Greene County Public Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh is always excited for the start of a new school year, but this year will be even more special as students see the upgraded middle and high schools for the first time.
The roughly $28 million upgrade was approved by the Greene County Board of Supervisors in August 2017.
The media centers and cafeterias at both William Monroe High and Middle schools have been substantially expanded and modernized. The Stanardsville campus, which houses Nathanael Greene Primary and Elementary schools in addition to the middle and high schools, was reconfigured for safety and additional parking was added. The administration office at the middle school was also relocated to the entrance that faces Monroe Drive. Additional parking was also added at Ruckersville Elementary.
The main entrance to William Monroe High School will remain the middle entrance by the front office. However, students will access the joint space through heavy doors off the foreign language and art hallways—already an improvement over the previous one-way-in, one-way-out much smaller cafeteria. The wide hallway opens into the cafeteria on the west side of the school and the media center is within lockable doors to the east. On one wall reads “We are Scholars” as another is ground to ceiling windows.
“I love the natural light,” Whitmarsh said. “It’s not just about this room; if you look away from parking lot you see all the way to the back. This room really makes you feel good.”
Dragon football players moved books into the new library on July 20.
Whitmarsh noted all the furniture—from the chairs to the tables—are on castors to make the space more functional.
“We want all these spaces to be very adaptable no matter what the education trend is or who is using it or for what purpose,” she said. “The furniture can move out of the way so students can collaborate.”
Off to the south of the room is a small study room, and a goal from the start was to create flexible spaces within the new design, provided by VMDO Architects.
“It could be a meeting room or testing room or used for any number of things,” Whitmarsh said. One wall is completely writeable, too.
Even though the doors leading to the parking lot in front of the building won’t be the main entrance to the school, the doors leading into the hallways can be completely locked to hold events or meetings in the new space.
The new space includes areas for flexible seating with couches and benches and artwork by local photographer Pat Temples.
The “Scholars” art in the media center is comprised of vinyl letters using a sun-setting sky by Temples. There are an additional three beautiful images by Temples taking up walls in the new space. One says “We Are Monroe” and another says “We Are Leaders.” The final one says “Choices.” All images are indicative of Greene County’s beautiful mountains and countryside.
“It’s amazing,” said Temples during her first viewing. “I would never have anticipated ever seeing them as big.”
Additional classroom space is throughout the newly built area, as well as a recording studio with a blue screen instead of a green screen.
“We will be able to do the news and things like that in the morning,” Whitmarsh said.
The new kitchen is extra large so meals can be made for the middle school and brought up the road to that school.
There will be outdoor seating, as well. Whitmarsh noted that monies donated by Ethyl Giuseppe were used for that area of the project.
“This is where Mrs. Giuseppe made a significant impact,” Whitmarsh added.
Assistant Superinten-dent Bryan Huber said the kitchen is at least three to four times larger than the older one.
“We’re very happy,” Huber said. “I’m very excited. I kind of had an idea of how it would turn out.”
Vending machines will be added and charging towers for the Chromebooks for students.
These updates were part of the first of a three-phase 20-year plan for the school district, and at this time the only that has funding approved.
It has been more than four-and-a-half years since a group of community members gathered to figure out how to deal with the cafeteria overcrowding at after a referendum was denied in 2013 by the voters for a new high school.
Greene has only one public middle school and one public high school.
“This has been a joint effort,” Whitmarsh said. “We’ve been very deliberate in how we did things. We really explored all our options and didn’t jump into anything. We know this is going to be here for decades.”
Whitmarsh said there will be a grand opening for the public, but not before school starts.
“The opening will be for anybody and everybody,” she said. “We want everyone to feel like this is their space. We’re very proud of it.”