250th Anniversary Celebration Facts

Schools are always news

Botetourt is going through some decision making on public school re-opening due to COVID-19, so this week we look at a bit of past and present school facts and add to information already shared.

There are seven elementary schools: Cloverdale, Buchanan, Breckinridge, Eagle Rock, Colonial, Troutville and Greenfield that house PK, K-5th grades. There are two middle schools: Central Academy and Read Mountain. There are two high schools, James River and Lord Botetourt.

Botetourt Technical Education Center serves the entire high school community.

In the early days just about every small community in the county had a one-room school. A building still in use of such a school is Lauderdale School on Wheatland Road in Buchanan. Today the school houses the Mennonite private school.

African American schools were separate and local historian Judy Barnett said, “There were 23 community schools.” The whole of these school histories compiled by Barnett and her late brother, Eddie, are housed at The Botetourt County History Museum in Fincastle.

Later on during the 20th Century, primary schools and high schools were built. High school became a state mandate around 1906. For example, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Colonial School housed the entire grades 1-12. The communities of Eagle Rock, Troutville, Fincastle, Cloverdale, Buchanan and Asbury School were local schools with a primary school, some of them in a separate building and a high school. An example to see today is the Troutville school on Rt, 11 now hosting an auction house and home décor shop as well as an apartment. The days of local community rivalry were particularly exciting in high school sports like basketball and baseball.

In 1959 three schools opened at once. Two high schools, James River and Lord Botetourt, and Central Academy School for all grades of African American students just prior to desegregation. When schools integrated in the fall of 1966, plans brought the building into the first middle school that served all of Botetourt County. The school was renamed Botetourt Intermediate, then William Clark and after public engagement, it was named Central Academy once again.

The oldest school is Colonial, built in 1939, followed by Breckinridge in 1951 and Cloverdale 1952. The last school to be constructed was Greenfield Elementary in 1999. A new $25 million school is under construction and will be called Colonial Elementary as well. It is projected to open this school year.

Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Botetourt County had over 4,600 students enrolled. The school division remains one of the largest employers in the county, counting teachers, administrators, and associated staff, as well as bus drivers, maintenance and cafeteria staff. The total division budget is over $59 million.

Five members publicly elected from the five magisterial districts work to keep the school division moving forward with the school administration. Dr. Jonathan Russ is the new school superintendent. Dr. Janet Womack is the assistant superintendent for instruction. The School Board members are Buchanan-Michelle Crook, Fincastle-Dana McCaleb, Amsterdam-Anna Weddle, Blue Ridge-Matt East and Valley-Tim Davidick. Crook serves as chairwoman and Weddle as vice chair.

The division also houses a Botetourt County Public School division Central Office building, a bus garage and other assorted smaller buildings. You may not know this, but they lease the little building near Central Academy (off Poor Farm Road) to the League for Animal Protection. The School Budget is over $55 million and is encompassed in the Botetourt County Budget.

No matter what happens with schools this year due to COVID-19, and we hope for the best possible outcome, previously several school rating sites including Digger, Public School Review and Niche give the division high ratings.

~ Cathy Benson, The Botetourt Bee

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