About Our School
The newest elementary school in Roanoke County was completed in 1999 in the Roanoke County portion of the Bonsack community, on land that was known as Crumpacker Orchards. When Fralin & Waldron Inc. bought 550+ acres in 1970, houses were built where farmland previously proliferated. Soon the eastern end of Roanoke County and southern Botetourt was filling up with new homes, apartments, and condominiums. Retail development had also begun on the north side of U.S. Route 460 (Challenger Ave.)
For several years prior to 1999, the School Board was aware of the burgeoning growth in this area and began planning for the construction of a new elementary school. At one point, due to the proximity of the Botetourt County line, a joint elementary school was discussed. One of the suggestions was that Botetourt County would pay for students to attend as a cooperative venture. It was finally decided that it was best to remain a Roanoke County school.
At a special meeting of the Roanoke County School Board of Roanoke County, Virginia, held at the Roanoke County Schools Administrative Office on Tuesday, June 23, 1998, a joint resolution addressed the construction of two new schools and the renovation of three schools. One of the schools was Bonsack Elementary in eastern Roanoke County; the other was Hidden Valley High School in southwest Roanoke County. The renovated projects were also important in order to add space and improve entrance visibility, for patrons entering the schools. The committee was formed for the purpose of receiving reports on the status of construction of the projects from the School Board employees responsible for overseeing such construction.
In June 1998, the School Board approved a new principal, Dr. Deedie Kagey, who was the principal of Roland E. Cook Elementary in Vinton and would move to the new Bonsack Elementary in the fall of 1999. At the same meeting, the School Board voted to officially name the school Bonsack Elementary in keeping with the historical nature of the community with the same name. The name was derived from the Bonsack family, who settled in the area beginning in 1816.
The key players included the architectural firm of Moseley, Harris & McClintock of Richmond; General Contractors, J.M. Turner & Company of Roanoke, VA and site manager, David Trivette. The 20-acre site bordered Bonsack Park in the Orchards subdivision near the Botetourt County line, with one source of ingress and egress on Crumpacker Drive.
Bonsack Elementary was projected to cost 7.5 million. The School Board approved several changes in the original plans for the school, reducing the price by $130,000, as a result of the county's policy of "value engineering." This procedure provides architects and engineers a way of reviewing plans with an eye to savings. The financing included Virginia state Literary Fund loans (low interest rate) and Roanoke County bonds issued without a referendum.
Roland E. Cook Elementary in Vinton, is the oldest school in Roanoke County, built in 1915. This school closed when Bonsack Elementary opened. There was a reassignment of some children in the Vinton area after the opening. Cook students would attend Herman L. Horn Elementary and some students who attended Horn would be shifted to Bonsack Elementary. The residents of the Bonsack community, who were transported to Vinton since 1940, were happy to have an elementary school return to their community.
Features of Bonsack included the following: an orientation facing Read Mountain on a 20-acre site; single story brick building with sloped roofs; 57,500 sq. feet, with an initial student capacity of 400 students; core spaces, such as the library and the cafeteria, sized for 600 students; designed to have future classrooms added when increased capacity was needed (growth necessitated an addition in 2004-2005); every space wired to meet computer and communication needs; natural light and operable windows in all the classrooms; pre-finished metal roof with pyramid shaped entry roof; hip roof and glass block at the gymnasium for community use; adjacent to an existent ball field and playground at Bonsack Park; a walking track for community use.
One parent presented an idea for adopting uniforms for the school by involving a parent committee to make a decision regarding what would be considered a "uniform." This proposal was dropped after some opposition from parents ensued. A parent survey indicated that 60% favored uniforms, 35% opposed, and 5 % said more information was needed. The idea was presented as a safety measure. Nevertheless, Bonsack opened smoothly, devoid of this issue which created some pros and cons.
Dr. Deedie Kagey, principal, presented a reflection of the first ten years of Bonsack Elementary by recounting some of the memories in a letter to parents in April 2009. The student population was comprised of a suburban subdivision explosion in what was once acres and acres of farmland that provided farmers with daily needs--beef and dairy cattle, hogs, vegetables and fruit. Since 1914, the farmland of the Crumpackers (where the school is located) was primarily cultivated for apple and peach orchards, the remains of which can still be observed.
Parents were excited about the new school and were on hand to help unload trucks and unpack every piece of furniture. They brought their own tools and helped put every piece of furniture together. The Bonsack-Blue Ridge Ruritan Club, a civic organization that aids the community in many ways, provided additional help.
