Facilities: A Brief Update (April 2021)
The schools continue progress on the school reconfiguration plan approved in 2019 (see February 11, 2019 update, below). In December 2019, the city posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for design and planning services for Buford (which will house grades 6-8) and Walker (which will be the site of a city-wide preschool center while 5th graders return to elementary schools). In The RFPs were received by the end of January, but the pandemic raised other priorities. In November 2020, the City Council met for an update on the project. For an update, read “City Council considers funding for school reconfiguration project” (Daily Progress, 11/20/20). In April 2021, the City awarded the design services contract to VMDO Architects. See “VMDO Architects selected to design city schools reconfiguration project” (Daily Progress, 4/4/21).
In addition, there has been a separate process for accomplishing modernization projects (with an annual budget of $1-1.25 million) at the elementary schools.
- Clark was first in 2018.
- Jackson-Via was completed in 2019.
- Burnley-Moran was on the schedule for 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: February 11, 2019
As part of the budget planning process for the 2019-20 year, the Charlottesville School Board held discussions with Charlottesville City Council about school facilities, enrollment growth, and their implications for equity.
The School Board endorsed a school reconfiguration plan that would create a preschool center, return 5th-graders to elementary schools, and modernize Buford Middle School for grades 6-8. The Charlottesville City Council approved a $3 million allocation for design and planning work on school reconfiguration. (The funds would be outside the schools’ operating budget, as part of the CIP or Capital Improvement Project process.)
The over-arching ideas are:
- Move the schools’ 3- and 4-year-old preschool classes to a dedicated preschool center on the current Walker Upper Elementary School campus. This specialized center would allow for additional classrooms, before/after school care, and services that are targeted to meet the needs of our youngest learners.
- Return fifth-graders to elementary schools, the environment that is most developmentally appropriate for their needs. This will required continued monitoring of the enrollment capacity of our elementary schools.
- Remodel Buford Middle School to maximize opportunities for grades 6-8. This will eliminate one of the two middle-grade transitions that we current require as our students presently first move from elementary to Walker in grade 5 and again move from Walker to Buford in grade 7.
- In addition to this process, the schools have received a five-year commitment of $1 million from City Council to support modernization projects. The first, completed in the summer of 2018, was at Clark Elementary. The second will be completed at Jackson-Via Elementary in the summer of 2019.
To learn more about the process that led to these decisions, scroll down for previous updates. As noted previously, the timeline for planning and modernizing schools would be at least three years.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: April 25, 2018
This winter, Charlottesville City Schools held a series of discussions relating to our rising student enrollment. We presented a number of options and offered a preliminary survey to solicit additional input. We also briefed community leaders such as City Council and the Planning Commission.
What We Heard
- We heard strong support for returning to centralized preschool with services that focus on the needs of our eligible three- and four-year-old students (and their families). Aside from allowing us to specialize in early childhood education, a centralized preschool would free up space in our crowded elementary schools.
- We heard a preference for maintaining our commitment to small neighborhood elementary schools (over a model of enlarging three of our elementary schools). This would likely require the construction of a seventh elementary school on currently owned or future-acquired property.
- We did NOT hear a consensus about relocating fifth-graders to the elementary schools. However, returning fifth-grade to elementary schools had previously arisen as a strong preference in prior community surveys and meetings. This would require a preschool center and the remodeling of Buford for 6th- through 8th-graders. Elementary capacity would still need to be addressed.
- We heard an interest in additional options. These options include a 5-8 campus that provides updated facilities and eliminates a school transition during the critical “middle grade” years. Another option is creating a specialty academy to serve students in the elementary or middle-grade years.
- We heard interest in combining our capacity needs and our modernization needs. If we can identify solutions that both expand capacity and modernize our facilities, there is support for a greater investment that would provide our community with a bigger return.
