Lynchburg City Schools’ $400,000 facilities study is underway and final recommendations are set to be made by spring.
Representatives from Dominion 7 Architects — the Lynchburg-based architectural and planning firm conducting the study — updated the Lynchburg City School Board at its Wednesday night meeting on its progress.
Jacob Caldwell, project architect with Dominion 7, said the first phase of the study, the facility condition assessment, is complete. Caldwell said Dominion 7 teamed up with Lynchburg-based Hurt & Proffitt and Southern Air to complete visits to each of the school division’s buildings. They gathered information about the sites and the condition of the buildings and their electrical, plumbing and air systems.
“The reality is, we have been through all of your schools and all of them need work,” said Blair Smith, principal architect at Dominion 7. That work, he said, consists of a wide variety of projects — from HVAC replacement to configuration of classrooms to full-fledged building renovations and replacements.
Caldwell said the team should present its findings to the board and school administration later this month, which will include a breakdown of each school’s needs.
Smith said the team also is looking closely at the operations of each facility, considering the size, function and efficiency of various spaces and how it relates to the future of education.
For example, many of the city’s schools, he said, were designed with computer labs. Now that schools primarily use Chromebooks as opposed to desktop computers in computer labs, those spaces are being used as art classrooms or other uses for which they were not designed.
Smith highlighted four challenges the team has identified at this point: declining enrollment and changing demographics, age of facilities, lack of major improvements and material cost increase.
Moving forward, the team will look closely at educational programming, such as capacity and utilization, and continue work on a demographics study, which began Nov. 1, Caldwell said.
Ultimately, the study will culminate with several recommendations from the team in regard to long-term capital improvement projects, maintenance projects and school attendance zones to aid the division in planning for the future use of its facilities.
Superintendent Crystal Edwards said the needs of students and staff also will affect any decisions made from these recommendations.
“Our students deserve a wonderful learning environment,” Edwards said. “Our staff deserve working conditions in wonderful places to come every day.”
Final recommendations are set to come to the school board in the early spring and presented to Lynchburg City Council around April.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7.