Debate heats up in addressing overcrowding at Harrisonburg High

Published: Mar. 23, 2016 at 6:43 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The debate is heating up over an overcrowding problem at Harrisonburg High School. On Tuesday night, tensions flared as city council members and school board members got on the topic of an annex.

Right now, the addition to Harrisonburg High is in the city's capital improvement program as a top priority. That means city leaders understand that this has to be addressed.

With Harrisonburg High School housing 300 more students than it was designed for, some would say the topic of a much-needed annex doesn't come without some frustration. "Yeah, it gets at times in the heat of discussion," said Harrisonburg City Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Kizner. "It gets a little testy, but at the end we are all in this together."

The confusion started with why they were even meeting up in the first place. City council expected the school board to ask for their permission in getting the ball rolling on talking to architects. Kizner said they had already sent out a request for proposals, at no cost, thinking they had a go-ahead.

"There have been a little bit of break downs in communication," said Vice-Mayor Richard Baugh. "People heard one thing and maybe took it one way and could have maybe taken it another and we did spend a lot of time sorting that out."

Other troublesome topics include the price and timeline. School leaders said the project's cost could be in the ballpark of $50 million. However, it's too early to estimate the actual cost or timeframe. Right now, the problem is being temporarily addressed with two trailers outside the school.

"There's going to be a time that, regardless what anyone thinks, it's going to be unsafe and too crowded for that building and then I think action will take place," said Kizner.

Despite the headaches, Kizner believes overcrowding can be a good sign.

"It's a really positive thing, it's an expensive thing but it's a positive thing. We have more children coming in, communities of more families moving here. We see it at the elementary, middle and high school level," said Kizner.

In the meantime, the school board plans to add another four trailers, next year. As city council and the school board try to work to fix their miscommunication.

"We'll deal with it but it's going to be a challenge. Hard to say that that's not going to be the biggest challenge the city's going to be facing over the next two to five years," said Baugh.