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Louisa replacement schools taking shape

Nearly three years after a magnitude-5.8 earthquake rocked the sleepy town of Mineral, an end is in sight for construction on the two Louisa County schools damaged and subsequently torn down after the quake.

The structural steel frame of Louisa County High School is now towering over the temporary modular classrooms set up on the site, and Thomas Jefferson Elementary is closed in and nearly complete.

The elementary school, set to open in August, cost $13.5 million to construct.

The new Thomas Jefferson Elementary is being built with the same plans used for Louisa’s recently constructed Moss–Nuckols Elementary School.

Since the 2011 quake, students from Thomas Jefferson have attended school in mobile units outside Trevilians Elementary.

Greg Dorazio, spokesman for Louisa County Schools, said the mobile units will be removed from Trevilians as soon as possible after school is out for the summer so the soccer field and outdoor track the units occupied can be reconstructed.

The new Louisa County High School, which is modeled after Mountain View and Colonial Forge high schools in Stafford, carries a $42 million price tag.

The school is about 25 percent completed and is expected to open on schedule in August 2015, according to school officials.

The high school will have a capacity of 1,750 students. The building that was destroyed could hold 1,450.

Bob Moore of the Louisa County Schools facilities department oversees the construction with contractor Barton Malow Co., and said work is on schedule despite the winter storms the region experienced this year.

The bulk of the academic space has been constructed from structural steel, and ducts, electricity, plumbing, roof decks, stair towers and elevator shafts are going in now.

Louisa High Principal Tom Smith was only six and a half days into his job when his school was damaged.

He said that more than two years into using the modular classrooms, students and faculty have gotten used to the challenges, mostly caused by weather.

Dorazio said the division had to take extra caution in the extreme cold and snow this school year because students at the high school and modular elementary school spend so much time outside.

Though watching the building being torn down in 2012 to make room for a new school was emotional, Smith said, “it’s exciting to come to work every day and see the progress.”

In 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered $19 million toward the rebuilding of the high school.

And $3.2 million was awarded to rebuild Thomas Jefferson Elementary.

“FEMA and Virginia Department of Emergency Management have been fantastic partners and have guided us through the grant reimbursement process,” Dorazio said. “We expect full participation, meaning that FEMA and VDEM will collectively reimburse 91 percent of replacement costs not covered by insurance.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976 lestes@freelancestar.com 

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