Isle of Wight supervisors propose postponing Westside Elementary replacement to 2025

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Replacing Westside Elementary with a new middle school has been deferred to the 2025-26 fiscal year in Isle of Wight County’s proposed 10-year capital improvements program.

The county has budgeted roughly $38 million for the project, though the actual cost could be nearly 75% higher according to Isle of Wight County Schools’ latest estimates.

Jeff Harris, co-director of RRMM Architects’ K-12 design studio, quoted Isle of Wight’s School Board a price of $66.4 million in January to replace the 1960s-era school, which currently houses grades 4-6, with a new building modeled after Col. Fred Cherry Middle School in Suffolk that would house grades 5-7.

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The School Board had selected RRMM for the Westside project in 2020. That same year, Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors borrowed $34 million, intending to put $27 million toward replacing another 1960s-era school – Hardy Elementary – and had planned to borrow another $30 million-plus this year for Westside.

At the time, the county had planned to replace Westside with a larger version of Windsor’s Georgie D. Tyler Middle School, which the county had built for roughly $22 million in 2014.

But when the price for Hardy came back at $36.8 million and a committee of students, parents and teachers recommended Isle of Wight choose Cherry as its prototype instead, the county postponed Westside and instead borrowed another $12 million to complete the Hardy project.

The $38 million budgeted for Westside is “an old number,” County Administrator Randy Keaton acknowledged, and is probably “grossly under” what will be needed.

In addition to Westside, the county’s proposed capital improvements program calls for $53.6 million in expenditures over the next five years, including the $12 million for Hardy, $16.3 million for transportation projects, $8.5 million for water and sewer infrastructure improvements and just under $7 million in new fire and rescue vehicles.

Of the $16.3 million in transportation money, three projects totaling $11.1 million are slated for funding in the upcoming 2022-23 fiscal year.

One, budgeted at $8.5 million, will involve converting the existing right-turn lane on West Main Street at its intersection with Route 10 to a second through lane, and adding a new right-turn lane, increasing left-turn lane lengths and reconfiguring the Smithfield park-and-ride lot. Actual construction will likely begin in 2024 or 2025.

Another, budgeted at $1.5 million, involves adding turn lanes at the intersection of routes 460 and 258 in Windsor. A third, budgeted at $1.1 million, involves beginning the county’s portion of extending Nike Park Road to connect to Carrollton Boulevard.

The county will hold an April 21 public hearing to solicit input on its proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget and the proposed capital improvements plan.