The first four Albemarle County Public Schools projects to be paid for using a $35 million bond referendum will begin to go to bid next month, and construction will begin this summer, schools staff told the Albemarle County School Board on Thursday night.
Staff members also warned the board that increasing construction in the county could mean some of the bids will come in over budget.
“These projects go out to bid within the March to April timeframe, and we are keeping a close eye on the bid climate, the signs are that everything is going up,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, county schools assistant director of facilities planning.
Costs are increasing due in part to rising competition for building projects, and in part because contractors are fighting a lack of skilled labor, Schmitt said.
Board member Steve Koleszar said the potential for cost increases could have been avoided if the county had acted sooner to fund the projects.
“It really drives home that we should have done this five or eight years ago when our contractors were all begging for work,” Koleszar said. “The lesson is that the next time we have a recession, we need to be ready to jump on that opportunity to get work done and save the taxpayers money.”
For board member David Oberg, the labor shortage increases the division’s need to fund vocational programs.
“This report also highlights how important [the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center] is,” he said. “If we have a lack of skilled labor, it is important to have training programs in place.”
The $15.2 million expansion of Woodbrook Elementary, security updates at Scottsville Elementary and Baker-Butler Elementary, and classroom modernization projects at two high schools and two middle schools are all in the final stages of design and permitting, division staff told the School Board on Thursday night.
County voters approved the referendum in November, which includes $10.9 million for division-wide classroom modernization, $6 million to add three science classrooms and update another seven at Western Albemarle and $2.9 million for security updates at Baker-Butler and Scottsville.
This summer, six classrooms at Albemarle High and four at Western Albemarle will be renovated to repurpose unused space, create spaces and breakout rooms for team learning and add movable walls to allow teachers to change classroom layouts as needed.
Jack Jouett and Walton Middle schools will get renovated classroom spaces, and Broadus Wood, Stony Point, Yancey and Scottsville elementaries will get new furniture, staff said.
Baker-Butler and Scottsville Elementary will both get renovations to their main entrances in an effort to increase security, and Scottsville’s media center will get minor upgrades.
The upgrades to Scottsville Elementary will require approval by the county Architectural Review Board because of the school’s proximity to Route 20, staff said.