Hanover school facility review upcoming

Posted on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Though the Hanover County School Board won’t be rushing into redistricting schools just yet, the Board agreed Tuesday night to perform a school-wide study evaluating each school’s capacity, enrollment and physical building status.

Norm Sulser has been a driving force behind a review of school facilities and enrollment.

Norm Sulser has been a driving force behind a review of school facilities and enrollment.

Recent, persistent pressure from School Board member Norman Sulser, Cold Harbor representative, for the Board to address the overcrowding of some schools resulted in the decision during a Sept. 10 meeting.

The last school-wide study was done in 2007, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jamelle Wilson suggested the Board examine the definition of “overcrowding” in schools.

“We are operating at 2007 definitions in an environment that may no longer hold,” Wilson said.

Wilson proposed that she and her staff, over the course of about three months, look at the use of school buildings, including the various school programs such as Hanover’s specialty center for health and sciences.

They will also review school districts, student enrollment, and how many students are climbing each school’s ladder from grade to grade.

Wilson also emphasized diving into two parts of school capacity: “the idea of physical capacity versus functional capacity.”

Many Board members were concerned with making sure any decisions regarding school capacities were added into the 2015 school year’s budget process, which the School Board will begin the process for later this month.

“Twelve months to me is a long time if Dr. Wilson has the information,” Sulser said.

In a previous interview, Sulser has said that he would like an action to be taken for the next school year. Sulser wants to alter school boundaries for students in more crowded schools like Lee-Davis High School. Sulser has previously suggested those students move to Hanover High School, which is at 76 percent capacity.

Vice Chair Glenn T. Millican Jr., Mechanicsville representative, agreed with Sulser that it should be a part of the budget process, while Sue Dibble, South Anna representative, suggested the Board set a goal for school capacities to be a part of the annual process.

Millican also recommended including costs for things like infrastructure and transportation of students in  the facilities study.

“There are a lot more costs associated with the operational side of a facility rather than just the building costs,” Millican said.

Not every Board member supported fast-tracking the school-wide assessment.

John F. Axselle III, Beaverdam representative, stressed that the School Board should not rush the review of schools. As a result, Axselle was the only Board member to vote against Sulser’s motion.

The Board was supposed to address school enrollment and capacities at their August meeting but the discussion was moved due to the absence of two Board members.

Wilson asked the Board to give her and the school division staff three or four months to gather all necessary information and materials to bring for the Board’s review at a future meeting.

“Tonight is step one,” Wilson said.

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