Joint meeting offered four options for elementary school

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Stephen Halsey of Moseley Architects in Richmond presented four options for the Prince Edward County Elementary School project on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The presentation was made at a 6:30 p.m. joint meeting between the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors and the Prince Edward County School Board after months of numerous complaints from parents, teachers and students that the school’s roof leaks and several classrooms have developed a visible mold problem.

Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson was present at the meeting. Johnson had been absent from several school board meetings prior to the joint meeting. She assured the assembly that the affected classrooms are not being used by anyone.

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Halsey mentioned that during a tour the firm had taken it was discovered, among other things, that the flat roof had been fixed over the years in a patchwork fashion, and sealant has eroded at the seams to the point where an adult’s hand can be inserted in the cracks.

In the study prepared by Moseley, the list of current site problems include limited parking, small parent drop-off lanes, no turning lanes off Zion Hill Road and general wear and tear, varying indoor floor heights, worn and non-ADA-compliant sidewalks, concrete double-tees which are hard to work around, mixed-size ceiling tiles in poor repair at several places, vinyl composite floor tiles in bad condition, moisture damage in the walls, outdated fixtures and ADA compliance restrooms, limited storage space and limited natural light in classrooms, multiple roof leaks, interior damage caused by leaks and ponding (standing water), peeling, blistering and cracking in the roof.

Additionally, he said, about half the electrical system has been replaced, but half is the original system that the building started with. Elements of the HVAC system are also outdated and lead to high humidity, and two boilers are at the end of their normal service life.

Good points were the original terrazzo flooring, the original building construction is in fair to good condition and the doors are in fair condition.

A challenge, Halsey noted, is the fact that the school has underground utilities throughout which will make portions of any project they decide on difficult.

A very short term approach, Halsey said, would involve addressing the worst of the roofing issues by repairing the leaks and using infrared to discover the worst sources of leakage at a price of $30,000-$50,000. This is apart from the four long-term options listed below, and, as Halsey pointed out, would not be a suitable long-term fix.

The first option, at a cost of $2,016,360, would be to simply replace the roof on all flat areas, about 76,380 square feet.

The second option would be a targeted renovation of approximately 120,000 square feet and would cover the roof, windows, lighting, HVAC system and finishes. The cost would be $23,687,500.

The third option, a comprehensive renovation of 120,000 square feet and including various areas of light, medium and heavy renovation to the building, would cost $28,375,000.

The fourth option, at a cost of $39,059,375, would involve completely replacing the existing school.

All the estimated costs, as County Administrator Doug Stanley pointed out, were in January 2022 dollars. He and Halsey both pointed out that costs would only rise.

Though the elementary school project was one of several on the Capital Improvement Plan, a list of 14 possible projects for the county to take on, it was the only one discussed, with the exception of a brief mention of the high school track.

Stanley reminded everyone that the Board of Supervisors voted at the last meeting to request Del. James Edmunds carry a bill to add Prince Edward County to a list of counties allowed to have a voter referendum to consider a 1% sales tax addition for public school capital needs.

However, Stanley said, the unfortunate thing is that the cost of construction will outstrip the growth of that sales tax revenue. Construction costs would be rising 6% per year, he said; while sales tax will grow at 2% or so.

“But at least it gives us an idea,” Stanley said. “If the General Assembly amends state code language to give us the opportunity, and if our constituents support the effort and we can put this in place, this is the kind of revenue we can anticipate.”

However, he noted, construction costs would only go up over time.

He also pointed out that CARES Act funding might be used for a smaller project;

ARPA funds might be allowable for use but must be committed to a project by Dec. 31, 2024 and be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

“You’ve got a clock that’s ticking on those dollars,” Stanley said.

While waiting until Prince Edward County receives permission to enact the sales tax, he suggested the school system and county could “put some seed money down” and start planning for their desired project.

The projects will be discussed at the next school board meeting where board members may decide on one to send to the Board of Supervisors for its approval.