Roanoke County School Board members said Tuesday they will prioritize the school facility needs listed in a new report by school administrators.
Superintendent Ken Nicely presented the assessment during a school board work session.
Roanoke County Public Schools uses a capital improvement program adopted by the school board to schedule capital projects over a 10-year span. In February, the board asked Nicely to establish a new ranking by evaluating schools from an instructional perspective.
Nicely was joined in the assessments by Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Eastwood, Director of Secondary Instruction Jamie Soltis and Director of Facilities and Operations Mark Kitta.
The group reviewed prior reports on facility needs, and considered the capital improvement program adopted this school year. That plan calls for renovating six schools in the following order: William Byrd High, Hidden Valley Middle, Burlington Elementary, Glenvar Elementary, W.E. Cundiff Elementary and Glen Cove Elementary.
As part of their report, administrators analyzed the needs of all six schools along with three more: the Burton Center for Arts and Technology, Northside Middle and Penn Forest Elementary.
William Byrd High remained first on the administrators’ priorities list. But the remainder differed from the capital improvement program. Administrators listed W.E. Cundiff and Glen Cove elementary schools next, followed by the Burton Center, Northside Middle, Glenvar Elementary, Hidden Valley Middle and Burlington and Penn Forest elementary schools.
The report prioritized schools based on quantitative data, quality assessments and perceived safety. Administrators considered classroom space, lighting and furniture among several factors that could impact instruction. The group toured all nine facilities and interviewed principals.
Keeping William Byrd High first on the list was important to ensure equity among all five high schools in terms of major renovations, Nicely said. Cave Spring High is in the middle of a $43.4 million renovation.
The Burton Center, located in Salem, hosts programs in career and technical education and other fields for high schoolers throughout Roanoke County. The school was determined to have the most needs, and recommended for replacement by administrators. Because that process requires more planning time, renovating W.E. Cundiff and Glen Cove elementary schools should come first, Nicely said.
Roanoke County officials have in recent years discussed rebuilding the Burton Center, or partnering with neighboring school divisions to offer career and technical education programs. Officials discussed those ideas again briefly Tuesday.
Nicely said both W.E. Cundiff and Glen Cove Elementary School were built with the same design, and have outdated, open-pod classrooms. The concept presents challenges to teachers and students from an instructional and security perspective, the report states.
Nicely said Northside Middle is in major need of renovations to the core of its building. The school’s cafeteria is also too small, and its second floor location presents challenges. The library-media center also needs an update, Nicely said.
School board members discussed the report further following Nicely’s presentation, though Vice Chairman Tim Greenway was absent from the meeting and board member Mike Wray left early because of a prior commitment.
Board Chairman Don Butzer lauded the administrators’ work as a better method of developing a capital improvement plan. Board member Jason Moretz said the process “kind of takes the politics out of our [capital improvement program]” by leaving the decision to administrators.
“We always talk about one Roanoke County, doing what’s best for all of Roanoke County. I think we’ve shown a willingness to do that,” Moretz said.
The board plans to discuss the list of school needs with the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors during a joint meeting next month.