Albemarle County planning to spend millions to build new schools; more may be needed

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 10:44 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE Co., Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County Public Schools says overcrowding is an issue, and solving it will require a big financial commitment from the county.

ACPS says that issue will be resolved once two new elementary schools and one additional high school ‘center’ are built. But not all of those projects are currently in the county’s funding plan.

“The strategy of continuing to expand facilities built in the early years of the 20th century and supplementing facility space by adding more mobile classrooms is not sustainable,” said Katrina Callsen, a school board member.

Ongoing projects to expand Crozet Elementary and Mountain View Elementary may give temporary relief to the issue, but the population growth will be too much -- even after those projects.

“Mountain View is in need of those updates, regardless of what happens, and we still anticipate being able to fill another school,” Callsen said.

Of those two proposed elementary schools -- one on the northern feeder pattern, the other on the southern -- only one is fully funded in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

“I would love on the CIP to be able to join you on a needs-based budget, but also recognize that you appreciate we have to do a balanced budget and simply will not be able to afford all of the construction that is requested,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Donna Price.

While 50% of the money spent in the five-year proposal will go to public schools, the county also has commitments to ongoing projects including court renovations and updates to Biscuit Run Park.

“But I’m really hoping we can move those schools forward,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel.

Then comes the question of when these schools need to be built to accommodate the increase in students. And, with only one fully funded, which elementary school should go first.

“Both schools are needed in the next five years, and it’s going to be a hard conversation which one to prioritize,” said Rosalyn Schmidt, the COO of the county school district.

Maya Kumazawa, the budget director with the school district, said we could get a better sense of which area needs the school more next year, because enrollment numbers have been difficult to predict during the pandemic.

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