The Montgomery County School Board met in a special work session with the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Monday night to determine a long-term solution to a long-term problem.
The two boards, chaired by school board chairman Wendell Jones and board of supervisors chairwoman Annette Perkins, struggled to communicate concerns over safety of school buildings and tax increases while attempting to come to a consensus on a plan for the construction and repair of Blacksburg and Auburn schools.
Since the gymnasium of Blacksburg High School collapsed on Feb. 13, the school board has worked to find functional solutions to the plethora of problems the loss of a 1,200-student school has brought the county.
However, in the county’s 2006 capital plan, both Auburn High School and Auburn Middle School were identified as critical capital projects in need of repair.
Montgomery County students started school Monday, with Blacksburg High School students attending school at Blacksburg Middle School, Blacksburg Middle School students attending school at the previously unused Old Christiansburg Middle School and Auburn Middle and High School students attending schools in buildings that were constructed in the 1930s. Current solutions have all been classified as temporary.
The two boards considered five possible solutions, ranging from repairing BHS for $14.5 million and addressing Auburn’s needs at a later time to simultaneously building a new BHS, a new AHS and renovating the current AHS to become a new AMS for $124.6 million.
After the three-hour work session, no decision was made and no votes were taken. Instead, individual members presented concerns to one another and a handful of citizen observers who gathered in the auditorium of Christiansburg Middle School.
“We sure spent almost three hours, talking,” Perkins said to end the meeting. “I just want to end things here, we were not to come to any conclusion tonight and we were not to come to any decision. ... I truly leave here with a heavy heart.”
“We must have a long-term solution for Blacksburg High Schools students,” said Brenda Blackburn, schools superintendent, in her opening statement.
Discussion centered on whether the current BHS building could be repaired to safe standards.
Some members of both boards opposed repairing BHS.
“I need to feel, personally, that when someone says it’s safe it’s safe,” said Mary Biggs, a board of supervisors member.