Spotsylvania School Division on the Hook for Courthouse Road Improvements

Board members agree that they’d like funding support from Supervisors for the project.

Two Spotsylvania School Board members who usually always oppose each other agreed Tuesday night that the school division should not be responsible for funding $1 million worth of improvements to Courthouse Road in front of Spotsylvania Middle School, which is undergoing expansion.

“This is a great burden on the school division,” said Vice Chair and Battlefield district representative Nicole Cole, and Berkeley district representative April Gillespie — nothing that this almost never happens — said she’s in agreement.

“We are part of the services offered by the county,” Gillespie said, adding that she is “disappointed” that the county Board of Supervisors hasn’t offered to help pay for the improvements.

Russell Davis, the division’s supervisor of facilities planning, told the Board on Tuesday, during the continuation of its regular monthly meeting, that the road improvements were recommended by the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation “because of congestion and traffic” on Courthouse Road.

The requested improvements include the construction of three turn lanes into the school property from Courthouse Road, as well as an additional driveway and sidewalk. The cost of the improvements is included in the Spotsylvania Middle School expansion project’s budget.

Board member Carol Medawar asked Davis whether it’s typical for the school division to pay for roadwork.

Davis said he “would love” there to have been “more of a [cost sharing]” effort with the county.

“I know those conversations have happened,” he said. “At this time, it is incumbent upon us.”

Davis said the county initially asked the school division to pay for new streetlights in addition to the turn lanes and driveway, but removed that requirement at the division’s request, bringing the cost down from $1.5 million.

“We made [the] argument that every dollar [spent on this] takes a dollar out of the classroom,” Davis said. “I know some [School Board] members have reached out to their colleagues [on the Board of Supervisors] and they gave us a variance.”

“We would have liked more support, but I don’t want to say they left us out to dry.”

Cole said that county could have worked with the school division to get VDOT to help fund the project.

“This is just another way that the Board of Supervisors could show a lot more consideration for the students in our county and the school division.”

Also on Tuesday, the Board approved contracting with Southwest Food Service Excellence, LLC to provide food service to the school division starting in July.

If approved by the Virginia Department of Education, Southwest will replace Aramark as the school division’s food service provider.

Aramark was one of four companies who responded to a request for proposals the division issued in March. Sodexo and Whitsons Culinary Group also submitted proposals.

A committee of five school division employees evaluated the proposals using criteria approved by the VDOE and recommended Southwest.

The Board also approved participation in a research program funded by a grant from the federal Department of Education and the American Institute of Research.

The program, “Charting My Path for Future Success,” aims to improve post-secondary outcomes for students with disabilities. It will be open to students entering 11th grade and will include an instructional program as well as mentorship.

The $1 million grant will be broken into two years and will support hiring two “transition instructors” and three mentor teachers.

by Adele Uphaus

Managing Editor and Correspondent