Old Hardy Elementary wing to become new central office

Published 2:04 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Isle of Wight County School Board has approved moving forward with plans to save one wing of the 1960s-era Hardy Elementary and convert it into the school division’s new central office.

Most of the one-story school is slated to be demolished at the end of the school year. A new two-story Hardy is set to open at the start of the next school year.

Site plans from 2021 had called for saving a 17,251-square-foot gymnasium wing of the old school and  converting it into an administration building. Those plans were put on hold to save money, but Superintendent Dr. Theo Cramer now contends the renovation can be done at no additional cost to local taxpayers by using state funds earmarked for school construction.

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Since 2018, the school division has leased a non-climate-controlled warehouse at nearly $4,500 per month to store confidential personnel, student and financial records. With the lease set to expire June 30, Cramer is proposing to convert the gymnasium into a climate-controlled warehouse and move those records back in-house.

Had the School Board not approved the Hardy gymnasium proposal, Cramer said he would have had to request more than half a million dollars to build a separate warehouse.

Subdividing the 10 classrooms contained within the gymnasium wing into offices and conference rooms would allow the division’s central office staff to have a brick-and-mortar headquarters years ahead of schedule.

Since 2004, the division’s central office staff has been housed in an 11,500-square-foot modular office building behind Westside Elementary. The county’s current capital improvements plan calls for replacing the modular building with a $2 million brick-and-mortar central office near the county courthouse sometime between fiscal years 2028 and 2032.

With the Hardy gym option, “we don’t need to spend money on constructing a new building; we can spend a fraction of that cost to retrofit that to meet our needs,” Cramer said.

According to division staff, the extra central office space the division would gain by moving its headquarters to the gymnasium wing would be able to absorb Isle of Wight County Schools’ technology department, which is currently housed at Smithfield High School, thereby freeing up classroom space at Smithfield High. Staff is also looking into the possibility of the gymnasium wing absorbing the division’s special education department, which is currently housed in a mobile office trailer. According to division spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, IWCS is working to get a more definitive cost for the proposed gymnasium wing renovations, and is aiming to move its central office to the old Hardy wing by fall 2023.

School Board Chairwoman Denise Tynes had asked division staff in September to reexamine the possibility of saving a portion of the old Hardy, and to come up with potential uses. The School Board voted unanimously at its Dec. 8 meeting to move forward with the proposed central office and warehouse plan.

“If at the end of the day, you’re telling me that we’re going to, in the long run, save money, pull a proposal that’s been kicked down the road for years off the CIP and redistribute it toward the students, I’m all for it,” said newly elected board member Jason Maresh.

This won’t be the first time IWCS has found a new use for a portion of one of its former schools. When Georgie D. Tyler Middle School opened in 2014, the gymnasium wing that had been part of the former Windsor Middle School was left standing and was repurposed in 2018 by the town of Windsor into what is today known as the Windsor Town Center. The building now serves as an event, meeting and recreation space.