Albemarle County school division’s Lambs Lane campus, which serves one-fourth of the school system’s population, is an inaccessible and confusing collection of buildings but school officials hope that will change.
Plans are in the works to determine how best to improve the area, which includes Albemarle High, Jack Jouett Middle, Greer Elementary and Ivy Creek schools as well as the building services and transportation departments.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Virginia also is building a new facility on the campus where the high school driver’s education range was once.
“The campus area is fairly spacious, but it has not been fully utilized to meet the current needs or the future growth of this dynamic and populous and diverse group of students and their families, and staff and the community at large,” said Lisa Walker, the division’s project manager, at a virtual community meeting Tuesday.
The division is working with the DLR Group, an architecture firm with offices in Washington, D.C., to create a master plan for the campus. The plan will serve as a recommendation for the best uses of the site. That blueprint will be used by the board for future decisions about the site.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the consultant and division staff provided an update on their work so far and fielded questions and ideas from attendees.
“Our job in this plan is not to figure out where the money comes from, but rather to show what might be potential and what might happen in the future,” said John Chadwick with DLR at Tuesday’s meeting.
The goal is to make the site into a campus that can serve as the flagship campus of the division. It’s currently a collection of buildings, Chadwick said.
The DLR Group was awarded the contract for the study in December and started analyzing the site. They also began talking with school and county officials as well as community members about the area.
As part of the request for proposals, they will consider where potential building additions could be located and to find a possible site on the campus for another high school center.
Chadwick said in the discussions, they’ve heard about the need for a welcome center for families new to the area or country as well as space for the division’s English as a Second Language program, which is currently housed at the Northside branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.
The team also heard suggestions for a wellness or aquatics center or a performing arts center, according to the presentation.
School board members and county supervisors have expressed an interest in moving the transportation department to another county-owned site. That option will be explored as part of the study.
Walker said they want to hear all ideas at this point in the planning process.
“If there’s anything that you ever thought might be nice for this campus, throw it out there,” she said. “I’m not saying the sky’s the limit, but we can’t think about how we can incorporate that into the near or long term future unless we know about it.”
Chadwick said the site’s accessibility is an issue as well as connections between the three schools.
“A second entrance/exit to the campus is urgently needed,” he said, though that shouldn’t rely on the removal or relocation of an existing building.
The second issue he’s heard is a lack of sidewalks on the campus.
“We learned that the high school students who support the Greer students and various programs have to take a bus,” Chadwick said.
Parents and teachers have raised concerns about the lack of sidewalks for years, and the county now is planning to construct sidewalks for the area in several phases. In the first phase, there will be an 8- to 10-foot walking trail that will start behind Albemarle High School and connect to Jouett. The path should be completed by the end of this summer.
Overall, the site doesn’t make sense in terms of the roads, Chadwick said.
“We got lost on the campus several times,” he said. “The roads don’t lead to their destination intuitively, which causes a lot of confusion for those who aren’t familiar. Signage to and within the campus is quite confusing, and it’s never been coordinated between schools and facilities.”
Improving signage will likely be one of the plan’s recommendations, he said. They’ll also be looking at how the campus can be more sustainably used and maintained and how to highlight the existing trail network.
Chadwick said they’ll also propose ways to improve the bus loops and parent pick-up/drop-off areas to be more intuitive and ways to ensure the parking areas are sufficient and close enough to the schools for teachers and visitors.
“It is very, very confusing over there, and we don’t really understand how it got to be the way it is,” Chadwick said. “But it’s our job to help you untie the knot.”
The final version of the plan is expected to be finished by the end of April. For more information about the process, go to k12albemarle.org/our-departments/building-services/lambs-lane-master-plan.