Officials ready to select site for new John Kerr school

Posted: October 22, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The decision on where to build the new John Kerr Elementary School is expected to come next Monday.

The announcement was made at a Winchester School Board meeting on Monday night at the division’s Central Administrative Office at 12 N. Washington St.

The Oct. 28 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School at 550 Virginia Ave. Residents are encouraged to share their views at the meeting.

From July to Aug. 21, school officials accepted proposals for the new school in accordance with the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (PPEA).

PPEA is a design-build process that allows the board to contract with one entity for design and construction services, instead of two.

The two proposals were submitted by Shockey P3 LLC of Winchester and C&S Design Development LLC of Berryville.

The plans describe how and where the firms would build a 650-student, 93,000-square-foot elementary school. No plans have been developed to address the future use of the existing school on Jefferson Street.

The new school is expected to be open by July 2015. The project’s cost is capped at $20 million.

C&S’s proposal calls for building a two-story John Kerr on 9.3 acres behind Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, east of Merrimans Lane and adjacent to a proposed extension of Meadow Branch Avenue that would connect with Amherst Street.

The land has two lots: one owned by Ridgefield Orchard Site and the other by DBL Holdings LLC.

The Virginia Department of Education recommends a school site be at least 10.5 acres.

The site would require rezoning to accommodate the proposed school.

According to a city analysis, the extension of Meadow Branch Avenue would require an unbudgeted amount of $680,000.

Also, the analysis states that fire protection could be hindered because the proposed infrastructure does not incorporate a looped water and sewer system.

Tucker Conaboy, president of Caldwell Santmyer, called the analysis “subjective” at Monday’s meeting.

In a counter report, Conaboy said if water pressure is lost on Amherst Street, the school site can be fed by the waterline on Merrimans Lane via its connection to the future water supply line at the Merrimans Lane and Meadow Branch Avenue intersection.

Conaboy said that the C&S design team analyzed the existing John Kerr site and determined the topography and existing conditions “prevent” the design of a modern elementary school — which is why they chose the off-campus site.

The proposed site would complete a major link to the Green Circle Trail and open up access to the western side of the city.

“We need to look away from a small neighborhood school to a large community school,” he said at the meeting.

Shockey P3 LLC’s proposal is to build on the current 15-acre school site at 536 Jefferson St.

The proposal calls for connecting Nester Drive to Jefferson Street and adding sidewalks. The development of Nester Drive would be an unbudgeted amount of $949,100, according to the city’s analysis.

The total cost of the required right-of-way acquisition cannot be disclosed by the proposer, according to the analysis.

Dan Troup, who lives on Buckner Drive, said that most parents want the school to stay at its current location — citing walkability, the fact that the site is already zoned for school use and because it avoids the “bad” traffic near Amherst Street.

For both plans, there is a $1 million unfunded expenditure for furniture and equipment.

The city also had a fiscal analysis study performed by S. Patz and Associates Inc. of Potomac Falls to examine the possibility of other uses on the two sites.

According to the study, development of the current John Kerr site for any use other than a school would be “difficult.”

The property is zoned EIP (Education, Institution and Public Use), and the city’s Comprehensive Plan shows a civic/public use for the property.

The Handley Board of Trustees has also stated that their property must be used for educational purposes, and selling the property for development does not meet that requirement.

If development of single-family homes were to occur, the net tax revenue for the city would be negative, according to the study.

For the Meadow Branch site and the adjoining land, the three best uses are for medical office space, assisted living facilities and senior-related housing, according to the study. The study states the land’s proximity to Winchester Medical Center and other medical offices as a positive.

A mix of these uses on the site would generate over $200,000 annually in tax revenue.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com