During the first meeting of the county’s joint capital improvement committee March 18, Principi presented his plan to eliminate portable classroom trailers in 10 years’ time. The committee is comprised of three members of both the Prince William School Board and Board of Supervisors and was created after the two boards met for their last joint meeting in January.
Principi’s proposal is based on the numbers Walts’ presented in February. But, for the first time, the plan lays out a strategy to pay for the new schools needed to make it happen.
In addition to the six new schools and several multi-classroom additions already included in the school division’s existing 10-year capital improvement plan, the proposal to eliminate classroom trailers calls for three more new schools – two elementary schools and one high school – as well as additions to one elementary, two middle and one high school.
The price tag? $584.8 million.
It’s about $40 million less than Walts’ estimate of $622 million. But that’s only because Principi left out the money needed to operate the new schools and hire new teachers.
Principi conceded the omission is a “major weakness” of his proposal but said he thought it appropriate to focus only on new school building and site costs, since the joint CIP committee’s work is limited to planning for new school construction. The group held its first meeting at the Edward L. Kelly Building at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 18.
In presenting his plan, Principi called the school division’s 211 trailers “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”
Despite several discussions in recent years of overcrowded classrooms, the school system’s reliance on portable classrooms to deal with widespread school overcrowding is not something either board has attempted to tackle previously.
“We keep talking about trailers and classroom sizes, but we have not acted on it,” Principi said.
But the county’s economic future depends on it, Principi argued. He noted the county’s recently updated “strategic plan” calls for Prince William to increase its commercial tax base from the current 15 percent to 35 percent. Principi said the best way to attract new businesses is to improve our public schools.