New Hardy project advances

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The process of building a new Hardy Elementary School recently moved one step closer to completion.

Isle of Wight’s School Board voted Feb. 24 to select a proposal from M.B. Kahn Construction and Heartland Construction for the new school facility project, which currently has an estimated cost of $27 million.

No groundbreaking ceremony is planned at this time, according to division spokeswoman Lynn Briggs. She said the intent is to formally mark the start of the new school’s construction in June, but “we may have to do something small in person and broadcast it out to the community,” due to possible limits on public gathering that might still be in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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No further board action is required to move forward on the project. The school board’s unanimous decision followed a recommendation by the New Hardy School Committee. The committee members were Superintendent Jim Thornton, school board member Vicky Hulick, Isle of Wight County Supervisor Dick Grice, Tom Duerig of the county’s planning commission, Susan Goetz, the school division’s executive director of leadership, Steve Kepnes, the division’s executive director of budget and finance and Christopher Coleman, the school division’s executive director of support services and operations.

Jeff Harris, principal architect with Chesapeake-based RRMM Architects, was a non-voting committee member. M.B. Kahn is headquartered in South Carolina and has offices throughout the southeast, including in the Richmond area. Heartland Construction is based in Chesapeake.

Coleman said they expect a notice to proceed with construction to be issued in mid-July. The project is slated for completion in December 2022. “Even with the groundbreaking delayed, we are still planning for that December completion,” Briggs said.

The new Hardy will be based on the design of Florence Bowser Elementary in Suffolk and built using a construction manager at risk process which “provides a comprehensive, single source of responsibility for the project’s budget, schedule and construction quality,” according to information provided by the school division.

Speaking from the dais after the vote before the 15-minute-long meeting adjourned, school board member Denise Tynes reflected on the decision to move forward with building the school, describing it as a personally bittersweet moment. That’s because in September 1964, Tynes was a first-grade student at the school.

Hardy Elementary cost $273,000 to build, according to a March 1961 story by The Smithfield Times, which led with the fact that the school was “for Negroes on Route 10, approximately 2 ½ miles from Smithfield.” Back then, the school had 14 classrooms, a library, a kitchen, a lunchroom, an all-purpose room and restrooms.

The building has been updated in the ensuing decades, including in the late 1990s, when a new media center and library were added, according to a Times story from that era. When the new building is completed, the old one will be torn down.

Fifty-seven years later, one of the school’s former students voted to OK a new building that’ll be open to everyone.

“I had no idea, sitting in that first-grade classroom … that I would be sitting here today on [the] Isle of Wight County School Board involved in making a decision to build a new school for the children of Isle of Wight County,” Tynes said.