Aiming to open up classroom space in Stafford elementary schools as well as add a preschool and Head Start location in the northern part of the county, the Stafford County School Board is considering the purchase of the former Fredericksburg Christian School at 101 Shepherds Way.
The 21-acre property near the intersection of Garrisonville and Shelton Shop roads is also large enough to accommodate a future elementary school, which could be built adjacent to the existing school building.
The property is listed for sale at $7.2 million. Fredericksburg Christian consolidated its elementary school offerings at its Fredericksburg campus after the 2016-17 school year.
“It’s really a unique opportunity, I’ve never seen something like this come up before,” said board chairwoman Patricia Healy, who has represented the Rock Hill District since 2000.
At a work session prior to Tuesday’s School Board meeting, staff members presented the results of a feasibility study on the potential acquisition to date.
Built in 2004, the 39,000-square-foot building with 151 parking spaces would need about a dozen HVAC units replaced due to age, but other than that the building is in good condition. Some questions remain relating to the Property Owners Association and zoning, among other things, so an extension of the feasibility period of 30 days was recommended, which the board agreed to request.
Currently, preschool classes for children ages 2 and 3 meet in various elementary schools, and the county’s only Head Start facility—for ages 3 and 4—is at the Gari Melchers complex in southern Stafford. The new building could handle roughly 470 students, with 21 classrooms, a library, kitchen, multi-purpose rooms and administrative offices.
“The discussion right now with this potential acquisition is that we would consolidate much of our preschool children there and provide a Head Start location in northern Stafford,” Healy said. “This would free up about 20 classrooms in elementary schools throughout the district.”
Some renovations would need to be completed to accommodate the building for program needs, which Healy said would cost about $3 million.
“We don’t have the same requirements for a preschool building that we do for a full-fledged elementary school,” said Healy. “So economically this makes an acquisition like this very appealing.”
During Tuesday’s School Board meeting, considerable time was spent discussing how the possible purchase of this property would fit in with other priorities relating to the 10-year Capital Improvements Plan.
“If we’re going to move forward with [the Fredericksburg Christian School purchase], it would have to be fairly immediate,” Healy said. “[The sellers] won’t be taking it off the market.”
The purchase potentially would delay projects at the top of the board’s list, such as the building of a sixth high school or an 18th elementary school and renovations or a rebuild of 61-year-old Ferry Farm Elementary.
In the 45-minute discussion, during which every board member weighed in at length, no decisions were made on which priorities would be proposed for the CIP.
“I think it was a very productive discussion, and I think it’s good we’ll have a couple weeks to think about this and really take into consideration what should be done,” Healy said.
She anticipates a CIP priority list will be finalized during the board meeting on April 10.
Soon after that, Healy said the board and county supervisors will meet to discuss the school district’s needs. Supervisors will make their final allocation decisions around the end of April.
“There’s a limited amount of money available to us, we can’t do everything we want to do when we want to do it,” Healy said. “But hopefully we’ll be able to come up with a good consensus that will meet the most important needs.”