MARION, Va. -- Building-wide air conditioning and a nearby soccer field are a couple of the best features about his new school, Ethan Medley decided Tuesday.
The 9-year-old rising fourth-grader had a chance to tour Oak Point Elementary after education officials officially opened it with a ribbon-cutting. The parking lot in front of the school, on Oak Point Drive south of Marion, was full of cars and dozens of families filed through, looking at the skylights scattered throughout and the poured-concrete floor on the first level.
"I like it," Ethan said. "Last year, I used to get migraines from the heat and the lighting and this year I don't think I will."
The new building is the system's first in about 40 years, said Michael Robinson, division superintendent. The 80,000-square-foot building cost about $15 million, much of which was paid for with carryover funding from the county's Board of Supervisors, as well as special low- or no-interest school construction bonds.
Oak Point replaces Marion Intermediate School, which was closed at the end of the last school year. Students from that school were divided between Oak Point and Marion Elementary, which was renovated this summer. A ribbon-cutting and open house is planned for that school Thursday at 4 p.m.
"We're excited about the daylight," Robinson said, referring to the skylights scattered throughout the school, as well as the abundance of windows. "It saves us energy, but it also allows the students to get daylight."
The school also features a full-time gym and a large playing field suitable for soccer and other sports, Robinson said, which is a boon for the county since Marion Intermediate’s gym was condemned two years ago and Marion Senior High School lost use of its gym last year.
Safety was also paramount in the school's design, with visitors going through the main office before entering.
"I'm excited the kids get a new school, and one of this quality," Robinson said. "People are excited. A lot of folks have been driving by it on the interstate -- everybody's kept tabs on it."
That includes Colton Branson, 6, and his mom, Ashton, who live nearby and have been watching construction throughout the summer.
"It's good," Colton said, though he admitted he's not looking forward to going back to school next week. "It's different from the other school. My first grade room is on the second floor."
Principal Gary Foulke, who was principal at Marion Intermediate, called the building "amazing" and said he is happy for the teachers, who have a nicer place to work.
"When the superintendent said it was badly needed, it was not an exaggeration," Foulke said, referring to comments Robinson made at the ribbon-cutting. "I'm most excited about construction features such as the daylight ... the classrooms are pretty spacious. Overall, it's a really well-designed facility."
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