The Blacksburg Bruins will have a new home.
Last week, ground broke for a new building to replace the old Blacksburg High School — its roof collapsed over a year and a half ago on Feb. 13, 2010, under pressure from two feet of snow atop it.
Since then, BHS was condemned and closed, its students have shared a hectic schedule with those at Blacksburg Middle School.
Joseph Ivers Jr., the vice chair of the Montgomery County School Board, said the beams in BHS were not made to specifications.
“This building was made back in the 70s, and the contractor cut corners in building it,” Ivers said.
“He didn’t put the proper size or right number of rebar in the beams, and therefore, the whole building was suspect.”
Ivers said the new school’s construction was delayed because the board was deciding whether to repair the old building or start fresh.
Repairs would have cost an estimated $30-35 million, so the board decided to build a new school, which has a projected cost in the $55-57 million range, he said.
The board and the country received $15 million in zero-interest loans from the state, as well as more than $5 million in insurance settlement over the school’s collapse.
Montgomery County will work with Branch & Associates, Inc. to build the new school behind and to the side of BMS, which is
located on Prices Fork Road.
The design will have up to three floors and two wings, Ivers said.
“The emphasis is on classrooms,” he said. “We wanted to stress the largest classrooms that we could get and the largest number of classrooms that we could get.”
The school will also have a new full-length basketball court, wrestling and weight rooms, to complement the football stadium that was constructed in 2008.
Ivers said that there were insufficient funds to build a new track, but he hopes community support will aid in that construction.
However, some community members have expressed disappointment in the school’s design. The total space is smaller than what was initially planned, and several rooms, such as the cafeteria and auditorium, will not have the capacity that was hoped for, according to a column in the Roanoke Times written by Connie Froggatt, who is a parent representative on the BHS planning committee.
Of most concern was the size of classrooms. In addition to state standards for schools, Montgomery County has designated its own standards for classroom size. The new design fell short on the latter.
“Many of them meet our county standards, while some do not meet county standards by 15 square feet,” Ivers said.
Despite these misgivings, Ivers said when parents saw similar schools designed by the same company, they were pleased with the room sizes.
BHS students seem excited about their new school, including Nathaniel Short, a senior at BHS.
“The school’s layout is incredible,” he said. “Everything is spread out so well. It’s really beautiful and I wish I could be staying here. I’m impressed by the architects who built it.”
The new school is planned to open in August 2013.