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This Week's Topic: Are Schools Really the Priority?

STOP USING OUR SCHOOL CHILDREN AS PAWNS


So we had some great news this week: Chesterfield County Supervisors have settled on a site for the new western High School. It will be the first new high school built in the county since 2006. I am beyond-elated to see movement on the much-needed school. Cosby HS is 30% over capacity, and neighboring Midlothian and Manchester High Schools are at capacity while home building continues at a reckless pace in all three attendance zones. The new school will provide all three schools much-needed relief.


While grateful for the new school, I am angered by the site-selection-process and even more certain Chesterfield needs new leadership. The Supervisors pat themselves on the back and breathlessly describe how children are their priority. They claim this is a special site that they have had their eyes on for years but just now came to own. Well, let’s look at the timeline and how the process actually played out. You can decide if their actions are consistent with their desire to make schools a top priority, or if ulterior motives/competing priorities were at play:


December 2020

The Chesterfield Economic Development Authority purchases the Upper Magnolia MegaSite properties, which include the land selected for the new HS. Tomahawk MS and Cosby HS are at capacity.


September 22, 2021

Chesterfield County approves going forward with the Upper Magnolia Green re-zoning case. A Middle, Elementary and High School campus are proposed. Rather than fast-track the badly needed school rezoning, the County links the schools to a very unpopular industrial and residential rezoning case.


May 26, 2022

The Upper Magnolia Green rezoning is approved. The middle school and elementary school remain in their original location. During the course of the public meetings and reviews, the traffic, environmental and citizen concerns result in moving the high school to the northern end of the project on land the county did not own but included in the project.


Fast forward to today, and the high school is back to county-owned-land near the original site. However, the land was not included in the rezoning case, so the land must go through the entire rezoning case and the traffic analysis (the approved UMG case is no longer valid since the high school was moved).


Was this a gross oversight by the county or a purposeful misrepresentation of the plans to get the industrial site and residential rezoning for surrounding developers approved? Either way, the school construction was delayed by nearly 3 years. Unacceptable for folks who claim schools are a priority.


Now let’s look at the funding for the schools. Funding for the new schools was included in a catch-all bond referendum that included not only schools, but libraries, public safety facilities and CEDA sports tourism initiatives. Would all the other initiatives have been approved without riding on the coattails of the schools? I don’t know, but the school funding was certainly put at risk. Why not put each individual request to a vote as was done in neighboring Henrico County? I don’t have the answer, but it sure looks to me like our school children are being used as pawns in monopoly games being played with taxpayer dollars. I don’t like it, and neither should you.


Let’s stop the games and end “business as usual.”


God bless America, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chesterfield County, and the good citizens of Matoaca.


-Chip

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