Agnor-Hurt Elementary School

Agnor-Hurt Elementary School sits above Berkmar Drive in the urban ring of Albemarle County. Agnor-Hurt opened in 1992, and is one of the newer schools in the county. Agnor-Hurt has undergone recent renovations, and has bright and cheery coral, turquoise and teal wall accents freshening the space.
Part of the renovations is a new large flexible room to “accommodate the needs of 21st century learner”. The move towards these open spaces has been evident at multiple schools that I have visited these past months. I’m always bemused by the pendulum swing of educational fashions. Additions were built at Red Hill and Scottsville in the 1970s, pods with open floor plans that closely mirror the renovations that I am seeing in schools now. As a first grader, I remember having class time in the open space. Several years later, permanent walls were erected. I think open classrooms can work great– allowing teachers and students to collaborate and be inspired by the best work of one another. I also think that mismanaged, open floor plans can be loud and chaotic to the detriment of learners. I think talented teachers can make almost any arrangement work, but I also recognize that 40 years ago we tried many of these ideas that are being presented to me as completely novel today.
Geographically Agnor Hurt sits one mile from Woodbrook Elementary, and two miles from Greer. The close proximity of these schools, and the fact that all 3 are at- or over-capacity, indicate how densely packed this area of the county is. Agnor-Hurt’s district is geographically split in half by 29 North and by Woodbrook’s district. Students come to Agnor-Hurt from the northern part of Rio Road west of 29 North, and down Rio Road on the east side, towards CATEC, Pen Park, and the Charlottesville Catholic School. That portion of Rio Road has been transformed in the past year or two by the addition of many more high density townhomes.
The combined area of the school districts of Agnor-Hurt, Greer, Woodbrook and Hollymead could fit into the area of any single other elementary school district in the county (except for maybe Cale, and I think we could just squeeze them in). 30% of our elementary school students live in less than 5% of the land area of our county. While the basic educational needs of all students remain the same regardless of where they live, the logistics of delivery are very different when one lives off a heavily traveled thoroughfare off a major artery, and another lives on the side of a mountain 30 miles from a traffic light.
One consequence of the county’s development of this area is how unfriendly these roads are to any non-vehicular travel. Agnor-Hurt is served by a series of 3-4+ lane roadways. Even though Agnor-Hurt is in a densely packed part of the county, and has a very small district footprint, students could not safely walk or bike from the vast majority of the homes served by the school. For parents who live in this area and do not have reliable or readily available transportation, the public transit system, CAT, is challenging to use to get to Agnor-Hurt because East and West Rio Roads are not served by the same bus line, and they would have to transfer, resulting in a minimum 30 minute ride from Pen Park to Agnor-Hurt. On the northern portion of the urban ring we’ve managed to create all the transportation inconveniences of a sprawling city.

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