Albemarle Tech would provide space for students to work on independent projects for course credit and facilitate internships at businesses in the Seminole Park industrial facility. Credit: Image courtesy of Albemarle County.

The Albemarle County School Board this week will consider approving the lease of 42,200 square feet in the Seminole Place industrial facility for use as a high school student center, administrative offices and professional development space.

Albemarle launched the High School 2022 initiative two years ago to generate ideas for expanding student-designed, interdisciplinary and community-based learning experiences throughout the school division. 

High School 2022 is influenced by the Virginia Department of Education’s “Profile of a Virginia Graduate,” which will recommend new high school graduation requirements applicable to freshmen beginning this fall.

In December, the School Board voted to pursue the phased construction of satellite centers to address the county’s high school enrollment capacity needs and provide equity of access to project-based learning and work experiences.

The School Board’s budget request for the 2018-2019 school year includes funding for proof-of-concept pilot of the high school center model. The pilot center has been named the Center for Creativity and Invention, or “Albemarle Tech.”

The first-year costs of leasing and operating the high school center are budgeted at $687,488. Division staff adjusted cost projections this month to add $80,500 to the School Board’s original request. The School Board is slated to adopt its budget for fiscal 2019 on Thursday. 

The consent agenda for Thursday’s School Board meeting includes a lease agreement that would place Albemarle Tech at 1180 Seminole Trail, the former Comdial building.  

“Upon execution of the lease, the Landlord will begin construction to fit out the leased space per the [school division’s] conceptual design,” the staff report reads. 

Albemarle County Public Schools submitted an Application for Comprehensive Plan Compliance to the county’s Community Development department in March in order to lease the site for a public use. 

A submitted design for Albemarle Tech shows eight studios around a common space, in which students would work on independent projects for course credit. The center also could give students access to internships at local businesses. 

The application said the primary drivers for leasing the space at Seminole Trail were its central location in Albemarle County’s urban ring and its proximity to other businesses leasing space at the property.

“The location encourages a more thoughtful and strategic connection between our staff, teachers and students to the surrounding community through creative collaborations,” the application reads.

Current tenants at Seminole Place include Aerosonic, CustomInk, Downtown Athletic, MIKRO Systems, Reason Beer, Two Men and a Truck and VAMAC, Inc. 

Albemarle Tech would host 20 to 40 high school seniors for the 2018-2019 school year, and would be open to other grades in future years. Its enrollment has been capped at 150 students. 

According to the application, the school division anticipates that most students and staff would drive themselves to Albemarle Tech. However, small buses could provide some transportation to the site.

The leased portion of Seminole Place also would include professional development space for up to 150 people and offices for 30 employees in the school division’s department of Learning Engineering, Access and Design (LEAD).

The Albemarle Tech project was presented at the Community Advisory Committee for Places29 Hydraulic on April 16. The county Planning Commission will review the application on May 8.

Albemarle County Public Schools is planning to construct a 90,000 square-foot center that could accommodate up to 600 high school students. 

The county’s Capital Improvement Program for fiscal 2019-2023 currently includes the $35.1 million high school center project. The School Board has requested an additional $53.8 million to modernize existing high schools. 

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to adopt an appropriation ordinance at its May 9 meeting to formally allocate monies in its approved budget for fiscal 2019. The Supervisors also will  discuss the CIP at the meeting. 

On May 24, the School Board will decide whether to request a bond referendum by county voters in November to finance the new high school center. 

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve the CIP and potential bond referendum projects on June 6.


Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.