HHS2 is in the news again and it looks like the new City Council may vote to build a new high school to open in fall 2022. On Tuesday, November 20, 2018 the Daily News-Record (DN-R) featured an article about the next City Council’s opinions on HHS2. Mayor Reed, Council Member Jones and future Council Member Romero are in favor of moving up the timeline to 2022. Council Member Hirschman is against it. Once again, Council Member Baugh is holding his cards close to his chest. Wednesday’s DN-R Editorial discussed the matter.
One thing is clear, almost twice as many people voted for candidates who support building HHS2 as soon as possible.
We recognize that building a second high school is a huge step for Harrisonburg, but our city is in a fortunate position. Harrisonburg is an attractive place to live and it continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the state. Our population is growing. We should not be compared to a Petersburg or a Bristol (unlike the forewarning in the DN-R editorial); their populations are shrinking. We are more like Lynchburg or Charlottesville, which like Harrisonburg, are among the fastest growing cities in the state.
History will repeat itself if we do not account for errors in past projections. Harrisonburg’s elected officials must make informed decisions that will provide the children of our city with a high quality education both now and in the future. Falls Church is another city that is rapidly growing, and in 2017 they looked at all of their options and came to the conclusion that they need to build a new high school that can accommodate their growth for the next 10 years—and beyond. That school will open in 2019. We’ve known that we didn’t have enough space in our high school (and middle schools and elementary schools) for longer, yet the earliest we can fix this problem is 2022.
Council Member Hirschman voted to delay building a new high school until 2023 “…to get our debt down.” This delay has added to the cost of our school. Construction costs have and continue to increase. If we believe in our students, our schools, and our community, why delay and pay more later, when we can pay less now? We have debt and infrastructure to fund, but our schools make Harrisonburg an attractive place to live and help fuel our growth. Our students are the future workforce of our community and a critical resource for growing our local economy.
Many of us have worried about the effects of building HHS2 and funding infrastructure will have on those who have limited or fixed incomes. There is a solution; our City Manager has assured us that state code allows Harrisonburg to provide tax breaks to individuals who are retired or are asset limited and income constrained.
When the new City Council is convened in January, we hope that they will move forward with funding for HHS2 for a 2022 opening. Council should look at every possible way to fund the school, but they should fund it now! We hope that our new School Board will engage the entire community to plan for our second high school and that City Council will support the recommendations of School Board.
We’re excited to see our city invest in Harrisonburg’s future!