The Montgomery County School Board invited public input from the community through workstations and an open forum on Tuesday night.
The purpose of the meeting, which was attended by approximately 200 residents, was to discuss the overall plan for future construction and renovation of schools in Christiansburg.
In previous meetings, Superintendent Mark Miear explained the changes and renovations as a set of phases to take place over the next several years.
The first phase of the plan involves renovating football and soccer field, complete with turf grounding and a rubberized track. This is a necessary investment for the school’s sports teams, Miear argued, because right now the field becomes too muddy to play on during inclement weather and a turf field would require lower maintenance. The start date for this first step would be in spring or January of 2018 in order to have the field ready for football season in 2018.
The next step, called Phase 1.2, would be to build a new softball field as well. The start date for this wouldn’t be until summer 2019 and the field would be built where the current football practice field is located. However, the idea is to have the new football field already finished so that the team wouldn’t need the practice field and it would be open for the softball field construction.
Phase 1.3 involves building new locker rooms, concessions stands, and stadium entrance similar to the structure of the Blacksburg High School facilities. One struggle of this phase would be deciding where to place the bathrooms. Right now, players and coaches do not have a quick location to use the restroom during games and practices. With the new design, there would be bathrooms right next to the field.
Phase two of the total plan is to build a new academic building, gym and elementary school starting in 2022. The seven-year construction plan would allow a budget for building the new elementary school by renovating the current high school at approximately $60 million. A new elementary is necessary, Miear said, because the schools are too packed for students at such a young level. Right now, the current system is transitioning children earlier than is normal because of the lack of space.
“Transitions for kids are tough for kids from one school to another,” Miear said. “We don’t want one school with 900 elementary kids in one building, but the ideal elementary school is K-5.”
The last phase would involve upgrading the current CHS facilities. This means that there will have to be a movement of students from the current building to the new building during renovation, which could cause teachers to have to share classrooms during the time of the renovation. Miear mentioned that some people had reached out to him and expressed concern as to why the school was being renovated and there wasn’t a new one being built. While it would be wonderful to build an entirely new school, Miear said, it is incredibly expensive. From looking at the renovations at Auburn Middle School, is seems like the best option to lean toward renovations because it is cost effective and will provide students with the facilities needed.
“We have capacity issues here at CHS,” Miear said. “Our classrooms are really tight and it is difficult for our kids here and we are really excited about this next process.”
Miear explained all of the phases to the community during the meeting before the crowd broke into six different stations that would discuss various stages of the process with a closer look. At each station, the members of the community were allowed to place sticky notes on the designated boards voicing their concerns or ideas about a particular stage of the process.
Miear mentioned how important these sticky notes would be because they would all be assessed for data during the particular aspect of the planning. Each sticky note would be considered individually and in conjunction with the others to better understand the community concerns and ideas.
The next stages of the process are to have all of the data compiled by Sept. 19 and have a discussion with the school board on Oct. 17. By Oct. 30, the school board hopes to be able to present the plan to the board of supervisors.
The community then recommended for the open public input session. While there was 30 minutes set aside for public input, only three community members came up to speak, all from Virginia Organizing. Virginia Organizing is a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives.
The comments made by these citizens addressed the lack of effort to put forth a statement expressing the school board’s support of inclusion and diversity. Brandy Faulkner was the first to speak and mentioned the events in Charlottesville from the past weekend.
“On Saturday in Charlottesville, I stood hand-in-hand with several Montgomery County residents and hundreds of Virginians, demanding dignity for all of us. It could not have been clearer to me the silence truly is complicit,” Faulker said. “Our children need to know that their identities are respected, and it should not take a national tragedy for the students in the community members to be reminded that inclusiveness and diversity contribute to the growth and success for everyone who is part of the MCPS family.”
Board member (District B) Penny Franklin responded to this by regarding the need to release a statement of inclusion as more pressing than ever. The school board hopes to provide a statement of inclusion and diversity as soon as possible.
The next school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 750 Imperial St. in Christiansburg.