Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gloucester, VA Page Middle School Dis Service Announcement 2

We continue our exploration on the communities arguments against the plans of the new Page Middle School on various levels.  Showing numerous communications between local concerned citizens and Gloucester officials responses to community questions.  We have a lot to go over within the next few days.  Everyone needs to know what is going on in this county.  

Mr. Kiser,

Thank you for responding to my questions.

In question number one I am referring to the size school which could be built on the existing Page Middle School site in comparison to building on the proposed site. Many residents including me are under the assumption there are plans to reduce the size of the new school's auditorium and gymnasium to save money. New plan design costs in comparison to purchasing pre-designed plans likely equates to somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 square feet of potential building. Site development costs will likely equate to over 20,000 square feet of potential building. What does that equate to in teacher’s pay, school buses, school supplies, technology, etc? Demolishing the damaged school was the sensible thing to do. Is abandoning the site at the cost of tens of millions of tax payer’s dollars a sensible thing to do?

In question number seven you say, “The new site is large enough to accommodate three schools over the years ahead.” The Virginia Department of Education recommends the following in new school site selection:

3.2 Size of New School Site
A. The following minimum usable site sizes are recommended:
Additional Acreage Per 100 Pupils in
School Type Basic Acreage Ultimate Enrollment
Primary or Elementary (grades pk-7) 4 acres
Middle School, Intermediate, Jr. High 10 acres
Senior High or Combined School 10 acres

Other considerations recommended to evaluate existing or potential school sites are:

1. Adequate site acreage to separate pedestrian, bus, and car traffic
2. Adequate site acreage to meet the needs of the outdoor physical education program
3. Adequate road frontage and ease of access
4. Availability of utilities
5. Proximity to noise and other pollution sources (airport, traffic, industrial)
6. Additional considerations would be the shape of the site, topography, and soil conditions
7. Adequate perimeter road circulation for emergency response vehicles.
8. Where possible, locate new schools in attendance areas that will
promote students to walk or ride bicycles safely to school. When
developing a new school site or altering an existing site the design
should include features that encourage pedestrian or bicycle
access to and from the school site.

Site topography, soil conditions, close proximity of wetlands, traffic and construction costs, especially construction costs, will likely never make it feasible to construct three schools on the new site.

In questions six and seven you infer vacating all School Board land connecting to Roadview Farm. For clarification; are there any conversations by the School Board as a whole or in part about the sale, trade or other means of transferring ownership of the two parcels of land known as Tax Map #39-198A and #39-198B, consisting of almost 26 acres which connect to the proposed school site and were purchased by Harry Corr in December 2011? Are there any conversations by the School Board as a whole or in part about transferring ownership of the existing Page Middle School site and or Bus Garage by sale, trade or otherwise? Careful

Gloucester Point Resident

Find below my answers to your questions in red. Take care.

Ben Kiser
Division Superintendent

A few questions about Page Middle School:

1) Why are over 25,000 square feet of school building being sacrificed to move off of the existing Page Middle School site?
· If you are referencing the portion of Page Middle School that was not destroyed by the tornado, the School Board decided, after much conversation and public input, that rebuilding on the old Page site was not the best solution and that renovating a 60-year old building was not financially prudent. As you know, the remainder of the old school was recently demolished and removed.

Do you realize how much space that is?
· Yes
3) Does the new school building design have wasted space areas that will require constant upkeep such as an internal court yard?
· No. There may be outdoor learning patios designed as part of the instructional houses but they are not interior courtyards.
4) Will the new school be designed to enhance utilization of Smart Board technology?
· Technology will be a component of the new school and smart boards may be one of the components.
5) Will additional wiring conduits for future upgrades be included in the building design?
· Electrical capacity for future utilization will be considered as part of the design.
6) What are the plans for the existing Page site?
· No specific plans at the moment. Some conversations have taken place as to the possibilities but nothing formal. The School Board still has its bus compound on the property. A solution for the bus compound may be required prior to any other use of that property being determined.
7) Are there any plans to obtain more land at the new site?
· The School Board does not have any plans to purchase additional land. The new site is large enough to accommodate three schools over the years ahead.
8) Will a model of the new Page Middle School and grounds be made available on the school website?
· As plans are refined, drawings will be available on the School Board’s website.

Greetings Mr. Kiser,
I know you are a busy person so I won’t take up much more of your time.  Thank you for “your” answers and opinions which you appear to be settled upon.  As I have researched Page Middle School I couldn’t help but notice you use the pronoun “I” disproportionately to “we”.  I have always been taught a community works together.  In a community setting such as Gloucester, people want to be involved.

  Gloucester County is rich in professionally intelligent and talented residents who can provide valuable advice and guidance that will never be provided by any hired commercial firms or businesses.  There are many communities who take advantage of those valuable free resources when they undertake a project such as building a new school.  Much of their resident involvement is channeled through the district representatives who seek out and make themselves available to their constituents to discuss issues.  Other community involvement is channeled through today’s technology. 

 Those communities also have meetings which are advertised and open to the public, as is in Gloucester County.  Unfortunately, that is the only community involvement aspect Gloucester County shares with those other more prosperous and content communities.  In Gloucester most residents are not willing to become involved because of what took place with the attempt by residents to unseat several county supervisors. Many people feel like there is no use in being involved because they feel those who are appointed and elected are going to do what they want with total disregard of those they are entrusted to represent.  Despite the setting being in a rural community or a major metropolis, those who are appointed and elected to ensure the education of children are supposed to work in tandem with those others who have been appointed and elected to represent the interests of the community as a whole. They are supposed to set the example of people working together for our children.  In Gloucester County that is not the way things are.

  The Gloucester School Board members have been manipulated to, among other things, take the approach of checking the required blocks as pertains to community involvement and working cohesively with other appointed and elected officials.  Resistance to working in tandem and restricting involvement of others presents a strong appearance of deception efforts which are normally perpetrated by persons with self gain agendas driven by greed.  I certainly hope that does not continue to manifest into being the case in Gloucester County.
Again, thank you.  You have been an enormous help in my continuing research of Gloucester County’s administrative process.

I will first say that I disagree with your assumptions and perceived savings.  The School Board has done due diligence on both sites and agreed to  the best possible solution for replacing Page Middle School after months of vetting the advantages and disadvantages of many scenarios.  Even though some individuals are assuming that several million dollars can be saved just by rebuilding on the previous site, that is simply just not the case.
The T.C. Walker Road property far exceeds the minimum guidelines for school construction as established by the Department of Education and will be able to accommodate a middle school, a high school, and an elementary school eventually.
Over the past year and a half, many conversations have taken place regarding the potential for the property adjacent to the old Page site and the new property.  At this time, no plans are in place or are being discussed by the School Board regarding the property in question.
As I stated in my last email, eventually, the School Board and the Board of Supervisors will agree to the disposition and future use of the old Page site.  At the moment, the School Board owns the property and has its bus compound situated on the property.  No plans have been made by the School Board regarding the future use of the site.
Take care.
Ben Kiser

Some of the conversations seem to be out of place.  This is how they are coming through to us and we are trying to sort them out as best as possible.  The objective however is to let everyone see all the issues surrounding the new school that is being forced on us all.  That is if we allow it to be forced on us.  What should be taken into consideration is that there is an appearance that the Board of Supervisors may have been hoodwinked in areas on this matter.  Take into consideration, if that were the case, they could have denied the funding at any time, so do not be fooled.  If no one is watching what is going on, we are all in trouble. 
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