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Chesterfield On Point

Posted on: August 23, 2023

On time and under budget: Chesterfield building on success in new school construction

New Falling Creek Middle School construction

New Falling Creek Middle School construction The new, 1,800-seat Falling Creek Middle School is currently under construction in the Dale District.

Since August 2018, when students and staff walked into the new Beulah Elementary School for the first time, school construction in Chesterfield has been a perfect 10 … and then some.

Over the next four years, Chesterfield opened nine more brand-new schools: Crestwood, Enon, Ettrick, Harrowgate, Matoaca, Moseley, Old Hundred and Reams Road elementaries, and Manchester Middle. 

Those projects met the objectives of the 2013 bond referendum -- replacing aging buildings that were beyond their useful life, improving facility equity countywide and revitalizing older neighborhoods to encourage renewed private investment – while also providing 1,800 seats of additional elementary school capacity.   

All 10 of the new schools, as well as a two-story addition that allowed for the consolidation of Matoaca Middle School’s two campuses, were delivered on time and under budget.

That’s no small feat, acknowledged Josh Davis, chief operations officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS). 

“It’s a pace that’s pretty well unmatched throughout Virginia,” he said.

Asked how Chesterfield brought so many schools to completion in such a short period of time, Davis credits a public-private collaboration that includes both school and county staff, including CCPS Director of Construction Scott Carson, and multiple commercial partners: construction management firm McDonough Bolyard Peck (MBP), architect RRMM and the general contractors that were hired to build the facilities.

Chesterfield saved time and money by using RRMM’s one-story prototype design for all nine new elementary schools, which were built to either a 750-seat or 900-seat capacity.

MBP employees, meanwhile, are stationed on every active school construction site to monitor the project’s progress, communicate with the contractors and promptly relay any identified issues to Carson and Davis.  

“They’ve been a really critical asset because our in-house staff in the construction department is pretty slim,” Davis said.

West Area Middle School renderingA rendering of the new, 1,800-seat West Area Middle School, which is slated to open in August 2025.

Recognizing that residential construction had ground to a halt in the wake of America’s subprime mortgage crisis and resulting recession in 2009, the Board of Supervisors and School Board agreed that the 2013 bond referendum was an opportunity to revitalize a number of older schools.      

By contrast, county and school leaders are now squarely focused on catching up with growth from a local housing market that recovered from the Great Recession far more quickly and robustly than anticipated.

“What our two elected boards and staffs have accomplished together over the past few years, in lifting up so many communities with modern educational facilities, has been nothing short of remarkable. But we all recognize we have much more to do,” said Kevin P. Carroll, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Our shared commitment is to deliver as quickly and efficiently as possible the additional schools needed to serve the families that call Chesterfield home.”    

To accommodate increasing enrollment, CCPS is using a new two-story elementary school prototype design that raises the seating capacity to 1,000. Likewise, new middle and high schools are being designed larger, for 1,800 and 2,400 seats, respectively. 

Between the referendum that was overwhelmingly approved by voters last November and a separate bond issuance previously authorized by the Board of Supervisors in October 2021, Chesterfield will spend more than $500 million on new school construction over the next five to seven years.

Include the 2013 referendum projects, additional funding the county provided to significantly expand the size of the gymnasiums in many of the new elementary schools, construction of Moseley Elementary and renovation of the former Harrowgate Elementary for use as the Chester Early Childhood Learning Academy (CECLA), and the total exceeds $1 billion.

“Chesterfield County Public Schools is projected to grow to more than 68,000 students by 2028, in large part because of the school division's reputation for success. To continue on that path, we must be able to accommodate our increasing student population with modern facilities that provide room for future growth,” said Ann Coker, chair of the School Board.

The approved projects – two middle schools, a high school and four elementary schools – will increase capacity by more than 6,000 seats countywide. The school division’s capital improvement program also calls for new elementary schools in the Dale and Midlothian districts that would add another 2,000 seats.

“We’re one of the few counties in the commonwealth that is continuing to grow, so that explains it,” Davis said. “The question is: Will Chesterfield continue to be the place that sees the growth? People do want to move here. The cost of living is lower. You can buy a house for a more reasonable price. There is tremendous potential.

“When it’s time, we’ve got a well-oiled machine that is ready to build more schools,” he added. “I believe we have the capability to build as many as the community needs.”

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