Scottsville expansion

Albemarle County School Board members Steve Koleszar (left) and Graham Paige (second from right) look at preliminary designs of a proposed expansion to Scottsville Elementary School during a community meeting in April. The $12 million project would add more than 100 seats to the 45-year-old school building.

A $12 million renovation and expansion to Scottsville Elementary School would bring the whole school under one roof and add a larger gym, among other changes.

The school division could start construction next spring and open the expansion in August 2021 if the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approves the School Board’s capital budget amendments.

“It’s a great school,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, the division’s chief operations officer. “Now, we want to wrap around a great environment to support them.”

The School Board requested a transfer of $11.5 million from the Capital Improvement Program for fiscal year 2021 to the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1. The amendments would increase the division’s capital allocation for 2020 to $53.97 million.

Staci England, principal at Scottsville, said there’s “muted excitement” around the project as the school community waits for the green light from supervisors.

“People are excited about the possibilities,” she said.

Scottsville Elementary, which was built in 1974, has been feeling the capacity crunch in recent years, and several classes are housed in trailers. The expansion would add six classrooms, increasing the capacity from 208 to 322 students. Nearly 250 students attend the school now.

Schmitt said the recent closure of Yancey Elementary School exacerbated the school’s capacity issues. Scottsville received about 60 students from Yancey.

“It was in discussion before Yancey, but the school’s closure elevated the priority level,” she said.

The School Board’s requested amendments also include $5.3 million for work at Red Hill Elementary and $1.2 million for design work on a Crozet Elementary expansion. Schmitt said those projects address capacity issues and will remove the need for trailers.

In addition to classrooms, the project will add a full-sized gym and refurbish the entire building.

“The exact scope of improvements will include the school community,” Schmitt said.

England said there will be an immediate benefit from having a full-size gym and being able to schedule more classes for physical education.

Scottsville’s current gym is about a third of the size of other elementary school gyms, which England said is “limiting.”

“It sends a message to kids,” she said. “… You want everyone to have an equitable experience.”

Red Hill is the only other elementary school with a small gym. The second phase of work there will include a larger gym and other interior renovations.

“It’s an extreme equity and parity issue,” Schmitt said.

At a recent meeting, community members had the chance to weigh in on preliminary designs for the expansion. Charlottesville-based Grimm & Parker Architects has been hired for the project.

Nicola McGoff, a parent at Scottsville, said the bigger gym will make a difference for students. She has two children currently attending the school.

“Ms. Gentry [, the PE teacher,] has huge ambitions,” she said. “I would love for her to have more resources.”

McGoff works with the school’s gardening club, and she’s looking forward to the outdoor learning space included in preliminary designs.

“Our school isn’t bad, but it’s a missing a few modern resources,” she said.

England said outdoor learning is a part of the school’s culture. When the weather is nice, teachers take their students outside for reading and writing activities.

“We’re rural, and students love to be outside,” she said.

For England, other essential changes include eliminating the need for trailers. Currently, preschool students, fifth graders and music and art classes are housed in the outdoor trailers.

“One of the strengths of the school is a lot of cross-grade connecting,” she said. “That will be easier once we are all in the same building.”

England said the project is still in the early stages, and the design team is looking at how to design for future learning.

“We’re looking at how do we design something that’s tight enough to meet our current needs and flexible enough for the future,” she said.

England said they want to involve the community in the process, from families to their neighbors.

McGoff, who is involved in the school’s parent-teacher organization, said the area is seeing an increase is young families. She’s excited about the investment in the school.

“I think Scottsville is a vital school for its place,” McGoff said. “This is a badly needed expansion of school resources.”

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Katherine Knott is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7263, kknott@dailyprogress.com, or @knott_katherine on Twitter. For all the latest news on local schools, subscribe to The Cheat Sheet here.

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, kknott@dailyprogress.com, or @knott_katherine on Twitter.

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