Some Charlottesville City Schools students might be attending class in a different location in the near future.
On Monday, the Charlottesville City Council voted to spend $595,000 on a move that would relocate the Henry Avenue Learning Center—the division’s alternative school for 6th through 12th graders—to the Hope Community Center, located at 341 11th Street.
The purchase has not been finalized, and a contract will now be presented to the owner of the community center.
"This was step one in the process, and our Board will work with the City Council to move forward," said Rosa Atkins, Charlottesville’s Superintendent.
City Manager Maurice Jones said the funds would come from the City’s Capital Improvement Program contingency fund. Once the transaction is completed, Jones said, renovations of up to about $150,000 over ten years will need to be made.
Currently, the school division leases the Henry Avenue space for about $80,000 per year. Buying the 11th Street location would begin to benefit the City financially after about seven years.
The property is listed at a value of $751,800, which is a leap from its 2013 assessment of $226,000. Jones said the spike is the result of a 2004 clerical error in the City Assessor’s Office.
“There was one building there, and they were going to build a second building, and [we] never went back and reassessed it,” Jones said. “Had that adjustment been made, the assessment history would have shown a gradual increase, rather than a sharp jump up.”
Jones added that the assessment error did not have an impact on the city’s tax collections because the owner was a church exempt from paying real estate property taxes.
The school division has sought a permanent location for Henry Avenue for some time, but encountered difficulty finding an affordable property. At any given time, the program serves about 20 city students who require intensive intervention due to conduct issues. Students who attend Henry Avenue return to their home schools after showing behavioral and academic progress.
“I think this is a great opportunity to improve the facility for alternative education in the City of Charlottesville,” said City Councilor Kathleen M. Galvin.
“This will give the students a more appropriate educational setting than Henry Avenue,” Wade said. “They’ll be able to go outside, there’s grass, and the City will be able to own the building. So I think there will be benefits in classrooms and attitudes.”
Prior to City Council’s decision, the School Board debated the move in closed sessions, and City government staff discussed the relocation with the 10th and Page Neighborhood Association in early May.
“The 10th and Page Neighborhood Association was very supportive of having the school there,” Jones said. “Their largest concern was the opportunity for community meetings [at the site].”
Many of the City’s schools are used by churches or community groups on evenings and weekends, and the school division would welcome the same arrangement in the 11th Street facility.
“I think it’s really wonderful that the community met, and we talked to them and that there doesn’t seem to be any resistance,” Galvin said.
“I agree,” City Councilor Kristin Szakos said. “I think it’s great that our kids are getting a place that’s more appropriate for learning.”
The school division hopes to begin at the new location in the fall of 2014.