Plans for New School Building in Harrisonburg Being Discussed

HARRISONBURG ---- City Council and school board members are looking into adding a brand new school building in the city.

Overcrowding continues to be a problem in the area and it's expected to get worse over the next few years .

Since 2008, school enrollment has gone up by around 700 students in the city.

As a result, city leaders have had to move children around to different schools and use trailers as classrooms.

While plans still haven't been formally proposed or approved, a City Council member says the chances of a new building coming to the area are "very good".

The building will likely be built on land already owned by the city, which could end up saving millions of dollars in tax-payer's money.

According to Harrisonburg Superintendent Dr. Scott Kizner and City Council member Charles Chenault, possible locations for the new school building include unused land around Harrisonburg High School and Thomas Harrison Middle School.

Right now, planners for the building are looking into either building a brand new elementary school or building a new middle school and converting a current middle school into a building for elementary students.

Chenault says if the idea ends up getting approved by the council, construction could begin by the end of the year.

Both he and Dr. Kizner hope to have the building ready to use by the start of the school year in 2016.

Details for paying for the project also still need to be worked out, but Chenault says the plan will likely require raising real estate taxes in the city.

"The only way we can pay for it is to borrow money," he explained. "When you look at the cost of borrowing money and the cost of construction, there's probably not a better time to do a construction project than right now. I think we'll have to raise the real estate tax some to cover the debt service on it."

The cost of the project is still unknown so the amount of taxes will go up is still to be determined.

People in the city will have a better idea of what to expect by next Monday, when school board members meet with some of City Council to discuss the plan.


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