Getting information out of PWCS is difficult, and that’s putting it mildly, and that difficulty makes it almost impossible to figure out what’s really happened. As a result, misunderstandings and misperceptions tend to be perceived as fact. There is no swimming pool on the roof of Patriot High School or Wood Elementary School. There are very nice murals at Piney Branch that were paid for out of the Principal’s discretionary funds. Some of our High Schools, namely Patriot and Battlefield, do not have enough textbooks for certain subjects to give one to each student. Smart Boards cost about $10,000 each to purchase and install and, while they’re really cool and fun, there is little empirical evidence that they actually improve student learning. Current research shows that IPads actually do help autistic children communicate more effectively. Angry Birds has no academic value but does appear to be highly addictive.
That’s part of the reason we created this site – not to serve as cheerleaders for the administration but to separate fact from fiction and hold the district accountable when it’s the one spreading fiction.
As we’re in an election year and one of the hottest campaigns is in Brentsville District, lots of issues are popping up. One such issue has popped up that we felt deserved attention, that of the Nokesville K – 8 School, which is set to begin construction in 2012.
Nokesville currently houses an elementary school with about 400 students in attendance. That school is almost 100 years old and long term planning for PWCS had the school scheduled for replacement in 2014 with an 850 student elementary school at a projected cost of roughly $25 million. The Nokesville community opposed the new elementary school, and suggested that the old elementary school should be renovated with 10 rooms added to it, at a projected cost of roughly $14.4 million. That would have increased the school’s current capacity of approximately 350 students to about 600 students and would have saved the district $10.6 million.
While the renovation and expansion had great appeal in the community, Facilities and Construction staff at PWCS were concerned that the site could not support the expansion and were concerned about putting renovation dollars into a building that is nearly 100 years old, so they began researching alternatives and suggested that a 900 student K – 8 school be built in Nokesville instead of renovating and expanding the old school. Preliminary cost estimates demonstrated that the K – 8 school could be built for the same cost as a new 850 student elementary school, approximately $25 million, and would have the added benefit of providing 325 middle school seats. Marsteller Middle School will see little relief from overcrowding when Ronald Reagan Middle School opens at Silver Lake and enrollment at the school is projected to increase as the “bubble” hits. No new middle schools are planned in the county until 2018.
At the June 2, 2010 school board meeting PWCS Facilities and Construction staff presented their plans for the Nokesville renovation and expansion to the school board. They also suggested that a new K – 8 school would be a financially feasible option that would provide additional elementary and middle school seats in an area that needs those seats without having to renovate an old school whose site might not support support a 10 room expansion. At that meeting, Gil Trenum, the Brentsville District representative, proposed that the school board consider a regional K – 8 school in Nokesville in lieu of renovating and expanding the old Nokesville Elementary.
A K – 8 school only has 325 middle school students, and, as such, there isn’t sufficient population to support certain activities, like a middle school sports program. Because those programs are important to many parents, input from the community was sought before the proposal was approved. Notifications of the proposal were sent home with every Nokesville Elementary student and a public meeting was held at Nokesville Elementary School. The proposal was presented to the PWC Planning Commission and Board of County Supervisors and was discussed during public session at two school board meetings.
There are some negatives associated with K -8 school – namely redistricting and specialty programs. Because the new K – 8 school will serve elementary and middle school students, the boundaries for elementary and middle schools in that area will have to be redrawn. Redistricting at the elementary level would have happened whether the choice was for an expanded and renovated Nokesville Elementary or a K – 8 school, but because the new school will affect middle schools, some students may have to move from Marsteller to the K – 8 school. Additionally, because of the size of the middle school, specialty programs will be limited in the middle school portion of the school. However, any student who is assigned to the K – 8 school who wants to be involved in one of the specialty programs or middle school sports program can transfer to and attend Marsteller Middle School, as long as they’re able to provide their own transportation to and from school.
Ultimately, the school board felt the net positives outweighed the negatives, and decided to approve building a K – 8 school in Nokesville. The justification for this decision include the following:
- The community did not support a new 850 student Elementary School in Nokesville, but student population in the area and the age of the old Nokesville elementary school made a new, larger school necessary
- The site on which the current Nokesville Elementary school sits was not amenable to a 10 room expansion.
- The cost of building a 900 student K – 8 school is approximately the same as the cost of building an 850 student Elementary School and the cost of building an 850 student elementary school in Nokesville had already been factored into long term planning.
- 325 new middle school seats would reduce overcrowding at Marsteller Middle School.
- 225 new elementary seats would reduce overcrowding at T. Clay Wood and other area elementary schools.
We have been informed that our original report was in error. The CIP was never adjusted to reflect replacing Nokesville Elementary with an 850 student elementary school. In early 2010 PWCS staff had proposed amending the CIP to reflect replacing NES with an 850 student elementary school instead of renovating and expanding the old elementary school. The CIP was never amended to reflect this change as the community opposed it so strongly. Instead staff began researching building a K -8 in Nokesville instead of renovating and expanding the old elementary school, and amended the CIP on June 16, 2010 to reflect that change.