Goochland County Public Schools will soon be installing brand new electronic message board signs at the entrance to Randolph Elementary School and the Goochland High School and Middle School Complex, though just how the signs will be used remains to be seen.
While the Planning Commission in June voted 5-0 in favor of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) needed before the school division could install the signs, a more recent request by the schools to amend the CUP was not met with the same enthusiasm.
At issue were a number of exemptions to the county’s sign ordinance that the school board was requesting, including allowing video and movement on the screen; the changing of messages more frequently than allowed by code; and the ability to turn on the sign at 7 a.m. even if the sun was not yet up. For the sign at the High School/Middle School complex, the schools had additionally asked for permission to have the front and back of the sign display different messages, which is also prohibited in the county’s sign ordinance.
Electronic message boards have been a thorny issue in Goochland for years. In July 2020, Salem Baptist Church on Broad Street Road was the first to get approved for an electronic message board under the county’s newly revised regulations. The only other such sign in the county, located at Reynolds Community College, is located on state property and not subject to county requirements.
Goochland County Schools assistant superintendent Andy Armstrong explained to the Commissioners during a presentation at the July 8 Planning Commission meeting that the school board was making the request in order to “deliver a better experience for our citizens and for our students.” Armstrong noted there would also be opportunities to integrate the signs into students’ learning experience.
When it came time to make their decision, commissioners expressed concern over the idea of including video or any kind of animation on the sign, but also with the possibility of affording privileges to the school board that would not necessarily be afforded to private citizens.
“My concern here is that we are trying to deal with these ordinances uniformly across the county, and it kind of gets me when a government entity comes in and wants to do something we don’t allow private citizens to do,” said District 5 commissioner Tom Rockecharlie. “They have enough privileges that the public does not enjoy. With four exemptions you might as well take the sign ordinance and throw it away.”
Ultimately the commissioners voted in favor of all exemptions except for the change that would allow animation or video on the sign.
The final decision on the revised CUP will rest with the Board of Supervisors.