The Albemarle County school board approved a schematic design for a proposed addition to Woodbrook Elementary School. Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Albemarle County School Board approved a schematic design for a proposed 16-classroom addition to Woodbrook Elementary School at a work session Thursday.

RRMM Architects made several changes to its preliminary design after a community forum on Sept. 6. School Board chairwoman Kate Acuff said the design “substantially addressed the issues” identified at that meeting.

“This is an opportunity for us to have a real showcase elementary school,” Acuff said. “It will be the most up-to-date, innovative school in the county.”

The School Board approved the schematic design by a 6-0 vote. Board member Jason Buyaki was absent.

The Woodbrook addition constitutes $15 million of the $35 million in school improvements for a bond referendum on the general election ballot in November.

The new plan for the expanded school features a larger playground area on the northwest side of the school. It also decreases the size of the traffic loop and parking area for school buses, leaving more room for a tree buffer next to Idlewood Drive.

Albemarle Superintendent Pam Moran said she had walked along the property line of the school to examine its tree coverage.

“It was really important for me to take a look at it and make sure I felt comfortable that the plan … would be as unobtrusive as possible,” Moran said.

The new design enables more pedestrian access to the school property from Idlewood Drive. Architect Jack Clark said RRMM would suggest that the county build a new sidewalk along that street.

Some changes to the design aim to address Woodbrook residents’ concern about the school’s visibility to nearby homes. Clark said another tree buffer would be added between the gym and the property line.

He also explained that, due to the grading of the property, the roof of the school’s new gymnasium will be up to four feet lower than the accompanying classroom addition.

Clark said RRMM was still working on a plan to give the property adequate stormwater drainage and awaiting a traffic study by the county. Dean Tistadt, chief operating officer of Albemarle County Public Schools, said the county hoped to make use of an existing contract to complete the traffic study in a few weeks.

With the Board’s vote, the Woodbrook project will move into its design and development phase, which includes the selection of construction materials.

A committee of school division staff recommended adding more brick to the new gym’s exterior to match the surrounding neighborhood. However, Clark said, it would look different from the “blank wall[s]” of the current gym.

“We’re looking at putting in more glass and a variety of materials to break the scale down,” Clark said.

There will be another community meeting on the Woodbrook addition in November. RRMM will present its design and development plan to the School Board in December. If the referendum is approved, the county would accept bids for the project next spring, with construction starting in June.

The addition is scheduled to be finished by August 2018.


Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.