Augusta Schools Seek Funding for Transportation Woes, Upgrades
A debate is going on in Augusta County on how to end some two-hour bus rides. Some members of the school board demand changes after decades of busing students from the Riverheads District to Beverly Manor Middle School - but supervisors may not be willing to write up a blank check.
The Augusta County School Board is currently waiting to hear back from architects on the proposed cost to change things around. Members will propose either renovating Riverheads Elementary to house the middle school students, or build an entirely new wing.
But some on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors aren't thrilled with the idea of a new building.
"This new Board of Supervisors, don't have any opposition to raising taxes, I'm afraid," said Tracy Pyles, Augusta supervisor.
Pyles says real estate and property taxes have gone up enough. He says an extra $3 million was funneled into the school system over the past year.
"We have so many other needs, I just don't think that's the right way to go. I don't think it improves their education," said Pyles.
After looking into the demographics, Pyles made presentations about how Augusta is aging, and the population of students is dwindling.
"We're just going to have to put more burden on our taxpayers, for a fewer number of students," said Pyles.
But Augusta County School Board member Dana Sensabaugh says something's got to give.
"We feel like its time to bring our Riverheads kids back home and I'm sure that Buffalo Gap people feel the same way. We need all of our kids on campus at the high school," said Sensabaugh.
She says some students spend two hours a day on a bus going from her district out to Beverly Manor - meaning they're short-changed 13 minutes in the classroom, every day.
"I think we want equal opportunity for all kids," said Sensabaugh.
Looking into the options, Sensabaugh also said that Riverheads needs new wiring and computers, among many other things, and that it's simply not up to par with others in the area.
And while Pyles is open to upgrades, he says paying for a new school is not an option he thinks should be on the table.
"If you have a willing learner and an able teacher, you don't need much more than that. I'm happy to provide computers and all of that, but education is more about teachers than the building," said Sensabaugh.
Depending on the cost of the remodeling verses a new building, the school board may end up recommending a new school entirely. Those estimates should be in this fall.
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