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City schools complete busy summer of capital projects
CHS Construction, Summer 2017
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Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Charlottesville High Schoool underwent a $483,996 building envelope renovation this summer.
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Josh Mandell | Thursday, October 05, 2017 at 9:24 p.m.

With major decisions about building new school facilities looming, the Charlottesville City School Board on Thursday received an update on minor construction projects completed over the summer.

The city of Charlottesville’s Capital Improvement Program funds school construction and maintenance projects that cost more than $50,000, while smaller projects are funded by the school division’s Small Cap program.

The city school division expects a 3 percent annualized increase in capital improvement funding from the city over the next 5 years, reaching $1,212,011 for fiscal year 2022.

City Council allocated an additional $1 million in supplemental funds for school improvement projects last year, and did so again this year.

The majority of last year’s capital improvement funds were used for modernization and upkeep of Charlottesville High School facilities. Some Small Cap funding was used to provide short-term solutions to capacity issues at the city’s elementary and middle school buildings.

Facilities development manager Mike Mollica and project manager Michael Goddard updated the School Board on the status of last year’s capital improvement and Small Cap projects.

About $25,000 in Small Cap funds were used to convert annexed office space at Venable Elementary to a science lab.

“The Venable lab project was a bit rushed for us, but we are pleased with how it came out, given the time limit,” Goddard said.

Mollica said the school division spent about $73,000 on a modular classroom with an adjoining bathroom at Greenbrier Elementary. Difficulties in bringing utilities to this site made the project exceed the typical cost of a secondhand modular classroom — about $60,000, Mollica said.

“We wanted to make sure you knew these learning cottages are not cheap,” he said.

The city’s CIP funded $100,000 in traffic safety and circulation improvements at Buford Middle School and Jackson-Via and Johnson elementary schools this summer. The project added 17 spaces to Johnson’s parking lot, which Mollica said had been “bursting at the seams.”

The city schools’ Facilities Development Department contracted with VMDO Architects this year to calculate each of Charlottesville City Schools’ enrollment capacities, evaluate growth projections, and provide recommendations and projected costs of solutions to address facility needs. VMDO was paid about $60,000 for the study, which was funded through the city CIP.

“Our schools are starting to feel pressure,” Mollica said.

VMDO has estimated that the total cost of potential capacity solutions — which could include a new elementary school or dedicated Pre-K facility, and substantial additions to existing schools — would range from $85 million to $150 million.

“That would be a larger ask to City Council than this school division has ever made,” Mollica said.

Although the construction of a new track and field facility at CHS had to be postponed until 2018, the high school received more than $900,000 in other improvements this summer,

The largest project at CHS, a $483,996 building envelope renovation, included new brickwork, replacement of exterior sealants and painting, handrail upgrades for ADA compliance, and the installation of new bike racks at the main entry.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center at CHS received $260,619 in safety improvements to the theater’s catwalks, including compliant railings and a new cable tray for electrical wiring.

“Previously, cables and wires were strewn about the catwalk, and it was a significant trip hazard,” Mollica said.

The city CIP included $116,000 for a fireproof curtain that will lower automatically if the fire alarm system is activated. Mollica said he expected the curtain to be completely installed by next week.

The division used $15,000 in Small Cap funds to reduce the height of a floor-to-ceiling glass block wall in an atrium near the CHS cafeteria, and add a countertop and electrical charging outlets to encourage gathering and group work by students.

Goddard said teachers had complained that the original wall, installed in 2006, obstructed their line of sight when trying to monitor students. “We thought it was a nice design element, and didn’t want to remove it completely,” he said.

New dugouts were installed at the high school’s softball fields this summer for about $25,000. However, plans for a much larger athletics project — a new eight-lane track at CHS — were stalled this spring when no contractors submitted a bid.

Along with the new track, plans for the facility include bleachers for 400 spectators, new restrooms and LED lighting. A new area for field events will be added near the bleachers.

Mollica said that local contractors already were booked for the summer by the time design work for the track project was completed. “It was absolutely the wrong time to put a project of this magnitude on the street,” he said.

The construction of the new track is budgeted at $1.66 million, while design work by the Timmons Group cost an additional $100,000.

The City Council has yet to allocate funds for a renovation of the athletics fieldhouse at CHS.

Mollica said Charlottesville City Schools will provide half of the funding for a $163,000 HVAC chiller replacement at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center, which is scheduled for installation this winter. Albemarle County Public Schools will cover the remaining costs.

Mollica said the CATEC building will soon need a roof replacement that would cost about $1 million.

The CATEC Center Board is currently discussing whether to relocate CATEC to the campus of Piedmont Virginia Community College.

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