New proposal could speed up Christiansburg school improvements

Private financing option could mean changes come sooner

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. - Amid concerns of overcrowding at public schools in Christiansburg, a new building and other renovations could be coming sooner than expected.

The Montgomery County School Board will decide next month if it wants to move forward with plans that would affect students at three elementary schools and Christiansburg High School.

The county got a submission from a Los Angeles-based firm for private financing. Under the plan, the firm, Tamkin Development Corporation, would own two schools it works on through a nonprofit and lease the buildings to the county, which would pay back the money over time.

The firm approached the county despite the district not asking for private financing proposals. Now that the county has taken the proposal, there’s an open period for other groups to submit plans. County leaders expect to receive a few submissions.

Using this private-public partnership would greatly speed up the construction timeline. Montgomery County Schools assistant superintendent Tommy Kranz said the ability to finish the projects earlier makes the idea appealing.

“We’re going to try to move it as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.

The firm estimated the total cost of the projects at $110 million. The board plans to decide if it will take any proposals forward to the design phase Dec. 21. It could select multiple proposals or it could say no to all of them.

Kranz said the district has to weigh any plan that means the projects are completed sooner against the added costs of continuing to have schools over capacity.

10 News reported last month that Christiansburg Elementary and Christiansburg Primary schools have grown again this school year and are still well over capacity.

Many students who currently attend those schools will move to either Falling Branch Elementary or the new Belview Elementary, which has been in the planning stages and is scheduled to be completed in the next three to five years. Under the new proposal, it could be ready late in 2020 or early in 2021, one to three years ahead of schedule.
Plans show the new Belview school’s capacity will be 750 students, nearly 500 more students than the current school holds. The district does not have a location for the new building.

The district is still assessing the redistricting and has not decided which students will be moved and where they will go. 

School leaders said last month that students who get switched to Falling Branch may start there as early as next fall.

The firm’s proposal calls for either renovations at Christiansburg High School or a new building, increasing the capacity to 1,400.

“You’re looking at a school today that has 1,100 students and probably shouldn’t have more than 900 in it,” Kranz said.

There would be new classrooms and many of the current ones would be larger under the expansion plans. Or, the firm said it could build a whole new building, if that’s more cost effective.

There are also plans to expand the CHS gym.

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