New schools don’t get built overnight. The process of funding a project, locating and acquiring (and if necessary, rezoning) a suitable parcel, designing the building, making any needed road improvements and constructing the school can be quite time-consuming.
By fall 2020, however, Chesterfield county and school leaders identified a major challenge – overcrowding at Tomahawk Creek Middle School – and set out to tackle it with a collective sense of urgency.
That December, the Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the Upper Magnolia Green property, providing hundreds of acres for schools and other public facilities to serve new residents in the fast-growing western Route 360 corridor.
In October 2021, rather than wait a year for the county’s next bond referendum, the board authorized the issuance of $130 million in Virginia Public School Authority bonds to fast-track construction of a new middle school in western Chesterfield and a replacement for Falling Creek Middle.
In May 2022, the board approved the rezoning of the eastern part of Upper Magnolia Green site to accommodate the middle school, an adjacent elementary school and a public library.
Tuesday night, Chesterfield’s Economic Development Authority held a community meeting about planned roadway and pedestrian improvements to Westerleigh Parkway in conjunction with the new, tentatively named West Area Middle School.
And earlier today, county and school leaders came together with the community to break ground on the middle school project – Chesterfield’s first three-story school and one that will increase the county’s middle school capacity by 1,800 much-needed seats.
“In less than three years, we’ve purchased land, zoned land, hired a company to design the school and hired a company to build the school. This takes strong collaboration between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, and quite frankly the community,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Kevin P. Carroll, who represents the Matoaca District.
“Knowing how much growth we’ve had out here – and the fact of the matter is, we’ve fallen behind on getting the new schools in place – we were able to accelerate this process by restructuring debt in our budget and the schools’ budget. We issued bonds to make it work,” Carroll added. “I appreciate everything we’ve accomplished together in the last couple of years.”
Ryan Harter, the Matoaca District’s School Board member and a former teacher, acknowledged the “energy and excitement that a new school brings to a community.
“Great things are happening in Chesterfield County and we look forward to all the great things that will happen inside the walls of this school,” he said. “Watching new traditions emerge, seeing students and staff members create new culture and a school community grow, those are the things I’m looking forward to.”
The community will have an opportunity to participate in the process of naming the new middle school that will benefit families in both the Matoaca and Clover Hill districts.
In the short term, it will alleviate overcrowding at Tomahawk Creek Middle, which operated at well above 100% of its building capacity during the 2022-23 school year. It also will accommodate future growth in Chesterfield’s busiest area for residential construction.
“Today marks another opportunity to address some of the overcrowding that has affected Chesterfield County through the years,” said Dot Heffron, who represents the Clover Hill District on the School Board. “This community has wrapped its arms around the need for more classroom space. You’ve been vocal, we’ve heard you, and you’ve been supportive. You’ve been strong advocates for our students and staff members.”
Clover Hill District Supervisor Chris Winslow noted his constituents have been waiting eagerly for a new school to provide relief to Tomahawk Creek.
“Today’s event is not just about shovels in the dirt, it’s about sowing the seeds of knowledge, growth and opportunity for our kids,” he said. “The bricks and mortar soon laid here are symbolic of our investment in our children’s futures. Just as a foundation supports a building, we lay a foundation today for a brighter, more promising tomorrow. Let us look to the future with hope and optimism, knowing that through our collective efforts we’re investing in our kids and planting the seeds of greatness for generations to come.”
According to Chesterfield County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, school staff and its private-sector design team already have been working for a year on the new middle school, which is scheduled to open in August 2025.
“You’ll be amazed how fast this building is going to go up,” he added. “In two years, we’ll be holding a ribbon-cutting and walking into a new school, so that’s exciting.”