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Votes

$180.4 Million in School Construction?

When Loudoun County voters go to the polls Nov. 8, they will be asked to authorize funding to build three new elementary schools, two new middle schools, a new high school and the renovation of three existing elementary schools — together costing a total of more than $180.4 million.

For the first time in memory, the county's annual school bond referendum will not be packaged together in one question. This year, the Board of Supervisors voted to separate each of the eight school construction projects into individual bond questions.

While the Loudoun school system's bond referendums have been approved every year since 1987 with strong voter support, some school officials are worried that by separating each school construction projects, not everything will be funded.

Specifically, the school officials are fretting that a new $63.5 million high school in western Loudoun will be rejected because of its steep price tag and because of a regional rivalry between the densely populated east and more rural west.

"Our whole school system benefits when we support all of our schools," said School Board Member Joseph M. Guzman (Sugarland Run). "The schools in the east are just as important as the schools in the west."

ONE BY ONE, nearly every School Board member pledged last Tuesday to fight for each of the eight school projects listed in the bond referendum.

"I have 19 back-to-school nights coming up and I'll be bringing that message 19 times," said School Board Member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run).

Mark J. Nuzzaco, the School Board member representing the Catoctin district, said the Board of Supervisors should have kept the eight school construction projects bundled together as the county has always done.

"The bond referendum this fall should have been one question," he said.

Nuzzaco said it would be a shame if voters rejected the new western Loudoun high school. Without a new high school in the western half of the county, Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville will remain significantly overcrowded.

Even if voters do not authorize the school system to build the western Loudoun high school, the school will still need to be built, Nuzzaco said.

A new high school has not been built in western Loudoun County since 1962. In eastern Loudoun, on the other hand, five new high schools have been built in just the last five years.

APART FROM THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL, most school officials expect the other five school construction projects, costing a total of $87.6 million, and the three renovation projects, totaling $29.4 million, will be overwhelmingly endorsed by Loudoun voters.

Last fall, 71.5 percent of the county's total 99,891 voters voted in favor of the $92.6 million school bond referendum.

Since 1987, every school bond referendum in Loudoun County has been approved. Those spending packages have funded six high schools, eight middle schools, an intermediate school, 21 elementary schools and 24 renovation projects.

Over the next four years, the Loudoun school system anticipates it will need an additional $648,160,000 to pay for new schools and renovations, according to the LCPS Capital Improvement Plan.