Architect chosen for new middle school

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Isle of Wight’s School Board last week selected a familiar partner to help build a new school.

The board voted unanimously on Aug. 13 to choose RRMM Architects as the architect for a new middle school that will eventually replace Westside Elementary School in Smithfield. Currently, Westside Elementary houses grades four, five and six.

In the school division’s overall capital improvement plan, once a new pre-K through fourth-grade school is built to replace Hardy Elementary School and the new middle school opens, which will house grades, five, six and seven, the existing Smithfield Middle-Smithfield High school complex will become one large high school housing grades eight through 12. Carrollton Elementary School will also become a pre-K through fourth-grade school once the new building opens on the former Westside Elementary campus.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“All of these plans are tied together to handle the growth in the northern side,” of the county, Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton told the board. The division received proposals from four architects.

The new middle school’s estimated cost is $35 million; $30 million of that is projected to be construction, with the remaining money covering site costs, architect fees, technology and furniture, according to David Elliott, a school division spokesman.

“Currently the Westside replacement is anticipated to start approximately a year after completion of the new Hardy; however, this conversation has not been clarified. Because the prototype is based off a school previously built in the county, contingent upon bonds being approved, it could potentially be started as soon as the county is ready,” Elliott said.

That previously built school is Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor, which opened in the fall of 2014. RRMM also designed that building. On its website, the company said Georgie D. Tyler’s “core facilities are designed to accommodate up to 800 students to allow for future expansion.” The school’s present capacity is 550 students.

Officials would like the new middle school’s capacity to be about 1,100. The current Westside building dates to the 1950s; the facilities have been expanded and renovated. Most recently, Elliott said, the cafeteria, where last week’s socially distanced in-person board meeting was held, was renovated last year.

The new school plan is “equitable to what we have throughout the county,” board member Vicky Hulick said. “Georgie D. Tyler is a beautiful school, if you haven’t been there.” RRMM’s plan, she said, “felt right out of all the designs we looked at.” Hulick then introduced the motion to select RRMM, which was seconded by board member Alvin Wilson.

A committee made up of Thornton, Hulick, Todd Christiansen, principal of Westside Elementary; Susan Goetz, the division’s executive director of leadership; and Christopher Coleman, executive director of support services and operation, reviewed proposals from four companies.