Chesterfield County is preparing to dig in on its newest middle school, one of two in the works that are taking such buildings to new heights.
A groundbreaking ceremony planned for Aug. 9 will mark the start of construction on what’s tentatively referred to as the West Area Middle School in Chesterfield’s Upper Magnolia Green area.
The school name is temporary, as voting will take place for a permanent name in the coming months.
The new school in the county’s Matoaca District will take shape at 18100 Duval Road near Moseley as part of the upcoming Upper Magnolia Green technology park, for which Chesterfield’s Board of Supervisors paved the way last year.
Josh Davis, the chief operating officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), said the new middle school and Falling Creek Middle, which is being rebuilt, will be the largest middle schools in central Virginia. They’ll follow a nearly identical prototype, he said, with each school accommodating 1,800 students and reaching three stories in height — a first in the county, Davis said.
The new middle school is intended to absorb overcrowding at Tomahawk Creek Middle School, northeast of Moseley, where eight classrooms are held in a mega trailer. CCPS also plans to eliminate unused locker pods at Tomahawk Creek to add nine more classrooms, though Davis said the school is still severely overcrowded.
CCPS broke ground on the Falling Creek rebuild last fall. Davis said the school, in the Ampthill area just south of Richmond, was built in 1966 and in need of an upgrade. The expansion will bring the school to 240,000 square feet, an 80 percent increase from its previous size.
Falling Creek is targeted for completion in time for the 2024-25 school year, while the West Area Middle School is scheduled to open for the 2025-26 school year.
Site plans filed for the new school show the three-story school building, a large soccer or football field with a track around it, multiple baseball and softball diamonds, tennis courts and other athletic fields.
The school building will consist of three classroom wings and host sixth graders on the first floor, seventh graders on the second floor and eighth-graders on the third floor. Each floor will be lined with 19 classrooms and five science labs.
Davis said there’ll be several health classrooms next to the gym, plus a separate exploratory wing that’ll have learning spaces for art, foreign languages, technology and fabrication, business, family and consumer sciences, and a four-room music suite.
Davis said the auditorium will seat 1,100 people and the cafeteria will accommodate over 600 students at once, allowing for three lunch shifts.
CCPS is budgeting $95 million for the new school, slightly less than the $103 million price tag for Falling Creek. More is being spent on Falling Creek for demolition and other work around its current building.
Of the new school’s $95 million budget, $80.5 million was awarded to general contractor Gulf Seaboard to complete the project. Other expenditures include technology and furniture for the building, and the budget also includes contingency funds.
The architect is RRMM, a firm that focuses on public-sector projects like schools, universities, and public safety buildings.
The project is largely financed by $63.8 million in Virginia Public School Authority bonds, which Chesterfield applied for in September 2021. Voters also approved in November 2022 a $540 million general obligation bond referendum, which is set to fund capital improvements for county schools and government facilities, including $2 million for the West Area Middle School.
Remaining funding comes from previous construction project savings, other bonds and interest, cash proffers and other sources to be determined, according to data Davis provided.
As part of the Upper Magnolia Green technology park, the West Area Middle School campus will soon be joined by a county library and an elementary school expected to open in 2026.
The tech park also includes potential development for nearly 600 single-family residential lots surrounding the campus. The county will also be extending and renovating certain roads and other infrastructure near the school, including an expansion of Powhite Parkway.
Richmond BizSense – Charlotte Matherly July 25, 2023