UPDATE: Traffic study will occur

Albemarle County Public Schools officials showed for the first time on Tuesday preliminary images of a proposed 16-classroom addition to Woodbrook Elementary at a community meeting at the school.

The addition is projected to eventually take Woodbrook from roughly 320 students to 530.

Division staff presented the images at a community meeting at the school after the schools announced last month the proposed addition had been reduced by one floor, and rearranged to maintain a buffer between the school and the surrounding neighborhood.

The work also will include an all-new gymnasium, an expanded cafeteria and rearranged car and bus drop-off points.

Residents of Woodbrook worried at the meeting that the expanded bus lane and increased enrollment would create a traffic snarl on Woodbrook Drive, a two-lane road that is the only access to and from the school and neighborhood.

County schools Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt said school officials are “confident” that there will not be a significant traffic problem after the renovations. The division does not plan to do a traffic study, but it is consulting with the Virginia Department of Transportation on the project.

Resident Susan Reed said she is worried the division underestimated the traffic impact and will need to eventually open another entrance to the neighborhood.

“Now we are talking about the character of the neighborhood,” Reed said. “It will change if you open up another entrance, and I’m pretty sure you all are going to want to do that.”

Division staff reiterated that there is no plan to add a second entrance to Woodbrook and said such a change would have to come from VDOT and the county.

Fellow resident Rose Marie Ratesic said she fears an influx of careless drivers.

“People going in and out of the school have two things on their minds: get my kid there and not be late, and get myself to work,” she said.

The changes were made in response to concerns community members brought up at a February forum, a release said.

The project is a $15 million piece of a $35 million school improvement bond referendum on the November general election ballot. Last month, school officials announced plans to reduce the proposed expansion from two stories to one.

County documents show a cost estimate of just over $14 million, which included construction work and the cost of new furniture and technology equipment.

The division will save a little money by staying on one level, Tistadt said, but those savings will be eaten up by the additional site work and the fact that the renovation will stay close to its original proposed size of 36,000 square feet.

Renderings produced by RRMM Architects showed two new pods of six classrooms each, two outdoor classrooms, an art and maker space a new music room, the new gym and an enlarged bus loop on the east side of the school.

According to the renderings, the school building will sit 38 feet from the property line at the closest point.

Drawings from RRMM showed two design options, one that pairs swatches of yellow trim with the existing red brick, and another that replaces the yellow and brick with gray stone.

If the bond referendum passes, the project will go to bid late next spring, with construction to begin in June, a presentation showed. The schools expect work to be complete by the summer or fall of 2018.

UPDATE Friday Sept. 9, 2016

In response to concerns from Woodbrook residents Tuesday night, schools officials said at Thursday’s Albemarle County School Board meeting that they had decided to hire a consultant to study the traffic impacts of the proposed school addition.

When the study will be ready is unclear, Tistadt said Friday, but he expects it will be done within the next two months.

Before hiring a consultant, Tistadt said, the schools will ask an Albemarle County traffic engineer to look at the study plan to make sure it matches the studies the county asks private developers to perform.

No cost estimate was available Friday.

“We are trying to be very sensitive to the concerns of the Woodbrook community, and they had asked for the study,” Tistadt said. “We did not see any reason not to do it.”