Hanover County Public Schools broke ground on Monday on the consolidated Henry Clay and John M. Gandy elementary school, the first school constructed in Hanover County since Laurel Meadow Elementary School opened in 2008.
Students, school division and county officials, and other distinguished guests celebrated the occasion in a ceremony on the site of the school. The consolidated school is set to open for the 2024-25 school year and will unite Henry Clay Elementary School, which currently serves students in pre-K through second grade, and John M. Gandy Elementary School, which serves students in third through fifth grades.
“This is truly a great day. When this school opens, it will have been 16 years since the last ribbon cutting for a Hanover County school, and this project promises to be worth that wait. It represents the collaboration between the school division, School Board, county administration, Board of Supervisors, Town of Ashland, and the wonderful community currently served by Henry Clay and John M. Gandy elementary schools,” said Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools. “This collaboration exemplifies the best of who we are and who we can be, and the result will be a state-of-the-art facility which will serve our amazing students and staff for decades to come. It will both honor the rich legacies of these two schools, while being a symbol of the current strength of our school division, and the promise of a strong future.”
John M. Gandy Elementary Principal Leigh Finch and Henry Clay Elementary Principal Kristin Haas served as the hosts for the ceremony, representing the existing partnership of the schools. The unity of the two schools and their combined “house” system was on full display during the ceremony. The house system instills important character traits such as innovation, empathy, and respect in students. During the ceremony, the Heads of House and House Leaders at the two schools led the Pledge of Allegiance while the NJROTC unit from Patrick Henry High School presented the colors, shared their excitement about the new building, and participated in the groundbreaking itself.
"Our new building will have lots of opportunities to show off our TIGER values. In our new building, we will show how we are always honest and trustworthy. We will share our creative and innovative ideas. We will be appreciative and grateful for small gestures. We will be caring and empathetic towards others. And we will show our teachers and friends that we are polite and respectful,” said Sofia, the Head of House for House Gratos at John M. Gandy Elementary.
Before shovels broke ground, the Heads of House from each of the five houses poured colored sand (five colors of sand to represent the five houses) as a symbol of their unity.
Sofia said students wanted to pour the sand “so that it will always stand on these values we hold so dear.”
Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, a Charlottesville-based architectural firm, is leading the design of the school and Southwood Builders, an Ashland-based construction company, has been awarded the contract as the general contractor for the project. Representatives from both firms attended Monday’s ceremony.
“We are incredibly proud to be breaking ground on a state-of-the-art facility that will allow our teachers to continue to provide the highest level of instruction while fully supporting our students,” said School Board Chairman John F. Axselle III (Beaverdam District).
Said Ola J. Hawkins, the Ashland District Representative on the School Board: “This is a historic moment for Ashland and all of Hanover County. These two schools already have such a strong partnership and by bringing them together under one roof, a world of possibilities awaits. I am grateful for all of the work that has been done to get us to this significant step and look forward to seeing the beautiful new building that awaits.”
In addition to school officials, representatives from the Hanover County School Board, Board of Supervisors, Ashland Town Council and Planning Commission, Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Hanover Fire-EMS, Hanover County Attorney's Office, as well as the County Administrator and his senior staff, Ashland Police Chief, and the Ashland Mayor and Vice-Mayor were in attendance.
“While it may be chilly to sit here, our hearts are so warm – warm thinking about the opportunity we have to reflect on community and the role our schools play, not just in being a place for people to gather or to educate children, but to represent a community,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Angela Kelly-Wiecek (Chickahominy District). “That is a big part of what this process was about – seeking community input and merging these two schools so that they can come together and be one beautiful, warm place.”
“You are the future of everything we hope for and we are giving you this gift today because we believe in you,” said Faye Prichard, the Ashland District Representative on the Board of Supervisors, to the students in attendance.
Construction will be taking place over the next 18 months. The current John M. Gandy Elementary School campus will remain operational during that time.
More information on the consolidated elementary school can be found on the HCPS website.