WINCHESTER — An additional $3.2 million has been appropriated to build the new Robert E. Aylor Middle School.
The extra funding — approved Wednesday night on a 6-1 vote by the Frederick County Board of Supervisors — will enable the school to expand its capacity by nearly 300 students.
Back Creek Supervisor Gary Lofton was the lone dissenting vote.
Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent David Sovine said in a Thursday statement that he was “very pleased the Board of Supervisors approved the School Board’s request for the additional funds needed to add 12 classrooms to the replacement Aylor Middle School. The additional space will enable us to address overcrowding at Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School as well as future enrollment growth.”
The new Aylor is slated to open in the fall of 2021 on a 57-acre site at 471 White Oak Road near Stephens City. It will replace a 50-year-old, 115,000-square-foot Aylor facility on Aylor Road. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for Sept. 5.
This was the second time school officials asked for additional funding for the project. Last September, a request for an extra $7.5 million was denied by the supervisors. Five months earlier, the supervisors approved spending up to $45.5 million on the school, but they wanted the building have a 900-student capacity and not exceed 140,000 square feet. Concerned that wouldn’t be large enough to accommodate future growth, an added $7.5 million was sought so the school could be 160,000 square feet.
Extra funding was sought again in June, this time for $3.2 million to add 12 classrooms. School officials argued that without the additional rooms, the new Aylor would be 134,255 square feet with a 728-student capacity. The extra rooms make the school 147,355 square feet with space for 1,016 students.
“Investing in the 12 additional classrooms now positions us well for the future and results in us spending well below the current average cost per square foot for the additional 13,100 square feet of space,” Sovine’s statement said. “Over the past several months, RRMM Architects and school staff have worked collaboratively on the school’s design to identify cost savings and efficiencies while still producing a school that will support instructional best practices, technology, and serve the greatest number of students.”
Gainesboro Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy said approving the $3.2 million for the additional capacity was a “no brainer,” as the school will now be more cost-effective to build ($48,700 per student versus $50,555).
Even though some residents were adamant last year that the supervisors appropriate an additional $7.5 million for the project, McCarthy said that by “waiting until we had real, hard numbers” the county is now able to “build a great school with a higher capacity at $4.3 million less than what was requested last year.”
“This board’s decision last year to not appropriate $7.5 million, a decision that was derided by many, turned out to be the right decision and resulted in significant savings to the taxpayer to the tune of about $4.3 million,” he added.
Red Bud District Supervisor Blaine Dunn said while he supported appropriating the $3.2 million, he would like to see more collaboration between supervisors and school officials on future school construction projects.
Lofton expressed skepticism over the $3.2 million figure, which brings the total cost of the project to $48.7 million.
“I’ve kind of lost confidence in their ability to give me information I really can rely on based on the numbers now and the numbers they’ve supplied with a couple of schools,” Lofton said of school officials. “I’ve lost confidence that I can trust those numbers to be accurate.”
Attending the meeting at 107 N. Kent St. was Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. and supervisors Gary Lofton, J. Douglas McCarthy, Judith McCann-Slaughter, Bob Wells, Blaine Dunn and Shannon Trout.