School board looks for more funding for GHS renovation project

by Kim Robins - Posted on Jul 24, 2019 - 02:58 PM

The Gloucester School Board continued its attempt last week to find more funding for planned renovations at Gloucester High School. A discussion at the board’s July 16 meeting continued from where it left off in a June 24 meeting between the school board and county supervisors. 

Supervisors had decided to cap the amount of county funding at $36.6 million, while the school board was seeking about $54 million. The school board looked last week at canceling its request for a new $7.1 million transportation facility and renovating the existing facility instead.

The change would include moving school bus parking to the new Page Middle School site, freeing up more land at the existing facility. That would leave about 25 acres at the old Page site that could be transferred to the county for economic development, if the school board approved the transfer. 

School division construction supervisor Scott Shorland estimated that renovations at the transportation facility would cost a little over $1 million and would include a new roof and HVAC system along with miscellaneous repairs.

Supervisors also requested that the school board use part of the money allotted for the transportation facility to construct a facility at the new Page site to house its mosquito control equipment. Shorland estimated a cost at $355,800 for a pre-engineered building to house the mosquito control department.

He put the cost to move school bus parking and to build ball fields at the new Page site at $1.6 million. The cost of the three projects would total about $2.9 million, leaving about $4 million more for GHS renovations.

Shorland said the bus parking area at the new Page site could be accessed by the existing entrance to Page and be situated behind and west of the school. The other option he offered would be putting a new entrance east of the existing one and placing the bus parking farther from the school.

Board member Randy Burak said he would rather the buses had their own entrance off T.C. Walker Road for safety reasons and board member Anita Parker agreed. Burak and board member Troy Andersen both said the bus parking area should have its own fuel depot, which was not included in Shorland’s plans.

Without a fuel depot at the new parking site, many buses would travel to the transportation facility two or three times a week for fuel. If fueling is offered at the new Page site, then only a few buses would be at the transportation building for servicing. 

The board delayed further consideration on the matter until Shorland can provide costs for the fuel depot, but it did approve by consensus to ask the county to move ahead with the GHS project. 

In other business, the board approved a request from its chief financial officer Heather Lucas to make a categorical budget transfer of $90,000 from instruction to operation and maintenance for FY 2019. 

Lucas said the $90,000 from instruction was savings resulting from attrition and new hires. She said the added expenses in operations and maintenance were due to rising electrical rates, increased heating costs at GHS to control mold, duct work cleaning at GHS and services for additional renovation cost estimates.