New high school opening on time, on budget in New Kent
New Kent school officials admit doubt surfaced concerning the readiness of both the county’s new $50 million high school and the old high school now middle school for a Sept. 2 opening.
But all doubts have been erased as workers this week are putting the finishing touches on both schools in time to welcome students for the new school year. Already, some students and parents have checked out the building, taking advantage of tours conducted by the New Kent Educational Foundation.
“There were times when we thought we could not get it all done,” Superintendent Roy Geiger said as he walked the hallways in the new high school last Friday. “But it all came together and we got it done. Some people said you can’t do two schools at once, but from the get-go we thought we could pull it off.”
School officials, who say the new structure could have a lifespan of 70 years, have labeled the 242,000 square-foot high school — complete with 1,600-seat gymnasium and an auxiliary gym, 750-seat auditorium, and 128 classrooms and laboratories — a state-of-the-art facility.
The school is built to accommodate 1,400 students. This fall, officials expect the high school population to number in the 900-range, well below capacity.
Furniture for the new school began arriving last week. Cutting it that close to the start of school raised a few sweat beads on Geiger’s brow.
But central officer administrators Rick Richardson, Ed Smith, Nate Collins, and Phyllis Geron worked at a feverish pace to see that furniture arrived on time, he said.
“There have been so many people who have worked behind the scenes to make sure everything has happened,” Geiger said.
Credit, he said, goes to construction committee members Tim Pollock, Butch Crowder, Van McPherson, and Joe Yates along with school administrators (principal Yvonne Jones and assistant principals David Baum and Todd Miller) and the school’s custodial staff led by veteran staff member Bruce Shackleford.
“The leadership by all of these people has helped coordinate everything,” Geiger said. “The entire staff has stepped up to the plate.”
Moving the middle school from its dilapidated home to the old high school was made easier by long-term planning, he added.
“[Principal] Howard Ormond and his staff began planning for this move last spring,” the superintendent said.
“The teachers have worked over the summer and volunteered their time to work as well,” he added. “There’s been no whining or crying; just a can-do attitude.”
The new high school, meanwhile, is not only opening on time, but on budget, Geiger said.
“This is a time of transition in New Kent,” he said. “The county is growing, our test scores look good, and our goal is to make the New Kent school system the best it can possibly be. The new high school is a building block for that.”