Independent School System Feasibility Study
On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the Williamsburg City Council voted unanimously to launch a feasibility study regarding the possibility of running its own school system, separate from James City County.
The study will take place through January 2024. The City will then offer multiple opportunities for public input based on the study’s findings. Any implementation of recommendations from the study would take place, at the earliest, in the 2025-2026 school year.
In launching this feasibility study, the City is taking its first step to fulfilling its initiative to “consider alternatives to the traditional K-12 education model for improved pathways to higher education and certificate programs through coordination with local institutions,” as stated in the City’s 2023-2024 Goals, Initiatives, and Outcomes (GIO), adopted in November 2022.
- Read the full news release announcing the feasibility study.
- Read the City Council's op-ed, published in the Daily Press, Virginian Pilot, and Virginia Gazette in June 2023, explaining the decision to launch the study. (See the newspaper clipping.)
- City of Williamsburg Statement on the James City County Board of Supervisors' Vote to Terminate Joint Schools Contract
- Read the full news release on the feasibility study team, led by longtime Hampton Roads educator Dr. Jeffery Smith.
Frequently Asked Questions
The City of Williamsburg has the obligation to periodically evaluate the best possible educational opportunities and outcomes for our students and how to achieve that educational environment in the most fiscally responsible manner for our taxpayers.
This is the right time to conduct a study of this nature for multiple reasons. As many know, Williamsburg and James City County have run a joint school system for the last 72 years. The agreement between the two localities must be renewed every five years. Therefore, it is constantly being evaluated. At this moment, specifically, there are some pressing fiscal questions regarding the future of this joint arrangement and its fairness to the taxpayers of Williamsburg that make this study both timely and necessary.
It is estimated that between FY24 and FY33 the Williamsburg-James City County School System (WJCC) will spend $135 million on new construction - primarily for capacity reasons (new schools - specifically Pre-K space and a 10th elementary school). Per the terms of the partnership with James City County, Williamsburg would be expected to contribute 10% of that total: approximately $13.5 million. Absent explosive economic growth in the city that revenue would have to be derived via higher taxes on Williamsburg residents.
This spending would be mandated to occur even though a recent study by The Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia found that between 2022-2027 the most likely scenario forecasts just 37 new students coming to the joint school system from the city. The overwhelming majority of the overall projected student growth in our joint system during this time (836 students per a Future Think study), and necessitating this new construction, would occur outside of the city. That means Williamsburg could find ourselves paying 10% of the costs while generating approximately 4.5% of the student growth. Clearly, this is a good time to determine if the current arrangement is in the best interest of the city of Williamsburg and its taxpayers moving forward.
There will be no impact on this current school year, or the following. If any changes are made those will take place no sooner than the 2025/2026 school year.
On Sept. 14, 2023, the Williamsburg City Council approved a proposal from a feasibility study team led by longtime Hampton Roads educator Dr. Jeffery Smith to lead the City’s ongoing study on the feasibility of operating its own independent school district.
Dr. Smith has selected a team of educators to oversee particular topics for the study. The team consists of:
- Dr. John A. Caggiano, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment of Hampton City Schools
- Dr. Kate Wolfe Maxlow, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment of Hampton City Schools
- Dr. Jennifer Parish, Executive Director of Peake Childhood Center
- Dr. Lorianne S. Smith, Compensation and Benefits Coordinator of Newport News Public Schools
- Dr. Michael Thornton, Superintendent of Surry Public Schools (Retired)
- Dr. Donna Woods, Executive Leadership and Implementation Coach
Dr. Jeffery Smith and his team propose completing the study at a cost of $135,000 with an estimated completion date of January 2024.
There will be a robust and thorough public input and feedback process following the initial proposals from the study. We are keenly aware nothing is more important to parents, students and teachers than the school system they depend upon. Nothing will happen prior to the community having multiple opportunities to learn about the proposals and provide their comments, feedback and opinions.