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Orange High to add modular classrooms

BY DAN McFARLAND

While proceeding with a short-term solution to problems at Orange County High School, the School Board wants to develop a master plan for the facility to guide its long-term decisions.

Meeting Monday at Gordon Barbour Elementary School in Gordonsville, the board unanimously passed resolutions authorizing school administrators to procure five modular classroom units to be installed on the front lawn of the high school, with a total budget of $350,000 for the project. It also agreed to invite proposals for the renovation of several classrooms within the building, with a budget limit of $500,000.

Both proposals had previously been discussed by the School Board and the county Board of Supervisors.

The plan calls for three existing classrooms and one resource room to be renovated to produce two large science laboratories and an associated preparation room.

At an earlier joint meeting with the School Board, supervisors were told that, with current science lab classes averaging 30 students each, lab experiments in the school had largely been reduced to demonstrations only, not student-conducted experiments.

New Virginia Standards of Learning in science will require students to actually be do experiments themselves to be successful, school officials said.

The modular units will substitute for the existing classrooms while the modification is in progress.

Once the renovations are complete, the modular units will continue to offer a short-term solution to overcrowding at the high school. Projections show that the current high school building will be at its full capacity of 1,531 students for the 2013–14 school year, and will exceed that capacity in following years.

The School Board members also voted to authorize the administration to invite proposals for an architectural consultant to develop a master plan for possible renovations to the school, the surrounding campus and its associated facilities.

School Board member Jim Hopkins said it is “extremely important” to get ideas on a long-term solution.

“We’ve addressed it in the short term with these modular classrooms,” he said. “But [we need] to get a big picture of what can be done at the high school. It’s hard to think about what we should do, until we find out what we can do.”

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