‘We’re all in this together’: Henrico students return to class, some in new buildings

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 4:46 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 8:13 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Thousands of Henrico students returned to school on Wednesday, some in brand new buildings!

For the last year and a half, construction on the new Highland Springs and J.R. Tucker high schools has been underway.

Now those students have something to look forward to as school divisions across the state navigate the pandemic.

It’s been a long journey for students and staff in Henrico navigating virtual and hybrid learning. However, the principal at J.R. Tucker High said it felt like Christmas having everyone back in a brand-new building.

“Tear off all the packaging, we kind of know what we think we’re getting, but it’s the newness of it - the way kids are interacting with the building is a whole other dimension,” said Art Raymond, Principal of J.R. Tucker High School.

It will take some getting used to for these Tucker teens, going from an outdoor campus to one fully indoors.

“There was definitely some anxiety about where my first class is and how do I get there, and things like that,” Raymond said. “The neat thing about that is, everybody who is entering the building, we’re all in this together. So, finding our way together, so to speak, is a community effort.”

“I just saw the second class change and I think they’re well on their way to figuring out the space and how to navigate it well,” said Henrico Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell.

For many, it is the first time they have been inside a classroom in a year and a half. With that being said, Raymond added the new surroundings are meant to engage students.

“The room designs and the furniture are really meant to make sure students feel good in the classroom so they can focus on learning,” he added. “So that’s just going to be great.”

While the learning happens inside, the work continues outside during the day.

Construction is still ongoing at the football stadium for future Tucker Tigers, but inside there’s still some work to be done.

“We know there’s still a punch list of items to be completed in any new construction projects; some of them are outdoors, a few things indoors after hours,” Cashwell said.

“We still need to finish up the auditorium,” Raymond added. “That’s a big space that we’re looking forward to, and it’s a lot of cosmetics.”

Most students may not notice the indoor construction since most work will be done after school is dismissed, according to Raymond.

Meanwhile, Cashwell acknowledges there will be challenges this school year, like any other year, but administrators are focused on building back those in-person connections.

“The relationships and the connections form immediately again, and you can see that not only student to student but reconnecting with faculty and staff; so many smiles, fist bumps and elbow bumps,” Cashwell said.

In addition to the new high schools, Holladay Elementary School revealed its new extension to students on Wednesday.

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