Voters Choice

Voters Choice

Voters to Decide on Funding Renovations

Tuesday, Nov. 7, residents will be asked to vote on the method of funding for five school projects, including the second phase of major renovations to the county’s four oldest middle schools.

Beginning next year, Blue Ridge, Seneca Ridge, Simpson and Sterling middle schools will undergo phase two of major renovations to classrooms and cafeterias, in an effort to modernize the schools, which were built in the 1970s.

The bond question asks county residents to fund the project through a general obligation capital improvement bond of $12,440,000.

The Board of Supervisors selected the general obligation bond to fund this project with the idea that people moving into the area will be able to help pay for the schools over a 20-year payment schedule.

School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) compared a general obligation bond to a mortgage on a house.

"When you want to add on to your house, you remortgage your house," he said. "We’re asking voters to approve the debt to complete these projects."

The four schools will receive new art and music classrooms and modern cafeterias, Geurin said.

The Sterling representative said the central part of the county, including Ashburn and Ashburn Farms, faces challenges with keeping up with growth. The eastern part faces challenges keeping the buildings up to today’s standards.

For example, Sterling Elementary School was built in 1971.

"The floor plans for middle schools have changed considerably in 35 years," Geurin said.

"We want to complete what we had in mind in 2002."

IN 2002, the School Board budgeted for these projects in full. Due to high construction costs it had to break down the project into two parts, phase one and phase two.

The first phase included major renovations to Sterling’s oldest elementary schools: Hillsboro, Rolling Ridge and Sugarland, which are well underway. The schools’ renovations, including new offices and gymnasiums, will be complete in July 2007.

Currently, the middle schools art rooms are located in the center of the schools, with no windows and limited space. The cafeterias don’t look like the dining areas in newer schools in the Ashburn area.

Seneca Ridge Middle School Principal Mark McDermott looks forward to new art and music classrooms. More and more students are signing up for the classes, but there’s not a lot of room for them to create their projects.

"We have three art teachers scrunched in one big room," he said.

If the construction project is approved, Seneca Ridge will receive modern art classrooms with windows and additional storage space.

"We have an outstanding art program. If you saw these projects, they’d knock you out," the principal said. "We need a new facility with natural light and additional storage space."

THE COUNTY faces large challenges with keeping up with growth, Geurin said. He reminded residents of the importance of approving all five bond issues, in an effort to accommodate the growing number of students.

More than 50,000 students are enrolled in Loudoun County Public Schools this year. In 2007, Planning and Legislative Services Director Sam Adamo predicts about 54,000 students will enroll in the county’s public schools, in 2008, 58,000 and in 2009, total enrollment will reach just over 60,000 students.

The Board of Supervisors already approved the project in its fiscal year 2007 Capital Improvements Plan (CIP), but it is up to residents on how to fund it. If the second phase of the middle-school renovations is not approved, the Board of Supervisors must find other ways to fund it.

"The question is, will you approve the debt to do this?" Guerin said. "These are things we simply have to do."