Albemarle County Office Building renovation proposal

Courtesy Albemarle County Public Schools

Albemarle County has proposed renovations for the third floor of the County Office Building, which was described as a “rat maze” with “a slew of inadequacies.”

Albemarle County schools staff members want to get out of the “rat maze” that is the third floor of County Office Building.

The division doesn’t want to move its central office but renovate the space into a more contemporary work environment, reflecting similar changes made in some county schools.

“We want to make sure this need is on your radar,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, chief operating officer for the division, adding that there aren’t plans right now to take the proposal any further.

She outlined the proposed renovations during Thursday’s School Board meeting.

The renovations, which could cost from $1.4 million to $2 million, are contingent on funding. The division plans to pay for the project with surplus funding, when and if it becomes available, or during a mid-year budget projection.

Schools Superintendent Matt Haas said the third-floor renovations are hard to prioritize over school needs.

“I honestly don’t know how we would accomplish it or when, but I want to put it on the board’s radar,” he said. “It’s a need.”

The third floor of the building, which was built in 1939 as Lane High School, houses 60 school division staff members from different departments. Other central office staff members work in locations throughout the county.

“We have them all over the place,” board member Kate Acuff said. “It would be nice to consolidate a lot of those services.”

Other board members also were supportive of the plan.

Schmitt described the current layout as a “rat maze” with “a slew of inadequacies.”

It’s inefficient and doesn’t have enough offices, she said. Additionally, several offices don’t have natural light and many aren’t soundproof, which makes discussing private student or personnel matters difficult.

County staff are currently conducting a facilities review of the County Office Building, Schmitt said.

Division staff members outlined several goals of the renovation in a project brief. They want to promote employee wellbeing, productivity and collaboration, increase access to daylight and model the modernization changes made in schools. Another goal is to maintain the current central location and a working relationship with county staff and other shared services.

Schmitt said many private office spaces would be eliminated in favor of more team-oriented spaces. Also, meeting areas such as conference rooms would be moved closer to the elevators.

She did not know Thursday how many more staff members could be accommodated on a renovated third floor.

Board Chairman Jonno Alcaro said he felt it was important that the school division remains at the County Office Building.

Renovation work would include demolition, new flooring, drywall partitions, interior doors and glazing, painting and other changes, according to board documents. The project also could be phased in by areas of the building.

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Katherine Knott is a reporter for The Daily Progress and author of The Cheat Sheet, an education-focused newsletter. Contact her at (434) 978-7263,, or @knott_katherine on Twitter.

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