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Fredericksburg schools expect growth

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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