NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — As the days change, Michael Ortiz’s view of Orcutt Avenue in Newport News remains the same.
"Bricks just falling down left and right," he said, describing the long-vacant shell of historic Huntington Middle School in the Southeast Community of the city.
“When they shut it down, kids were going up all up and down. I said, 'Boy, I pray one of them don’t fall down.'"
The last signs of life are long gone at Huntington Middle after the Newport News school board voted in 2018 to close the school after repairs would prove to be too costly. The building was originally built in the 1930s.
Now, there is new life for the rebuilding of the historic school that's sat empty for years, and the surrounding master plan of redevelopment as well.
"A new opportunity through the General Assembly," Chief Operations Officer of Newport News Public Schools Donald Fairheart told 13News Now.
On Thursday, the Virginia Department of Education approved giving $21 million in funding toward building a new facility for the middle school.
The funds will solely go toward the school's construction, and not the surrounding master plan which includes a new community center and athletic facilities.
Fairheart said the new funding accounts for about one-third of the cost of construction for the school portion of the redevelopment, which was the maximum amount the school division could request in grant funding through the General Assembly.
"Hopefully, resources we’re able to obtain to support the project financially can be savings the city can redirect to other places," Fairheart said.
Fairheart added the timeline for finishing Huntington Middle's construction is still sometime over the 2024-25 academic year.