Home ‘A great day for education’: Augusta County celebrates construction of two new middle schools

‘A great day for education’: Augusta County celebrates construction of two new middle schools

Rebecca Barnabi
Augusta County Schools staff and students, and Nielsen Builders participate in a groundbreaking for Buffalo Gap Middle School on Sept. 13, 2022. Photos by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

Ceremonies were held Monday and Tuesday to recognize the construction of two new schools in the Augusta County Schools system which will assist teachers and staff in providing a longer instructional day.

Riverheads Middle School and Buffalo Gap Middle School will both open before the school system’s 10-year capital plan ends in 2025, for which funding for both schools was planned in phase 2.

“This is certainly a great day for education in Augusta County,” school board chair David Shiflett said at the groundbreaking ceremony for Buffalo Gap Middle on Tuesday. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve probably been talking about this school, Buffalo Gap and Riverheads, for probably the last 20 years at least. We’re actually seeing it happen.”

He thanked the Buffalo Gap community for its patience and support.

“They’ve understood that things don’t happen overnight,” Shiflett said.

The two new middle schools will provide equal opportunities for students in the county by decreasing transportation time to and from school, and adding to the time teachers provide instruction.

Each school will be built adjacent to its respective high school and serve 350 students in 6th to 8th grades. Buffalo Gap Middle will be 58,400 square-feet and Riverheads Middle will be 55,130 square-feet. On Aug. 2, 2022, the school board approved a maximum total budget for construction of both schools and project-related costs at $69.9 million.

Pastures District School Board representative Timothy Simmons joined the board in January 2022.

“Most of the heavy lifting had already been done,” he said.

School board member Nicholas Collins said that the most exciting aspect of the two new schools is the opportunities they will allow for students, including for students to attend higher-grade classes with their respective high schools.

“It’s helping our kids,” Collins said. “It’s helping them to achieve and be successful.”

Augusta County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric W. Bond said the goal will be for teachers to come to the middle school students for higher classes, not the middle school students come to the high schools.

Augusta County Board Supervisor and Pastures District representative Pam Carter thanked county residents for the tax dollars to make the new schools possible.

“I can’t imagine what it was like 8 or 10 years ago when you were dreaming this vision,” Carter said of Bond and the school board. “I get goose bumps thinking about how exciting that must have been.”

Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chair Butch Wells said he is thankful for a good working relationship between the county school board and county board to make projects such as the two new middle schools possible.

Carly Beverage and Paul Yoder are sixth-grade students at Beverly Manor Middle School. They will attend Buffalo Gap Middle in its inaugural year 2024-2025 as eighth-grade students. They participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I’m honored,” Paul said.

Carly said that the ceremony was “really exciting.”

Third and fourth from left are students Carly Beverage and Paul Yoder who will attend Buffalo Gap Middle School as eighth graders in 2024-2025.

Beverly Manor Middle students cannot walk across the street to their high school, but Stuarts Draft and Fort Defiance students can. And in 2024-2025, Riverheads and Buffalo Gap students will be able to walk next door and become high school students.

According to Bond, students who live west of Interstate 81 will attend Riverheads and Buffalo Gap middle schools, and Beverly Manor Middle will close.

“These Deerfield kids have our longest bus routes,” he said. And also the shortest instructional day. Bond said he can leave his office in Verona and drive to Short Pump in Richmond before students get from home to Beverly Manor Middle.

At Buffalo Gap, the high school and middle school will share the kitchen, which will be renovated as part of construction of the middle school.

“You do not need two kitchens for 750 students,” Bond said of the decision for the schools to share. However, high school and middle school students will eat in separate dining areas.

Buffalo Gap Middle, a two-story building, will also share an elevator with the high school, and will provide both schools with a new competition gym, which Bond said is similar in size to the gym already in the high school.

“Getting another gym here on campus was something that was very important to the school board,” Bond said.

Nielsen Builders is in charge of building Buffalo Gap Middle. Bond said they have experience building schools and not disturbing other schools during construction projects.

“For the most part, it should be very little disruption to the operations here at Buffalo Gap High School,” Bond said.



Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.