You Can See It:' Harrisonburg's New Rocktown High School Building Shapes Up

By MEGAN WILLIAMS Daily News-Record

When constructing a new school, one day it can look like a bunch of beams and concrete, and then the next you can see what it will ultimately look like.

While in reality that isn’t the case, the last few months have seen the transformation of Rocktown High School from an open air construction site, to a building that will hold over 1,000 Harrisonburg City Public School students next year.

Winter can be prove a tricky time to complete major construction tasks, but the lack of snow and warmer and than normal temperatures have meant few setbacks, said Craig Mackail, Construction Supervisor for Rocktown High School.

The school is on track to be substantially completed and able to be occupied by December of this year. The first cohort of students will start in August 2024.

“We have one more year to get this done,” said Mackail, who retired last year but came back in a part-time capacity to see the completion of RHS. “They’ve been talking about this [school] for 12 years.”

The sports fields have taken greater shape. The bleachers for the football/soccer field are going up now. The seating at RHS will be smaller than that of Harrisonburg High School.

For the main school, all of the brick has been placed, windows are going in and drywall and paint have been added to a section of the third floor.

The building is being completed from the top down, in terms of drywall and paint, Mackail said. This is likely for cleanliness purposes — you don’t want to lug things through a completed section of the school if you can help it.

The windows of the gym, auxiliary gym and multi-purpose room are also being installed.

One the third and second floors, where windows haven’t been added, plastic temporary coverings have been installed to keep those areas warm for construction that requires temperature stability, such as painting and storage of cabinetry and equipment.

The beginnings of the master staircase, which will take students from the cafeteria to the second floor has been installed.

Classroom spaces have been fully walled and their purpose is becoming more obvious. RHS will utilize hallway space for collaborative and independent student learning. Instead of just being empty passageways for students to get from one class to another, they will include work stations and sinks and other areas for students to work.

A small but surprising deviation from the norm, Rocktown High School will have no lockers.

Students don’t use them, and “Just think about how much space that take up,” Mackail said. The school itself will be 258,000 square feet.

There will be an assistant principal office on each floor. Mackail said this is to position these administrators to be where the students are.

Another unique aspect of Rocktown High School is the amount of natural light that will flood all areas of the school. Large storefront windows are planned for much of the school’s exterior. Even those interior rooms will have large windows that will allow for exterior windows to funnel the light into those rooms.

The kitchen at Rocktown High School has brand new tile and in two weeks the refrigerators and freezers will be delivered.

The school is even getting a taste of personality with the inclusion of some red accent walls with black trim — the two school colors for RHS.

This month the Harrisonburg City School Board will get an update on programming for the new high school and later this year they will hire a principal, bookkeeper and head counselor.

Construction of the city’s second high school was paused in 2020 due to the pandemic. Construction resumed on the $112 million project in July 2021.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or Follow Megan on Twitter @Valley_Lear

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Metal siding is installed in a courtyard at Rocktown High School

A construction worker moves a ladder in a classroom at Rocktown High School

Construction work progresses in a classroom hallway at Rocktown High School

Construction crews pour a sidewalk around the baseball field at Rocktown High School.

Metal siding is installed in a courtyard a t Rocktown High School

A view of the main stairwell in the cafeteria and commons area at Rocktown High School

A view of the fine arts and career and technical education wing collaborative learning area at Rocktown High School.

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