Council: Raise school capacity

Published 11:10 pm Thursday, February 5, 2015

Some City Council members said Wednesday they hope to see a new middle school be built with capacity for 200 more students than originally proposed.

Unveiled in December, the proposed capital improvements plan would begin funding design and construction of a new middle school and elementary school in the coming fiscal year. Both projects were moved up, and other non-school projects pushed back, to make it happen.

The elementary school would serve 1,000 students, and the middle school would serve 600, according to the proposal. Both would be built in the North Suffolk area.

Email newsletter signup

But worries persist that a capacity of 600 middle-school students would not be enough to relieve overcrowding at John Yeates Middle School, and some council members seemed to share that concern.

“I would much like to see that capacity at 800 rather than 600,” Councilman Mike Duman said, after questioning how the city arrived at the original number.

Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said 600 is the minimum size the school district is interested in operating. A school that size also would be feasible as a two-story building on the preferred site, while a building for 800 students likely would have to go to three stories, Roberts said.

The additional capacity would cost an extra $4 million, Roberts said. However, he told council members they could likely come up with the money by bundling both schools together, and potentially bundling design and construction, as well.

“You are very likely to achieve some level of savings,” he said.

Councilman Roger Fawcett said he, too, would prefer an 800-student middle school.

“I think the right direction would be to go to the 800 number,” he said, adding he has heard from several School Board members who have told him they would prefer an 800-student school.

If all goes as planned, both schools could welcome their first students in the fall of 2018. The elementary school would replace Driver and Florence Bowser elementary schools and relieve overcrowding at Creekside, Roberts has said previously.

The proposals are part of a $660-million capital improvements plan that stretches the next 10 years. That’s a 5-percent decrease from last year’s 10-year plan.

In the first five years of the plan, more than $58 million is planned just for schools.

The first year of the plan is used as part of the city manager’s budget proposal. The rest is updated each year.

A public hearing on the plan is set for the Feb. 18 City Council meeting.