The 2015-2016 school year is the beginning of a new era for thousands of students in Dickenson County, Va. When they walked through the doors on the first day of classes in August, the students became members of the Ridgeview High School and Middle School Wolfpack.
Before this year, their learning environments – three separate high schools – all presented scholastic and even health concerns.
“There was declining enrollment, drastic state budget cuts, 50 plus-year-old buildings, increasing cost of maintenance and operation and declining local revenues,” said Haydee Robinson, Dickenson County Public Schools superintendent. “With three high schools, it was not feasible to offer an expanded curriculum at each.”
“Students need a clean, safe and inspiring school in order to fully absorb, create and inquire,” said Basil Gooden, Ph.D., Virginia’s USDA Rural Development state director. “We are proud to have helped make that a reality for the students and families in Dickenson County.”
The reality began to take shape in June of 2010 when USDA Rural Development awarded its largest community facilities loan ever originated in Virginia. The $42 million investment served as the major funding source for a new campus that would consolidate the three high schools in Dickenson County and house a middle school and a technical center.
This year, almost 1,300 Dickenson County students are learning at the newly completed state-of-the-art facility. The consolidation of the three high schools offered all students opportunities to participate in expanded curriculum offerings, a fine arts program and expanded athletic programs and athletic facilities.
“The Rural Development loan provided the necessary financing for a once in a lifetime opportunity for the children of Dickenson County and for the community at large,” Robinson said. “Ridgeview is a beautiful school that has exceeded our expectations as an advanced, exemplary learning facility, and among the students, faculty and staff is a sense of school pride and unity that we have not seen for a long time.”
Dwight Pierson, USDA Rural Development area specialist, worked closely with many community partners to make the new learning facility possible. They include the Army Corp. of Engineers, Dickenson County Board of Supervisors, Dickenson County School Board, the Industrial Development Authority of Dickenson County and many others.
“This beautiful new campus is a community investment in the future of Dickenson County,” Gooden said. “These young people will be the leaders that continue to improve the economy and quality of life in Southwest Virginia and beyond.”
Their new journey to becoming leaders began this year – together, stronger – as a Wolfpack.