 6 classrooms. The price difference is approximately one million dollars but the safety of having all children in one locked building is immeasurable.
If the school board’s request for the 900 student school is denied, in 2 years the County will spend an additional 8 million dollars to renovate the old Ladysmith elementary school to accommodate the overflow of students created by building a school that was too small to begin with.
The 9 million dollar budget only covers brick and mortar. There will be no kitchen equipment and no library furniture. The budget does not include abating the asbestos tile, if this is not done, and the new vinyl tile is installed over it, the effective life of the new vinyl tile could be substantially reduced. Cutting corners such as these will save us money now but in the upcoming years will cost the county more.
The 9 million dollar budget also does not include the attached gym. Currently the children use a gym in the community center next to the school that is open to the public. These doorsare not locked and pose a serious threat to our children since anyone can enter freely without permission and have access to our children. Also walking from the school to the gym is another safety threat as they have to brave the elements and once again are not secured.
The Board of Supervisors took out an 8 million dollar loan that coincides the with 6 million dollar federal grant that the School Board received. The County secured the 8 million in borrowed money with a lien against the Bowling Green project. Five million of those 8 million dollars has been given to another project in the county, a YMCA, which is being built in the Ladysmith Village subdivision. A move by the Board of Supervisors that many parents, advocating the Bowling Green project, felt was done behind their backs.
Parents in the community were under the impression that this past October would begin the ground breaking of our new school. The information that was given through the school led us to believe that our new school would be built to hold all students without trailers and was a done deal. The YMCA and the piggybacking of the project were never discussed and we were not given an opportunity to discuss this project before it was too late. They have scheduled the YMCA ground breaking for December 11, 2011. The plans for the YMCA never underwent such fine tooth combing and scrutiny as the plans for Bowling Green’s new school.
Bowling Green Elementary holds the majority of our county’s children including the Port Royal, Mattaponi, Bowling Green, and Reedy Church districts as well as part of the Madison district.
We need more than ever for our community to band together and back the school board in holding the Board of Supervisors accountable on their first promise to us. The promise to build a school similar to the prototype Lewis and Clarke Elementary. A school without trailers and with an attached gym. A school that our children will have pride in and our community will
want their children to attend. To hear more join us on Monday December 12, 2011 at 7pm in the Bowling Green Primary Cafeteria for a parent led informational session and to prepare us for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting at 6pm in the Caroline County Community Services Center in the auditorium.
Most importantly don’t miss the Tuesday meeting. The opinion and presence of community is the best way to show your Board of Supervisors that you believe schools in your county should be adequately funded.
All that the parents of this community are asking for is the safe and secure environment that their children deserve, where they will be able to learn and flourish for many years to come.
-Melissa Lewis of Bowling Green
-Naeda Gustard of Mattaponi