Greenhouse Design Rightsized by Teacher Team

With work progressing rapidly on the foundation footers and infrastructure underpinnings for the new high school, the Clarke County School Board is turning its attention to other issues necessary to complete the facility including the exterior façade, furniture and the recently approved greenhouse to be located on the new campus.

Current Clarke County High School Horticulture Greenhouse

Greenhouse Design Revised

The much debated greenhouse facility appears to be finally on its way to reality and at a much lower price tag than the amount floated over the past several weeks. Instead of the $2.5 million estimate, which included an elaborate vocational education facility and a massive 5,000 square foot greenhouse, the current purchase cost for the newly envisioned 1,600 square foot greenhouse facility is just $58K. While construction labor, foundation work and utilities necessary to assemble the structure will require additional costs, School Board members appeared comfortable that the finally cost will be within the $200K budget.

However, one significant cost factor yet to be determined is whether the current water booster pump design can accommodate the additional water requirements placed on it by the greenhouse.

“A big factor is whether the current booster pump design will have to be increased to have enough pressure to support the greenhouse” Gannett Fleming Construction Manager Mike Castelli told the School Board. “The design professionals need to review the specifications and then amend the contract with Crabtree Rohrbaugh before we’ll know the final cost.”

Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates is the architecture consultant for the project.

Contrary to the process that produced the $2.5M cost estimate, the current design is being conducted with input from the school’s horticulture and agriculture staff. The newly conceived collaborative approach not only appears to have produced a “right-sized” solution consistent with the county’s current economic challenges, but also is placing the design responsibilities in the hands of the education professionals who will teach in the facility.

Clarke County High School horticulture and agriculture instructors Beth Novak, Glenn Cole and Molly Long are working closely with Berryville’s Assistant Town Manager Christy Dunkle, Building Inspector Gary Pope and Construction Manager Mike Castelli to ensure that the new greenhouse meets the school system’s expectations and will be offer a good learning environment for students.

So far, the collaborative effort is producing excellent results according to Clarke County Public School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy.

“There are five vendors in Virginia that supply school greenhouses.  Ms. Novak has been doing research on the various options. The summary document lists all of the options and contains the necessary data to produce a request for proposal” Murphy told the School Board.

Murphy said that the $58K greenhouse quote included benches and tables for plants, shade cloth, heaters and fans as well as the controllers necessary to manage the heating system.

Murphy said that a greenhouse not only offered opportunities for biology, horticulture and agriculture instruction, but that fish like greenhouses as well.

“Greenhouses are great places to grow fish and provide aquaculture classes” Murphy said.

New Weather Bug to Provide Text Message Weather Warnings

Not only will the new greenhouse be home to flowers, and perhaps fish, but  will also house an upgraded “WeatherBug” that could protect students and faculty from weather and lightning threats.

WeatherBug  is a company that provides live weather data and maintains continuously monitored weather stations  throughout the United States, located mainly at public and private schools as well as partner television  and other venues. The program is available for download from WeatherBug’s website,

Superintendent Murphy said that the enhanced WeatherBug will be able to automatically send text message warnings to designated recipients when lightning is detected within ten miles of Clarke County High School. The early warning system will be particularly valuable for outdoor athletic activities that are often conducted at distributed locations throughout the area.

Bricks, Cement and Asphalt

At yesterday’s School Board construction meeting members selected the bricks and colors that will adorn the outside of the new high school. The unanimous winner? Lansdowne Breckton Burnt Almond Accent Utility brick with red mortar.

Landsdowne Breckton Brick (left0 selected=

Lansdowne Breckton brick (far left) selected for new high school - Photo Edward Leonard

Frederick Block Company will deliver the approximately 183,000 bricks necessary to complete the new facility.

Based on current construction progress it won’t be long before the new bricks are needed.

Gannett Fleming Construction Manager Mike Castelli told the School Board yesterday that the abnormally dry weather has helped keep construction activities on track at the new high school with plans to lay asphalt for the parking area in approximately two months.

Walking path along West Main Street in Berryville, Virginia - Photo courtesy Urban, Ltd.

Castelli also said that the much of the cement footings for the building have been completed and that foundation block work has already commenced.   A water line transiting the southwestern corner of the property necessary for fire flow has been successfully installed. Also, a new berm installed on the stormwater retention pond at the east end of the property is now in place. The new berm allowed construction crews to relocated the walking path to a safer distance from West main Street.

Blasting Close to Complete

Battlefield Estates residents who have been concerned with blasting necessary to remove site rock may soon be able to rest easier. Castelli said that although additional blasting could still necessary, he believes blasting near Early Drive is almost finished.

Construction crews pour building footers at site of new high school - Photo courtesy Urban, Ltd.

Sanitary sewer installation at site of new high school - Photo courtesy Urban, Ltd.


  1. It’s good to see some real progress on this facility, and to see the teachers being sought to work hand in hand with the design team and the town. That is as it should be.

  2. At last, some cooperative work!!! Maybe the school will be finished in my lifetime.
    I like the teacher-designed, reasonably priced greenhouse idea.