In a Cloud of Dust, Clarke County Breaks Ground for New High School

On a blistering summer morning residents of Clarke County gathered together to celebrate the much anticipated ground breaking event for the new Clarke County High School. The occasion marks a turning point in a decade long struggle to build the new facility. Despite the heat, crowds arrived early to obtain free commemorative t-shirts as well as balloons and refreshments.   A stiff breeze and ample cold water made the record breaking heat tolerable as orange and blue balloons escaped little hands and launched into the sky heralding the momentous occasion.

Clarke County Supervisors, School Board, and Berryville elected officials came together to celebrate the start of the new school project - Photo Edward Leonard

As the event began members of the town and county government along with the Clarke County School Board gathered with the public around a section of bare earth that had been graded by the general contractor in advance of the ceremony. Behind the assembly, a line of earth moving vehicles parked end to end created a backdrop. As the event opened the the desire to maintain a focus on students and community unfolded. There were no speeches from officials or board members, no grand standing, or political one-upsmanship, simply a cross section from the entire student body of the county stepping to the microphone to share what this new chapter in Clarke County will mean to them. Each spoke of the struggle to get to this day and the benefits that will be shared by the entire community. Student speakers included:

From Boyce Elementary, student Evelyn Cox,
“I’m very excited to go to middle school next year. But I am even more excited about this ground breaking for a new high school!”
From D G Cooley, student Abby Pearson,
“I know one thing, education is very important and I know that my fellow classmates feel the same way. One thing is certain, we need the proper atmosphere and tools in order to succeed.”
From Johnson Williams Middle School, student Jasmine Bailey,
“This is a monumental day that we have been looking forward to for so long. This new school will bring many opportunities and benefits. Thank you Dr Murphy, the School Board, and citizens of Clarke County for making this day come true.
From Clarke County High School, student Davey Hardesty,
“As the first class that will graduate from the new high school we thank the school board for providing a better and less crowded learning environment. Let’s all work together to keep CCHS in the top academic and athletic schools in the state. “

Rising sophomore, Michaela Rohde hoists the first shovel - Photo Mike Dowling

As the speakers concluded Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy was joined by representatives from Sodexo, to judge the shovel decorating contest. The “Bring Your Own Shovel” event saw a parade of implements ranging from the well used garden variety to gold plated for official use. The standout decorative creations were divided into different age categories. Participants stepped forward into the circle of open ground and presented their works of art for inspection. Winners included:

Emily MacKenzie, Bradley Brathwaite, and Michelle MacKenzie

Finally, the moment that everyone had been waiting for, the first shovel of dirt. Michaela Rohde, a member of the first class that will graduate from the new high school, stepped forward onto the dry dusty soil. As Master of Ceremonies, Chris Rosen counted down the moments, Michaela lowered her shovel into the dry soil and turned over the first earth to begin the project. Immediately everyone else on the perimeter of the ceremony dug in and pitched shovels full of soil towards the center of the site ushering in the era of the new Clarke County High School in a great cloud of dust.

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  1. Jim Gibson says:

    What a nice event! Despite the dust, it was good to see so many come out and actually see this long-awaited project get underway.

  2. Concerned says:

    Great event and thanks so much for the pictures!

  3. Right Winger says:

    That was hot!! Thank goodness for ice cream and water!!

    • Right Winger says:

      Somehow, I ended up with poison ivy all over my calves (lower portion of my legs, not youthful bovines).

      • Doug Landry says:


      • J.C.Coon says:

        poison ivy. BUMMER.I just look at the stuff and break out. Many moons ago I got some great soap from a lady in Mt. Jackson that had jewelweed in it called Fairy Bubbles, it was the best. I also like Clorox (pain—pleasure). I have heard there is jewelweed up in ‘them there hills’ but have not found ‘the spot’. maybe a Master Gardener could enlighten us. They are usually stationed at the Clarke Co Farm Market on Saturday morn.

        • Doug Landry says:

          My grandmother swears by oyster-shell water. Soak oyster shells, full of calcium carbonate, in water (not sure if it’s salty or tap), then rub it in. Smelled funky, but it helped heal it up.

      • must be a city boy

        • Right Winger says:

          Nope, just highly allergic to the stuff! Musta been in all that tall grass.

          • maybe get outside away from the computer once in a while!

          • Right Winger says:

            I’m tellin ya, that ain’t it. If a breeze picks up a few specks of oil from sumac or ivy in Montana and the same breeze just happens to blow right by me while I’m driving with my window down, I’ll get it. When I worked landscaping, I’d get it all the time. There are two things that work for me: 1) Prednazone which requires a doctors visit. 2) Chlorine before it’s put into a large pool.

  4. Amy Kenny says:

    Bummer, no picture of Joey in the color guard 🙁 Other than that the pictures are great, so was the ceremony!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!