Buford Middle School

Charlottesville City Schools will push a package of capital improvement program projects focused on classroom modernization, corridor improvements and daylighting, beginning with work at Buford Middle School and Walker Upper Elementary School.

The city School Board voted, 7-0, Thursday night to work on a package of capital improvement projects to take before city staff in hopes of securing city funds for projects that will enhance division facilities, rather than simply maintain them.

The modernization plans presented Thursday were developed by the division’s newly formed Facility Improvement Planning Committee, which met last month to go over a list of projects developed by staff members at each of the division’s schools.

“As we were [meeting], 40 of the over 60 projects that [were requested] fell into some major themes,” Assistant Superintendent Ed Gillaspie said. “Corridors, outdoor spaces — grounds and playgrounds, media centers and cafeterias and auditoriums.”

School staff members this year will take before the city a request to modernize seven classrooms at Walker Upper Elementary and an upstairs corridor, as well as a corridor and five classrooms at Buford. The projects do not yet have cost estimates, school documents showed.

“We don’t have any specific funding associated with this,” Gillaspie said. “But this is our first opportunity to put something up there and just see where it goes.”

School Board member Sherri Kraft asked how the plans for Walker and Buford might affect shelved plans for a city-wide grade reconfiguration. Gillaspie said the city has seen recovering enrollment numbers over the last several years, reducing the need to reconfigure.

“This doesn’t necessarily negate that idea, because those classrooms could still be used as classrooms, but we are actually up 100 or so students this year so far, so the question is going to turn to those capacity issues,” he said.

Atkins added that the enrollment is now trending toward expansion, rather than consolidation.

This year is the first year the schools have gone before the city’s capital improvement committee, Gillaspie said. In years past, the division has made do with a roughly $1.5 million CIP contribution earmarked for maintenance.

“The city gets together all the departments every year and sees what kind of projects they would like to do, and we have never been at that table,” said School Board Chairwoman Amy Laufer. “This gets us at that table.”

The committee developed the approach after a majority of requests from staff members in school buildings focused on modernization.

“These themes got on the list because they were recurring themes,” Superintendent Rosa Atkins said. “We kept seeing that we needed to modernize the corridors.”

Improvements to science labs at Charlottesville High School and Buford Middle that opened in the 2013 school year were paid for with a $3 million one-time allocation from city coffers.

City Council voted this year to funnel $200,000 in CIP money to planning improvements to the CHS track and field house. That allocation is separate of the division’s improvements wish list and the division’s maintenance funds.