Ferry Farm Elementary will get a renovated basement as well as updates to its original 1955 wing under a resolution approved Tuesday by the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
The board approved the use of $1.9 million—a combination of school division surplus funds from last fiscal year and money diverted from scheduled projects at H.H. Poole Middle School and Mountain View High School—to renovate the basement of the 1966 addition.
Last June, the board approved spending $10.8 million over the next two fiscal years to renovate the 1955 wing of the southern Stafford elementary school, adding a security vestibule, relocating and expanding the main office, creating a new clinic, adding accessibility features and replacing the aging HVAC and electrical systems.
Those plans also include a 7,650-square-foot addition, which increases the size of the music and art spaces and adds an elevator and accessible bathrooms, though it does not increase the overall capacity of the school.
At a joint meeting of the two boards in December, the School Board presented an option to include the renovation of the 1966 wing’s basement in the plans.
According to the schools, there are concerns about air quality and inadequate light in the basement, which is where special education and reading programs are located.
The renovation of the basement would create room for three new homeroom classes, increasing the overall capacity of the school by 78 students.
The board was presented with the option Tuesday of approving a budget resolution for the renovation either with or without the basement, but the School Board indicated that if the basement was not included in the plans, it would have to relocate all students out of the space and reduce overall capacity at Ferry Farm by 78 students.
Changes in capacity at the school would affect plans for redistricting all of Stafford’s 17 elementary schools.
Though the board did approve adding $1.9 million to the project to include the basement, supervisors said they were unhappy with the way the School Board presented its options.
“It sounds like the School Board is trying to hold us hostage in this redistricting project,” Rock Hill representative Wendy Maurer said.
Supervisors also were upset by what they said was brand-new information about proposed additional phases of Ferry Farm’s renovation.
In November, the School Board approved a capital improvement plan that included an $8 million upgrade to the school’s 1966 addition and a $10.3 million upgrade to the 1988 and 1991 additions, scheduled for 2027 and 2029, respectively.
“I have no recollection of discussions of additional phasing,” Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer said. “You know our pocket is full for the amount of debt we can carry. What it looks like is you’ve added this phasing and are talking about committing debt capacity we don’t have for future years.”
Supervisors approved—with only Maurer voting no—a resolution including the basement renovation but removing all references to future phases of renovation at Ferry Farm after school division Superintendent Scott Kizner confirmed that the money “resolves the Ferry Farm issue.”
“That building just needs to be a better place for children to learn. That’s what we’re going to be able to do. I think the $10.8 [million] and the $1.9 [million] makes a good school down there at Ferry Farm,” Kizner said.
Also on Tuesday, supervisors adopted a new Code of Performance that adds a reference to board members’ responsibility to uphold the code and “subject conduct not in conformance with the Code to progressive disciplinary measures.”
According to the meeting agenda, the board’s by-laws subcommittee has been considering the adoption of a new Code of Performance since August.
After approving the new code, Maurer said she hoped the board would pay special attention to language prohibiting “the use of abusive, intimidating, or threatening language and gestures directed at colleagues, county staff, or citizens.”
“This board has not been its best over the last several meetings,” Maurer said, though she did not give specifics. “It’s been concerning and it’s been escalating. No board member should have to endure being screamed at or threatened due to policy differences.”
Falmouth Supervisor Meg Bohmke also spoke about the code, saying she had reason recently to look up the definition of “cyber-bullying.”
“It’s defined as ‘willful and repeated harm through the use of computers, cellphones and other electronic devices,’” she stated. “Bullying claims can arise at any level ... but how the governing body sets the tone is of pivotal importance. That is why I believe the code of conduct is so important. While it does not provide any action if a member is out of line, it certainly sets the tone for how we’re going to do the county’s business.”