3 classmates work on new school

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

As brothers Chris and Matt Crowder and friend Jamie Weist began to work on the new Riverdale Elementary, they gave the school an important foundation—history.

All three men grew up in Franklin and attended Hunterdale Elementary School, and two of the three still live in Franklin.

But Chris Crowder, who now lives in Portsmouth, said he still comes back to the town where he grew up.

“I’m in Franklin more often than I’m in any other place,” he said, as his parents, brother and recent construction project are all located in Franklin.

Chris joined his brother Matt and old classmate Weist on the Riverdale Elementary School project that brought all three men back together in Franklin. The three men came with different companies to design and build the school that will open this year.

“It was kind of like being back on the playground in elementary school,” said Weist, engineer for the project and Matt Crowder’s elementary school classmate. Weist said it was “cool” working with the Crowders.

Weist works for Woolpert Inc., an architectural firm that also works in community development, airport planning and design, traffic engineering, landscape architecture and environmental sciences.

In 2005, Woolpert incorporated, and is a national firm of more than 800 employees based in the Dayton, Ohio, area.

It has more than 20 offices throughout the country.

Chris runs the Riverdale project for the school board’s construction management company, Powell Management Associates, as an architect and construction manager. He said even in elementary school he planned on being an architect.

“That’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted,” he said.

He has worked on several projects with Powell Management, which also worked the Nottoway and Meherrin schools projects.

Crowder said not to expect Riverdale Elementary to be anything like Hunterdale Elementary.

“This is going to be completely different than what was at Hunterdale,” he said.

The school includes a cafeteria and gym, new security measures and several athletic fields, as well as color-coded hallways, more storage space and a bus canopy.

Chris’s brother Matt Crowder was also involved in the project. The company Matt Crowder co-owns, Crowder and White Construction, handled the infrastructure and site preparation work.

Chris said his brother did a good job and that it was “good” to work with him and Weist.

He and Weist also said they recognized administrators for the new school that were teachers when they were in elementary school and Hunterdale. The principal at Riverdale, Andrea Ellis, was the pair’s second-grade teacher. She was the principal at Hunderdale before that school closed last year.

The men also said they had stayed in touch with a few classmates, including each other.