By ASHLYN CAMPBELL Daily News-Record
From a field off of I-81 to steel beams, the Rocktown High School building is starting to embody the school many Harrisonburg students will eventually call home.
Many of the exterior windows are already in place. Classrooms have walls and cabinetry. The multi-use astroturf field only needs the track laid down, and the fresh turf is marked with a big red “R” in the middle, and “Rocktown High” in the corner.
Craig Mackail, the former chief operations officer for HCPS and now the supervisor of construction for Rocktown High School, said the construction is on track for students to start in fall 2024.
Walking into the main entrance of the building where visitors will enter, construction and materials fill the not-quite-done building. Mackail said the entrance will have glass doors funneling visitors into the main office. The drywall in the administrative offices is up but not yet painted and finished.
Past the many offices and conference rooms included in the main office is a health clinic — rather than just a nurse's office, the health clinic holds exam rooms, an office for the nurse, its own bathroom and an exterior door. A technology work area for students that need help with Chromebooks, a school store and a school resource officer’s office will live off to the right of the main entrance.
The cafeteria and main common space are in the center of the building, with a student entrance from the bus loop through a planned courtyard. Glass will serve as two of the cafeteria walls, looking out at two courtyards, although the glass isn’t in place just yet.
The main staircase in the cafeteria is multi-use — a running theme throughout the building — students will be able to walk up the right and left sides of the staircase, and the middle will serve as a seating area. The kitchen in the cafeteria is almost done and kitchen equipment is already in place — including a separate locker room for kitchen staff to use.
Each section of the building is in its own stage of construction, Mackail explained, with the crew starting on the third floor of the academic wings and making their way down. The two three-story wings, the A and C wings, are already well on their way to being finished. Drywall is up, flooring is in or being placed, large furniture like cabinets and lab equipment are mostly installed, and walls on each floor are color-coded for easy navigation. At this point, Mackail said, the A-wing is the most completed.
“Depending on where you are in the buildings and see, some are a first coat of paint everywhere, some there’s still drywall to finish,” Mackail said. “It's just going to continue that cycle, getting everything kind of to the same spot.”
Both the A and C wings hold classrooms, with slight variations between both the wings and the floors. The A-wing holds two chemistry classrooms on the third floor and science labs on the second and first floors. The C-wing has one special education classroom on each floor, one focused on sensory needs and two focused on life skills with a kitchen included.
Each wing also holds a privacy room, for needs like breastfeeding, as well as teacher work rooms. Throughout the hallways are collaborative spaces with seating, storage and countertops for students to use, Mackail explained.
“The only time the halls are the halls are when you have people [changing classes],” Mackail said.
The STEM, CTE and fine arts portions of the building are on the left, which Mackail said are the least completed portions of the building so far. The area will hold a dance studio, art studios, a media classroom with a studio for things like TV broadcasts and music classrooms. There will also be a multi-use workshop with a roll-up garage door for larger projects.
The school doesn’t include an auditorium — opting for a flex hall that can be used for events like speakers and plays without a stage. The hall will include auditorium-type seating that can push up against the wall. There will also be a screen and speaker system.
To the right is the health, physical education and athletic wing. There will be two gyms, the main gym and an auxiliary gym, and a multipurpose room. On Thursday, the basketball hoops were being installed in the main gym and automatic lights were already in place.
Mackail said there’s a separate entrance to the athletics wing, which allows the school to block off the rest of the school and only allows visitors access to the gyms.
The second floor holds a two-story library, as well as a “cyber cafe,” as Mackail said the architect calls it, that will work as a seating area with a sink for students to use technology and have another collaborative space. The library has a large window overlooking the main entrance.
When standing in the middle of the second floor between the main staircase and the library, students will be able to look through the entire expanse of the building through the two large windows in the media center and cafeteria.
Safety aspects discussed at Tuesday’s school board meeting, like safety films for windows and keycards for exterior doors, are already being integrated, Mackail said, along with shades for glass doors for lockdowns.
Once each of the floors are finished, Mackail said, they will be divided up to start preparation to put heating and cooling in place. Once that’s finished, some of the final touches that need conditioned spaces, like the wood flooring of the gyms, will be able to move forward.