Supervisors make choice for Prince Edward Elementary renovation

Published 12:47 am Friday, September 1, 2023

FARMVILLE – Over the last two years, the cost of renovating Prince Edward Elementary or building a new school has gone up. That was the news members of the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors received when they met in a special meeting Thursday to discuss the elementary school project. 

The group had already long since voted to move forward, but on Thursday, Aug. 31, they were asked to choose which of three renovation options they preferred, as the prices have changed. Back in the fall of 2021, when prices were first discussed, it was going to be $2 million to fix just the roof at Prince Edward Elementary. A small renovation would have cost $23.6 million at that point, with $28.3 million for a comprehensive renovation and a full replacement would have been $39 million. Things look a little different now. 

“Those dollar figures are about two years old at this point and we’ve seen a tremendous impact of material shortages, systems shortages and labor shortages over that time,” said Stephen Halsey. He’s the head of Moseley Architects’ K-12 group, which handles school projects. The school district contracted with Moseley to handle renovation designs for Prince Edward Elementary. 

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As a result of the price increases, Halsey came before the county board Thursday, asking for direction. Since Prince Edward is paying for the renovation, he wanted to know which option he and his team should focus on. 

What were the options available? 

Some people might remember back in March, when Halsey and his team met with the community to ask questions. They heard from teachers, students and parents in the three meetings, with the requests fairly clear. Parents wanted their children to feel safe in class. They wanted more seating options, bigger classrooms and more bathrooms. They’d like to see more opportunities for hands-on learning and places to display student work at the elementary school. And they’d like someone to permanently fix those traffic problems. So with that in mind, and the changing costs, the Moseley team put together four options. 

Option One is the bare bones renovation. We’re talking no new construction, very little reconfiguring inside and the entrance would remain the same, so that doesn’t address the traffic problem either. The price tag for this comes out to just north of $37 million. 

Option Two is the “better” renovation. This would be a little more invasive than Option One, with Building E being demolished and a new administrative section being built where Building E is now. The new construction would connect Buildings C and D, as well as G and H in the back, making it easier to access some areas of the school. This would also help with traffic, as the entrance would be relocated, taking some vehicles off Eagle Drive. The cost for this comes to $39.6 million. 

Option Three is the more involved renovation. It would mean demolishing both buildings E and F. These are among the oldest parts of the school and need the most repair. In their place would be new construction that connects the remaining buildings, making it much easier to travel between classrooms. It means more seating options, bigger classrooms in some cases and more options for hands-on learning. The front entrance would also be relocated, getting traffic off Eagle Drive and fixing the general traffic situation during drop-off and pick-up times. The cost for this option comes to $43.3 million currently. 

The fourth option would be a complete rebuild. Everything would be torn down and a new school would go up in its place. The total price tag would be $55.4 million, assuming the new building has the same features as the other three options. But as Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley reminded supervisors, that option was a bit out of reach. 

“Option 4 is just beyond our means at this point in time, given this is not the only thing this community has to face,” Stanley said Thursday. 

Prince Edward Elementary

A look at one of the sketches from Moseley Architects. A possibility for the renovated Prince Edward Elementary.

Choosing an option 

After outlining all four options, Halsey asked supervisors to choose one, so his team knows what to work on. Supervisor Harrison Jones asked if they could delay a decision, to wait two weeks until their regular September meeting. Other members didn’t see a point in waiting. 

“Delay only does one thing, it makes the project costs go up,” Supervisor Odessa Pride said. “Labor costs continue to rise, which keep driving our numbers (up).” 

Supervisor Jerry Townsend said he supported Option Three, the comprehensive renovation. 

“(Let’s) get rid of those two buildings,” Townsend said. “They’re problematic. All you’re gonna do is keep dumping money in them.” 

Supervisor Llewellen Gilliam Jr. agreed, saying people have made it clear they want the traffic problem solved. And he feels Option Three is the best bet to do that. 

“That’s been topic one, top of the list,” Gilliam said. “I like the parking area entrance on Three. That’s going to help quite a bit on traffic control.” 

Supervisors also took a poll of the audience in the room. Everyone who spoke up supported Option Three as well. 

Supervisors agreed, unanimously voting to support Option Three, the comprehensive rebuild. 

A timeline for Prince Edward Elementary 

As for what that looks like moving forward, Halsey said it will take two months to put together drawings. Then it’s another five to six months to get through a site plan review with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation. So in roughly eight months, either April or May of 2024, they should have a plan ready to put out to bid for contractors. Then two months later, around July 2024, the county should be ready to pick a winning bid and award the contract. 

“So that’s mid-summer of next year,” Halsey said, cautioning that there’s one more problem to deal with before they can determine when construction actually starts. 

“We’re going to have to figure out where a modular classroom compound will be located, so we can cycle students and teachers out of the building while we’re renovating,” Halsey said. 

Overall, that construction should in theory start right before students return for the Fall 2024 school semester. 

Editor’s note: Now in this piece, we’ve detailed the option chosen and what the timeline currently looks like. But what about the county’s money situation? Next week, we’ll go over how the county plans to pay for all this.