Williamsburg-James City County Schools opened a fourth new middle school this year, James Blair Middle School, which cost roughly $22 million to construct.
The original James Blair was a high school and later turned into a middle school before closing. The district first broke ground for the new James Blair in October 2016.
This middle school is the first school in the district to be built specifically for collaborative learning. Each floor has a large open space with classrooms on either side. This open area is called the collaboration hub.
The hubs are outfitted with lockers and movable furniture. Collapsible glass walls and movable barriers between most classrooms allow teachers to adjust the space for their teaching needs in ways not possible in traditional school settings.
“Classes will be able to work together on particular projects more easily than in a traditional setting,” said Ty Harris, the school’s principal in a July interview . “We are going to be doing a lot more of the project-based piece of it and the interdisciplinary piece, and that’s kind of the expectation from my standpoint, that teachers are being really creative with how they can bring instruction and their content to life.”
Harris was hired in 2017 after serving for two years as a middle school principal in Leesburg. Harris worked closely with construction crews building the school.
According to Harris, James Blair puts an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For example, Harris said every sixth-grader takes a quarter-long technology class; seventh- and eighth-grade students will be able to take semester-long classes.
The school opened on time for the first day of classes Sept. 4 and was dedicated at a ceremony on Oct. 7.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.