School officials have proposed moving their Adult Learning Center out of a building near Town Center and into unused space at the Renaissance Academy about 2.5 miles away off North Witchduck Road.
Proponents of the move say it would make better use of the district’s assets and create a nice financial return if, as they suspect, they can sell the Adult Learning Center’s vacated space for more than its $3.2 million assessed value. The proposal has drawn some concern over the prospect of having adult students using the same building as children, however.
School District staff presented the idea to the School Board in mid-September. Anthony Arnold, director of facilities planning and construction, told board members at that meeting that the Adult Learning Center is is currently housed “right in the prime of Town Center.”
The building sits next to the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library on Virginia Beach Boulevard, about one mile from Pembroke Mall and the heart of Town Center.
“Right now we’ve got an asset that’s in a strategic growth area,” Arnold said in an interview on Tuesday.
Arnold also said Tuesday that the move would make better use of the district’s assets. Enrollment numbers at the academy are down, and since the academy was built as a multi-purpose building, the consolidation would benefit it as well, he said.
“We’ve got a building that’s about 290,000 square feet that quite frankly is not being utilized to its fullest potential,” Arnold said during his presentation in September.
Renaissance Academy is currently home to alternative education programs for students in grades 6 through 12 who “are not experiencing success in regular secondary school settings,” according to the academy’s website. The offerings include a middle school academic program, a substance abuse intervention program and an individual student alternative education plan.
Arnold told board members in September that the academy “was designed and built as a 24/7 building.”
Right now, though, school sits empty after about 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., he said. Moving the Adult Learning Center there would put the building to better use, he said.
School board members raised questions about the safety and security of middle and high school students at the Academy, since many Adult Learning Center programs take place during the day as well.
Arnold and Beach Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence told board members that the Adult Learning Center students would primarily be kept separate from the rest of the academy’s population. Adult students would primarily use the right wing of the first floor and be separated by a set of doors. They would use the main entrance just as other students do, and then be directed to their wing.
Arnold said Tuesday that directors of both schools gave their support to the proposal after hearing details of the plan.
“Initially their concern was separation,” he said. “You start mixing adults and kids, it gives people pause.”
The project would cost an estimated $750,000. That total includes minor interior renovations and an addition of about 110 parking spots.
It costs about $222,000 a year in custodial and maintenance fees to keep the Adult Learning Center up and running. Savings from not having to keep up that building would pay for the renovations at the academy in about 3 years, Arnold said.
Construction would take place between summer and fall 2016, with an opening targeted for December 2016. Arnold said Tuesday that he would be updating the board on the proposal in two weeks.
The board “seemed very receptive,” he said.