Camden begins school design


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, November 18, 2017

CAMDEN — Cam­den school of­fi­cials are pro­ceed­ing with de­sign work for a new high school, be­liev­ing both that work and the re­cent award of a state grant better po­si­tions the county to re­ceive an even larger state grant to put to­ward the new school’s es­ti­mated $33.3 mil­lion cost.

Camden recently learned it had been awarded a $2.29 million state grant from the state’s new Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund to put toward the cost of building the new high school. 

While the grant is far less than the $15 million the county had sought, Camden Board of Education Chairman Christian Overton said this week he believes the county could have a good shot at a larger grant from the Needs-Based fund next year. That’s because by then some design work for the project should be completed, making it close to “shovel-ready,” he said.

To start that process, the school board has hired a Virginia architectural firm with experience designing school facilities in the county to design the new high school. On a motion by board member Chris Wilson, the school board voted unanimously last week to hire HBA Architecture and Interior Design Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va., to design the new school.

In addition to HBA, Oakley Collier Architects of Rocky Mount and Moseley Architects of Richmond, Va., also expressed interest in designing the new high school.

Superintendent Joe Ferrell, who had taken the reins as superintendent of the Camden schools just a week before, asked board members if they wished to schedule interviews with the architectural firms. Overton and board member Kevin Heath, however, said they were prepared to make a decision based on the materials the three firms had presented.

Board member Jason Banks said it might be worthwhile to interview the firms, but board member Chris Wilson said he was prepared to hire HBA based on the good work the firm had done on previous projects in the school district.

A letter from C. Michael Ross, HBA vice president, cited a working relationship of more than 25 years with the Camden County Schools. The firm designed Camden Intermediate School, the modernization project and additions to both Camden High School and Camden Middle School, and "multiple renovations and additions to Grandy Primary School," Ross said.

Ross said HBA considers educational function in its design of school facilities.

"We also believe that school facilities must be 'of the community' to be successful, and we bring our highly collaborative planning and design process to every opportunity," Ross’ letter states. "Our objective is to engage as many stakeholders as possible in the process, including students, because we believe that diverse collective intelligence is the foundation for exceptional problem-solving."

Moseley has done work on two high school projects in Wayne County, as well as numerous high schools in Virginia.

Oakley Collier has worked on more than 30 K-12 school projects, including several recent projects in the Rocky Mount area.