New middle, elementary school on district’s wishlist in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — District officials say adding a fourth middle school would allow them to move 6th grade students out of their congested elementary schools.

A facilities assessment, performed over eight months at a cost of $105,000, shows overcrowding in elementary schools because of the district’s non-traditional grade structure.

By adding another middle school, Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy says the district could move 6th grade students to middle school level.

The cost of a new building is estimated at $40.1 million, according to Portsmouth Public Schools, but the city still needs to approve the funding.

On Monday, the school board and city council heard the findings of the facilities study from Chuck Saylors, vice president of M.B. Kahn Construction Co. Inc.

On a walking tour of the school, Saylors pointed out three problem areas: small class space, tight stairwells and the aging HVAC system.

“Notice the rust,” said Saylors in one of the classrooms. “That’s where either rainwater has come in from overheard or condensation has developed from inside. The condensation has developed because the unit is not energy efficient.”

From Churchland Middle, city leaders hopped on two yellow school buses to tour the 60-year-old Churchland Elementary School.

“The schools are old, and I think they are antiquated when you look at course offerings, instructional capabilities [and] 21st century learning,” said Dr. Bracy. “It presents its challenges in an old facility.”

Replacing Churchland Elementary, at a cost of $29.3 million, is also in the first phase of the district’s long-term building replacement plan.

“For a kid to walk into a brand new building, it’s something about the atmosphere that makes them feel good, makes them feel safe, makes them feel a sense of pride coming into that building,” said Dr. Bracy.

The study also suggests needed improvements at Hodges Mannor Elementary, Westhaven Elementary, Craddock Middle and William E. Waters Middle. The district did not discuss specific projects surrounding these schools on Monday.

The district says they hope to secure between $2.5-$4.5 million in the FY2019 budget to begin designing the new middle school and the Churchland Elementary replacement.

Mayor John Rowe says he supports a new middle school building and initial funding in next year’s budget. The council will make a final vote in May.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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