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Williamsburg will study creating an independent school district

Several school buses sit parked
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Williamsburg and James City County have run a joint schools operation since the 1950s. But that may be on the way out.

Williamsburg and James City County have run a joint school division since the 1950s.

Read the original story on WHRO's website.

The City of Williamsburg is studying whether to break away from James City County and create its own, independent school district.

Williamsburg and James City County have run a joint school division since the 1950s. But City Manager Andrew Trivette says resident feedback to recent city surveys has pushed Williamsburg to look in a different direction.

“One of the themes that came back in the process was the city needs to continue to pay attention to innovation in the realm of public education, and specifically asking us to consider new avenues for educating in a public school system, K-12, with greater tie-ins to higher education and certificate outcomes,” Trivette said.

He said residents also wanted to see an education system that had more direct involvement with Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary.

On Thursday, Williamsburg’s City Council gave Trivette the go-ahead to study the ins-and-outs of creating its own school district. Trivette told the council a feasibility study is important to answer some questions that the city often has — and rarely gets answers to — when it ends up at the negotiating table every five years to review the joint division contract.

The city and county are in the second year of the current five-year agreement. That gives Williamsburg three years to explore alternatives, Trivette said.

James City County Administrator Scott Stevens said the city had let them know this was something they were looking at, so it wasn't out of the blue and that there's "no animosity between us."

Stevens said the county will likely do a similar study on its end.

"I think that's a good opportunity for us all to sort of take a look at a time that's not really pushing either of us and that we are getting along on most topics, to just take that look and make sure what we're doing makes sense or figure out if there's a better way," Stevens said in an interview Friday.

But Stevens said whatever the ultimate decision, it's still a long ways off.

"It sounds easy in the beginning, but when you get into it, there's a lot of moving parts to that, so we're a long way from that and a lot of community discussion, I think, before we get there," Stevens said.

The joint school district educates more than 11,300 students at 16 schools across the city and county. According to maps from the district, just three of those school buildings — an elementary school and a pair of middle schools — currently fall within Williamsburg’s city limits.

Editor's note:  Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools is a member of the Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association, which holds the broadcast license for WHRO.

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