The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
What to do with vacant school?
Once again, the former King George Middle School building is vacant and the future of the space is uncertain.
The School Board talked about what to do with the building, located off Dahlgren Road, at its meeting last Monday.
Ideas included using the facility as additional instructional space, relocating some elementary school grades there, turning it over to the county and moving the School Board office into the space.
The building has been largely unused by the school system since 2009, when the middle school moved to the old high school building at Dahlgren Road and Kings Highway that was renovated to take on the new students. High school students moved to the newly constructed King George High School on Foxes Way.
The old middle school temporarily housed the L.E. Smoot Memorial Library for 18 months between 2011 and 2013 while the library’s building off Kings Highway was renovated. But now the former school is empty again.
“We need to have a discussion of what we want to do with the building,” said Shiloh District member Mike Rose. “I don’t want it to become like the old Ralph Bunche High School—crumbling. It’s an asset to us and to the community. If we don’t want it, I think we should turn it over to the county.”
Superintendent Robert Benson opposes giving the school to the county. He said that the expanding number of students at each of the county’s schools, especially at the elementary level, will warrant additional instructional space in two to three years. For instance, he said, Potomac Elementary’s population grew 8 percent in the last four years.
“We are growing,” said Benson. “Don’t believe we are leveling out. At some point in the near future, we will need the instructional space. I’m hesitant to relinquish the building.”
James Monroe District representative Rick Randall proposed the former middle school be used as the School Board office since the facility, built in 1974, is newer.
However, Benson questioned whether the current School Board office could function as additional classroom space in the event the old middle school is converted into the division’s headquarters.
Other members expressed doubts about whether the School Board office could be outfitted with all of the safety and accessibility features required if it became another school.
“I would still like to see a study on the matter,” Randall said.
Ken Novell, Dahlgren District representative, said the board needs to make a plan to maintain the facility, even if no use for the building can be determined.
However, Rose said the county has rejected previous requests for maintenance funds because the building’s future use is in question.
Benson said the primary maintenance concern for the building is the heating and air system, which at its most recent estimate will cost $1.5 million to replace.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976