back to top

Roanoke County Schools Weather The Storm

The title of the annual report from Roanoke County Schools provides some clues as to where it might be going: “Weathering the Storm” it’s called – documenting a year where belt tightening forced the closure of one school, Bent Mountain Elementary, and the curtailment of programs elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Roanoke County avoided some of the drastic layoffs and major facility closures seen elsewhere during the current economic slowdown, in which tax revenues for local governments have dried up. Three million dollars from a joint revenue sharing agreement with the Roanoke County administration helped soften the blow.

No full time contracted employees had to be let go, noted Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lorraine Lange, who thanked the Board of Supervisors for its support. “Even in tough times” she added, “four renovation projects and one brand new elementary school (Mason’s Cove) are in the works.”

New classrooms, offices and a new entrance are under construction at Cave Spring Elementary, while at Green Valley a new kitchen and spaces for art and music are also being built. Mount Pleasant Elementary will have a new administrative wing, a new kitchen and cafeteria, several new classrooms and a geothermal heating and cooling system. William Byrd High School is getting a new entrance, administrative wing, an auxiliary gym and several classrooms.

The county took advantage of lower than expected construction bids from contractors that need the work to begin the much-needed renovations. “These projects are long overdue,” said Lange. All four renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the new school year.

Early in 2010 construction began on a brand new 12.1 million dollar replacement for Mason’s Cove Elementary School – the current facility is still heated with coal. The 50-year-old school should be replaced by 2012. “We … discovered that building an entirely new school would be more cost effective and give us the opportunity to take advantage of some new energy efficient building designs,” said Catawba school board member David Wymer, alluding to early thoughts of renovating the current Mason’s Cove Elementary.

Total enrollment in Roanoke County Schools totaled 14,488 as of May 2010. On the education side every school in Roanoke County is fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.  Teachers won several awards, from State Art Teacher of the Year (Cave Spring’s Anne Pfieffer) to State Elementary Math Teacher of the Year (Deidre Clifford.) Other honors went to individual schools and the central office.

“We continue to have one of the highest graduation rates in the region,” said Lange. County SAT and ACT scores in high school were higher than the national average. The on-time graduation rate of 89.8% topped the Virginia average of 83.2%.

Athletics-wise Roanoke County high schools won eight state championships, with a host of athletes winning individual titles.

With state funding cut around $20 million over the past two years, Roanoke County Schools have learned to live with less. That meant closing Bent Mountain Elementary for starters, after 99 years of teaching students. “One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” noted Lange.

In the new 2010-2011 budget many of the 92 retiree positions vacated will not be filled, no employee raises will be given out and the Central School vocational program in Vinton is now shut down. Eleven central office positions have been eliminated and the R.E. Cook alternative education program has been outsourced to a private company.

The superintendent remains upbeat. “I’m proud of the accomplishments of our students and staff and am pleased to share these with the public,” said Lange. “I hope that when people read this annual report [available on the Roanoke County schools website], they will realize just how amazing our students and staff are.”

By Gene Marrano
[email protected]

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles