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Plans call for saving part of Hardy

Isle of Wight County and its school division are considering saving a portion of the 1960s-era Hardy Elementary School.

A new 107,945-square-foot Hardy modeled after Florence Bowser Elementary in Suffolk is set to break ground this month on land adjacent to the existing school. The old Hardy will remain open through December 2022, at which point the new school will be complete and the old one will be demolished, save for its 17,251-square-foot left wing.

That wing includes the school’s gymnasium. Site plans dated April 27 show the left wing standing alongside the new school and call for the creation of a 25-space parking lot for the detached building, which will connect to the new school’s bus parking area. The plans state the remaining portion of the old Hardy will be repurposed into a school administration building.

Replacing the division’s central office, which is currently housed in a modular building behind Westside Elementary, is included in Isle of Wight County Schools’ fiscal years 2020-2029 Capital Improvements Plan. The School Board adopted that plan in August 2018 when it was still considering renovating and expanding the existing Hardy rather than replacing it. Per that plan, the construction of a new central office was to occur during the 2027-2028 school year and cost roughly $2 million.

But turning that portion of Hardy into a new school administrative building isn’t a done deal, according to school division spokeswoman Lynn Briggs.

“We don’t have any specific plans at this time,” she said. “We are still researching options.”

One of those options, she said, is to turn the building into a community center. The town of Windsor undertook a similar project to save the former Windsor Middle School gymnasium when that school’s replacement, Georgie D. Tyler Middle School, was completed in 2014. In 2018, the 14,000-square-foot gymnasium reopened as the Windsor Town Center following a years-long $1.2 million renovation. The town’s taking on the project ended up saving the school system the $200,000 it would have needed to spend to raze the structure.

But Briggs couldn’t say whether saving the left wing of the old Hardy would save Isle of Wight County any money versus add to the cost of the school replacement project.

Since the division hasn’t made a final decision on what the building will become, “we also don’t have any specific costs associated with keeping this section,” Briggs said. “Plans are very preliminary right now.”