Tuesday, September 26, 2023

WJCC Schools Takes New Approach to CIP through Facility Analysis

Williamsburg and James City County police will be increasing their patrols to WJCC elementary schools. City police already include Matthew Whaley Elementary, shown, in patrols, according to Major Greg Riley. (WJCC Photo)
An alternative to a proposed roof replacement for Matthew Whaley Elementary was found through a facility analysis, potentially saving WJCC $1.17 million. (WJCC Photo)

With a facility conditions index in hand – a first for the Williamsburg-James City County School Division – and a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan under consideration, School Board Chairman Jim Kelly (Jamestown) said the division is moving from one that used “Band-Aids and Duct tape” to solve problems to one that is more serious and thoughtful about its operation.

“It’s yet another example of how this school system is transitioning from a small school system to a modern school system,” Kelly said.

The school board continued its discussion last night of Superintendent Steven Constantino’s proposed CIP for fiscal years 2017 through 2026. The plan and the outcomes of the facility conditions index were first presented during the Nov. 10 School Board meeting.

The CIP is reviewed annually and adjusted according to needs within the school division. This year, a facility analysis conducted by consultancy Faithful + Gould helped the school division determine when projects like roof replacements needed to be completed.

Some FY 2016-2020 five-year CIP projects scheduled to be completed in FY 2017 were pushed back in the proposed 10-year plan after Faithful + Gould’s analysis.

For example, refurbishment and an entrance redesign at Stonehouse Elementary School, slated for fiscal 2017, were pushed back to 2020. The facility conditions index recommends instead that a chiller is replaced in 2017, as the cost to maintain the current chiller increased this year, according to an email from WJCC Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta.

Additionally, some projects in the fiscal years 2016-2020 budget were modified significantly enough they no longer cost more than $50,000 to complete, the threshold to be considered for the CIP.

In an email to WYDaily, Berta wrote that a roof replacement in the five-year CIP exceeding $1 million at Matthew Whaley Elementary School may not be necessary, as the analysis found replacing slate tiles on an as-need basis could do the job at a reduced cost.

The proposed CIP suggests addressing refurbishments, such as carpet, tile and paint improvements, across multiple years, rather than completing them all at once.

During the Nov. 10 meeting, Berta explained this strategy as a hybrid of Faithful + Gould’s recommendation, as it takes a “component” approach to completing refurbishment and retaining the “life cycle” schedule for items such as HVAC systems, which are currently replaced every 20 years.

The grand total of the 10-year CIP, which includes individual school improvements as well as the second phase of the fourth middle school and new central offices, is $98,678,443. The JCC Board of Supervisors and the Williamsburg City Council will look closely at the FY 2017 CIP, currently valued at $5,572,318, when it enters its budget cycle.

After Kathy Woollum, president of Lafayette High School’s Athletics Booster Club, urged the board to consider adding an auxiliary gym, practice field lighting and a bridge walkway between the school and the Warhill Sports Complex, or WISC, to the CIP during a public hearing Tuesday night, the board’s discussion focused on the need to include more athletic facility improvements in the CIP.

Board member Ruth Larson (Berkeley) said the school division needs to be “upfront” with families about what sports can be offered down the road based on the space available, noting how Jamestown wrestlers have had to practice on mats in their cafeteria.

“If we aren’t able to offer facilities, I think we need to be upfront and not put programming out there that we aren’t able to sustain,” Larson said.

Constantino reminded the board the 10-year CIP will be presented as the board’s recommendation, so board members are encouraged to suggest modifications that will represent their interests for the school division.

“The administration has worked diligently to provide a recommendation based on what we know, what we’ve learned and what we believe are the pressing needs of the school division. We do not have a crystal ball and we’re not here to say what we are saying is absolutely correct,” Constantino said. “We have proposed to you a CIP that addresses most of the needs.”

The school board will vote to adopt the 10-year CIP during its Dec. 15 meeting.

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