Replacement high schools expected to open for 2021-22 school year
Construction has begun on a new J.R. Tucker High School and a new Highland Springs High School, a pair of ambitious projects that will deliver modern, state-of-the-art facilities to replace two of Henrico County’s oldest high schools.
County government and school officials commemorated the start of work at twin ground-breaking ceremonies held Nov. 1 with students, staff and other guests.
“What we are doing here is transformational,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas told a crowd gathered on a former athletic field at Tucker, where construction equipment sat momentarily idle. “It is for the kids. It is for the community, and it really feels good.”
Three hours later, the excitement shifted to Highland Springs.
“This is a proud moment for Henrico Schools, and a proud day for me as superintendent,” said Amy Cashwell, superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools. “While this moment marks the beginning of something wonderful and new, we also understand that the legacies in these buildings are not forgotten.”
The new Tucker and Highland Springs are expected to open for the 2021-22 school year. They will be Henrico’s first high schools built simultaneously since Varina High and Henrico High opened in 1963. Tucker opened in 1962; Highland Springs in 1952.
Henrico officials announced last fall that both schools would be replaced with new construction. Funding is coming from a variety of sources, including 2016 bond referendum proceeds that had designated for a renovation of Tucker and an east end technical center, or business innovation center, in the Varina District. Approved overwhelmingly by voters, the bond referendum is providing $272 million for improvements to school facilities.
Vithoulkas said the new schools simply would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Board of Supervisors and School Board as well as the community’s support for the county’s meals tax.
In a 2013 referendum, Henrico voters approved the 4% tax to boost funding for the school system’s capital and operating needs. Vithoulkas noted that other communities have tried unsuccessfully to enact a meals tax that would allow similar reinvestments in education.
The new Tucker and new Highland Springs will feature similar layouts and architecture. The two-story, 265,101-square-foot schools will be accompanied by new field houses, concession stands and synthetic turf athletic fields.
Tucker will be built on its North Parham Road campus. Crews will eventually demolish the old school building.
“The new J.R. Tucker will take shape quickly and require a degree of flexibility and patience from the entire school community,” said Harvey Hinson, a former deputy county manager and former member of the Board of Supervisors who delivered remarks at the Tucker ground-breaking ceremony for Three Chopt District Supervisor Tommy Branin.
“It’s not easy to operate a school while you build another on the same site. But even with some disruption and inconvenience, know the new school will be worth it — because our kids are worth it.”
The new Highland Springs will rise from what was until recently a wooded property along East Beal Street and will front South Airport Drive. The existing school will be retained for another purpose.
“The existing Highland Springs High School has served us well since 1952, but it’s time to start a new chapter,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Tyrone E. Nelson, of the Varina District. “Look around! This community is already bursting with Springer pride. Just wait until the 2021-22 school year, when the doors fly open to the new Highland Springs High School.”
School Board members said Henrico’s investment in new facilities will benefit students, school staff and the community for years to come.
“This beautiful new building symbolizes our dedication to Henrico’s children,” School Board chair and Varina District representative John Montgomery said of the new Highland Springs. “Just as those who came before us left a legacy of excellence, we want to leave future generations a Henrico school division that is even better than the one we enjoy.”
Added Micky Ogburn, the School Board’s Three Chopt District representative: “New memories will be built along with the new buildings. The high quality of the buildings will now come close to matching the high quality of the education that our kids receive.”
To follow the progress of construction, go to henricoschools.us/building-for-the-future/.