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Students walk to a modular unit earlier this year at Christiansburg Elementary School. Montgomery County leaders continue to plan improvements to the Chrisitansburg school strand to relieve overcrowding and to do needed facility upgrades.

Montgomery County Public Schools unveiled the anticipated timeline for the more than $100 million in projects aimed at alleviating overcrowding in the Christiansburg strand of schools.

MCPS made it official in April that it will expand the classroom spaces at the capacity-troubled Christiansburg Elementary, Christiansburg Primary, Belview Elementary and Christiansburg High schools.

Then this past Tuesday — about two weeks after the school board backed the issuance of up to $35 million in bonds for the elementary school projects — school officials presented a schedule for when each of the projects is expected to start.

For example, design work on each of the elementary school projects is set to be finalized on Dec. 1. Site work for those projects will then follow before their construction starts in what’s expected to be June of 2020.

For Christiansburg High — which at $70 million is the most expensive of the upcoming school projects — construction isn’t expected to begin for at least another three years.

“Obviously we’re excited the funding has been essentially approved … we’re on track now to finally do those projects, get those kids out of trailers and provide at least a little bit of growth space,” school board member Connie Froggatt said.

The county until recently could not issue financing to begin capital projects due to the fact that the locality had reached its debt capacity when it approved a package of school projects for Riner and Blacksburg several years ago.

Among those projects was a new Blacksburg High School, which was built in response to the 2010 collapse of the old high school’s gym roof.

The county, however, was recently informed by financial advisory firm Davenport & Company that it will be able to borrow funds over the next few years that will allow it to pay for the Christiansburg elementary school projects and likely start the expansion of Christiansburg High.

MCPS, for its Christiansburg projects, is also currently considering three proposals filed under the guidelines of the state’s Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act.

The PPEA allows a private firm to handle key aspects of government projects such as seeking the financing and managing the construction and architectural work.

Assistant Superintendent Tommy Kranz reiterated to the school board Tuesday that the PPEA can speed up government projects.

MCPS, Kranz said, doesn’t plan to take advantage of the financing aspect of the PPEA, but is looking at proposals that would allow a firm to take on the construction and architectural responsibilities.

How quickly MCPS will be able to do some of the projects will still ultimately depend on the economy, Froggatt said.

“That’s assuming the economy is going to be in a certain financial situation down the road when we’re ready to do Christiansburg High School,” she said.

Froggatt’s reference is to the possibility of a future recession, which she said can affect financing for government projects.

“What if the Fed raises the rate dramatically?” she said, adding that inflation can also cause construction costs to go up.

The school board has scheduled a Sept. 3 public hearing to review the PPEA proposals and the recommendation from MCPS administration.

If the administration’s recommendation is approved, the school board on Oct. 1 will receive an overview of the proposed PPEA agreement.

The school board would then on Oct. 15 issue a decision on the proposed agreement.

Below are the details on each of the Christiansburg strand projects:

  • CES and CPS will each get approximately 10 new classrooms.
  • Belview will get four to six new classrooms.
  • Gym and cafeteria space improvements will be made at each of the elementary schools.
  • Christiansburg High will receive new classroom, gym and office space that will allow the school to increase its student capacity from 866 to 1,400.

The three elementary schools last school year had combined capacities of 830 — but combined enrollments of 1,231.

Christiansburg High last year school had an enrollment of just over 1,000 students.

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