Fredericksburg schools expect growth
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
Fredericksburg city schools could have more than 500 additional students in the next five years, according to enrollment projections from the University of Virginia’s Weldon–Cooper Center.
Superintendent David Melton presented the enrollment projections to the School Board and City Council recently, and said that an expansion may be necessary at Hugh Mercer Elementary School.
The school system has experienced an enrollment boom over the past few years, and it is likely to continue.
The Weldon–Cooper Center projects that enrollment will increase from 3,430 students in the district this year to 4,022 students in 2016.
Right now, Hugh Mercer has two of what Principal Marjorie Tankersley calls “learning cottages,” and there will soon be a third to accommodate a new kindergarten class this year.
Two other classes are being shifted around to accommodate the new kindergarten class.
Tankersley said enrollment in every grade at the school has increased, with kindergarten increasing the most.
She said the school has been “incredibly creative” in using space for classrooms. For example, it converted the teacher’s lounge into a classroom.
The additional students—33 more than last year—add stress on the entire building, she said. That includes the cafeteria, the library, the bathrooms and even the buses.
In the past two years, the school has added four new classes.
Tankersley said there are 875 students now, and that number isn’t expected to change much for the rest of the year.
The School Board approved commissioning a detailed architectural program review for each of the division’s buildings.
The city has five schools—Hugh Mercer Elementary, Lafayette Upper Elementary, Walker–Grant Middle, James Monroe High and the original Walker–Grant, which hosts a preschool.
The review, which will cost $22,000 to $25,000, will look not only at classrooms, but also at other space needs such as cafeterias, restrooms and libraries, Melton said.
Over the next few weeks, the school system will define the scope of the study, he said.
It’s expected to take about three months, and then the results will be presented to the School Board.
Melton gave rough estimates to the City Council about the crowding at Hugh Mercer, saying that six to eight additional classrooms would require about 10,000 square feet of space and could cost about $2 million.
An addition at Hugh Mercer would take about 18 months to build, he said.
In a resolution, the council identified school capital needs as one of its priorities.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413
SCHOOL 2012 2016
Hugh Mercer Elementary 878 835
Lafayette Upper Elementary 763 906
Walker–Grant Middle 691 898
James Monroe High 934 1,219
Pre–K 164 164
TOTAL 3,430 4,022