Opening of new John Kerr likely delayed a year

Posted: December 10, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — City School Board Chairman John Bishop said it was “probable” that the opening of the new John Kerr Elementary School will be pushed back from 2015 to 2016.

Bishop made the announcement in a prepared statement at a Winchester School Board meeting on Monday at Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School.

“While we remain hopeful and will make all reasonable and responsible efforts to accomplish it, we do feel it is unlikely that a 2015 opening remains possible with this delay.”

The likely delay comes after the City Council rejected Shockey P3 LLC’s proposal to build the replacement school on 9 acres at 536 Jefferson St. — the proposal that the School Board had selected over Caldwell and Santmyer Inc.’s plan to construct the new facility just south of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on an unbuilt extension of Meadow Branch Avenue.

The council voted 6-2 to reject the proposal at its meeting in late November.

The division recommends a 92,156-square-foot school with a capacity of 646 students to be built at a cost not to exceed the City Council’s $20 million ceiling.

Now, according to Bishop, the School Board will have to decide whether to address council’s concerns over Shockey’s proposal, begin evaluating a potential agreement with Caldwell and Santmyer, or do away with pursuing the project under the guidelines of the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 and instead opt for a traditional design-bid-build.

Bishop said the three key concerns at this time are the antiquated design of the current John Kerr, which has a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit for which repair parts have to be manufactured due to old age; the anticipated inflation of the project cost caused by moving the opening date back to 2016, which will reduce the amount of “real dollars” spent on educational amenities; and determining the disposition of the current building once it is vacated.

“Finally, I must note that it is important for all to remember that this project needs to be phase I of the school capacity expansion,” he wrote. “With our growing enrollments, Daniel Morgan Middle School is rapidly becoming overcrowded. Additional capacity must be created either at the elementary level (to facilitate a fifth-grade relocation) or at the middle school level.”

Currently, Daniel Morgan has 1,260 students and a capacity of 1,280. John Kerr has 326 students and a capacity of 324.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com