The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Old school is back with a new look
BY LINDLEY ESTES
Students weren’t the only ones back at school on Tuesday; the renovated Falmouth Elementary celebrated its first day back with a tour by the Stafford County officials.
Other systems that opened in the region after Labor Day included those in Fredericksburg, Colonial Beach and the counties of King George, Caroline, Westmoreland and Orange.
Refurbishing Falmouth Elementary cost $11.3 million and gave the 44-year-old building the look of new school. It has a new library and media center, roof, windows and doors, electrical, plumbing, fire alarm and sprinkler systems, Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades such as an elevator, upgraded heating and air conditioning, kitchen renovations and a new parking lot.
Meg Bohmke, the Falmouth District representative on the School Board, toured the southern Stafford school multiple times during the renovation, but saw it completed for the first time Tuesday.
“I was in there in hard hats,” she said. “It was unbelievable. I’ve personally renovated some homes, so I liked seeing the innards of the building. It was very exciting to watch them tear down ceilings and see them put the elevator in.”
Bohmke, whose three children attended Falmouth Elementary, said she was invested in seeing a new library, a clean-air system, and air conditioning installed in the kitchen.
“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘My kids have already graduated from this school,’” she said. “Mine have, too, but it’s about community. This is a community school.”
Stephanie Johnson, School Board chairwoman, enjoyed the tiled wall depicting the school’s name and mascot in the entrance to the school, the expanded administration wing and the library addition.
“They actually have room to add more of a selection in the library,” she said after seeing shelves that still need to be filled with books.
Scott Horan, assistant superintendent for facilities, called the library and adjacent media center “the marquee of the entire project.”
During the last school year, the Falmouth school staff and students shared Stafford Middle School, east of the county courthouse.
Stafford Elementary is undergoing a similar renovation this year, and moved staff and students into Stafford Middle over the summer.
Grafton Village Elementary will follow next year with renovations, and will move into Stafford Middle as well.
Mark Smith, principal of Stafford Middle, said that Falmouth prepared them for Stafford Elementary.
“I expected nothing but a smooth transition,” he said. “Falmouth really paved the way and it’s a cool experience. No other kids get this experience.”
He said that having the elementary school in the middle school has taught the middle-schoolers how to be good role models.
Last year some middle-schoolers served as aides in elementary classes.
“It’s the type of thing we want to build on,” Smith said.
The principals also want to hold activities this year that will get all students in kindergarten through eighth grade involved, such as a mock presidential election.
Mary Foreman, principal of Stafford Elementary, said that the experience is particularly useful for the elementary students since Stafford Elementary is a feeder school for Stafford Middle.
“They’re already getting to know everyone here,” she said. “Some of our elementary students will begin here as middle school students next year.”
Foreman began her administrative career at Falmouth Elementary. She said that Stafford Elementary, which was built about the same time as Falmouth and has the same floor plan, felt like home from the beginning. She hopes to see similar results from the renovation of Stafford Elementary, which began in June.
Foreman is particularly excited about the new media center.
FEW PROBLEMS REPORTED
All area school systems reported smooth openings.
The principals of Fredericksburg’s four schools all said that they had successful first days.
At Hugh Mercer Elementary, Principal Marjorie Tankersley said there were no tears, and it was the smoothest opening she could remember.
At Lafayette Upper Elementary School, there were assemblies held for each of the grades.
Christopher Bryant, principal of Sealston Elementary in King George, said: “It’s been very smooth. Eerily quiet, really.”
Bryant said that offering doughnuts to parents dropping off children in the morning was the most eventful part of the day.
Harold Pellegreen, principal of Lewis and Clark Elementary in Caroline, also reported a quiet opening day.
“This was really a get-to-know-your-teacher kind of day,” he said.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976