Harrisonburg votes to build a second high school, planning for 2023 open

Published: Jan. 23, 2018 at 10:38 PM EST
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Harrisonburg City Council has voted to build a second high school to open in 2023. The motion passed 3 to 2.

The decision came during a standing room only crowd at the Harrisonburg City Council chambers Tuesday night.

Toward the end of the meeting, council member Chris Jones made a motion to accept the proposal from the school board to build a second Harrisonburg High School to open in 2021.

The motion failed when no one gave a second.

After some discussion, Vice Mayor Richard Baugh made another motion to build a second high school, changing the opening date to 2023.

Baugh's motion received a second from Council Member Ted Byrd.

Baugh, Byrd and George Hirschmann voted "yes." Chris Jones and Mayor Deanna Reed voted "no."

Jones and Mayor Reed were visibly disappointed with the outcome.

They were not the only ones. School board members were not happy with the result as well.

"I'm disappointed," said Vice Chair Andy Kohen. "I'm disappointed largely because the arguments were made on wrong numbers. The claim that it will be cheaper to do in the time frame that they voted on, is simply false. They have failed to take into account, the inflation that will occur, furthermore, they're not gonna build it for $76 million in 2023. Those were numbers that were projected for 21."

"I'm very disappointed for our students, disappointed for our future, students, disappointed for our staff," said Superintendent Dr. Scott Kizner. "This is a great school system. [I'm having a] hard time accepting investment in children is not worth it."

"I feel like I need to fight with all my being the temptation to step out on faith with public money," said Baugh out of fiscal responsibility.

Last week, the Harrisonburg School Board released a statement urging city council to take a vote on the second high school at Tuesday's meeting.

For years, the school board has been looking into how to solve the overcrowding issue at the high school.

In June of 2017, the school board presented its decision to council that a second high school would best solve the overcrowding in the current high school as a long-term solution.

In December, the board presented a lower-cost proposal of a $76 million dollar high school after concerns were made in the city about the potential price tag.

The school board announced in November it selected a piece of land for a second high school, but has not revealed its location without the owner's permission.

In the meantime, council recognized the need to find solutions for the overcrowding now. Those discussions will be in the mix as this project gets underway.

This is a developing story. Stay with WHSV News for the latest updates on WHSV News at 11.