Mecklenburg County breaks ground on new, modern high school

On Friday, December 20, 2019, community leaders and citizens gathered at the administration office of the Mecklenburg County Public Schools. Joined by the County’s School Board, Board of Supervisors, and County Administrator Wayne Carter, the Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols welcomed guests to the occasion.

Dr. Megan Healy, Secretary of Workforce Development for the Commonwealth of Virginia, represented the Governor’s office at the event. “This new, national model that you guys are bringing to Mecklenburg is making sure students figure out their career pathways earlier… not just for their workforce pathways but for economic development,” said Healy.

The Honorable Delegate Tommy Wright, who represents Mecklenburg County in the Virginia House of Delegates, offered remarks. “I congratulate everyone who has played a role in this process, and I look forward to working with the board of supervisors and the school board in this upcoming General Assembly cycle on anything the County may need,” said Wright.

Glenn Barbour, Chairperson, Board of Supervisors, reminisced on his experience as a student of Mecklenburg County Public Schools. “I’m a product of Mecklenburg Schools… It’s funny how life comes full circle. Right now my wife and I are living in an apartment in what was the South Hill elementary school. We are living in what once the school library,” Barbour said.

Barbour went on to explain that a few years ago, Superintendent Nichols led a tour of the County’s existing middle and high schools for the school board and board of supervisors. It became obvious that the current school facilities are outdated and do not support innovative education models for modern and future career paths.

“We are building a school that will meet those challenges now and in the years to come,” Barbour said. “This is going to be OUR school.”

The new facility will consolidate the County’s existing middle and high schools under one roof. There will be shared resources to create efficiencies and enhance student learning pathways, but there will be separate cafeterias, etc. to support the different needs of each age group of students.

“This school will outlive all of the people in this room. We are building this school for kids who have not been born yet,” said Dale Sturdifen, Chairperson, School Board. “Mecklenburg County is a powerful county. We will be even more powerful when we come together as one.”

The school design was shared with the audience via a video virtual tour. Nichols emphasized that the school is meeting education needs and economic development needs, and will also be a place for community gatherings and tourism events.

Nichols provided a overview of the six career academies planned for the new school:

  • advanced technology, including the opportunity for students to get the credentials required to work at the Microsoft data center located in Mecklenburg County
  • health and human services academy, to meet the huge need for nurses, therapists, phlebotomists and many other health professions
  • STEM academy, including skilled trades like construction, electricity, HVAC and more
  • law and leadership academy, including rescue squad, police, fire and military preparation
  • international business and culture academy, that will connect students in Mecklenburg with schools around the world
  • environmental science academy, including an agriculture career option

Nichols said, “All of these are areas that GO Virginia has identified as where the jobs are in our area now and in the future. This is our focus and where we will be focusing over the next four years to prepare our current students for the workforce.”

The new school is expected to open fall 2022.

Learn more about how Southern Virginia is creating education systems that support STEM Jobs and the IT Workforce.