- We heard support for our out-of-division student program even as we heard reminders that we should minimize the impact of the program on overcrowding. In other words, we will continue to strive to admit only those students who will fill otherwise unused seats in existing classrooms. Relatedly, we heard support for continuing to offer spaces to the children of employees of the City Schools and the City. And we heard from community members who want to make sure that once we have built a relationship with a nonresident student, we should view that child as a “Charlottesville student,” or “one of our own,” not as an outsider who should be sent away.
- New data points in August. Updated enrollment figures will help us make informed decisions. This data will help us critically re-evaluate and tweak our interpretation of enrollment trends as projected by our partner, U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center.
- Learning cottages. The “elementary wave” we’ve been seeing continues to max out our elementary schools and is beginning to make an impact at Walker and Buford. We have purchased one additional unit for next year with the option to buy others if needed. We have also completed the most time-consuming part of the planning process: site studies at campuses to identify the best placements.
- Fleshing out options and responding to opportunities. In response to community feedback (see above), we can continue to explore our options and opportunities. In doing this work, we continue to work with VMDO Architects and the City’s Facilities team.
- Fall community meetings. We will meet with City Council, community partners, and the community-at-large to be transparent and responsive to the hopes and concerns of all.
Previous Updates to this page (January 2018)
Charlottesville City Schools is growing! Since our enrollment has been increasing about 3 percent annually, we need to consider the future of our school facilities. Together, let’s consider how we can best meet our students’ needs, particularly for our classes serving preschool through grade 8. Our school division’s growth also presents an opportunity to modernize our schools for 21st-century learning.
(POSTPONED) Community Conversation: January 31, 2018 – 6 p.m., Charlottesville High School media center
School Board discussion/public comment – February 1, 2018, 5:00 p.m., CHS
- School Board meetings are live streamed at ustream.com (search for Charlottesville City Schools). Watch regularly scheduled meetings on the first Thursday of every month at 5 p.m.
- Meetings are also recorded and later televised on Public Access Channel 14 on Thursday & Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday at 12 and 7 p.m. of the same week as the meeting.
Charlottesville City Schools contracted VMDO Architects to study capacity and growth in the division. VMDO’s findings, along with the UVA Weldon Cooper Center’s study on enrollment trends in Charlottesville, were presented at two community meetings in November.
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FAQs on Growth and Capacity Solutions for Charlottesville City Schools
Frequently Asked Questions coming soon. Please help us compile this list by providing your own questions/feedback using the Community Survey.
The next Community Meetings will be January 23 at 6 p.m. at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church and January 31 at 6 p.m. at CHS Media Center followed by a series of school PTO meetings and other community outreach meetings where we will provide information and gather feedback from community members. Additionally, there will be discussion and an opportunity for public comment at the regularly scheduled School Board meeting on February 2 at 5:30pm in the Charlottesville High School library.
Stay in Touch
Stay informed and share your thoughts! We will continue to post future
updates on this web page. Look for a more robust community survey coming in January.
1) Consensus about moving forward with expansion plans?
2) One new elementary, or three expanded elementaries? Centralized preschool?
3) Other questions as they emerge from community feedback.
- Charlottesville Tomorrow, “Charlottesville seeking solutions to school capacity challenges” (June 30, 2017)
- Charlottesville City Schools Capacity Study Volume 1: Assessment, June 14, 2017
- Charlottesville Family’s Bloom Magazine, “Growing enrollment presents opportunities for the future.” (July 25, 2017)
- Dr. Atkins, Update to Families (October 19, 2017)
- WINA, School Board Work Session Summary (focuses on grades K-5) (October 20, 2017)
- American School & University Magazine, “Prepare for Growth” (October 2017; sign-up required to see article). Article projects 5 percent growth in PK-12 enrollment in the South over the years 2017-2025.
- Charlottesville Tomorrow, “Charlottesville City Schools shares growth options with public” (November 13, 2017)
- NBC 29, “Charlottesville City Schools request community’s input to address overcapacity” (November 28, 2017)
- CBS 19, “Charlottesville City Schools look to tackle capacity issues” (November 28, 2017)