The Fauquier County School Board has asked the Board of Supervisors to put off a bond referendum to finance the construction of the county's third high school until after the general election in November, school officials said.

The School Board unanimously passed a resolution last week requesting that the county waive a policy requiring that construction projects that cost more than $10 million be placed on the ballot during the general election, said School Board Chairman Broni Lambelet (Marshall).

The board is seeking a referendum next spring. Lambelet said the board needed more time to educate the public about the issue and to provide the county with information on design work for the school. "We want time to adequately inform the community," she said.

There is no firm price tag for the 1,200-student school, but similar schools in the region have cost about $46 million, said School Board member Jay E. VanGelder (Cedar Run).

The School Board had asked the county to speed up construction of the school by borrowing money immediately to finance it instead of waiting for a referendum. The county rejected that request last month.

School officials had argued that the need for a new high school was so pressing that the referendum could be bypassed. "It's not a situation where it would be nice to have a new high school," Lambelet said. "Then you really do need voter input. The numbers are telling us . . . this is a critical need."

Harry Atherton (I-Marshall), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he was "inclined to support" a request from the school system to hold a referendum separate from the general election. That way, he said, voters would be able to devote their attention to the issue, which could otherwise be obscured by the presidential election.

"The downside is that it will cost a little money to have it out of cycle," Atherton added.

The county registrar estimates that a special election would cost about $22,000. That figure could fluctuate based on voter turnout, among other factors.

The School Board decided last year to build a third high school to relieve crowding at its two high schools. The school is expected to open in 2007 and will probably be built near Marshall or in New Baltimore.

BRONI LAMBELET