Stephens City eyes uses for old school

Posted: September 17, 2013

The Winchester Star

The former Stephens City School could be used for a restaurant, town library or even another educational facility. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
A second-floor classroom at the old Stephens City School still houses a globe and student desks. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
The former sign for the school rests against a wall in another second-floor classroom.
Pictured is the main floor hallway looking toward the front door. The old school building could be used for offices, artist studios, classrooms for a new school, a restaurant or a town library, consultants told the Town Council.

STEPHENS CITY — Future uses for some former school buildings in the town could include a combination of a restaurant, town library and educational facility, among others.

William and Kathy Frazier, principals of the Staunton-based consulting firm Frazier Associates, met Monday with the Town Council to go over the results of a study conducted to show what Stephens City residents, local businesses and developers think should be done with the space.

The town acquired most of the 4.06-acre property at 5506 Main St. — which includes four buildings — about a year ago from Frederick County in a surplus property auction for $100,000.

The buildings, land and other improvements have an assessed value of $1,070,200, according to information available through the office of Frederick County’s commissioner of the revenue.

Some of the more popular suggestions turned up by Frazier Associates — in what was dubbed the Stephens City School Visioning Study — were a commercial space with the possibility of a restaurant, offices for the town’s government, a community meeting space and a town library.

Other localities in Virginia — including Staunton, Suffolk, Louisa, Scottsville and Harrisonburg — have renovated and repurposed former schools to provide housing, office space, libraries and arts centers.

Mayor Joy Shull-Gellner said following the meeting that she hopes the council and the Stephens City Old School Development Subcommittee can visit some of those other areas that have made similar renovations to former school buildings so that town officials can see the end results.

“I like the idea of [having] someplace for a community kitchen, meeting place, arts, whatever... a combination of those,” she said. “I think we have enough information now that we can start zeroing in on what might be feasible to put in there.”

She added that developing the school could be a big boost to the town’s economy.

Shull-Gellner also said she thinks housing would be the least desirable use for the old school.

Claire McDonald, head of the Independent School of Winchester, said after the meeting that officials with the school — currently located on Carriebrooke Drive north of Stephens City and east of Interstate 81 — could be interested in moving into some of the space.

She said the reasons for considering a move are increasing enrollment at the Independent School — which has gone from five students to 33 over the past six years — and the future addition of high school grade levels to the current kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum.

“We’re at this point where we just need more space, and the idea of being in a historic building that had been used as a school is really exciting,” she said.

Attending the meeting in the Stephens City Town Office were Mayor Joy Shull-Gellner, Vice-Mayor Linden Fravel and members Ronald Bowers, Martha Dilg, Joseph Hollis and Joe Grayson. Councilman James Harter was absent.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com