With construction of the new J.R. Tucker and Highland Springs high schools expected to begin in September, the Henrico County School Board on Thursday approved preliminary designs for the new school facilities.
The board also approved conceptual plans for an addition at Holladay Elementary School, which will more than double its capacity and alleviate crowding issues there and at Johnson Elementary School. Board members adopted a general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year as well.
“As we go through our plan of development with the county, some things may be adjusted slightly, but what you’re seeing today is the full concept and intent that has come from the superintendent and all of our stakeholders,” Assistant Superintendent for Operations Al Ciarochi told School Board members before they unanimously approved the three projects.
Building upon previous plans to renovate J.R. Tucker High School in western Henrico, county officials announced in September that they will rebuild both Tucker and Highland Springs high schools at the same time, allocating $80 million to each project.
The old plans for Tucker High School, approved by voters in a 2016 bond referendum, earmarked only $55 million to renovate Tucker and $42 million for a new technical education center in the Varina District.
Officials said better-than-expected revenues from the county’s 4 percent meals tax, which was approved by voters in 2013, generated enough money to upgrade those plans to replace the aging facilities, both of which are more than 55 years old.
The conceptual layouts and renderings show that the new high schools will be built next to the existing schools, allowing both to remain open during the two-year construction period.
County officials are considering converting the existing Highland Springs facilities as a technical education center, while the plans for Tucker show that the existing facilities will be demolished to make way for new athletic fields and facilities.
Ciarochi said a $20 million expansion of Holladay Elementary School will expand its student capacity from 550 to 1,100.
Development of the two new high school buildings is expected to begin in September, while construction for the addition to the elementary school is scheduled to begin in November.
While school officials conveyed excitement about the plans for the new school buildings, several board members are also concerned about the potential for disruption to school athletics and other activities.
According to Ciarochi, Tucker will not have a stadium field for a total of three years, while Highland Springs will lose its stadium for two years.
“The competitive events is not the great challenge I see,” Ciarochi said. “It’s trying to find the least path of resistance for daily practices.”
Tucker will also not have a gymnasium for two of those years, which could further disrupt other school activities.
“That’s 50 percent of a kid’s high school career,” said School Board Chairman John Montgomery. “They will remember forever the fact that they didn’t have this or that.”
The county is aiming to complete all three projects so that the new school facilities will be open in September 2021.