Camden discusses school timetable
By Reggie Ponder
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
CAMDEN — The new Camden County High School could open halfway through the 2020-21 school year if funding and other factors fall into place over the next few months.
Architect Mike Ross from the HBA architectural firm met with the Camden Board of Education Monday morning to discuss plans for the $33.3 million high school project.
Ross presented the board with a tentative timetable that shows occupancy of the school by December 2020 or early 2021. The timetable calls for a schematic design to come before the school board in April and a full design to be ready in time for a fall 2018 application for a grant from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund.
Camden received a $2.29 million grant this year in the inaugural round of Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grants.
The Camden school board discussed student capacity for the project, with Ross recommending designing the high school for 660-700 students but making it easily expandable for 900-1,000 students in the event of growth.
Board member Kevin Heath said it was important to consider the prospect for growth when planning the project. He noted a number of subdivisions in the county have been approved recently.
“We definitely want to be able to grow into it,” Heath said, referring to the new school.
Ross’s projections show $1.6 million would be needed to get the project construction-ready.
The tentative timetable that Ross presented calls for a design committee to begin meeting in January. The committee should include a couple of school board members, one or more county commissioners, and community members, teachers and students, according to Ross.
Part of what needs to be decided about the new school beginning in January is what kind of spaces are needed for instruction, which requires some decision-making about how much school officials want to move into project-based learning and other innovative education approaches, Ross.said.
Superintendent Joe Ferrell said teachers and principals definitely need to be in on those discussions, particularly to help the board figure out what facilities the school needs to provide technical education.
Ross said the process of designing the new school could actually be a catalyst for a change in instructional methods.
Board members indicated they want to have an auditorium at the new high school. They also want athletic facilities on-site. The board also wants the Camden Early College High School housed on the same campus as the new school but believe the early college needs its own dedicated space for a “school-within-a-school” setup.