Monday, August 15, 2022

WJCC School Board Adopts CIP Budget With Lafayette Additions

Ram fans cheer on their team during second half action.(Photo by Lee Luther Jr.)
Ram fans cheer on their team during second half action. (Photo by Lee Luther Jr.)

Emails, petitions and public comments paid off for Lafayette High School parents last night when the Williamsburg-James City County School Board adopted a revised 10-year Capital Improvement Plan that included three athletic facility items proposed for funding in the next three fiscal years.

The Athletics Booster Club at Lafayette advocated for construction of an auxiliary gym and a bridge walkway to the Warhill Indoor Sports Complex, or WISC, as well as the installation of lights on the practice fields, emphasizing that each item could mitigate safety risks for students and bring Lafayette, Jamestown and Warhill high schools closer to achieving resource equity.

The first two items were proposed in previous CIPs but the auxiliary gym was removed due to arranged alternatives – Jamestown got an auxiliary gym while Lafayette and Warhill were to utilize a building addition at WISC, which has not been constructed – and the walkway was removed due to the expense of bringing it into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lights on the practice fields have not appeared before in a CIP, said Alan Robertson, the WJCC School Division facilities manager.

Superintendent Steven Constantino said during last night’s meeting that he decided to revise his original budget after speaking with school board members and members of the Lafayette community.

In the modified CIP, an auxiliary gym, budgeted for $2,450,679, is proposed for funding in FY 2017; lighting for the football and hockey practice fields, budgeted for $516,977, is proposed for FY 2018; and a walkway to WISC, budgeted for $1,177,184, is proposed for FY 2019.

Kathy Woollum, president of the booster club, said the board’s unanimous vote to adopt the CIP with the revisions shows its commitment to the Lafayette community’s request.

More than 400 people signed an online petition to show their support for the items and several individuals, including a recent graduate, spoke in favor of athletic facility improvements during last night’s public comment.

“We’re excited, but I think the work has just begun because it still needs to get funded,” Woollum said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

In addition to the Lafayette revisions, Constantino moved up the project year of the Stonehouse Elementary School bus loop canopy from FY 2021 to FY 2017 and pushed back the HVAC replacement at Norge Elementary to FY 2018 from FY 2017.

The 10-year CIP, which spans FY 2017 through FY 2026, now totals $102,895,182, exceeding Constantino’s original proposal by more than $4 million.

Ruth Larson (Berkeley) said she would like to see the school division complete an equity audit and an athletic facilities report that is easily accessible online.

“Truthfully, this has been years in the making,” Larson said of the Lafayette requests. “I’m not sure when the high schools were built they were built with the facilities they needed. … When you just do things from the beginning in the correct way it serves best in the long haul. I think we’re on track to do better.”

Heather Cordasco (Roberts) encouraged board members to see the difference between providing a fair balance of resources and providing identical resources to the three high schools.

“I think it’s important that we do not confuse equity with everyone having the exact same thing because it will be that different schools have different flavors,” Cordasco said, noting Warhill as an example of a school that should be able to emphasize its technology offerings even though they may exceed those of Jamestown or Lafayette.

The James City County and Williamsburg planning commissions will review the CIP next year and offer their recommendations to the JCC Board of Supervisors and City Council, respectively. The board and the council will then make adjustments to the CIP based on what projects they can fund.

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