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Trustees meet to discuss new school logo, AP reinstatement, 2020 dates

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Trustees resume talks on builder for HCHS / August 12, 2019
The Halifax County School Board will meet tonight to consider their next move on Halifax County High School, a discussion that could result in the choice of builder and architect to lead the construction of a replacement building.

The HCHS facilities debate is the main item on the agenda for tonight’s monthly School Board meeting, set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethune Complex in Halifax.

The trustees’ meeting comes a week after the Board of Supervisors hosted its architect, Randy S. Jones of Blacksburg-based OWPR Architects and Engineers, who described in vivid terms the shortcomings of the HCHS building after 40 years of use, citing the need to essentially strip down the facility and renovate it from top to bottom. Jones also panned HCHS as originally conceived, saying it was typical of “a late 1970s building” that was designed to function as “warehouses for children.”

OWPR has come up with a $73.3 million renovation plan for HCHS, but Jones suggested that the county may want to opt for new construction because a replacement HCHS facility would last longer, better serve the county’s educational goals and not dramatically exceed the cost of major renovations.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg, who attended the supervisors’ meeting and witnessed Jones’ presentation, said it “did display the challenges with renovation [to bring HCHS] to a 21st century building” and praised OWPR’s report to supervisors as “honest.

“As Randy Jones said, the high school has to be fixed,” said Lineburg. He added that the School Board’s facilities committee “has immersed itself” in the various options for upgrading HCHS and “they’ve looked at every single aspect. I think the facilities committee felt validated by the OWPR report.”

During their meeting tonight, trustees will hear a recommendation from the facilities committee on what to do next with HCHS, Lineburg said, declining to elaborate on committee discussions. He added the School Board may be advised to choose an architect and general contractor, or extend the process to further refine the details of new school construction.

The School Board has received design proposals from three architectural firms: Moseley Architects, RRMM Architects and Grimm and Parker, all with offices in Virginia. Both RRMM and Grimm and Parker have submitted PPEA (Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act) packages that include the choice of a general contractor.

Moseley Architects, which carried out a facilities study for the School Board last year, has submitted a conventional design/build plan for the high school.

The two approaches — PPEA and design/build — differ in a key aspect: under Virginia’s public-private partnership infrastructure act, PPEA packages provide a guaranteed maximum price for the project at the start of the building process. Under the conventional design/build route, the final project expense is subject to market conditions that can fluctuate as construction is underway.

With the selection of a PPEA plan, “whatever that price is, you know it on the front end and you’re able to share that number with the public,” said Lineburg. Moseley’s design-build price, on the other hand, could be affected by industry upheavals, said Lineburg: “It’s a very volatile construction market right now.”

RRMM is seeking to construct a replacement high school in partnership with Branch Builds, a Roanoke firm that renovated Halifax County Middle School a decade ago. Grimm and Parker is allied with English Construction of Lynchburg, whose notable projects include the Liberty University School of Business.

The facilities committee received the two PPEA offers in June and July and members have been working with both sets of architects to refine “the programmatic aspects” of a new high school, said Lineburg — how the building would be designed to support academics, career and technical education, school life and other aspects of the high school experience.

A multitude of factors factor into the building design: the space needs of a student body whose numbers are expected to decline over time, up-to-date security and safety features, energy efficiency and climate control systems, and assumptions about educational goals for decades to come.

“It’s very technical work,” said Lineburg.

Moseley Architects presented its plan for HCHS through a Request for Proposal (RRP) issued by the School Board in the spring. Despite having done a study of county school facilities for trustees in 2018, school officials say there was no frontrunner for the project award when the evaluation process began. Moseley’s 2019 study pegged the estimated cost of a replacement HCHS at $99 million.

In its “second opinion” study for the Board of Supervisors, OWPR estimated the cost of a new school would be around $92.7 million. However, Jones, the firm’s CEO, told supervisors last week that there were no significant differences in the cost estimates by his firm and by Moseley Architects. He also said he agreed with Moseley’s assessment that when renovation costs reach or exceed 75 percent of the cost of a new building, new construction is preferable.

Lineburg noted that OWPR’s cost estimates show that renovation of HCHS would approach 79 percent of the dollar sums required to build a new facility: “You’re already at 79 percent and that’s not knowing what you’re getting into,” he said.

He cautioned that despite multiple bidders vying to build a new HCHS, the project expense is not likely to involve significantly less dollars than what has been suggested so far.

“Unfortunately it’s costly” to fix HCHS, Lineburg said. “Nobody wants the project to cost so much, but however you look at it, it’s a hard number.”

Despite the challenges, Lineburg expressed optimism that the School Board and Board of Supervisors can unite around two objectives: fixing HCHS and passing a local sales tax to fund school capital improvements. The sales tax will be on the Nov. 5 ballot for voter approval.

“One thing we agree on, the high school has to be fixed and we have to get the sales tax through,” said Lineburg of supervisors and trustees, adding, “We’ve got good people on both boards …. I hope at the end of the day, [we can] look at the empirical data, the empirical evidence, and both boards will get there.”

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Halifax County taxpayers should be aware that RRMM who has submitted PPEA proposals now employs the former superintendent of Charlotte County School System. She is the spouse of former IDA director who left his post last fall. This is not a post to discredit any individual or the firm, it is simply information for the general public. In Charlotte County, there was great controversy on PPEA. They DO NOT "provide a guaranteed maximum price for the project at the start of the building process." bidders seek out mistakes yet wait to issue change orders, the original contract for two elementary schools to Jefferson Lewis Contractors was 3.2 million, whereas the change order that got approved was 7.3 million! Do not believe everything you read taxpayers, do your homework & make the BOS and School Board Trustees accountable for their actions and decisions.
Link below for info:


Good info concerned, but no one in Halifax will listen. I am going to vote against the sales tax. I hope everyone else will do the same. We need to have a tax revolt, it is time for the government to stop stealing our money.

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