The first draft of the new Richmond Hill Middle School was presented to the Board of Education Thursday evening during a called meeting.
Craig Buckley, president of James W. Buckley and Associates and Bryan County school district architect, presented the first draft of the floor and site plans for the school, which is slated to have a groundbreaking in roughly three months. The site is located off Hwy. 17 South, on a 98-acre tract donated to the district by Rayonier in December.
"We always have a group of faculty and administrators help design the new school for the programs they have, so the new school fits the programs," Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer said. "We visited several examples of schools that Mr. Buckley had built and we didn’t want ours to look like any of theirs – we took the best pieces of all of them and asked for a plan to be based on what the school needs."
The new school will hold up to 1,500 students, with room for expansion, and is one of the biggest floor plans Buckley’s ever created, he said. The floor plan is a pinwheel design – much like the new Richmond Hill Elementary School – only bigger and more spread out.
"We want the floor plans and what the building looks like to be married together," he said. "We want it to have a coastal character to it – I think of porches, big overhangs, lots of windows and natural light and big gracious buildings that are welcoming."
But visitors won’t be immediately welcomed in – once they enter the entrance foyer, they must be approved by someone in the front office before gaining access into the school, as an added safety precaution.
The school will have a 7,500 square-foot cafeteria and outside porches to eat under, a gymnasium to seat 1,500 people with a stage and concession stand, three academic wings with one wing per grade, and the "exploratory wing" with classrooms for chorus, band, art, home ec, special education, etc., and plenty of room for athletic fields behind the campus.
Outside the building, in the first draft of the site plan, Buckley showed that the new middle school won’t require any of the 20-some acres of wetlands on the tract to be impacted.
"We won’t clear in the wetlands and we don’t want to," he said, noting there are many shade trees in the wetland areas. "I really need to tell you, you have an incredibly beautiful piece of property and you’re very fortunate to have this. This is a gorgeous site. I really like this for what is there."
As far as parking and drop-off plans, which are still under discussion, Buckley currently has buses coming in the side and dropping students off at the gymnasium. Parents will have a separate drop off location out front, where students would enter through the cafeteria.
For the next step, Buckley had questions about how much to clear on the site – and whether or not they should be thinking about clearing enough to house a second Richmond Hill High School on the tract as well.
Brewer said power for the school could come from Coastal Electric and they’ve been approached with one offer for water and sewer. She said she’ll be meeting with the County Administrator to talk about paving the main road as well.
Buckley said he’ll bring back updated drafts soon and present a sketch for the front façade next.