Henley Middle School's new auxiliary gym will be divided into separate learning spaces, one of which will be a fitness center. Credit: Credit: BCWH Architects

Students at Henley Middle School will soon be exercising in a new type of learning space.

On Thursday, the Albemarle School Board approved the schematic design for a $2.2 million, approximately 7,400-square-foot physical education addition that would accommodate the school’s growing enrollment and transform physical education instruction.

“[The design] recognizes that kids need something different than just indoor basketball courts,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, a building services project manager.

“The intent is not only to connect the activities of the physical education program, but also to connect the activities that would create a relationship to other curricula,” said Roger Richardson, principal with BCWH Architects, the project’s designers.

Richardson said that the facility is intended to be technology-rich, and that students will be able measure the impact their movements are having on their bodies, such as heart rate and blood pressure.

The new structure would also feature fitness machines to learn about the types of exercise students are likely to encounter as adults.

“The space will make kids think about physical education differently because it’s usually about sports,” Henley principal Patrick McLaughlin said. “This is like something you’ll see at ACAC [Fitness and Wellness Centers].”

Per the design, the new auxiliary gym will connect to the outdoor space behind the school, and will extend off the back of the school, creating a small courtyard.

The corridor leading to the new gym could also be used as a learning space, similar to those formed under the division’s Design 2015 plan, McLaughlin said.

Three sides of the addition will feature large glass windows. School Board member Jason Buyaki questioned whether or not that would pose security risks.

“The idea is that you can see what’s going on…inside and outside,” Richardson said.

“The glass would be insulated, laminated and tempered,” Richardson added, noting that it would withstand a baseball bat, but not a bullet.

“You’re trying to balance the threat [of an intruder] with the everyday concern of supervising students so that they have some independence, so they can play outside and do some activities outside and teachers would still be able to see them,” Albemarle’s assistant superintendent Matt Haas said.

In addition to the security question, School Board member Barbara Massie Mouly expressed concern about how the increased amount of glass would impact the space’s heating and cooling efficiency.

“It will add both some heating loads and some cooling loads, but we’ll need to balance that with the mechanical system that’s selected,” Richardson said. “But we’ll now start to look at types of glass and its orientation.”

Henley’s current enrollment is 823. Projections estimate that figure to top 900 within five years.

The plans will now enter the final design phase, which will be presented to the Board in January 2015. Groundbreaking is currently scheduled for March 2015, with a completion date in winter 2015-16.