BRISTOL, Va. — Bristol Virginia City Council is poised to complete its pledge to provide $200,000 for upgrades to city elementary schools.
At its meeting tonight, the council is scheduled to vote on a second $100,000 appropriation to help pay for security vestibules and improvements to create male and female restrooms that meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act access standards at city elementary schools.
The first appropriation came from last fiscal year’s budget, and this one would come from the new fiscal 2019-20 spending plan, which took effect July 1. A majority of council agreed to provide additional funds to modify restrooms at Highland View, Washington-Lee and Stonewall Jackson elementary schools to be fully accessible. The school division is using funds from its capital improvement budget to do similar work at Van Pelt Elementary.
Last week, the council and School Board jointly agreed to study the feasibility of closing Highland View and Washington-Lee and building a consolidated school somewhere in the center of the city, while making improvements to Stonewall Jackson and Van Pelt.
“It all ties in together with our short-term needs and our long-term needs,” Councilman Anthony Farnum said Monday. “Even though we’re taking care of our long-term needs and the City Council and School Board are working together, it doesn’t mean we can ignore our short-term needs.”
Funds are earmarked to construct vestibules at the entrance of each school, where visitors are buzzed into that locked area but not allowed further into the building until being cleared by a school official or school resource officer.
Farnum said school safety improvements “have to be at the top” of council’s priorities.
The work is expected to begin later this summer and be completed by November, school Superintendent Keith Perrigan said.
“We have an architect under contract and are waiting for the bids to come back,” Perrigan said. “Once we choose a contractor, we can begin. We plan to do the vestibules first — to take care of safety — and then we’ll do the restrooms.”
School maintenance employees are currently constructing a new Van Pelt office adjacent to the main entrance — in advance of installing the vestibule — using monies from the division’s capital projects account, but they hope to ultimately be reimbursed for the vestibule, Perrigan said.
“We’ll apply for a state safety grant for that vestibule. We believe it will qualify,” he said.
Safety work at Highland View and Washington-Lee wouldn’t qualify for the grant funds, Perrigan said, because those schools are expected to close within five years. Improvements at Stonewall Jackson might qualify, he added.
The school division is also receiving a $65,000 Community Development Block Grant to upgrade the elevator at Stonewall Jackson.
Perrigan said he and the board are reviewing potential sites where a new centrally located school might be built.
Tonight’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 300 Lee St.