City School Board Officials Eye New Building

Eight Architects Submit Proposals

Posted: April 30, 2014

HARRISONBURG — The Harrisonburg City School Board began discussing potential architects for a new elementary school during a closed session on Tuesday night, according to Superintendent Scott Kizner.

Eight firms submitted proposals by the time the application window closed at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Kizner said. He did not know before the meeting whether any of the firms were local businesses.

The firms did not bid on the project, which includes renovating Thomas Harrison Middle School.

Kizner said the board will pick one or two firms for the projects based on their experience and credentials. Costs will be determined after the projects are designed.

The board also discussed potential locations for the new school in a joint closed session meeting with Harrisonburg City Council. No decisions were made, according to Kizner.

During the regular portion of the School Board’s meeting on Tuesday, which was open to the public, Parent Advisory Council member Lori Remmel-Reich asked the board to share more details about its decision to abandon the idea of building a new middle school in favor of building an elementary one instead.

“We’d like to know what changed from the 6-0 decision back in October,” Remmel-Reich said.

She said the PAC is not necessarily advocating for one plan or another, but just wants to know what happened to the previous plan.

Board Chairman Nick Swayne marked the idea of holding a public hearing or other meeting to further explain the new school project as a future agenda item.

Also at the meeting, Kizner said the division is now expecting to receive about $75,000 less from the federal government for special education programs next school year. He previously had been optimistic that the federal government would increase its anticipated contribution.

On top of that, the state government has yet to pass its own budget for fiscal 2015, which starts July 1. The state contributes the majority of the school division’s funding, and this year will be even tighter for city schools if its allocation comes in below an expected $29.6 million.

The board’s approved budget request totaled $62.76 million, which assumed a $28.7 million allocation from the city. That’s $1.4 million higher than this year’s local share, and City Council is talking about scaling it back at least $400,000.

Less money would be difficult for the board to manage because of all the fixed costs, such as Virginia Retirement System increases, that can’t be reduced or cut, Swayne said.

“We’re only asking for $600,000 above fixed costs,” board member Kerri Wilson said.

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or

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