An artistic rendering.
The Patrick Henry School, a replacement PreK-8 school adjoining a city-run recreation center, welcomed nearly 800 elementary and middle school students on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The conjoining facilities, a joint project between the public school division and city government, begun in FY 2014, opened almost on time, despite a brief rain delay, and on budget. The project cost some $62 million — $52 million for the school, $10 million for the rec center.
By building the facilities together, the schools and city saved on certain costs, including design, construction, and shared HVAC infrastructure.
The old school facility dates to the early 1950s, the old rec center to the early 1970s. But the new facilities are state-of-the-art.
The new construction represents a “rags to riches” transition, said Paul May, the school division’s project manager. “We’re moving on up,” agreed Ingrid Bynum, Patrick Henry’s principal of seven years.
The new school can accommodate 900 students by design, about a one-quarter increase on the old school’s capacity. The new campus will remain under- or fully utilized through FY 2023. But thereafter, student enrollment will increasingly exceed the design capacity, reaching 111 percent utilization by FY 2029, according to recent enrollment forecasts.
Incorporating the middle school grades (6-8) at Patrick Henry gives parents an alternative to Francis Hammond, the West End’s stand-alone middle school. The tradeoff is Patrick Henry’s smaller student body size and continuity between students/families and teachers/administrators, versus the much larger Francis Hammond broader array of courses, said Bynum.