Gone are the days—with all due apologies to the Adams International School—of the little red schoolhouse meeting all of a community’s educational needs. Teaching methods are changing to keep pace with our ever evolving world, and schools need to support these changes. All three of Goochland’s elementary schools Byrd, Goochland, and Randolph, were built more than 50 years ago. Even the “new” high school has been in operation for more than 15 years.
The economy seems to be rebounding and Goochland is finally seeing significant economic development in the eastern end of the county to counter balance the real estate tax base. Growth in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD) generates additional ad valorem tax to service its debt, enabling the county to address pressing capital improvement needs pushed to the back burner while it got its financial house in order.
Items on the county’s current five year capital improvement plan (CIP) include: a new circuit courthouse; fire-rescue station; emergency apparatus; and a new elementary school. The notion of building a new elementary school has been around for quite some time, but, due to other debt, was repeatedly kicked down the road. The CIP has a $24 million dollar “placeholder” for a new elementary school to be built somewhere around FY 2020.
For years conventional wisdom had it that the next elementary school would be built on land owned by the county on Hockett Road. As most of the residential growth seems to be in the east end, this seemed a reasonable course of action.
Earlier this year, the supervisors approved a request from the school division to fund the services of consultant to study all school facilities and make countywide recommendations going forward for a few decades.
This initiative began in the summer and included a survey and some meetings to discuss the matter. (Sidelined by bodywork, GOMM was unable to attend. However, http://www.dejongrichter.com/goochlandschools/ contains many fascinating details about the county.)
Perhaps the most interesting assumption is that the size of the Goochland public schools' student body will remain around 3,000 for the next five years. Most of the costs focus on construction or renovation to wind up with a 1,400 student capacity at the elementary level at either three or four schools. These projections seem to be based on residential building permit data for the past few years, which were depressed by the economic downturn.
Several options were presented for the elementary schools, including razing and rebuilding them on current or new sites. Suggestions were also made to move the Career and Technical Education to the high school campus. Options include modernize existing facilities or replace them. Cost estimates, county wide, not including land acquisition costs range from approximately $49.5 to $61.6 million. The recommendations do not include expansion of athletic facilities, which some respondents to the survey contend are currently inadequate.
While many of the residential developments working their way through the rezoning process target senior citizens and will have no impact on schools, others do not. While it seems almost impossible to gauge how many children will be added to our school division from resales, it should be addressed. Earlier this year, Director of Community Development JoAnn Hunter said that the bulk of the RES student increase was caused by resales.
There have as yet been no formal discussions between the supervisors and school board about the matter, or, more importantly, how to pay for new and/or renovated schools. The county issued bonds to pay for the high school at the end of the last century. Given that we are still carefully working around debt service for the TCSD, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
The county is in the process of conducting its own studies to create a more comprehensive CIP to include the courthouse, fire-rescue stations, information system upgrades, and additional space needs for county government.
Funds were recently approved to commission creation of a new master thoroughfare plan to deal with actual development activity, especially in the Hockett Road corridor.
All of these capital improvement studies will help the supervisors get a clear idea of the entire county’s needs going forward so they can make informed decisions about appropriate and sustainable levels of residential growth.
Results of surveys about the school options and the remarks made by those who attended the steering committee meetings, last updated on September 19 are available at: http://www.dejongrichter.com/goochlandschools/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2017/09/GoochlandCo_CD1_ResultsReport_mts20170919.pdf These documents are well worth perusing.
The last meeting of the steering committee will be held on Tuesday, September 26 in classroom 143 of Goochland High School at 6 .p. Recommendations will be made to the School Board at its October 10 meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building.