Thirty years later….Powhatan thrives!

February 26, 1988. The stunning wooden farmhouse deeded to the Blue Ridge Country Day School in 1957 by the Crocker family burned to the ground in mere hours. Miraculously no one was in the building at the time, but the main schoolhouse was a complete loss. Faculty, students, parents and alumni mourned the sudden loss of this beautiful building that was a school home for decades of students.The grieving period, though, didn’t last long for this devoted community. As former Headmaster Billy Peebles said, “We aren’t going to look back. We’ve got a school to run and we’re going to do it.” Within three days the debris was cleared, trailers were installed, and required materials and supplies were obtained so students and teachers could return to school.

That same week as faculty reorganized the available space to accommodate all grades, the Board of Trustees and administration were discussing the rebuilding of Powhatan School.  The school’s enrollment had been steadily growing, and in the summer of 1987, Trustees had adopted a Master Plan to be implemented in 3 phases over the next 8-10 years. Part of that plan had included a major renovation of the main schoolhouse, as well as an activities center and a science lab.  With the sudden loss of the main schoolhouse, however, the building and campaign plans had to be completely reworked.  Within days of the fire, the building campaign committee proceeded with the kick-off of Priority ’88 – the campaign to rebuild Powhatan School. In an unprecedented display of support and commitment from parents, friends and community members, the original goal was quickly met and revised upwards! Site clearing began and construction of the 25,000 square feet of new space was initiated several months later.

This unparalleled community spirit and steadfast belief in Powhatan’s mission and values is important to remember on this day. In remembrance and thanksgiving to those who made sure our school not only endured through this tragedy but prospered and grew, our 6th grade brought history back to life at Gathering. Students highlighted four main points in their presentation: the Beginning of Powhatan, the Day of the Fire, the Days after the Fire, and Where We Are Now. Through research, interviews, and gathering of artifacts, the students learned about Powhatan’s history and penned vivid prose to accompany their presentation to the entire school. 

The gratitude endures. Our school motto, we learn not for school, but for life, was certainly modeled by our 6th grade students on this anniversary day as they educated their peers about our past. Thirty years later, Powhatan certainly thrives.

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