Two key pieces of the $35 million bond referendum for school projects that Albemarle County voters approved last month moved forward Thursday night.
The board voted 7-0 to allow RRMM Architects to create detailed drawings and documents that will be provided as part of the request for proposals for the expansion.
The board also voted 4-3 to allow staff to begin negotiations with four architecture firms, including RRMM, to design the first phase of the division-wide classroom modernization project.
Board members Jason Buyaki, Pam Moynihan and David Oberg voted against the second measure because it had only come before the board once.
Schools staff said approval of the four firms was urgent so they could begin contract negotiations with an aim of getting modernization at Albemarle High School, Western Albemarle High School and two middle schools, as well as furniture design for elementary schools, underway this summer.
“This has come to us as an action item, and the process has been to have things come before us as an information item, then for action at a second meeting,” Buyaki said. “I do not have any issue with the methodology or the firms chosen, it is just a matter of process; the process matters.”
The $15.2 million Woodbrook addition and modernization constitutes the largest piece of the bond referendum. The modernization project constitutes just over $10 million of the referendum total.
Woodbrook Principal Lisa Molinaro said her staff is excited to get construction underway.
“There is nothing more exciting than to be building a school that is designed for the future,” she said. “Woodbrook’s design is not like anything you see in our school system or even nearby school systems. To find other schools that are doing this, you have to go places.”
The School Board approved RRMM’s schematic design for the addition in September, but Thursday’s actions gave the firm clearance to finalize the design and prepare construction documents for the bidding phase of the project.
Construction of the additions, sitework, renovations and a contingency fund make up $12.75 million of the total project cost, according to a presentation given Thursday night. The cost of furniture and equipment is included in the $15.2 million but was not broken down, item by item.
The addition is slated to break ground in June, and will include a new gym, music room, maker space and classrooms and will modernize existing classrooms. The existing gym will be turned into open classroom space with a mezzanine level, said architect Jack Clark.
Outside, the school will get a new bus loop, new drop-off area, expanded parking and new playgrounds and outdoor classrooms. The updated plans included more trees along Idlewood Drive after neighbors worried at public meetings about noise and the school being too visible.
“Through the entire process of the community meetings, even eight, 10 or 12 months ago, we are trying to be very good neighbors,” Clark said.
School Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff said she was grateful for the input of parents and community members near the school.
“I was very pleased that most of the comments were positive,” she said. “And those that did have comments were about the mix of shrubbery and things that were easy to address.”
The project will go to bid in April with construction expected to begin in June, said Sheila Hoopman, county schools capital projects manager.