Halifax County School Board members reviewed options for the new Halifax County High School with representatives for Grimm+Parker Architects at a Thursday meeting.
The board reviewed three layouts with the new building sitting to the east of the current student parking lot and north of the current bus parking lot.
The informational session served as a “kickoff” to the preliminary design of the high school and was a precursor to future public stakeholder input sessions.
The school system has a budget of $110,000,000 for the new building, and they’re targeting an August 2025 opening.
Grimm+Parker representatives said they plan to construct a building under 250,000 square feet
Layout, capacity and programs were some of the key items reviewed in Thursday’s meeting.
School board members reviewed three layout options including one that would have students, facility and visitors entering into a long corridor that would extend to the other side of the building. In this option, classrooms would be located to the west of the main walkway with classrooms located on two wings separated by the dining area.
Option two’s entrance would bring people into the dining area, which would be located next to the auditorium and gymnasium. This option would have classrooms closer to each other than option one.
The third option reviewed for layout of the building would have individuals entering into a main corridor that would be near the dining area. In this option, the classrooms would be on two separate wings.
In each of these options, the administration would be located near the entrance of the building for safety purposes.
Jim Boyd with Grimm + Parker explained that the third option would likely be the largest. With all three of these options, the current student parking lot and bus parking lot would be used, and a student drop off line would be configured. The facility parking lot would be relocated closer to the building. Boyd also explained that students would likely drive in from another area.
In figuring out the design of the building, those with Grimm + Parker said they want to try to “mitigate the size of the building,” and avoid rebuilding spaces they can already use as it is.
In doing this, they plan to look at opportunities to share spaces and look at reusing as much infrastructure as practical. They also plan to explore ways to reduce cost of the demolition.
Grimm+Parker representatives discussed how they plan to intersperse Career and Technical Educational classroom spaces, which are formally known as vocational courses, with core classes such as English and math.
They want to avoid creating areas such as a “science wing,” which they said would give students more of a chance to meet and collaborate with each other.
Ultimately, Stephen Munatt with Grimm+Parker said they would like to “create a great high school for Halifax County that’s going to serve all of your educational, athletics and community civic needs that the county has for the next 50 to 75 years.
“How do you create that building that’s flexible enough to handle those needs now and those changing needs for a long period of time,” he continued saying.
He presented options that are focused around how students learn best such as hands-on learning.
They also noted that it’s customary these days for teachers of core classes to share classrooms. They also noted that teachers could have a planning area with workspaces unique to them.
However, a science teacher may still have their own science lab, and CTE teachers may have a space that’s unique to what they teach.
Grimm+Parker also suggested having an auto mechanics classroom in a separate building due to fire and building codes.
School board vice chair Roy Keith Lloyd told Grimm+Parker representatives that he was favorable of the idea of teachers sharing classrooms calling it more of a “college style,” but he suggested that they could still have classrooms grouped by subject matter.
Those with Grimm+Parker explained that they could group classrooms by department or have them interspersed.
In discussing the new auditorium, they reviewed a sloped floor with fixed seating versus a flat floor with retractable seating as well as a hybrid of the two.
Lloyd said he preferred the sloped and fixed seating, and ED-6 trustee Lacey Shotwell as well as Halifax County High School Principal Michael Lewis said they would like to see an auditorium with the retractable seating.
Lewis also said he felt a capacity of 750 would serve the school system and community well.
As far the new gymnasium, Lewis suggested a capacity of 3,000 would be doable.
However, Lloyd and Potts said they felt they should stick with the current capacity of 3,500 people.
The two noted the space is needed for graduation and large crowds that attend regional basketball games.
Moving the conversation back to CTE courses, Boyd also asked the board to consider what their relationship may be with the Southern Virginia Higher Ed Center in 10 to 20 years. Currently, the SVHEC partners with the high school in assisting with teaching several CTE courses.
Interim director of secondary instructor Scott Worner noted that the SVHEC has provided the school system with vast opportunities, but that they would like to move into the direction of providing CTE courses on their own campus and “not in the back or in the basement.”
“There’s lots of opportunities to spread through throughout the building,” he added.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Worner asked the board to provide him with any concerns or comments that school board members may have at this time that he would distribute to Grimm+Parker.
He also noted that Thursday’s meeting was just the first of many to come with various stakeholders to ensure that this school building is one built with community input.