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New Kent ‘s Historic School Renovation Project Paused Amid Cost Concerns

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Sign Board for New Kent School

Plans to turn New Kent ‘s historic 1930s school into a vibrant community center and library are on hold due to concerns about costs. Originally slated to begin renovation this spring, the project has been paused. The Board of Supervisors is now exploring alternative uses for the space. It could be possible to accommodate the growing needs of county government. Meanwhile, another proposal for a community center at Wahrani is also under review, as the board aims to manage a potential tax increase in the upcoming fiscal year budget.

In September, Andrew Smolak from Moseley Architects shared plans for the historic school. Which included classrooms for the community, a library, and space for performing arts activities.

On March 19, County Administrator informed the board that the proposed project exceeded the budget by a significant margin.

“We talked about maybe turning it into office space instead of a community center. I’ve put a hold on the project until we figure out what we really need there.”

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We’ve already borrowed $7 million for the renovation, but the design estimate for the community center is $13 million.

New Kent school Building needs renovation as it's a historic school
School Building needs to renovation as it’s a historic school

“Thomas Evelyn, the board chair, mentioned that space is a problem and using the school instead of building a new $20-$30 million administration building would be faster,” said Thomas Evelyn. He also suggested using the gym at the school for community use.

The plan for the community center aimed to showcase the history of the Historic School, formerly known as New Kent School.

New Kent School and the nearby George W. Watkins School were part of the Green v. County School Board of New Kent case in 1968, which was a big deal and one of the most important desegregation cases the U.S. Supreme Court decided after Brown v. Board of Education.

At the March 19 meeting, Hathaway stood up for the Wahrani community center proposal.

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Yeah, we definitely need a community center in the eastern end, but here’s the thing: we also need a voting precinct there. Right now, we’re using a space that’s up for lease. Once it’s leased out, we’ll be stuck without a place to vote. I’ve been looking for another spot in that precinct, but I haven’t found anything suitable yet.

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