The Washington Post

Manassas wants recommendations for new Baldwin Elementary School

Getting funding for a new Baldwin Elementary School in Manassas took more than two decades. Now, officials have embarked on an effort to determine key aspects of Baldwin and a second school, with the public’s help.

Superintendent Catherine Magouyrk has scheduled “Saturday With the Superintendent” events and similar opportunities to solicit suggestions from residents. Officials will discuss the $38 million school project and seek a consensus about its most important aspects.

The money will fund a Baldwin Elementary building and a “themed” school for grades three to six, to be built next door.

Magouyrk said one of the key decisions will be what theme the community wants for the second school. For example, it could be a math and science magnet school, or have a focus on fine arts. That’s a question she also has posed to the city’s five other elementary schools, because Magouyrk wants principals to offer specialized curricula across the city.

A committee will make a recommendation to the Manassas School Board after evaluating public feedback on the theme for the new school.

“I think strong schools have informed communities,” Magouyrk said. “We have to listen. If they’re going to commit their taxpayer dollars to us, they need to a be a part of our planning process.”

Many parents have said that Baldwin, built in 1961 and since modified, should have been replaced years ago. The school’s layout resembles a board game, with giant circles at two ends. The circles were once open-air courtyards, but they have long since been enclosed to create 20 classrooms in awkward pie shapes. Storage closets partially block doors, and technology and WiFi connections are unreliable.

On rainy days, the roof sounds like radio static and, in a downpour, a freight train, teachers say.

Those and other problems — plus a sense from city leaders that Manassas needs upgrades — had officials pushing hard for replacing the school this year. The City Council approved funds for Baldwin and other projects as part of a real-estate tax increase in May.

Manassas’s $100.3 million fiscal 2014 budget will pay for sidewalk widening in the Old Town business district, the new schools, drainage improvements and other projects.

There will be a meeting to solicit feedback from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 7 at Mayfield Intermediate School, 8550 Signal Hill Rd., Manassas,.

The first “Saturday With the Superintendent” will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Baldwin Elementary, 9705 Main St., Manassas. Other events are scheduled for Jan. 25, March 8 and June 7.

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