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Masons Cove Elementary Shows Off At Open House

Front entrance at Masons Cove Elementary School.

by Gene Marrano

The first thing a visitor will notice when they see the new Masons Cove Elementary School – it opened last August – is that it looks very different than the average elementary school. For one thing, it looks more like a community college campus from the outside and seems to blend in perfectly with the rural environment around it; the earth tones used for exterior colors have a lot to do with that.

It’s also very green, using a geothermal source on site for heating and cooling, while taking full advantage of natural lighting to keep electricity bills down. Solar technology is used to help heat water in the cafeteria. Some materials recycled from the old school, like wood from the gym floor, have also been incorporated at the new Masons Cove.

There’s also new furniture and the latest in technology. Coming in on time and on budget ($12 million was earmarked for the project,) Masons Cove Elementary School replaced a 50-year-old building that was still heated with coal furnaces. It was decided that replacing the school, on Bradshaw Road in Roanoke County’s Catawba magisterial district, would be cheaper than renovating the old one. G&H Contractors in Salem designed and built the school.

Phyllis Satterfield came back to Masons Cove as the principal last August, just before the new building was open. She had been a guidance counselor at the old school before moving to Glenvar Elementary as an assistant principal. Even eleven years ago during her first stint at Masons Cove, there was talk of the need for a new facility. “It’s been a long time,” said Satterfield.  Coal heating was actually very efficient said Satterfield, but “it was a mess.”

The new atmosphere for learning is better, for students, teachers and staff. Satterfield has heard plenty of good things all year from parents that have come to the school. “[They said] it’s warm and inviting and welcoming; that it’s so bright and cheerful – just such a change. They really like it.” Patterns made with wood on windows throughout the building depict tree limbs.

Last Saturday the school held a community open house and ribbon cutting, inviting those who might not have seen what their taxes helped pay for – a new home for 200 local children, built with plenty of room to grow should the rural areas around the school begin to develop.

The joint contingency fund contributed to by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and the School Board (both chipped in $300,000 this year) means there is money to pay down debt service for major projects like Masons Cove and Cave Spring Middle School, which is nearing completion, with a target date for opening in August.

Fifth grade teacher Brenda Agee loves the openness of her new second floor classroom at Masons Cove, which includes a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “We see more rainbows across the mountainside,” said Agee, who takes full advantage of the “tons of new technology,” as well. Everything is adjustable and can be moved around as needed. “It certainly is a nice setting [for learning]. The technology piece, I think, is important.”

Agee’s students “are very aware that it’s a green building.” That’s lent itself well to lessons on resource management and being good stewards of the earth. They even know how geothermal heating and cooling works. “At least the fifth graders do,” said Agee.

Catawba school board representative David Wymmer was outside greeting visitors, some of who were taking home bricks from the old school as a memento. Those who have visited over the past year “have all been thrilled by what they’ve seen.” Wymmer also commends the school board and county supervisors for working together on capital projects: “It’s a conscious decision by both boards…so that we can do this. We hope as we go forward we can use that [cooperative] environment to our benefit.”

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