CAVE SPRING–Longevity was a key factor when the Roanoke County School Board elected to build a new Cave Spring Middle School rather than to just renovate the old one. Although they did keep two major sections of the former school—the main gymnasium and the auditorium—as both cost-saving and history-honoring measures, the majority of the building is brand new.
On August 16, construction was still underway at the new entrance to Cave Spring Middle School on Ranchcrest Drive with school scheduled to oopen on August 21. Construction began in the summer of 2011.
The Board chose to build a new school with a projected lifetime of 40 years rather than to remodel a building which would need improvements again within 15 years.
On Thursday, August 16, Dr. Marty Misicko, Director of Operations and Facilities for Roanoke County Schools, led a tour of the new building, accompanied by Dr. Lorraine Lange, Roanoke County Superintendent of Schools; Fuzzy Minnix, the Cave Spring area representative to the School Board and current School Board Chairman; Steve Boyer, principal of Cave Spring Middle School (CSMS); Carol Whitaker, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel; and Chuck Lionberger, Community Relations Specialist for Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS).
Approaching the outside of the building from either the new entrance on Ranchcrest Drive or the old entrance on Brambleton Avenue, visitors might have questioned whether the school would be ready to open just five days later.
The grounds were covered with construction equipment; most floors were unpolished; classrooms were either empty or piled high with boxes; new furniture was arriving by the truckload, while old empty filing cabinets which had delivered the teacher’s belongings to the school were waiting on the sidewalks to be hauled away.
Workers were scurrying through the project, inside and out, adding either finishing touches or completing major construction to get the building opened on time.
Whether the building would be able to open just 14 months after construction began was always questionable, but the mild winter weather was a boon to the project, although this is one year that an after-Labor Day school opening might have been welcome.
The contract for the new construction was awarded to Martin Brothers Contractors in June 2011. Asbestos abatement and demolition of portions of the existing school began soon after.
The project included a new three story classroom addition; a new administration, cafeteria and kitchen area; an auxiliary gym; and the incorporation of a geothermal well-system to heat and cool the new facility, designed to be both cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.
On August 21, Cave Spring Middle School students returned to their new school on schedule along with students throughout the county. The grand opening is months away but the construction, renovations, and refurbishing of the inside of the building are mostly complete and ready to serve the student population estimated at around 740 students.
“Construction outside will be ongoing throughout the fall,’ said Misicko.
The new building is a well-thought out structure, designed to meet the needs of students and staff.
Teachers were invited to meet with the architectural firm, Spectrum Design, as the building was being planned, to provide their input. That shows in such inconspicuous features as the glass-walled teacher‘s lounge next to the cafeteria, which allows supervision of students, but also some degree of privacy for teachers. The staff appreciates the amount of space, especially storage space, in the new building.
One of the most striking features of the building is the abundance of natural lighting throughout because of the numerous windows. The art room is strategically located and surrounded by glass walls to allow visitors dropping off students to see an impressive student art display from their car windows.
Planners also considered longevity when choosing features of the new school such as terrazzo flooring, advanced technology, state-of-the-art science labs and sound systems, and even ergonomically correct seating for students.
The old school had two floors. The new school features three levels and 132,000 square feet, an increase of 54,000 square feet. The old school could accommodate about 675 students. The new building with its expanded capacity can accommodate a student body of 900 students. The new cafeteria can seat 300.
Each floor houses a separate grade level, allowing students their own space for classrooms, labs, and specialty areas. Seventh grade is located on level one, sixth grade on level two, and eighth grade on the top floor. All three grades use the same gymnasium and auditorium space, located on the middle floor, somewhat in isolation in the center of the building. The refurbished auditorium is back to back with the chorus room, which connects to the band room, both with sound-dampening flooring.
The old main entrance was retained and serves as the after-hours entrance to the gym and auditorium area for the general public. (The former administrative offices nearby have been turned into a restroom.)
Two separate entrances to the building also demonstrate planning for student and community needs and safety. The bus entrance remains on Brambleton Avenue, while the main entrance which is used by visitors, parents, and drop-off students was moved to Ranchcrest Drive. This plan reduces congestion during morning arrivals and afternoon departures, and improves safety and traffic flow on Brambleton Avenue during the morning rush hour.
One of the most eye catching features of the school is found in the new entryway. Photographs and news articles were gleaned from old yearbooks and from the community and turned into a Memory Wall, showing five decades of history at CSMS.
Cave Spring Middle School was built in 1956 and originally housed Cave Spring High School. In 1968 the school became Cave Spring Junior High when the high school moved to its current location on Chaparral Drive. In 1989 the school was renamed Cave Spring Middle School when 9th graders moved to the high school.
During the $26.8 million construction project, sixth and seventh grade students were relocated to Hidden Valley Middle School. Eighth grade students were moved to Cave Spring High School.
Principal Steve Boyer has served as administrator of CSMS for 24 years. He has been working 14 hour days this summer to prepare for the opening of school.
“Our new school has so much to offer students and teachers,” said Boyer. “Many of our teachers spent last year working in modular units. We are all excited to return home to such a beautiful facility.”
School Board Chairman Minnix commented that not only was the new Cave Spring Middle School of benefit to the students, the school system, and the Cave Spring community, but also to the economy of the Roanoke Valley as a whole, since the architects, contractor, and subcontractors in charge of the construction are local companies.
“We are proud that we kept people working in the Roanoke Valley,” said Minnix.