Greer, AHS to get temporary relief for overcrowding

  Head Start students at Greer Elementary will be bused to Broadus Wood next year and some Albemarle High School students will be housed in a modular unit, as the county school division fights to find extra capacity at overcrowded schools.

County schools COO Dean Tistadt and Rosalyn Schmitt, assistant director of facilities planning, on Thursday presented the Albemarle County School Board with a list of short-term solutions for capacity concerns at Greer and AHS.

At Albemarle High, the division has taken out a five-year lease on an eight-classroom modular unit, which will be installed this summer, Schmitt said. Louisa County used similar structures after two schools were destroyed by a 2011 earthquake.

The lease will cost the division $102,000 a year, officials said.

Installing and furnishing the structure will cost about $375,000. Funds for the project were set aside last year in the current fiscal year’s capital improvement plan, Schmitt said.

As it stands, Greer is running some programs in the school’s hallways and alcoves, a practice that has drawn complaints from the fire marshal.

“This will help address some of the issues that have come up with the fire marshal inspections, such as having students in halls and nooks and crannies that were not designed for that purpose,” Tistadt said.

Moving pre-K students to Broadus Wood will free up a classroom at Greer, which this year is 29 students over capacity.

“[The Head Start classroom] will still primarily serve Greer students, and they will be taken by shuttle bus back and forth every day,” Tistadt said.

School Board members said they are concerned about busing Head Start children between schools.

“Those are little, little kids, and that’s a long time to be on the bus, and you are going to do it twice a day,” board member David Oberg said.

To free up more space at Greer, the division is turning the school’s stage into resource rooms, considering converting a book room to a classroom and moving the gifted and talented program from Jack Jouett Middle School to a trailer at Greer.

Moving the gifted program would be more about keeping elementary school students from having to go into the middle school and would require relocating Child Nutritional Services.

“It really doesn’t help capacity at Greer, it’s just a little bit more convenient,” Tistadt said.

The School Board in November asked schools staff to come up with a list of temporary solutions for the overcrowded schools.

Though the elementary school does not appear to be much over its designed capacity, enrollment numbers can be deceiving, Schmitt said.

“Our capacity numbers are based on regular classrooms,” she said. “They don’t take into account things like resource rooms.”

The measures will be treated as stopgaps until funding can be secured to make additions and renovations to the aging buildings, Tistadt said.

The division’s five-year capital improvement plan request includes more than $20 million for an addition to Albemarle High School, division documents showed. That money did not make it into County Executive Tom Foley’s proposed budget.

The division has not determined what form a long-term solution would take.

“Do you build onto Albemarle, do you start looking at a new school?” Schmitt asked. “No matter what you do, none of it is funded at this time.”

The board in November unanimously rejected a redistricting plan for Greer, and rejected redistricting AHS on a 5-2 vote.

Greer is expected to be 65 students over capacity next school year, and more than 100 students over capacity three years from now, according to county projections.

At the high school, enrollment is expected to exceed capacity by 141 students next year and 182 students in the 2018-19 school year.

Kate Acuff, chairwoman of the School Board, said the schools eventually will need to build additions or a new school.

“We just have not been building capacity. And as you all remember, the reason we did not vote on redistricting for Greer because there was no redistricting solution,” she said. “We need some more brick walls.”