Schools Evaluate Space as New High School Nears Completion

Clarke County Schools Superintendent Michael Murphy told School Board members Monday night that new ideas are being considered for how best to use the current Clarke County High School and D.G. Cooley Elementary School in the future.

School administration has been actively engaged since earlier this year in planning how school space will be used once the new Clarke County High School opens in the fall of next year. Murphy said that discussions with Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) school space planning experts have generated ideas that CCPS hadn’t previously considered.

“We went on a walking of Cooley, Johnson Williams and the current high school with VDOE” Murphy said. “Based on our facilities, enrollment projections and budget they’ve suggested that we consider splitting Kindergarten, first and second grades in one building and third, fourth and fifth grades in a different facility.”

Murphy said that VDOE has suggested that the lower grades be housed in the soon-to-be-renovated Clarke County High School with grades three through five attending classes at Cooley.

“VDOE believes that to maximize our resources we should consider the split” Murphy said.

The classroom space study is part of a larger initiative to define how best to reconfigure school facilities once the current high school is vacated next year. The Clarke County Board of Supervisors currently holds $7.2M in funding for the school make-over that became available when construction costs for the new 161,000-square-foot high school came in below budget.

Currently, Kindergarten and first grade attend Berryville Primary School with grades two through five attending Cooley Elementary.

“This configuration may provide for some flexibility that we haven’t thought of in the past” Murphy said. “Facilities drive programs so we’re not quite sure where we are going to go just yet.”

Past School Board discussions have indicated that Johnson-Williams Middle School will likely remain unchanged while Berryville Primary may become an school division administrative center potentially absorbing space requirements from the school board office and school annex building should the two energy inefficient structures be closed.

Murphy said that additional talks between VDOE and school administration are planned.


  1. Because I Care says:

    How about this:

    The current high school becomes the elementary school K-5.
    The middle school remains the same.
    Berryville primary is closed.
    DG Cooley becomes a vocational-technical center offering high school students actual vocational/technical career training and is open at nights to adults in the region for the same at tuition costs similar to a community college?

    • Mitchell Rode says:

      Interesting thoughts. But the fundamental flaw is that there is no way the current high school has facilities or enough space amenable or even able to be remodeled into suitable use for K-5. It can handle K-2 with some remodeling. Cooley will be tight at 3-5 but is the best bet.

      I like the idea of school facilities being open to adult use after hours and in evenings as a bonus for the community as well as more efficient use of space. Not sure if vo-tech requires that much space or if the offerings should be limited to vo-tech, but the general idea is a plus.

      Berryville Primary is planned for and should be closed as far as a school facility but has potential for administrative use.

    • Tom Witmark says:

      And where’s the money for THAT gonna come from? Honestly…a good idea, but seriously think about the ramifications of such a thing. Staffing? Program resources? Equipment? Plus…it doesn’t address the issues with the Primary building, that Cape Cod house-with-a-double-wide-attached Central Office building, F&M, or the Annex building.

      The simple fact is that, for decades, this county has pieced together buildings (see Central Office), or built and/or remodeled buildings on the cheap (see current CCHS, Cooley, Boyce expansion, J-WMS renovation). We now have a chance to take a thoughtful approach to get it right the 1st time…let the man (Dr. Murphy) do his job and lead that discussion properly.

  2. Tony Parrott says:

    I believe the above approach is the correct path. You could put your finger in the air and take a WAG at it or you can collect best practices, look at enrolment numbers and come up with an educated response.
    Let’s face it when you take a WAG at it you end up with a patchwork of school facilities that were either underfunded, under constructed or outdated. Let’s do something different this time.