Like a phoenix from the ashes, the new Colonial Beach Elementary School opened with pomp and circumstance on Thursday. From an arson that destroyed the more than 100-year-old building on top of the hill on Douglas Avenue to the beautiful, light-filled, airy structure gracing the First Street Campus.
“Schools are living vibrant beings,” said Dr. Steven Staples Superintendent of Public Instruction for Virginia Public Schools. Staples was the guest speaker for the ceremony.
“Studies tell us that the quality of the school building directly has an affect on how students learn. So, it’s not just putting bricks together, you’re impacting the capacity of students to maintain that set of the achievements… that you’re fully accredited and will continue to be so,” also said Staples during his address.
The new school was not without controversy as a small, yet vocal, group of town residents spoke out against building it as well as for combining schools with Westmoreland County. In the final vote to approve the school funding it came down 5-2 with then Vice Mayor Eddie Blunt and Councilman Wayne DiRosario voting no. Both men said they voted no due to the speed at which the project has gone through.
Now Mayor Blunt said, “Thank you to our community of full-time residents and those who share our town as second home owners for allowing us to spend your tax dollars on all of our futures,” during his speech at the ribbon cutting.
Many of Colonial Beach residents attended the town’s school system and still “bleed black and gold” as former teacher and coach, Steve Swope, has been fond of saying since his time began at the school. Drifter Pride is not only a pledge the elementary children say, but a way of life in the town.
“You know a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows,” lyrics of the song “The River” by Garth Brooks belted out of the speakers as part of a 10-minute video made by technology guru Bev Horner showed the history of the school from the old buildings to the brand new one on First Street next to the high school.
Principal of CBES, Michele Coates thanked the community, town council, school board, and everyone involved with the project saying, “Every step of the way has been exciting, meaningful and will always be treasured.” Then the elementary faculty and staff burst into the song, “Thank You For Being a Friend.”
At a cost of $9.265 million the 50,000 square foot building sparkled in the sun as cheerleaders from the Colonial Beach Youth Athletic Association lined the sidewalks along side elementary teachers and staff as well as football players from the high school.