New Kent’s historic school renovation project placed on temporary hold – Daily Press

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The plans to repurpose New Kent’s Historic School into a community center have hit a roadblock due to concerns over the project’s cost. The renovation was supposed to commence this spring, but there are now talks of utilizing the space to accommodate the expansion needs of county government in Virginia’s fastest-growing county.

The proposal included transforming the school into a community center with classrooms, a library, and a performing arts component. However, the estimated cost exceeded the budget, prompting a reassessment of the project’s focus. County Administrator Rodney Hathaway mentioned that the county had already borrowed $7 million for the renovation, with a total cost of $13 million for the community center design.

With the rising costs, alternatives are being considered, such as using the school’s gym for community purposes or repurposing the space into much-needed office space. Additionally, a separate proposal for a community center in the eastern end of the county is also facing scrutiny as the Board seeks to control a potential real estate tax increase in the upcoming budget.

The Historic School, along with the George W. Watkins School, has historical significance as the site of the Green v. County School Board of New Kent case in 1968. The case was a pivotal desegregation ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court following Brown v. Board of Education.

While the community center at Wahrani is seen as essential for the eastern end of the county, there are concerns about the lack of a voting precinct in that area. Hathaway emphasized the need for a suitable location for the precinct, given the current use of rented space. The search for an alternative location continues to ensure the community’s needs are met.

Ultimately, the decision on the future of the Historic School and the community center proposals will require careful consideration to balance historical preservation, community needs, and financial feasibility.

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