Administrators, students break ground at new school

This is what the new Warren County Middle school will look like once construction is completed. Rendering courtesy of Ballou Justice Upton Architects
Gregory Drescher, superintendent of Warren County Public Schools, addresses the crowd Thursday morning during the groundbreaking ceremony for the county's new middle school at Happy Creek Road and Leach Run Parkway. Rich Cooley/Daily
Jennifer S. Johnson, director of administration and finance for Ballou Justice Upton Architects of Richmond, chats with schools Superintendent Gregory Drescher after the groundbreaking ceremony. Rich Cooley/Daily
Construction crews have started site work on the new Warren County Middle School at Happy Creek Road and Leach Run Parkway. Rich Cooley/Daily
Students from Ressie Jeffries, Hilda J. Barbour, and Leslie Fox Keyser elementary schools get involved in the groundbreaking ceremonies Thursday for the new Warren County Middle School . The students will be in the first class attending the new school. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – School and county officials spoke toward a bright future for schoolchildren and shoveled a little dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Warren County Middle School on Tuesday morning.

In his welcoming statement, Superintendent Greg Drescher thanked leadership past and present, including School Board members, the Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Doug Stanley, the Front Royal Town Council and the Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority.

“This community has shown time and again they value the work of our educators and understand the impact effective schools have on a community,” he said.

School Board Chair Catherine Bower also thanked those stepping down from their positions, naming Vice Chair Joanne Cherefko and Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Traczyk and recognizing the past efforts of Roy Boyles and Pamela McInnis, both retired.

“This day is a culmination of many hours of dedication and work beyond the full time jobs of our administrative staff,” she said.

The new middle school will bring eighth grade students back from attending classes at Warren County and Skyline high schools and will be able to serve around 800 students.

During his remarks, Traczyk said he was glad to break ground for a “final task” that’s been a long time coming.

“With this groundbreaking, we have reached the end of our capital improvement program with respect to new schools,” he said. “This middle school will satisfy the school system needs for quite a few years to come.”

He also addressed the demand for repairs at Ressie Jeffries Elementary, telling those assembled that the budget for construction included a $2 million surplus intended for repair of the older facility, assuming no major complications spring up.

“It’s no secret this project is going to put a strain on our community’s financial obligations, but it’s demonstrated that your board of supervisors is determined to make the school system better, and I feel we’ve succeeded,” he said.

In addition to the administrators, a group of 10 fourth grade students from all three elementary schools moved some dirt at the ceremony. They will be the first sixth graders to walk the halls of the new school once it opens in 2017.

Ballou Justice Upton Architects designed the 154,800 square foot project and Howard Shockey & Sons is serving as the building partner.

The new school will face the road, meaning that the actual groundbreaking ceremony occurred around where buses will drop students off once the school is built. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard said the school’s design reflects those of Skyline High School and Warren County High School and it will also include a football field and track.

Thomas Keaton, project manager from Shockey, said that after work started on Sep. 15, the current phase of construction is erosion and sediment control to contain project runoff.

Construction of project foundations in the building pad and parking lots will start around late December, and if the weather cooperates in the winter months, he estimated that masonry work will begin around February.

“The project’s supposed to be 21 months long, so no matter what, we have to build through the winter,” he said. “We’re kind of praying for good weather, hopefully all the bad winters are behind us for a little while.”

Bowers touched on that need for cooperative conditions during her remarks toward those from Shockey.

“As we stand here today enjoying this beautiful fall morning, my hope is that you will only have days…as nice as this for the construction so we can come in ahead of schedule and under budget,” she said to applause and laughter.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or

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