Committee to consider the future of former Accomack Primary School

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The historic Accomack Primary School will be renovated into offices for the School Board.

BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —

Over 50 attended an Accomack County School Board work session Tuesday, May 2, as the board discussed a draft study outlining plans for the former Accomac Primary School building.

A recent report recommends considering repairs to the building’s floors, roofs, and exterior walls and includes a “probable cost” estimate to achieve the repairs.

“This looks feasible and we just want to come up with a strategy to get there,” said School Board Chair Dr. Ronnie Holden of the study’s recommendations.

“Right now the assessment, to me, looks like we can renovate” the building, he said after the meeting.

“But I can’t say that we’re going to do that,” he said.

Opened as a high school in 1932, the building on Courthouse Avenue became Accomac Primary School and served students for about 70 years. Recognizable by its Doric columns and red brickwork, the school is one of many historic buildings in town.

It has been unoccupied for several decades and Accomack County Public Schools has used the property for storage recently.

The school system has proposed relocating the school board and related offices to the site. The school board office is on the second floor of the Accomack County administration building, down the street from the former school.

The decision to renovate the 1932 building or raze it and build new offices has been the subject of contention during public meetings.

The new feasibility study by Falls Church-based engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., will help determine the future of the former school.

“Our next steps are going to be … to look at it more in detail. It looks very positive that we can come up with a plan,” Holden said.

The draft study estimates the cost of repairs to the former school would be $1.9 million, including $1.3 million to fix the roof.

Other major costs include floor repairs such as installing a vapor barrier over the floor of the crawl space and repairing deteriorated joists. The report recommends spot-fixing brickwork on outdoor walls.

“APS is nearly 100 years old and has been mainly unoccupied for almost 30 years,” the study reads. “While many of the structural framing elements are in serviceable condition and reuse of the building as administration offices is structurally feasible, significant repair, replacement, and strengthening efforts will be required to address current conditions.”

A committee of Accomack School Board members and staff will assess the study, Holden said. That group includes Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Rhonda Hall, Director of Finance Beth Onley; Director of Operations and Management Bobby Bennett; school board member Paul Bull, who works in facilities management at NASA; Holden; and Superintendent Chris Holland, if available, he said.

After the committee examines the report, the school board chair and vice chair will meet with Accomack County’s Board of Supervisors chair and vice chair, he said.

“We definitely will in regular meetings … update (the public on) what we’re doing,” Holden said. 

“It will be a transparent process and open,” he said.

The public has shared input on the future of Accomac Primary School during school board meetings. Stakeholders continue to attend meetings for updates on plans for the former school.

Several in the audience applauded as Accomac Town Councilmember and Vice Mayor Christopher Newman entered Tuesday’s meeting carrying a “Save Our School” sign and portrait he painted of the historic school.

He said three other Accomac Town Council members and the town’s mayor attended the work session.

“We’re just trying to save another historic building in our town,” Newman said.

Holden said committee members will try to move “as fast as possible” crafting recommendations for the building, but the timeline is uncertain.

“It’s a long process here. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight,” he said. 

“The board members just received this report Sunday night,” Bennett said during his report presentation. “It’s a lot to take in,” he said, noting the feasibility study is still a draft.

The Accomack Board of Supervisors will ultimately vote to determine the future of Accomac Primary School.

Visit https://tinyurl.com/49ca4d5c to read the draft feasibility study and recommendations.

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