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Isle of Wight residents voice support for school renovations

SMITHFIELD

Several people spoke in favor of Isle of Wight County Schools’ proposed Capital Improvements Plan last Thursday during a public hearing in Smithfield High School. The plan includes proposed renovations to Hardy and Westside elementary schools, beginning sometime within the next two years.

The proposed renovations and restructuring of grades housed at each school are intended to address the nearly 900 new students expected to enter the county’s school system over the next 12 to 13 years from the buildout of current and proposed housing developments.

According to a timeline developed by a committee of parents and other community stakeholders, in 2019 the division would make Hardy Elementary a K-4 school. Then, in 2020, Hardy and Westside would both be renovated, resulting in five new classrooms being added at Hardy and makers spaces being added at both schools. By 2021, 100 students from Carrollton Elementary would be rezoned to Hardy.

Most of the speakers at the hearing were associated with either Hardy or Westside, and spoke on the need for renovations in each building.

No renovations or changes to grade structures are proposed in the CIP for any of the Windsor area schools. However, all county residents would be on the hook for footing the bill were the CIP and proposed renovation timeline to be adopted. Supt. Dr. Jim Thornton estimated the cost of renovations at Hardy would be around $14.4 million and the renovations to Westside around $17.4 million.

The timeline also calls for the construction of a new bus garage in 2020, which is estimated to cost around $6 million. The total cost of all three first-phase projects (Hardy, Westside and the garage) has been estimated at $39.6 million. This would require a 6.2-percent tax increase on all county residents, including those in the Windsor and Carrsville areas if new money needed to be used for the projects.

The second phase of the timeline calls for all the county’s elementary schools to once again be K-5 schools, and for a new elementary school to be built somewhere in the northern end of the county. At this point, Westside would become a grade 6-7 middle school and the joint Smithfield High School and Middle School complex would become a grade 8-12 high school. The cost of building the new elementary school has been estimated at $38.8 million, but no start year or location has been identified as of yet.

The School Board will have a second hearing on the matter in July and vote on the proposed plan in August. Eventually, the CIP will need to be approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors and be incorporated into the county’s CIP.