By Alex Bridges
EDINBURG - Renovations to the old Edinburg School remain on track for an August opening.
Shenandoah County officials took a tour Thursday of the historic building and saw the construction in progress as crews worked on walls, flooring and other elements of the facility.
The county Board of Supervisors authorized the borrowing of approximately $4.5 million to renovate the building for educational and community use. The county has entered into a contract with Charthouse School for the education of special-needs students from the county and other areas.
In addition to the school, the parks and recreation department and the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging will have access to other parts of the building.
Outgoing schools Superintendent B. Keith Rowland led the tour that included most supervisors, acting County Administrator Mary Beth Price, Director of Parks and Recreation Pam Sheets, Woodstock resident and board candidate Cindy Bailey and local media.
Rowland recalled his initial reaction and doubt about the project.
"One of the things you can't really appreciate, some of you can't appreciate it because you weren't here from the beginning, but I remember the first day that I walked through here, looked at this building and I'm thinking 'wow, I don't know that we can ever make this work," Rowland said. "Contractors are pretty amazing people and architects are, too, and it's already starting to take shape."
"There is a lot of character to this building," Rowland added. "People don't realize that. ... It certainly something I think that was well worth saving."
Rowland, county facility manager Duane Williams and representatives from contractor Caldwell Santmyer directed the group through the building, pointing out areas that crews would replace, change or restore.
The project calls for the relocation of the main entrance from the front that faces Stoney Creek Road to the rear of the building. The school will feature the same security enhancements that the system plans to install in the rest of the facilities. The old entrance at the front of the building will be enclosed and turned into another room.
The group saw the area that will serve as administrative offices. Rowland said representatives of Charterhouse already have hired staff for the school, most of them from Shenandoah County and a couple from the local system.
Bailey, who voiced concerns with the project before the county entered into contracts and borrowed the money, said construction had belayed some of her fears about the plumbing and deteriorating pipes. Crews have replaced the plumbing, she noted, pointing to pipes lining the ceiling.
Supervisors asked questions about the rooms, many of which would serve new purposes such as office space for staff.
Aside from one classroom that will serve five students, the rest remain large enough for 10 students. Classrooms for autistic students are sequestered to one floor of the three-story building. Rowland noted that some classrooms will be designed with noise-reducing features, especially to cover the old, wooden floors, because sound can negatively affect some students with special needs.
Many of the classrooms still contain the original black boards. Rowland and Williams explained that the boards would be covered with white boards that use magic markers rather than chalk.
The kitchen will be retrofitted with industrial equipment used for educational purposes, Rowland said. The Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging also will be able to use the equipment to prepare meals for their at-home clients. However, meals for students at Charterhouse will not be prepared in the on-site kitchen. Instead, meals will be prepared at Peter Muehlenberg Middle School and then picked up by staff from the Edinburg School and brought back for the students, Rowland explained.
The tour group then went to Woodstock where Williams led them on a tour of the historic courthouse. The $1.7 renovation of the courthouse, also performed by Caldwell Santmyer, involves turning much of the space into areas for public use. The original courthouse building was constructed in 1795 and, as Williams explained, will undergo little change aside from restoration.
The section built as an add-on in the late 1880s includes community rooms for the Parks and Recreation Department. The addition also includes a courtroom that, until a few years ago, was used for court matters. The courtroom will be restored for bankruptcy case proceedings that currently are held in the county government center.
The original section of the building includes a rope-driven bell that still rings when pulled. Walking up the 23 steps to the courtroom balcony, the group went into rooms on either side. Construction workers have marked with blue tape spots on the walls on which people made scribbles or made inscriptions, some dating to the Civil War.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org