Some memories of note included:
Boxes to the ceiling, which were broken down and laid flat
Carpet being laid in the office the day before school opened
Furniture being put together in the library until the wee hours of the morning
Library opening delays due to the late arrival of library furniture and the cataloging of books and stocking of shelves
A walking track being installed behind the building on the grounds, which the community wanted
A regulation sized gym, which parents and citizens also desired, was a part of the plan
An open house for the community right before the first day, which brought hundreds of people to the building. Refreshments were donated and boxes were being discarded right before people entered the building
Discussion of the possibility of uniforms
An October 10, 1999 dedication in the gym with a focus on key historical families and their presence and recognition
The installation of a composite playground at the foot of the hill behind the school
Three hundred sixty students reporting in K-5 the first day of school; three classroom teachers per grade
Support from many quarters for the naming of the school to be the same as the community. In addition a letter from the Bonsack-Blue Ridge Ruritan Club cited several historical reasons for the school to be so named.
The words of Vela Crumpacker drew an excellent analogy of "bearing fruit" the day of the dedication. In her words she stated the following:
It is fitting that this school has been built on this piece of property. Many years ago, my father-in-law, John S. Crumpacker and his brother Emory, prepared this land to grow fruit trees. The young trees were planted, and as they grew they were pruned into the shape they needed to be. The land was cultivated and kept in good shape to give the trees every opportunity grow to be healthy and sturdy enough to produce fine fruit. For many years delicious fruit was picked from them, first peaches then later on apples.
This beautiful building has now been completed and equipped with all necessary tools to prepare young minds to produce fruit of a different kind. You have dedicated teachers to teach, train and motivate their students to attain their highest potential. Some years down the road you'll see fruits that are far superior to the fruit that was grown on this land.
The Crumpacker men, who planted the first trees, and their sons Raymond and Morris who later went into business with them and finally took it over, would be pleased to see the land used in this way.
While the dedication was open to the public, invitations were sent to the following people, churches, or groups: Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, Roanoke County School Board, C. Richard Cranwell, Morgan Griffith, Vic Thomas, Clifton Woodrum, Bonsack Elementary PTA Board, Bonsack Elementary parents, Roanoke County Schools central office staff, Bonsack Baptist Church, Villa Heights Baptist Church, Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church, Vinton Baptist, Bonsack United Methodist Church, Cloverdale Church of the Brethren, Church of God of Prophecy (Harvest Ministries), Bonsack-Blue Ridge Ruritan Club, Town of Vinton officials, Charles Simpson and David Hale, developers, Fralin & Waldron Inc.--Andy Kelderhouse, Roanoke County Schools Blue Ribbon Committee members, J. M Turner & Co., Elmer Hodge, Pete Haislip, all Roanoke County schools, Key families of Bonsack--Richard Jeter, Ruth and Lowell Wine, Vela Crumpacker, George Seibel, Leon McGhee, Lelia Albrecht, Betty Bonsack Shaver and husband Jack, and Kent Murray and family.
Historical facts and major families were recognized, in addition to the students singing patriotic music, and a key to the school presented to Dr. Gordon, superintendent, and Dr. Deedie Kagey, principal, by architect Ed Mulreaney of Moseley, Harris, and McClintock. Refreshments were served in the cafeteria and a tour of the school followed the program in the gymnasium.
In October 2005, a new addition was begun due to the increasing enrollment at Bonsack Elementary. The previous school year, 2004-2005, an assistant principal was added. The new addition was completed in the Winter/Fall of 2006 and included nine classrooms, two workrooms, and two resource rooms; one of the resource rooms had a divider in it to allow for a big room or two separate rooms. It became the music room due to its central placement to all classrooms. The computer technology changed from MAC (Apple) to PCs. The square footage increased by approximately 20,000 square feet. The architectural firm was RRMM of Roanoke; the general contractors were G&H Contracting of Salem.
Enrollment on opening day, August 23 1999, was 360, followed by an increase each year, climbing to 496 at its highest point. In 2013, enrollment is 433, kindergarten through grade five, including a preschool for students qualifying for early intervention jointly with Roanoke County employees' children. The early intervention students normally totaled eight and the employees' children also totaled eight, for no more than a total of 16. A teacher and two instructional assistants serve this classroom. Employees of Roanoke County paid a weekly fee in order to be able to place their preschoolers in this environment.
The school raised over $120,000 over a period of four years by participating in a mathathon for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. This amount was higher than any other school in the United States, which added another composite playground to the site. A second composite playground was completed in 2007-2008 through the grant writing of Principal Kagey. The St. Jude's playground was constructed in 2011.
Bonsack continues to be a testament to academic excellence and will serve this community for many years to come.