Old Crozet School Takes In Two New Schools

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old_crozet_school2By Allie Pesch

The Field School of Charlottesville and Old Crozet School Arts (OCSA) are the likely tenants of the Crozet Old School, the County spokeswoman Lee Catlin announced March 19 at the Crozet Community Advisory Council meeting. Combined, the two schools will lease two-thirds of the building by this summer, if all goes well.

The results of the County’s Old School Reuse Study community workshop in June 2008 indicated the community’s preference for the future use of the Crozet Old School was for a community center that could provide performance and assembly space in the old auditorium, including such uses as dance classes, arts spaces, community movies, and programs for youth and the elderly in the old classrooms. The County advertised across the state in a search for tenants and received five applications, two of which were from the Field School and OCSA.

The Field School of Charlottesville, currently located in Claudius Crozet Park, is a middle school for boys. This year the school has 29 students in grades five through seven. Plans for their new space include expanding to grades five through eight and between 40 and 50 students. The private school is to occupy six of the old school’s classrooms in the front of the building, along with the auditorium, some office and kitchen space, and the main entrance.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to fix up the inside of the school,” the Field School’s Head of School, Todd Barnett, said. “It’s going to be really cool to move into an old school and bring it back to life.

“There is nothing exclusive about us,” Barnett emphasized. “We are a school that has absolutely no public funding—we’re not a rich school, we’re a struggling non-profit in many respects—but we’re going to use some of our limited funds to really make that school beautiful, with the help of many volunteers as well.” Once the lease is approved, the school will start work on the space this summer in order to begin classes there in September.

The newly-founded Old Crozet School Arts (OCSA) is a non-profit school for arts instruction. OCSA grew out of the County’s Old Crozet School Re-use Workshop and the community’s enthusiasm for revitalizing the old school as a cultural and community center.

OCSA will be overseen by Sharon Tolczyk, Artistic Director, and Mollie Washburne, Administrator, and governed by a Board of Directors. OCSA is currently applying for 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Pending the County’s approval, OCSA hopes to begin classes Labor Day week.

“We see this as a collaborative and creative venture with the County and community, to make use of the building and to try to establish a vital means of fulfilling what the community wants in the building,” Tolczyk said.

OCSA is to occupy a portion of the rear of the building and will use its own side entrance. The school plans to turn its portion of the old classrooms into studios, each to be coordinated by a teacher or group of teachers centered around one of the arts. Immediate plans for OCSA’s part of the old school’s renovations include sprung dance floors in two of the studios and fixing up a third studio to be designated for art, as well as cosmetic updates throughout.

OCSA will offer a schedule of classes throughout the day, including instruction for students of all ages and time schedules, “from preschoolers to senior citizens,” Tolczyk reports. The non-profit will be tuition-based, but they intend to have a scholarship program as well.

“We feel the best step towards a community cultural center is to establish a school of arts instruction, thereby creating interest and talent in the arts, helping to establish the school as a place where those things are happening.”

However OSCA will not be “McGuffey west,” Tolczyk affirmed. The primary purpose of OCSA is instruction. The vision of the school’s founders is to have one place where there are classes in all the arts—theater, dance, painting, sculpture, music, even yoga, pilates and martial arts. Tolczyk emphasized her hope for OCSA to be “a place for kids who are interested in the arts to come, a place where the community can come and take classes for fun,” while at the same time a place where “people learn to think and create out in the world.”

As of now, John Hancock, an Associate Professor of Art at PVCC and a renting member of the McGuffey Arts Center in Charlottesville, will be the OCSA Visual Arts Advisor. Boomie Pedersen, Co-Artistic Director of the Hamner Theatre in Afton, will be the school’s Theater Advisor and Instructor. Elizabeth Roberts, who is principal bassoon and outreach coordinator for the Charlottesville and University Symphony and a member of the music performance faculty at UVa, will be Music Advisor and Instructor. Tolczyk will also serve as the Dance & Movement Coordinator and Ballet Instructor. She encouraged those interested in becoming involved in OCSA as a student or by offering instruction to contact the school through its new website with their ideas.

The two schools will have separate leases, which are currently under review by the Board of Supervisors. OCSA also must apply for a Special Use Permit to allow their students to drive to school, which the current permit, obtained by the Charlottesville Waldorf School several years ago, does not provide.

The leases will hold the tenants responsible for routine repairs and maintenance up to a maximum of $2,500 in any one year. The County will continue to schedule projects to protect the integrity of the building for systems such as roofing and bricks/mortar. The Field’s School’s lease will allow them use of a certain part of the grounds that the school will maintain. The remainder of the grounds will continue to be the County’s responsibility to maintain. The tenants will be able to make alterations and improvements to the facility with prior County approval, at the tenant’s expense.

For more information visit www.albemarle.org/oldschool, www.oldcrozetschoolarts.org and www.fieldschoolcv.net.