Hardy Elementary opens with ribbon-cutting

Published 2:16 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Isle of Wight County is celebrating the opening of its newest school.

Hardy Elementary, built to replace a circa-1961 school by the same name, broke ground roughly 18 months ago on land adjacent to the old school. Now, the work is nearly complete.

“This moment has been a long time coming,” said Hardy Principal Shante Denson at an Aug. 28 ribbon-cutting ceremony, held inside the new school’s combined cafeteria and gymnasium.

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The new school, which will house preschool through fourth grade, has been built with capacity for nearly 900 students in what census data has ranked as Virginia’s seventh fastest-growing county.

Each grade wing includes a dedicated project-based learning space configured for students to work in groups. The school also includes a dedicated science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, lab.

“It’s truly a school for the next generation,” said School Board Chairman John Collick.

Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Theo Cramer and Board of Supervisors Chairman William McCarty each referred to the new school as an “investment.”

“This is an investment in our students; this is an investment in our staff,” Cramer said.


The timeline

Plans to replace Hardy began in 2018 when the School Board and supervisors opted to build new rather than proceed with plans for what would have been the old school’s fourth renovation.

In 2020, the supervisors budgeted the replacement at $27 million, and borrowed roughly $34 million to cover Hardy and other projects. In 2021, the supervisors accepted a guaranteed maximum price of $36.8 million, which the project’s construction management firm, M.B. Kahn, attributed to the inflated steel prices and supply chain delays stemming from shutdowns in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early 2022, the supervisors borrowed additional money to cover the inflated cost and postponed plans to replace another 1960s-era school, Westside Elementary.

Bill Cram, executive vice president of M.B. Kahn and an attendee at the Aug. 28 ribbon-cutting, had told the School Board last month that the project remained on budget and on schedule to open by Isle of Wight County Schools’ first day of classes on Sept. 5.

A few final touches remain to be completed, among them the “learning stairs,” a bleacher-like area flanking each side of the hallway by the two-story school’s staircases. The idea is for teachers to take their classes to the stairs for presentations by their classmates or guest speakers.

Assistant Superintendent Christopher Coleman told School Board members at their Aug. 10 meeting that a final punch list of items to be finished will go on through October or November.

Later this year, the majority of the old, one-story Hardy will be demolished to make way for a bus parking lot for the new school. Two wings of the old Hardy are slated to be saved and renovated into a new central office for the school division, which will allow it to abandon the modular office that’s been behind Westside since 2004.


The history

The old, one-story Hardy was built during the segregation era as part of an effort to consolidate  the county’s then-numerous one-room schoolhouses for Black students, according to Denson.

The old school sits on land that was once a 150-acre farm owned by Richard Blount at what’s now aptly named Blount’s Corner Road. The Blount family also donated land for the new school.

“We have changed the footprint of this community,” Denson said of the new school.