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A group of fifth graders break ground Tuesday at the site of the new Colonial Elementary School in Botetourt County. The new building will replace the original 80-year-old school in Troutville that was last renovated in 1985.

TROUTVILLE — Teachers, students and administrators gathered Tuesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of Botetourt County’s newest elementary school.

The new Colonial Elementary will replace the original 80-year-old building 3 miles away from the new site on Murray Drive in Troutville.

Project Manager Jim Whitten said the grading will be complete by Sept. 1, and then crews will be ready to pour rock and asphalt before starting construction on the building.

The school could open as early as September 2020, but depending on construction, that date could be pushed back to January 2021, Whitten said.

This project marks the first time Botetourt County has built a new school since the mid-1990s. The county’s economic development authority is heading up the project and negotiating with contractors on behalf of the school system.

“We’re proud of it,” said John Kilby, chair of the economic development authority. “It’s the first project we’ve done like this.”

Earlier this summer, the county voted to reserve an extra $2.5 million for construction after bids came in significantly over budget. The board of supervisors first authorized the issuance of $22.5 million in general obligation bonds for the project in March 2018.

The county already has spent $2.1 million on grading and other contracts. Additional expenses such as furniture, equipment, water quality control, a septic system and inspections will cost more than $1.4 million, which left just $19.6 million for the building’s construction.

Two companies bid on the project and the lowest, G&H Contracting in Salem, came in at $22.5 million. Two members of the EDA — John Alderson and John Williamson — negotiated with the company to bring down the price.

Williamson said the county saved $1.9 million by changing some of the design elements of the building. For instance, the roof will be galvanized steel instead of aluminum, which saved about $260,000.

The school system reported there were about 45 additional students enrolled at Colonial Elementary in the spring. Construction estimates were based on the 370 students enrolled last fall. The original plan for the school would accommodate 480 students, but the school system said it expected families to enroll more children in the future.

With the increase in school population, the project leaders decided the school needed four additional classrooms, a full-size gym and a bus canopy, which brought the construction total to $21.5 million. A contingency fund of $634,693 brings the total construction costs to $22.1 million.

The original Colonial Elementary school was built in 1939 and has undergone four significant renovations — in 1949, 1969, 1975, and most recently in 1985. The board assessed what the cost would be to renovate the building again, but it was so high that it made sense to consider construction of a whole new building.

Principal Tammy Riggs said she has watched her teachers meet in hallways, use small spaces not meant for instruction and share classrooms. Everyone is ready for a new school, she said.

“They say it takes a village and we have an amazing village of phenomenal staff and teachers, incredible kiddos and an amazing community,” Riggs said. “I look forward to filling this new building with the same love, the same care and the same passion that we’ve always had.”

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Alison Graham covers Botetourt and Rockbridge counties and Lexington. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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