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Stafford High will have new purpose
The Stafford school system is planning a new technology center


Date published: 6/2/2009

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

Stafford High School is scheduled eventually to become a Career and Technical Education Center for 1,000 full-time students.

But the Stafford County school system must first build a new high school on a 173-acre tract off Clift Farm Road.

At a School Board meeting last week, Superintendent David Sawyer detailed the proposed project, which doesn't yet have a timeline.

He said in an e-mail that the work would take about 51/2 years once the School Board decides to go forward with it. A new high school would take up to 28 months to complete.

In his presentation, Sawyer said the 34-year-old Stafford High School has several problems, including an outdated and ineffective design, cramped classrooms, and stressed plumbing and electrical services.

Still, a consultant's report says reusing the building is "technically feasible" despite the flaws.

"It's time to go from life support to transplant at Stafford High School," Sawyer told the School Board.

The school system would gut the building and use the shell for the technical center. The projected cost is up to $62.8 million.

"All costs will obviously need to be adjusted to reflect the construction industry at the time the project is realized," Sawyer said.

The center would double as a Department of Parks and Recreation facility with a $9 million aquatics wing. The aquatics center would include an Olympic-size pool.

Sawyer said he'll pursue public-private partnerships for the "long-term community resource." Potential partners include Quantico Marine Corps Base, Germanna Community College and the University of Mary Washington.

The school would offer programs in communications and information technology, hospitality and tourism, and biomedical technology, among other subjects.

The technical center's gymnasium, auditorium, dining facilities and athletic fields would be open to the community after school hours.

The school system currently has the Stafford Academy for Technology, which prepares students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Some students travel to other high schools to take classes, which they won't have to do if the school system opens the technical center.

In other business, the School Board decided to reconsider tougher grade-point-average requirements for students who graduate with honors.

The School Board voted for a more forgiving grading scale--in which 90 to 100 is an A, 80 to 89 a B, etc.--in March for students in middle and high school. The vote included increasing minimum grade-point-average requirements next school year for students who graduate with honors.

The minimum GPA will increase from 3.3 to 3.8 for honor graduates; 3.5 to 4.0 for distinguished honor graduates; and 4.0 to 4.5 for summa cum laude graduates.

School Board member Dana Reinboldt said she has received e-mails questioning the new standards. Some say they make it too hard for students to graduate summa cum laude, even with the more forgiving scale.

"The implications of this recommendation were not fully explained to us," Reinboldt said.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Chris Quinn will present other options to the School Board at its meeting June 9.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com