Cave Spring High School Renovations Cause Flap With Parents, Students

What to do with students at Cave Spring High School in southwest Roanoke County, once extensive renovations and an enlargement of the 50-year-old plus building get underway? For the past few months it’s been a subject of some controversy after the initial indications from the Roanoke County School Board were that all students would be sent to Hidden Valley High School in the interest of safety, with 9th graders staying at Cave Spring Middle School for their first year of high school.

That plan went over like a lead balloon, especially the part about sharing Hidden Valley High School, a point that parents made to the school board and other school system officials on several occasions. Another proposal that had Cave Spring students relocating to empty spaces at Tanglewood Mall, like the former JC Penney’s store, were also nipped in the bud.

The whole motivation was to keep students safe when the extensive remodeling and expansion gets underway at the end of the current academic year. At a recent public forum however, the design firm Spectrum said they have come up with a plan to keep most, if not all, of the Cave Spring students on campus while contractors do their work.

Chris Venable is a principal with Spectrum Design: “We initially proposed an 18 month on campus plan, and that had a lot more kids out in the trailers. That was generally not well received. That’s when the [school] board considered going to another site.”

Based on the negative feedback however, Venable said Spectrum reworked their plan and timeline, coming up with a scenario that keeps students away from construction crews but on campus: 18 months is still the timetable if 9th graders remain at Cave Spring Middle for the 2018-2019 academic year; it extends to 27 months if they are brought over to the high school property next year.

“There will be barriers between where the students and the construction workers are,” said Venable, “with fences outside the building and actual walls inside the building. Hopefully … some of their worries may have been allayed.”

Trailers will also be employed to house students where necessary. In one part of the building a second story will be added and overall the footprint will increase by about one third to around 180,000 square feet. The roof on the main gym will be raised and seats added. The school system is already talking to other nearby schools and churches about playing games there while the Cave Spring facilities are out of commission.

Dr. Greg Killough, superintendent for Roanoke County Public Schools, helped explain the change in direction to parents and students during a meeting in late November. It helped for people to see how extensive the renovation/expansion will be and Killough believed that led to some more understanding of concerns for safety and the timeline. “For them to be able to embrace it was very powerful.”

The longer 27 month period (if 9th graders are on campus as renovations get underway) also means things would be “tighter” for all and more “cottages” (trailers) would be employed noted Killough, who also praised county staffers for working with Spectrum on a redesigned plan.

School Board president Tim Greenway took responsibility for perhaps jumping the gun when announcing the earlier plan to move all students off campus as the 37 million dollar project got underway. “I think we’re trying to do what’s in the best interest of the community,” said Killough after the late November public meeting at Cave Spring High School broke up.

Gene Marrano