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Colonial Beach students may move soon

While more than 300 Colonial Beach elementary students will begin the school year next Tuesday in the high school building, their stay may be just two weeks.

Earlier, it was expected that it could take up to six weeks before they could move into their new modular unit classrooms.

In a joint meeting with the Colonial Beach Planning Commission Thursday, the Town Council approved the School Board’s request for a conditional use permit, which avoids more than $100,000 worth of extra work to finish the new elementary school campus.

The conditional use permit not only officially deems the elementary school and high school as two different campuses, it also avoids the use of overhead canopies that would stretch from the modular units to the rear doors of the high school.

Jeff Howeth, engineer for the project with K.L. Howeth P.C. in Tappahannock gave a presentation to the council and Planning Commission, outlining where the canopies would go if necessary, and explaining the location for the four new modular units and the relocation of an existing unit from the old campus.

School Board Chairman Tim Trivett said in an interview he is “very optimistic” that the construction will be completed within two weeks of the school’s opening.

At the school’s open house Wednesday, Trivett said he did not hear a single negative remark from parents or students about the elementary and high schools sharing one building.

“People are so positive with the changes we’ve made with the superintendent and principal,” he said.

He said the school system is looking forward to the best year they’ve had in a long time.

Trivett also revealed Thursday that the school’s insurance company has made an offer for the old high school, which was destroyed by a fire in January.

The offer was made after nine hours of mediation with the insurance company under oath with a judge.

“We’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

While he said he could not disclose the exact offer from the insurance company because of a confidentiality agreement, it would be in everyone’s best interest to accept the offer, he said.

If the School Board decided not to accept the offer, Trivett said, the burned building would probably stand as an eyesore for another year, and the court process with the insurance company would take even longer.

The School Board will meet next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the offer and vote.

“We’re not going to drag our feet,” Trivett said.

If the School Board does reject the offer, they will follow up with a lawsuit, Trivett said.

While the cause of the fire at the old campus is still under investigation, it will not delay any action with the burned property, Trivett said.

Through a memorandum of understanding between the Town Council and School Board signed last month, the council agreed to pay for the elementary school relocation through a bond issue.

However, Trivett said Thursday that if the School Board settles the case, they may not need the bond.

“If we decide to settle this claim, it will be settled within 30 days,” he said.

Following the understanding, the School Board will give all insurance proceeds to the town and transfer the old high school property to the town within 45 days.

The town will then market the property within 45 days of the transfer, and any proceeds from the sale will be applied to repayment of the amount advanced to the School Board from the bonds.

Any remaining funds will be placed in a restricted account to be used in the future for a permanent elementary school.

Regina Weiss 540/374-5444