Lower-cost renovations proceeding at Hardy central office conversion

Published 4:27 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

Isle of Wight County Schools will move forward with lower-cost renovations to two wings of the former Hardy Elementary until it exhausts the remainder of a state grant earmarked for converting the structure into the division’s new central office.

Deputy Superintendent Christopher Coleman estimated in October that just under $1 million is needed to complete the project. Around $180,000 remains of a $2.3 million state school construction grant the School Board had planned to use to fund the work. More than half of the $2.1 million spent to date went to unplanned expenses unrelated to the renovation.

“We can move very strategically and there are certain things we can do” with the remaining $180,000, Superintendent Theo Cramer told the School Board on Nov. 8.

Just under $865,000 in grant funds had been put toward the central office renovation as of October, which included $138,000 for architectural drawings and $62,750 t add warehouse doors to the old school’s gymnasium. The plans call for converting the gymnasium into a climate-controlled warehouse and saving a perpendicular wing added in the 1980s to create an L-shaped building that would bring the division’s administration, special education and technology departments back under one roof. Currently, special education is housed in a trailer behind Westside Elementary while technology occupies four classrooms at Smithfield High School.

Cramer contends minor improvements such as repainting and insulation work can be completed with the remaining funds.

“We’re not going to use any other funds other than the school construction funds for now,” Cramer said.

Coleman noted the two wings still have heat and air conditioning, running water and electricity, and were occupied by students as recently as June. The warehouse is already in use, Coleman said.

School Board Vice Chairman Jason Maresh contends proceeding with the components of the renovation able to be funded with the remaining grant funds still makes financial sense. Were the project to be put on hold entirely, he contends the division would be faced with making costly repairs to the circa-2004 modular central office the division currently occupies, also located behind Westside Elementary.

According to Coleman, only one or two of the 10 heating and air-conditioning units at the back of the modular office are functional. He estimates a cost of $135,000 to $150,000 to replace the nonworking units.

“The supervisors have the football; it’s in their court,” Maresh said.

“The hope is that they will find other funds and reallocate funds back to us to finish the project,” Cramer added.