McHarg Elementary School

It took a 2018 overhaul of Radford City Council to break the stalemate of a decadelong discussion to renovate McHarg Elementary School, built in the 1950s.

RADFORD — School officials chose a familiar face to begin the design phase of the remodeling of 1950s-era McHarg Elementary School.

Thompson and Litton, which has a Radford location as well as offices in other parts of Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia, was chosen over two other finalists: VMDO in Charlottesville and Spectrum in Roanoke.

School Board Chairwoman Lee Slusher said that 15 people were on the selection committee. Stakeholders including a custodian, administrative staff, principals, teachers and two students filled out rubrics that had a maximum score of 100. The rubrics for each of the three companies’ presentations were averaged and the highest score was chosen.

Superintendent Rob Graham said the relationship the system has with Thompson and Litton played a factor in the group’s decision as well. Most recently, the firm was in charge of installing the new lights at the football stadium, a new roof at the high school and the recently built intramural fields at Radford University.

The company has also worked with the school system the last several years to determine its long list of capital needs, including the McHarg renovation that calls for an overhaul of the entire building, including an additional wing with more classrooms. Litton has estimated the cost to be around $16 million in previous studies, but hammering down an updated final cost and design for the renovation still needs to occur.

Graham said that he hopes beginning the design phase of the school will be worked out by mid-September. Additionally, he said the plan right now is to have a total cost sometime this school year and a final design ready for approval by May.

The school division plans to host numerous community meetings to gather public feedback in the coming months.

The final process before breaking ground on the project would be to put out a bid for construction.

The council will likely not fund the project until those two things have been decided upon. However, the city approved a 6-cent real estate tax increase (from $.76 to $.82 per $100 of assessed value) for the current fiscal year, with 4 cents going toward funding capital projects. Each cent currently generates approximately $80,000, but Mayor David Horton said that may go up next year as the city is currently undergoing property value reassessments that will take effect during the next fiscal year.

Horton stressed that while no money had been allocated to construction, the council is committed to renovating McHarg.

“We have set the money [tax increase] aside for the project and we are excited to get it done. We are working towards that process now and it is moving along like we want it to,” he said.

Slusher said that she was comfortable with Thompson and Litton for more than just it being the local choice.

“Instead of a lot of bells and whistles, they seemed to have the community’s interest at heart … they wanted to hear from teachers and staff to build the best school for the community,” she said.

Graham said that Thompson and Litton Project Manager Jack Murphy has been nothing but helpful throughout the process over the past few years and he is certain there is no better company or person for the job.

“He knows this school system as well as anybody and he knows what we need. I am confident in their abilities and I look forward to moving forward with them,” Graham said.

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