Union High School (Big Stone Gap, Virginia)
|Union High School|
|Two Champions Avenue
Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219
|School type||Public, high school|
|School district||Wise County Public Schools|
|Color(s)||Navy Blue, Orange, and White|
|Athletics conference||Lonesome Pine District (Single A)
|Rival||Central High School|
|Communities served||Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Virginia|
Powell Valley Primary School Powell Valley Middle SchoolAppalachia Elementary School
Union High School originally opened in mid-August 2011. The school was formed with the consolidation of Appalachia High School and Powell Valley High School during late 2010-2011 under the direction of Wise County Public Schools in a plan that brought the number of high schools in the county from six to three. The name Union was decided on by a committee of students selected to be the student government at both Appalachia and Powell Valley the following school year, along with the colors of Navy and Orange and the bear mascot.
The name represents the unity between the two former rivals, and serves as the goal of the student body to come together as a single group. The mascot and colors are a combination of the rival schools colors into a unity (Carolina Blue and Royal Blue into Navy Blue; Red and Yellow into Orange), and the bear is a good choice due to the location of the school in the Appalachian Mountains.
For the 2011 school year, studies and sporting events (with the exception of football) were held in the existing building formerly known as Powell Valley High School. The building was fixed to act as a neutral zone, being repainted in the new school's colors, given new exterior signs to represent the change, and a complete renovation to the gym including new court markings and pads with the school's colors and name on them. Plans are currently under way for the construction of the permanent home of Union High School behind the current site at Powell Valley, and the new school is planned to open in January 2014.
The school sets just off of the Orby Cantrell Highway just outside Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The building is placed in a small area of land that also holds Powell Valley Primary School and Powell Valley Middle School, and has its own street name (Two Champions Avenue) designated to it. Though this street is not physically marked by VDOT, it does act as the official mailing address for Union High School.
The current school has, in addition to the main building, two temporary trailers and two permanent trailers that house storage and classrooms, a field house, a football practice field, a driving range for driver's education, and a high school regulation baseball field. Union High School is the only school in the county that does not have its own football complex, with all games being held at Bullitt Park in downtown Big Stone Gap.
County officials are currently making plans to build a new, permanent residence for Union High School behind the current building. The new school will maintain the current baseball field, but will house a new football practice field on the current site of the driving range, and eliminate the four free-standing trailers on the campus. The new parking facilities for the school will be housed on the current site of the school building, and a park like area will be placed between the campus and main-road as an aesthetic addition. Plans have also been discussed for the possibility of tennis courts to be added at the new campus, as Union High School currently uses the tennis facilities at Mountain Empire Community College.
In Football, the Union Bears found themselves with a successful first season. The Bears managed to make it to the first round of playoffs, and held an even 5-5 regular season. The Bears lost their first playoff game by a mere 17-16 in the last minutes of the game to the Cougars of Stuarts Draft High School.
The school has made strong strides in Track and Golf. The Golf team managed a 2nd place win at the state in their first year, and the cross country team also managed to pull strong 1st and 2nd places wins at the district and state levels. Union's boys' basketball team qualified for the state tournament in its first year of existence as well.
In the 2015-2016 season, the Union Bear Girls' Basketball team came in second in the Virginia 2A State Championship against Ridgeview High School.
The Union High School Marching Bears also saw a successful first season under the direction of former Appalachia director, Kimberly Sturgill. Averaging at 96 members, the band went on to win numerous awards at the four festivals they participated in during the season, including Division I Superior ratings at every competition. The drum majors at Union were noted for winning 1st Overall at three of the four competitions they visited in their 2011 year, and the band won the highest honor of Grand Champion at the Letcher County Central Marching Invitational in October 2011.
The Marching Bears also continued the legacy held by the former Powell Valley Viking Band in holding the 31st Annual McChesney Band Festival in honor of Mrs. Virginia McChesney, who taught at both Appalachia and Powell Valley in her day.
The Union High School Forensics team also experienced a successful first season. The original team consisted of 19 members under the direction of Christy Kelley, many of which advanced to the Regional competition. Three students from Union advanced to the State competition in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The three members placed 1st, 7th, and 8th in their respective divisions of the competition.
The union high one act team also participates in Competitions every year, and plans to perform a comedy in 2013.
- Julius Jones, former NFL player and Powell Valley alumni
- Thomas Jones, former NFL player and Powell Valley alumni