Charlottesville City Schools continues to work its way through a 2017 plan to update its six elementary schools.
Work to renovate classrooms and the media center at Burnley-Moran Elementary will start this summer. Clark and Jackson-Via elementaries were updated in the last two school years.
The city’s draft five-year capital improvement plan includes $1.25 million for the project in fiscal year 2021.
Kim Powell, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, discussed the modernization plans at Thursday’s School Board meeting — the first of the new year. Earlier in the meeting, Jennifer McKeever was re-elected board chairwoman and Leah Puryear was named vice chairwoman.
The city committed in 2017 to put $1 million annually to modernization projects. That amount was adjusted for the coming fiscal year to account for inflation.
Powell said that while the school division has well-maintained facilities, the division hadn’t been modernizing the buildings.
“Several years ago, the board made a strong push to work with our city so that we move beyond just doing capital maintenance projects and start doing actual capital improvement projects — things that make a visible difference,” she said.
The division’s Facilities Improvement and Planning Committee reviews the projects and recommends future ones. In December, the committee met again to review past projects and consider next steps.
The committee decided in 2017 to move forward on various improvement projects at each of the elementary schools, which are some of the oldest buildings in the division.
Powell said they’ve learned some lessons with the upgrades to Clark and Jackson-Via, such as that $1 million goes fast for projects such as these. Additionally, future projects will include renovations and upgrades to the classrooms.
“It’s really challenging to stretch those dollars and make meaningful and lasting impact on the school,” she said.
Additionally, much of the renovation work at Clark and Jackson-Via took place over the summer to accommodate the school year schedule.
“All of these projects are challenging to complete over the summer, but it’s worth it,” Powell said.
Originally, the planning committee had recommended renovating the cafeteria and adding outdoor learning spaces at Burnley-Moran. However, that project wouldn’t leave much money left over to improve classroom technology and furniture.
Instead, the school division will use the funding to improve the furniture and technology in all classrooms. Because the funding doesn’t impact the whole school, Powell said they took an aspirational approach to the projects, meaning that they leave behind something that shows progress and where the division will continue to go.
“The aspiration fingerprint that we are going to leave [at Burnley-Moran] is going to be in the media center,” Powell said.
Other schools have chosen to focus on a grade level, typically fourth grade, to show what could be possible for every grade.
“Burnley-Moran had a lot of passion that that’s where they wanted to focus,” she said.
The planning committee will reconvene in 2022 when the reconfiguration of Buford Middle School and Walker Upper Elementary could be underway, if funded.
Charlottesville also is seeking proposals on how to add sixth-grade to Buford and to centralize preschool at Walker. That request for proposals will close at the end of this month.
Powell said interest in the project has been healthy.
“It’s exciting and it’s moving,” she said.