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Albemarle School Board gets first look at plans for Crozet Elementary expansion

Although construction funding is not certain for a long-awaited expansion of Crozet Elementary, the school division is moving forward on designing the $20.4 million project.

Ken Thacker, with VMDO Architects, walked the Albemarle County School Board through preliminary schematic designs Thursday during the board’s monthly work session. The plans include a three-story addition, new bus loop, improved play areas and an expanded gym and cafeteria.

The 28,000-square-foot Crozet expansion was identified as the division’s top capacity-related construction project by an advisory committee last year in order to ease overcrowding in the western feeder pattern. Nearby Brownsville Elementary has nearly 900 students while the building’s capacity is 764. At Crozet, enrollment is up to 360 students, 30 more than the building’s capacity.

“This not only will safely accommodate future Crozet students but will allow room to move some Brownsville students to the new Crozet, thereby improving the learning environment for students at both schools well into the future,” said Lindsay Snoddy, the division’s deputy director of building services.

The School Board will vote on the schematic designs at its next meeting, scheduled for June 11. The VMDO team is about a quarter of the way through the design process, which began in mid-March.

The division wants to add 17 classrooms, three smaller resource rooms, two offices and a faculty workroom to bring the school’s capacity to 680.

Most of the new classrooms will be located in the proposed three-story structure to be built just to the south of the school building. The addition would be connected to the existing school through an enclosed walkway and house third grade and up.

Thacker said the three-story structure wouldn’t be taller than the current building because it will be built into the hillside.

The division is hoping for the expansion to be ready by the 2022-23 school year; however, declining revenue related to COVID-19 has thrown funding for county capital projects into flux. Funding for several projects has been deferred for the time being, and the Crozet Elementary addition is not recommended for construction fiscal year 2021, according to the county government’s budget.

Construction is expected to cost nearly $16 million. Thacker said construction prices could fall in the near future because of the virus-related shutdown.

“In the past recession, we have witnessed savvy clients taking advantage of the downturn and advancing their capital projects,” he said.

According to the original timeline, the project would be put out to bid in early 2021, with construction starting in May 2021.

For the initial design process, VMDO engaged the school community through online interviews, videos, surveys and virtual activities, such as a scavenger hunt, to abide by social-distancing protocol and limitations on the size of gatherings.

VMDO designed the elementary school, which opened in 1990, and its 1996 addition.

“At a time when most every new school looks the same, Crozet Elementary established a precedent for unique school design, specifically suited to its place,” Thacker said. “… Over the years, the intimate school building has been lauded for its reinforcement of community value.”

The expansion plans preserve the school’s views to the east and west and the circular library at the center and better utilize the 20-acre campus.

“The site includes a lot of topography, which the building uses to its advantage, but it makes the campus less expansive than it may appear,” Thacker said.

Thacker said the design team wants to add a separate bus loop and a new sidewalk for students who walk to school. Along with several other additions or renovations, the architects want to add an interactive rain garden in a courtyard and other outdoor spaces to enhance the space.

“I think it’s awesome,” said School Board member David Oberg. “I love the fact you are preserving the view from the back.”


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