ForHHS2 was formed with the nonpartisan intention of showing community support for a second high school to be built in Harrisonburg. City Council voted, on January 23, 2018, to construct a second high school to open for the 2023-2024 school year. We are pleased that all five council members specifically stated that they saw the need for a second high school.
The School Board proposed opening a second high school for the 2021-2022 school year. That would have been ideal because enrollment and costs will continue only to rise. City Council, though, felt strongly that Harrisonburg was on the edge of a fiscal cliff, and they decided to delay construction for two years. We wish that City Council had addressed the impact that rising inflation and construction costs will have on the city’s long-term budget.
As citizens of Harrisonburg, we need to work with School Board and City Council and hold those governing bodies accountable. ForHHS2 has several goals, and we hope our fellow community members will join us in reaching the ultimate goal of opening a second high school for our city.
1. ForHHS2 intends to keep publishing the facts and figures about this decision. We will sift through the financial details and show how publicly-known information can help to clarify the conversation. We will separate the costs associated with increases in school enrollments from the costs associated with overcrowding and construction delays so that transparent and informed conversations can occur.
2. We will find ways to move the HHS2 discussion forward. Even though the start date is more than five years away, there are steps that need to be taken now. One, land acquisition should happen immediately. City Council needs to purchase the piece of land, and make that purchase known to city residents. Two, School Board needs to begin the process to have a community-wide discussion to determine how students, teachers, programs, etc. will be balanced between two high schools. Three, City Council should work to increase taxes incrementally and immediately so that we can build more revenue. The city should explore ways to alleviate higher taxes on lower-income individuals.
3. Finally, we ask that our elected City Council and School Board members work together in transparent and productive ways for the good of our city. Don’t let past grievances get in the way of constructive debate. This debate has to take place in the public sphere so all have an opportunity to participate in this discussion. Our community needs to focus on how to help the future of Rocktown—our children. That help will come in many forms—outside-the-box solutions to overcrowding, money, time, and transparent discussions.
Because 2018 is an election year, we know the topic of a second high school is likely to be an issue for candidates. We welcome and support this discussion! As individuals, we may even support various candidates. As a group, though, we will support pro-education candidates, no matter the party affiliation, and we will be interested to learn of candidates’ plans on how to open a high school in a fiscally responsible and timely way so that fewer students have to endure the overcrowded conditions at HHS.