Buford Middle School is one step closer to a complete makeover.
The Charlottesville City Council hired a construction firm — Nielsen Builders — to begin the major renovation and reconstruction project earlier this month. Rebuilding Buford is now priced at $91.8 million. Currently, the City is short $13.4 million.
Charlottesville City Schools applied for a state-level grant to finance the rest of the project. If the fund doesn’t pull through, the City will utilize some of its bonds to make up for the last few million.
“It’s solved, but the exact way we’re going to do it is still in the air,” said Michael Payne, City Council member.
In previous years, getting the go-ahead on the entire project hasn’t been easy. Previous proposals have left out key items, such as the auditorium, in an effort to afford to kick off the construction one way or another. But now the city plans to fund the entirety of the project, including a multi-million dollar performing arts center.
Construction will break this June and is expected to continue until 2026. The new facilities will be outfitted with updated ventilation, lighting, accessibility, and enhanced measures to ensure students are safe and engaged while in school, according to a City Schools newsletter. The new proposal also includes an outdoor classroom and a school-yard garden.
The project will allow City Schools to reconfigure its current upper elementary and middle school system. Right now, Buford houses the city’s seventh- and eighth-grade students, while fifth- and sixth-graders are at Walker Upper Elementary.
Once the rebuild is completed, City Schools plans to move the sixth-graders to Buford and the fifth-graders to the city’s elementary schools.
City Schools plans to then transform Walker into a facility for pre-kindergarten students. The building is set to have renovations, but the city has not determined how it will fund it.
“It would be a few years,” said Payne.
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Why is this a significant moment for Buford? Here’s the backstory, through time.
VMDO has the contract to design a reconfigured Buford and Walker. But why are the schools like that in the first place?
In 1966, Buford and Walker opened as individual junior high schools, but just over a decade after the schools’ grand opening, community perception evolved to view Buford as inferior to Walker.
City approves $3M for planning, hiring of architectural firm
City Council supports the much-needed Buford Middle School rebuild, but must raise taxes or delay other projects to do it
It’s possible to fund the school renovations without raising taxes — but that could mean postponing things like sidewalk repairs, road paving, and new affordable housing projects.
House committee’s rejection of local sales tax bill could throw Charlottesville’s Buford Middle School reconfiguration project into jeopardy
A subcommittee in the General Assembly killed three House bills Friday that could help fund Charlottesville’s school reconfiguration project. Delegates will get a second chance to approve similar bills later this month.
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