Supervisors view Hardy Elementary conditions

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

School Board wants to remodel 1960s facility

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Renovating and expanding Hardy Elementary School was the focus of a tour and discussion Monday between the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors and School Board. 

The Supervisors and School Board members also toured the school division’s bus garage, which is also on the list for replacement. 

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Included in the tour were Hardy’s too small gym and the crumbling offices of maintenance staff. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“It’s sad that we even call that a gym,” said Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree of Hardy’s gym, which is a third of the size of Carrollton Elementary School’s gym with the same amount of students. 

The idea is to bring equity among the county’s school facilities, said Isle of Wight County schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. 

Hardy Elementary School, built in 1961, is outdated and too small for today’s needs, according to school officials. 

Renovating and expanding the school would also alleviate crowding at Carrollton and Westside Elementary schools for the immediate future, according to school officials. 

The supervisors were concerned with the price tag — $14.4 million with all costs included — weighed against other school building needs, such as Westside. 

School officials provided an estimated cost to taxpayers of renovating/expanding Hardy and replacing the bus garage if the projects were approved.

Replacing the bus garage is now estimated at $5.2 million, includes paving the entire area, stormwater upgrades and adding offices. 

The two projects would add 3.3 cents to the current real estate tax rate, and for a house valued at $250,000, it would cost the taxpayer an additional $82.50 a year or $6.88 a month, according to the estimate.  

The renovation and expansion of Hardy Elementary School, as well as a bus garage, are the first up on the School Board’s $78 million, 10-year, long-range facilities plan.

The plan also includes renovating Westside Elementary School as well as a new elementary school in the northern end of the county.

Adding another elementary school, at an estimated cost of $38.8 million, gave the Supervisors pause. 

School Board member Kirstin Cook said the priority is Hardy and that hopefully the population boom won’t occur and the new school won’t be needed. 

School officials and Isle of Wight Planning staff have estimated that another 306 students will come to Isle of Wight based on the number of housing units already approved in just four developments — all in the northern end of the county. 

While the new elementary school is in the plan for 2021-2022, renovations at Westside are slated for 2025-26 at an estimated cost of $17.1 million.

Acree was concerned with the Westside timeline, given the number of phone calls he receives from teachers at the school complaining about mold and other issues.

Westside is one of Isle of Wight’s oldest school buildings. 

Thornton said the mold issues have been addressed and that the HVAC system at the school will be fixed if the Board approves the $250,000 to do it.

The start of school was delayed last fall at Westside when the air conditioning system unexpectedly failed. 

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice said that two years ago, school officials said there wasn’t a need to talk about the need for future schools.

Now, 18 months later, the School Board is asking for $78 million, he said.

“That was a little bit of a shock,” Grice said, adding that why not just take the overflow at Carrollton and send them to Windsor Elementary School. 

School Board Chairman Vicky Hulick said children in the Carrollton area are already being bused to Windsor. 

As for adding more, “How far can we put these kids on a bus,” she said.

Two hours on a bus, “where’s the equity in that,” said Hulick, adding that the long-range plan had been thoroughly vetted in the community. 

Cook said part of the School Board’s mission was overseeing buildings. 

“Facilities do matter,” she said, adding that she hopes the Board supports the schools’ plan. 

Grice said the cost impacts more than parents and students — it hits everyone. 

“How can we pay for that?” he asked.  {/mprestriction}