On Tuesday afternoon, August 7, county and public-school officials and staff gathered to rededicate Ressie Jeffries Elementary School after a year-plus, $12-million renovation project.
Speakers included Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tony Carter, County Administrator Doug Stanley, School Board Chair Cathy Bower, and Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher.
Their remarks followed a moving invocation by Reverend Alfred Woods. Woods opened the 4 p.m. ceremonies by asking for Divinely-inspired assistance for administrators and teachers in beginning the educational preparation of county students they encounter for the myriad and increasing challenges of the world they will grow into.
Carter also read a letter from South River District Supervisor Linda Glavis, absent due to conflicting commitments, whose constituents the renovated, 60-year-old facility will now continue to serve for perhaps another three decades. Also acknowledged were Project Managers Michael Riley and Jeffrey Hayes.
Present for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly-refurbished gym were the school’s teachers, administrators and facility support staff, some future students and their parents, and Front Royal Rotarians – the latter who were acknowledged for an ongoing financial commitment to the project.
As County Administrator Stanley noted, the renovation project including a new playground, state-of-the-art energy efficient heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, expanded parking area and internal improvements, “was a complete community project.”
Speakers acknowledged various aspects of the history of the school first opened during the racial segregation era in 1959 as “The Criser School” for grades 1 through 12; then rechristened as the Ressie Jeffries Intermediate School for grades 4 through 6 from 1976 to 1988; before becoming Ressie Jeffries Elementary School thirty years prior to the August 7, 2018 re-dedication of the renovated facility.
A plaque near the school’s refurbished main entranceway noting the original dedication of Ressie Jeffries Intermediate School, calls the school’s namesake an “Educator, Neighbor and Friend”. Dated December 15, 1976, that original dedication to the school’s namesake is signed by the sitting Warren County School Board.
Current County Board Chairman Carter read a letter sent by South River Supervisor Glavis in her absence: “This school has been an integral part of my South River District and served the community well for many years. It really needed a lot of improvements, and I was so happy when I visited there yesterday to see the wonderful work that has taken place on the building, playground and parking areas. I’m sure the students and their parents will be pleased with the transformation. It’s beautiful. The classrooms and gymnasium are beautifully equipped and ready for South River Warren County students’ ‘Trek to Excellence’.
“I’m sure Mrs. Ressie Jeffries, for whom the school is named, would be very proud of her renewed legacy,” Glavis wrote, adding a reference to the community-wide nature of the project.
“I want to thank Warren County taxpayers, Mr. Stanley, the school board and my co-supervisors for sharing in this dream and the renewed Ressie Jeffries School. It will now serve future generations for many more years,” Glavis concluded.
Carter concurred with his colleague’s appraisal of the school’s future. Noting his own attendance there as an eighth and ninth grader, Carter observed, “Even back then this school’s better days were in the past. Now that the renovations have been completed, its better days are in the future.”
Noting the county government’s commitment to public schools capital improvements over the past decade-plus, Carter said, “As you look at the improvements we have been able to make over the past 15 years, the school system is a top priority for the Board. I am not sure I could have said that when I first came on the Board in 2003 but working together (with the school board) we have greatly improved the facilities and environments that our children and their teachers occupy each day…
“We know that we are not finished with our school capital improvements, but with the most significant of those behind us we hope to be able to start work on addressing the needs to improve teacher and faculty compensation to keep us competitive in the local region and reduce our turnover rate,” Carter observed of the operational aspect of the County’s commitment to its public educational system.
Of specific improvements to the Ressie Jeffries complex, County Administrator Stanley said, “The project consisted of an Energy Savings project to provide a central HVAC system, new windows, doors, wiring and finishes; a new 1200 square-foot entrance addition that not only allows parents and visitors to find the front door, but provides security to our students and staff; a new roof, an expanded parking lot with 62 additional spaces to allow room for people to park; and finally the installation of new basketball goals and scoreboards in the gymnasium … and a new playground for students.”
Stanley noted a funding split of $5.3-million directly from the County, with another $6.7 million through the public school system – “The project has completely transformed this 60-year-old elementary school and added 20 to 30 years of new life to it.”
In addition to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony moved indoors to the brilliantly air-conditioned gym due to sporadic rains and oppressive heat and humidity, and a facility tour and open house following the ribbon cutting, there were also some moments of comic relief.
County Board Chairman Carter called his eighth and ninth-grade years at the school “the best six years of my educational career.”
Referencing the county administrator’s citing of the school as 60 years old, Drescher offered a correction – noting he was born in 1959 the year the school initially opened, the school superintendent protested that he was NOT yet 60, so the school must still be 59 years old too (how many months OR weeks do you have left, Greg?).
And continue your visual tour of the new and improved Ressie Jeffries Elementary School…