A public forum on the future of Page Middle School drew about 70 residents last Thursday, with about a third of them addressing the Gloucester County School Board. Most said school officials should rebuild on the present site of the partially destroyed school.
The April 16 tornado that struck Gloucester completely demolished about 40 percent of Page, which was built in the 1950s. Final determinations on how much of the building is salvageable and the insurance settlement are still pending. The Page students finished out the school year at Peasley Middle School, attending classes during the afternoon shift of a split-day schedule with Peasley students.
This fall, eighth graders from both schools will attend classes in two sets of modular pods that are now being readied on the Gloucester High School campus. Sixth and seventh graders will remain at Peasley on a regular school day schedule.
With those plans in place, the next consideration is how much to rebuild and where. The school board owns a 138-acre site on T.C. Walker Road, where it had tentatively planned to build a new middle school that would also house ninth graders, reducing the numbers at GHS. Under that plan, Page would have been converted to an administrative center, freeing school division offices at Gloucester Court House for county use.
None of Thursday’s speakers backed construction at the undeveloped site, which holds a considerable amount of wetlands. "The cost of developing this piece of property is going to be extreme. I’d love to have the job," said local contractor C.W. Davis. Davis estimated it would cost $3.5 million just to prepare the Walker site for construction.