County Holds Third Community Information Meeting on School Expansion

Woodbrook Elementary School Principal Lisa Molinaro speaking in the school gymnasium.
Approximately 30 people, many of them Woodbrook residents, attended the third in a series of meetings about the expansion of Woodbrook Elementary School. The November 29, 2016, meeting was held in the school’s gymnasium and focused on traffic and other concerns raised by residents at the two previous meetings.

The meeting was chaired by Rosalyn Schmitt, Assistant Director of Facilities Planning for Albemarle County Public Schools. Jack Clark from RRMM Architects, the site architects for the project, Bill Wuensch, Principal Transportation Engineer/Planner from EPRpc, and Craig Kotarski, a civil engineer with the Timmons Group, also spoke at the meeting.

The meeting was opened by Woodbrook Elementary principal Lisa Molinaro who introduced the overall project from an educator’s perspective. Rosalyn Schmitt then provided a more detailed overview of the project as well as its funding. “As many of you know, the bond referendum did pass,” said Schmitt, clearing the way to finance the project. “So the plan is to break ground this summer,” she added.

Following Schmitt’s introduction, Bill Wuensch addressed traffic concerns raised by Woodbrook residents at the previous two meetings. Wuensch reported that, based on data collected during a recent study of existing traffic at Woodbrook Drive and US 29, no significant additional delays are expected at the intersection as a result of the project. Speaking about his firm’s traffic projections into 2022, Wuensch said, “The additional queuing on 29 [is] minimal.” He expects an extra two vehicles to be in the outgoing queue, accounting for an additional 2.7 second delay at the Woodbrook light in 2022. Wuensch went on to say that his analysis did not consider the reduction in US 29 traffic resulting from the new Berkmar Drive extension, which would have the effect of reducing the delay. “It looks like you are still going to be able to make it through the light in one cycle,” said Wuensch. Additional details on Wuensch’s report are available here.

Summary of the expected effect of the Woodbrook Elementary expansion on traffic patterns in the year 2022. (EPRpc)

Jack Clark, architect for the project, then gave an overview of the entire project, after which questions were taken from the audience.

Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher asked if the area designated for bus parking could be reduced or eliminated. “We’re going to have to look at a pretty ugly parking lot,” said Kocher, whose backyard abuts this portion of the school property. “I don’t understand why [the parking lot] has to be so big,” she added. Clark indicated that the current design for angled bus parking is the most efficient method and maximizes the safety of the children. Clark offered to look into using more evergreen trees around the property instead of the current plan to use deciduous trees to hide the parking area.

Woodbrook resident Sandi Taylor asked if a double row of mixed deciduous and evergreen trees could be added between her property and the new south parking lot. The architects confirmed that this is in the current plan.

“Do you have hours of construction determined yet?” asked Taylor. “So, if you remember, you’re doing this in the midst of a community,” she added. “We allow the contractor to work whenever they want to work,” said Clark, adding that “typically for school construction they’re really not working at night.” Taylor also asked if the amphitheater included a public address system. Clark indicated that there were no plans to include a PA system at this time.

“What kind of screening will there be for the service entrance?” asked Kocher. “The dumpsters are required to be screened for the county ordinance,” said Craig Kotarski, a civil engineer with the project. “Everything with the existing school pre-dates the current ordinance,” he said. “Because now you are doing new development you have to then meet these new regulations,” he added.

Woodbrook resident Sharon Evans asked if fire, EMS, and police authorities were contacted as a part of the traffic study. “We met with [the] fire department and emergency services,” said Kotarski. According to Kotarski, a second emergency access on to the school site will be provided off Idlewood Drive. “There’s not another entrance into the Woodbrook neighborhood, but there is a secondary access into the site,” said Kotarski.

“Do you have an idea of what’s going to happen [and] when, construction wise?” asked a member of the audience. According to Clark, site work will begin in the summer of 2017 to get the vehicle circulation changed and to complete some work on the additions. Further renovations will take place in the summer of 2018. The project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018, according to Clark.

An audience member asked if site contractors will work with abutting property owners to minimize disruption during the construction process. “Typically we don’t want contractors negotiating with homeowners,” said Clark. “We can talk about that some more,” he added.

Audio for the full meeting follows. Readers might find it helpful to view this document, either independently or while listening to the audio. Our thanks go out to Rosalyn Schmitt for providing these slides.

One thought on “County Holds Third Community Information Meeting on School Expansion

  1. This upgrade to the Woodbrook Elementary School is so long overdue and we think this is really going to be a boon for our community and ultimately for our property values. We are so excited to see this happen! We look forward to observing the progress and seeing the outcome – an updated and engaging place for children to learn, grow, and thrive.

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