VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach city council members are split over a delay for three of its aging schools.
During their Tuesday night meeting, council voted 5-3 to delay the design process by 120 days for three school buildings.
The design build would jumpstart the process of getting Princess Anne High School, B. F. Williams Elementary School/Bayside 6th and Bayside High School some much-needed renovations.
The interim agreement costs $15 million. Those funds were approved but some on council want more time to discuss the process and the direction the design should go.
“This is low risk. The roughly 15 million dollars needed in design funding for this is already available. This vote does not commit the city or the school board to further any of those designs,” said VBCPS Chief Operations Officer Jack Freeman during the council meeting.
Freeman explained Tuesday night that the design build is a six to eight-month process that includes a total material cost for all three schools. If the interim agreement is delayed, the extra cost could be tens of millions of dollars.
“Why spend money on a design that a future and not so far away school board might decide that’s not the design we want,” asked councilman John Moss.
Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson wants to wait until the city has more answers.
“We’re not talking a long amount of time, we’re talking about a couple of months to be prudent,” Wilson stated.
Councilman Aaron Rouse was quick to speak up along with councilwoman Delceno Miles, councilman Guy Tower and councilwoman Sabrina Wooten.
“What does an election have to do with taking care of our schools, our teachers, our students, our communities?” Rouse questioned.
Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten told 10 On Your Side she’s worried about the delay.
“Delay sometimes leads to denial and it just seems like that strategy to delay never really leads to the right response,” Wooten stated.
Wooten says the 120-day delay gives council members the opportunity to discuss the project at length during their January retreat but she doesn’t think it’s the right move.
“We normally don’t get a lot done during our retreats. This is not a matter I think we should refer for that platform. We have the means to provide a new facility, to address student concerns and we’re not doing that,” Wooten explained.
Like Rouse, Wooten is concerned with how the delay will affect students and what inflation will do to the overall price tag.
“If we do it later, it’s going to cost us more money, more money if we forego the design build right now. We’re letting our schools compete for other priorities in the city. We’re talking about two schools in predominantly minority communities, the section of our city where these schools have gone such a long time while being on the list to be modernized,” Rouse said during Tuesday’s formal meeting.
Wooten says she’s sorry to the students who will continue to go without sufficient facilities.
“We have an opportunity to act now. Why aren’t we acting now,” Wooten concluded.