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Change proposed for Stafford High School

BY AMY UMBLE

Construction plans for the new Stafford High School may be headed toward another speed bump. Monday night, Stafford County supervisors asked School Board members to consider a major change to the proposed rebuild.

In a committee meeting of some supervisors and School Board members,  Supervisor Bob Thomas, who is not on the committee but attended the meeting, suggested that the School Board consider a compromise, a hybrid project that is part renovation, part rebuild.

Thomas suggested keeping the current school’s career, technology and engineering wing, which he called “the gem of Stafford High School.”

He said that wing could be renovated to improve wiring and air, and then added to a new Stafford High School. He estimated this would mean that about 40,000 square feet of the project would be renovated instead of rebuilt.

Thomas asked if the School Board ever considered this combination approach.

School Board member Patricia Healy said that no hybrid plans were presented to the board, and that considering that approach now could put the project off schedule by a year.

“If it saves $15 million I’m not really opposed to waiting a year,” Thomas said.

“Does it really save $15 million, that’s the question,” replied School Board member Dana Reinboldt.

She agreed to take the proposal to the full  School Board, but warned that the public has rejected any plans for renovations instead of rebuilding.

“The community pretty much said, ‘We’re tired of you Band-aiding this,’” Reinboldt said. “The community was pretty adamant.”

More than a year ago, the School Board voted to  rebuild the high school on its existing site. Current plans call for a  275,000-square foot school, which is about 10,000 square feet smaller than the current school.

In recent months, however, critics of the $66.1 million rebuild have been speaking to the supervisors and  School Board members, worried about the project’s cost, the loss of the high school’s automotive program and the disruption of athletic programs during construction.

Supervisor Cord Sterling said that with so much money at stake, elected officials needed to think of new solutions.

“We’ve got to be a lot more creative, we only have so many dollars,” Sterling said. “We’ve got to look at it a lot closer, with sharpened pencils.”

Supervisor Paul Milde recently proposed taking the project to referendum, a suggestion the Board of Supervisors plans to discuss at Tuesday’s meeting.

 Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973 aumble@freelancestar.com

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