St. Gertrude to build ‘field of dreams’ in Henrico

St. Gertrude High School students gather at the site of what will become the school’s new athletic complex in Henrico County.
It took nearly a century, but the St. Gertrude High School “Gertie Girls” will finally have fields of their own – and a presence in Henrico County.

At a fundraising campaign kick-off held April 28, parents, students, alumnae and friends of the school gathered at the site of a future athletic complex off Park Central Drive to envision the soccer fields, softball diamond and tennis courts soon to take shape. In addition to a turf field for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, the Outdoor Athletic Center will boast a grass field, concession stand, restrooms, storage space, athletic training room, meeting room and a walking path that can be used by the cross country team.

The complex will be a godsend for families and staff at SGHS, who have relied on a cobbled-together network of rented and borrowed playing fields, a handful of buses and “the patience of our parents” to keep track of the teams’ whereabouts and schedules, said Margaret Shibley, director of alumnae & public relations.

“Our students play in 12 different places; our buses are going all over town,” said Shibley. “We’re at Byrd [Park] for tennis matches; we’re practicing at Humphrey Calder [Community Center]. We play soccer and lacrosse at St. Joseph’s Villa, and we’re at Dumbarton for softball.”

Among the alumnae at the kick-off ceremony was Joanne McDonald, who played field hockey at St. Gertrude in the 1960s – when finding a playing field was considerably simpler.

“Back in our day there just wasn’t the amount of [athletic] associations; there were not as many people vying for space,” said McDonald. When she watched softball games at Humphrey Calder back then, said McDonald, “It felt like our own private little field.”

But in recent decades, as St. Gertrude athletic programs grew and community organizations multiplied, the land-locked school on Stuart Avenue in Richmond found itself with no room to expand its fields.

The committee of SGHS staff and alumnae that went in search of a site walked some 40 different properties, said Susan Walker, the school president. And with 20 minutes travel time established as the outside limit of distance from the school, Henrico County sites were high on the list.

“This is only an 11-minute drive from the school,” said Walker of the Center site, noting that St. Gertrude has students hailing from 20 different zip codes. “This way, no one has to go too far.”

The 16-acre tract is not only easily accessible from Interstates 95 and 295, said alumna Leslie Koenig Stack, but also adjoins the former Best Products parcel recently purchased by Henrico County that has been proposed for use as administrative offices. “It’s going to be a real win-win for us,” said Stack, whose two daughters also attended St. Gertrude.

Susan McNamara, chair of the board of trustees, noted that the land was also the site of the proposed NASCAR Hall of Fame, which ended up locating in Charlotte, N.C.

“So, obviously,” exclaimed Stack, “that wasn’t meant to be!”

All zoning has been approved for the athletic center, and officials at the 90-year-old school are ready to start building – as soon as enough funds are raised. If the campaign can attract an additional one million dollars in donations by July 1, said Walker at the kick-off, “We can be playing on this field by fall.”

“So I want you now to imagine these fields alive with the shouts of our Gertie Girls,” Walker told the gathering of alumnae and parents, adding that when she first opened up the architectural rendering of the center on her computer, she had almost cried.

“The buses will all be in one spot,” she told the audience. “The trainer will be in one spot.

“And now you parents will know where your daughters are. You won’t have to look at the website to know where to find them.”
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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