New schools moving along

Published 9:58 pm Monday, May 1, 2017

The construction of two Suffolk schools is moving along and approaching their shared completion next year.

Norfolk-based contractor Blueridge General is heading construction of the Florence Bowser Elementary and Col. Fred Cherry Middle schools. Company president Eric Stichler said both projects are about 40 percent complete and on schedule to be finished in May 2018.

The schools will then be furnished and ready for students in fall 2018.

Email newsletter signup

“They’ve got a quite a few months to get settled in the buildings,” Stichler said.

Florence Bowser Elementary on Nansemond Parkway is named after an educator that taught in Suffolk and other Virginia localities for more than 50 years. The school will be more than 114,800 square feet and house approximately 1,000 students.

The school will replace Driver Elementary School and relieve overcrowding at Creekside Elementary School, according to Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw.

Col. Fred Cherry Middle School on Burbage Drive was named by a unanimous School Board vote in February, honoring a Suffolk native who was held prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than seven years and died in 2016. It will be a two-story, 125,200-square-foot building with more than 25 classrooms to accommodate 800 students.

According to Bradshaw, the new middle school will relieve overcrowding at John Yeates Middle School.

“Staff size will be determined by how many students move into the new schools the first year,” Bradshaw said in an email. “We don’t necessarily fill every seat right out of the gate, particularly if we know of more housing development in the pipeline.”

She said the new schools will not require additional classroom teachers to be hired.

“Teachers would be transferred from Yeates because that student population will decrease, and all the Driver teachers would move to Bowser, plus some from Creekside because that student population will decrease,” she said.

There will, however, be an added need for certain positions at the middle schools. They include a principal, nurse, guidance director, bookkeeper, cafeteria manager, head custodian and media library specialist.

“With Yeates’ reduction in size, other positions such as assistant principal, secretaries, guidance staff, cafeteria staff and custodians might be reduced at Yeates and moved to Cherry,” Bradshaw said.

Both schools will have unique spaces designed for project-based learning and incorporate more “open and modern spaces,” according to Stichler. He said the design team does a good job of “staying at the forefront of the industry.”

“We build 57 schools over the year, and they’re always state-of-the-art,” he said. “They go above and beyond to determine what these schools need based on the surrounding communities and what’s available in the industry at the time.”