The Charlottesville school division is forming a committee to begin reviewing possible capital improvement projects earlier in the budget process.
The committee would be asked to focus on projects designed to improve or modernize learning spaces or school buildings, rather than maintenance items, said Ed Gillaspie, assistant superintendent of administrative services.
The division currently gets about $1.3 million annually for its CIP, which is supposed to cover maintenance and improvements.
“Part of the issue that goes on there is that the $1.3 million for all of our facilities takes care of roofs and paint. Every once in a while we get to do a true improvement item, but it is rare,” Gillaspie said.
The new committee will be asked to look at how to spend any end-of-year budget fund balance, Gillaspie said. Even if the division spends 99 percent of its annual budget, the leftover funds could be impactful.
“One percent of our budget is $700,000. That is a good chunk of money that could be used for CIP,” he said. “It is those kinds of dollars that can be available for projects, because projects are perfect uses for one-time dollars.”
The planning group will be made up of division staff and officials, a school principal, a teacher, a parent, a businessperson or University of Virginia representative and a parent-teacher organization president, documents show.
To help inform possible school building improvements, the division took 28 people to Arlington to tour Discovery Elementary School, a newly opened, fully modern elementary school attached to an existing middle school.
School Board members, division staff, teachers, principals and parents visited the 96,000-square-foot school, which was designed by Charlottesville-based VMDO Architects.
“We have the technology and the skills that we could have something like that if we wanted,” said School Board member Juandiego Wade. “Several of the principals pulled me aside and said, ‘I want this at my school.’ There is a lot of energy behind these facilities.”
Superintendent Rosa Atkins said the visit sparked conversation among division employees.
“It was really nice because we had a range of teachers and principals and parents, and they began to talk about the way they could use the space,” she said. “They were impressed not just with Discovery Elementary School, but to know we now have a process in place that we can envision things like this for our area.”
The committee will meet in late June and early July to refine a 10-year CIP list. The list will be presented to the School Board in early August, before being worked into the city CIP process, a school division report shows.