Prince William plans to build K-8 school in Nokesville

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prince William County schools officials recently announced plans to build a school that would serve nine grades in the county's booming western end.

At it last meeting of the school year, the Prince William School Board voted, 6 to 2, to put a proposed kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school on its long-term list of capital improvement projects in lieu of renovating Nokesville Elementary School.

The $31 million, 140,000-square-foot proposed school would open in September 2014 next to Brentsville District High School and house almost 950 students: 600 elementary, 300 middle and the rest special education. School officials had budgeted about $14 million to renovate and add 10 classrooms to Nokesville Elementary, which is more than 80 years old.

"We have a school that needs renovating, and we have a community that is supportive of this," said School Board Vice Chairman Gilbert A. "Gil" Trenum Jr. (Brentsville). "We are still playing the catch-up game . . . and we're still growing. This may give us an opportunity to get ahead a bit."

Pat Puttre, associate superintendent for middle schools, said this style of school is often found in more rural areas and provides for smaller class sizes.

Research shows no academic benefits to opening such a school, Puttre said. Instead, school officials proposed the K-8 model because it will address the need to replace an aging facility and provide much-needed additional middle school seats, she said.

"I am concerned about the infrastructure and ongoing costs we are going to have" at Nokesville Elementary, School Superintendent Steven L. Walts said. He added that Nokesville would no longer serve children after the new school is built but that it's unclear what would happen to the building. "By having 300 more seats available, we're able to, I believe, put into place something that will make all the schools in the western end at capacity."

The school's makeup would limit interscholastic middle school sports, and there wouldn't be a full athletic program, school officials said. Extracurricular activities could also be limited.

Some School Board members voiced concerns, including how parents would react and how the project might affect others in the capital improvement plan.

"This is a lot of money if you consider the fact we have tight economic problems now," said Denita S. Ramirez (Woodbridge), who, along with Lisa E. Bell (Neabsco), voted against the plan at the June 16 meeting.

David Cline, associate superintendent for finance and support services, said the K-8 school would add about $2.3 million in unfunded annual debt service costs and cost about $8 million more than if just a new elementary were built.

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