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Architects designing a fourth middle school for the Williamsburg-James City County school division are targeting a September 2018 opening date for the first phase of the project.
During Tuesday’s board of education meeting, Michael Hall, president of Fanning Howey, an educational facility planning company that is working with Waller, Todd & Sadler Architects to design the school, presented a conceptual site plan for the new school as well as a timeline for the first project phase.
Construction for the first phase — a three-story, 112,000 square foot complex that can hold 600 students – could start as early as September 2016, Hall said.
Although there are factors that could cause delays, such as stormwater management work and the results of soil studies, Hall said the timeline is solid.
“We think we’re really on target to meet all the city requirements,” Hall said.
The school will be located at the current site of the James Blair administrative offices on Ironbound Road.
Hall said Cooley Field and the administrative offices on the property will be retained in the first project phase. A baseball field and room for 19 buses to drop off students will be some of the additions to the site during phase one, Hall said.
The first phase includes the construction of “neighborhoods,” open instructional areas that teachers can adapt to fit their class sizes or teaching styles. There are also plans for a two-story media center, a gym and a cafeteria that can function as an auditorium, or what Hall called an “auditeria.”
“The concept design you see in front of you today is not 100 percent of what we’re going to have. It’s very, very close,” said Howard Collins, president of Waller, Todd & Sadler Architects. “We have to be flexible for things to change minutely.”
The ultimate goal is to construct an addition that can hold 300 students, raising the school’s capacity to 900. Hall said the addition would include an auditorium that can seat 450, as well as rooms for a drama program.
School Board Chairman Jim Kelly (Jamestown) noted that although there is no timeline for this second project phase, discussing how its construction would affect the school’s operation is critical.
Hall recognized that safety precautions would need to be taken, but said the construction could be viewed as a learning opportunity.
“If you use it properly, it is not just the building being a teaching tool but the project itself becomes a teaching tool,” Hall said.
Construction of phase one is budgeted for $23.6 million in the school division’s Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Improvements Program budget. Nearly $5 million was set aside in fiscal 2015 for the school’s design.
From here, Collins said architects would begin to meet with school departments to discuss the conceptual plans, apply for a permit to turn the Central Office site into a school and work with the school division to find a contractor to construct the building.
Superintendent Steven Constantino said it is essential school division employees ranging from teachers to cafeteria workers can provide input on the school’s design.
“There is definitely a very strategic plan of bringing on as many people as we can to look at this,” Constantino said.
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