Winter weather could impact opening of new schools
Montgomery County’s school construction projects have kept to their ambitious timetable – and officials are crossing their fingers that winter won’t cause delays.
But however the final schedule works out, a primary aim is to keep parents informed well ahead of time, schools spokeswoman Brenda Drake said Friday.
“No surprises, if we can help it,” Drake said.
School Superintendent Brenda Blackburn said that next month she will present the school board with options for setting the first day of school next year later than usual to maximize the odds of students starting classes in the new Blacksburg and Auburn high schools and for Blacksburg Middle schoolers to be returned to their home facility from the old Christiansburg Middle School.
April 1 is being set as an internal deadline for determining if the new schools will be ready to open in the fall or if already-outlined backup plans need to be implemented, Blackburn said.
“We remain optimistic but we know the cards have to fall exactly right for everything to come out,” Blackburn said.
Montgomery County’s $124.5 million school construction effort the amount is a cap set for costs of building two new high schools and renovating the old Auburn High School to become a new Auburn Middle School stirred public outcry from the start.
The county Board of Supervisors decision to kick the construction program into overdrive after the 2010 collapse of Blacksburg High School’s gym roof and the subsequent shuttering of the entire building prompted loud protests. So did their decision to pay for the work by issuing bonds without holding a voter referendum.
This year, the price of construction led to a record increase in the county’s real estate tax, raising the rate per $100 value from 75 cents to 87 cents and spurring more outcry.
So far, the plan to build two new schools in two years has stayed on schedule and under budget, Blackburn said.
Some 200 to 300 workers are working at least six days each week at each new high school site, construction manager Curtis Elswick reported.
If winter or other factors do not cause delays, Blacksburg High School is scheduled to have its classroom sections completed by July 27, and the remainder of the facility by Aug. 15, Blackburn said.
Auburn High School is scheduled to be complete by July 15, she said.
Montgomery County has usually started classes on the third Wednesday in August, which would be Aug. 21 next year.
Blackburn said she plans to ask the board to consider a later opening to allow more time to set up desks and equipment and other furnishings in the new facilities.
If harsh weather or other factors prompt delays, Blackburn said she would ask the school board to approve contingency plans before April 1.
Those plans could take a number of directions, she said.
If the new Blacksburg High School’s classrooms are ready but its gym and other areas are not, for example, students might start school in the new facility, but ride buses back to Blacksburg Middle School for gym and other activities, she said.
“We’d have to get creative, bottom line,” Blackburn said.
When the new Blacksburg and Auburn high schools are completed, the next phase of Montgomery County’s construction plan will be to turn the present Auburn High School into a new Auburn Middle School, then tear down the present Auburn Middle School. Initial bids for the renovation and demolition were rejected as too high, and school officials are awaiting new bids, Blackburn said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1669
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