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School chair: Supes should reveal ‘second opinion’ study

SoVaNow.com / July 22, 2019
The Halifax County School Board will weigh recent developments in the push to build a new high school when trustees gather for their regular monthly meeting tonight in Halifax at 7 p.m. at the Bethune Office Complex.

One matter that’s almost certain to come up for discussion: a “second opinion” architectural study of HCHS, which the Halifax County Board of Supervisors commissioned in response to a School Board-funded study by Moseley Architects. The Moseley study offered two recommendations for the high school: either make extensive renovations or replace the 40-year-old facility entirely. The School Board has voted to build a new school.

The second opinion study, by OWPR Inc. of Blacksburg, has been in the hands of supervisors since around the end of June. Supervisors Chairman Dennis Witt said last week that OWPR’s findings would be revealed at the Aug. 5 board meeting.

However, School Board Chairman Joe Gasperini is calling for the second opinion study to be made public immediately.

“The sooner it’s public, the sooner people can analyze it,” said Gasperini.

“My gut feeling is that it won’t be much different than the Moseley study,” he added, saying construction costs are unlikely to vary greatly in any apples-to-apples review of options for the high school.

To fix HCHS, Moseley proposed top-to-bottom renovations that would include demolishing the career and technical education wing of the 313,000 square foot high school and building a new CTE center, at a total estimated cost of $88 million; or building an all-new 263,000 square foot facility, costing approximately $99 million.

While supervisors keep the architectural study from OWPR close to the vest, school officials are pressing forward with the selection of a general contractor to build a new high school. Gasperini said the School Board expects to receive a second PPEA (Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act) proposal for the project, on the heels of a previous offer, by Roanoke-based Branch Builds, submitted back in early June.

The School Board has not made public the Branch Builds PPEA offer to protect the company’s competitive position, as allowed under Virginia’s open government law. The second PPEA offer, by an unnamed firm, is expected to come into the school board central office by today’s deadline.

Gasperini suggested that both contractors hoping to build a new high school have put forth a package for renovating and expanding Tuck Dillard Stadium, since it would be cheaper to do the full scope of work — high school and stadium — all at once while contractors are engaged at the site.

Reiterating his prior comments, Gasperini said the School Board, not the Board of Supervisors, is responsible for determining the future of HCHS. “Why there’s talk of remodeling — it’s off the table,” he said. “We’re building a new school.”

Gasperini also said he understands that the Board of Supervisors is considering language for the proposed November sales tax referendum that would leave unanswered, for now, the exact plan for the high school. Gasperini said supervisors are considering the creation of a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) in which sales tax revenues would be deposited until a decision is made on what to do with the tattered HCHS facility.

Aside from encroaching on School Board territory, Gasperini said the idea of a capital fund without a clearly spelled-out plan for HCHS is a political loser. “I think the public deserves to have a clearly defined project [before voting for the sales tax] with the money going towards a new school that will start construction as soon as feasible after the sales tax passes. I think the public doesn’t want [that decision] in the hands of a few people.

“If a person is supposed to vote for some general tax that goes into some general fund, I don’t think they’ll vote for it,” he added. “We want the public to decide — do you want a new school. If the public decides we want a new high school, that’s what we should do.”

In addition to a discussion of HCHS, the School Board is expected to review other matters tonight including:

» a transportation management plan,

» an analysis of the comparative benefits of leasing or purchasing school buses,

» a report on three-year teacher turnover trends,

» the interscholastic program of random drug testing.

Prior to the 7 p.m. regular meeting, trustees will meet in work session at 6:30 p.m. to go over transportation vendor presentations.

The meeting will be held in the second floor meeting room of the Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.



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78

Comments

Gasperini needs to get his head out of his you know what! BOS controls money! Sorry the people want to remodel not build new. Vote no on sales tax increase!!!

Comments

Economics 101, vote no and residents pay 0 of any school project. Vote yes and have visitors to the county help pay for any costs. Don't understand how people can't comprehend this concept. Was just traveling in Virginia and stopped for a snack and that county had an additional %5 food tax. Wake up Halifax and lets at least enter the late 1990's or early 2000's.

Comments

Meant to say 100%, not 0.

Comments

CloudedbyPolitics-Please don't confuse "allpolitical2" with facts!!! He has trouble with facts!!!

Comments

Joe blow you must be a BOS member. Clouded if sales tax passes we county residents will pay as well. The 5,% tax is probably meals tax. We don't need a new school. It is not going to increase our population. Government needs to cut spending. You socialist want government to look after you. I want my freedom!

Comments

allpolitical-I know county residents will pay the tax as well. My simple economical point is why vote no and suffer the full burden when some can go to out of county visitors? 2. The 5% tax was not a meals tax. I did not purchase a meal nor was it an establishment that served meals. Sign distinctly said "food tax." 3. When were you last in the school to give an opinion on its condition? 4. You live in the country that is "the land of the free" people you voted for, whichever party line you foolishly side with, helped get our country to the point we are.


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