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Schools » Joseph Van Pelt Elementary » Van Pelt History

Van Pelt History

Bristol was settled in 1765, as Sapling Grove, Virginia. The city was first surveyed in 1794. In 1865, Bristol was incorporated and divided. The two separate cities of Bristol, Tennessee and Goodson, Virginia were established. In 1890, the name for Goodson, Virginia was changed to Bristol.

In the late 1960's, the area which Joseph Benjamin Van Pelt Elementary School now serves was sparsely populated.  As the city population increased, this area was developed into residential sites.  The city of Bristol, Virginia annexed this area in January 1972, from Washington County.

Ground was broken for Joseph Benjamin Van Pelt Elementary School in 1974, on thirteen acres of land, and it was designed to house eight hundred students. The construction was complete in 1975, at a cost of 1.8 million dollars. 

In August 1975, Joseph Benjamin Van Pelt Elementary School was opened. It was named in honor of Dr. Joseph Benjamin Van Pelt, Superintendent of the Bristol Virginia Public School System. Our school was designed to house eight hundred students at a cost of 1.8 million dollars. It was designed after what was called the “California Model”, popular in the 1970’s, which incorporated the open classroom concept. As such, Van Pelt has a minimal amount of interior walls and no cafeteria.  Grade levels are open spaces shared by three or four independent classrooms. The school was completed in 1975 and named for Joseph Van Pelt, former superintendent of Bristol, Virginia Public Schools. The original enrollment was 566 students.

Today, Van Pelt has an enrollment of 438 students, and serves the eastern end of the city’s school attendance area. The school serves students in Pre-K through grade 5. It has a diversity rate of 87% white, 3% African American, 2% Hispanic, 5% Multi-racial, and other races make up the remaining 3%. A total of 75% of our children qualify for free lunch, although we participate in the First Lady’s initiative which provides meals at no cost to ALL of our students.

The building has a gymnasium with stage, a fine arts room, three computer labs, kitchen, office area with guidance and nurse stations, specialty areas, and seven instructional pods for grade levels. Van Pelt also houses the division’s self-contained special education classrooms for elementary students. The school was fully accredited for the 2015-16 school year, and has
never failed to be fully accredited.