Two of five planned Norfolk elementary schools will open next month

More than 800 Norfolk elementary students will attend two completely new schools this year.

One is the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella, formerly known at Campostella Elementary School, 1106 Campostella Rd. It will focus on science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM. The other is Richard H. Bowling Elementary School, 2861 E. Princess Anne Rd.

“Our boys and girls from kindergarten through 6th grade will have an opportunity to learn project-based learning,” Rhonda Ambrose, principal of Southside STEM, said in an interview.

The curricula will prepare the students for the 21st century, she said.

The facilities are two of five new schools built under the Building the Future initiative, a collaboration between the City and Norfolk Public Schools. In 2013, the city committed to building four new schools in 2013, and approved a fifth for construction this year. The City’s total investment for the new schools is $133.1 million, according to a City release. Southside STEM and Bowling Elementary are the first of the five to open.

(Southside STEM Academy at Campostella, 1106 Campostella Rd. photos by Hillary Smith/Southside Daily)
(Southside STEM Academy at Campostella, 1106 Campostella Rd. photos by Hillary Smith/Southside Daily)

Southside STEM, which has an enrollment of 800 students, is novel for an additional reason. It will will be the first  K-6 school in Virginia to implement STEM curricula from Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that develops science, technology, engineering and math curricula for elementary, middle and high schools. Ambrose said she hired four new full-time teachers with pay ranges between $41,000 and $60,000 for the school this year. She also moved two teachers up to “lead teacher” positions for Project Lead the Way.

Southside STEM will eventually serve grades K-8, Ambrose said. The school currently employs about 100 staff members, comprised of 70 instructional and 3o support staff members, which include cafeteria staff, custodians, teachers’ aides and a nutritionist, Ambrose said.

Norfolk invested $34 million for the new Campostella school, and $22.3 million for Bowling, Ron Williams, deputy city manager, said in an interview. Bowling Elementary has a capacity of 708 students.

The City worked with Virginia Beach-based S.B. Ballard Construction Co. for the design and construction of the two schools. The designs were also discussed in workshops where the City sought public comment. Typically, the City would create the design for a school and put out a request for bid, which would be given to the lowest bidder, Ron Williams Jr., deputy city manager, said in an interview.

However, the City utilized a different strategy for planning these five schools, which included more freedom for the developer when it came to design and costs.

“The public-private partnership works really well for us,” Williams said.

This type of “design-build” shifts more of the cost risks to the developer, he said. In the lowest bidder strategy, costs can escalate. The design-build process allows interested developers to submit a proposal which includes design and construction costs, according to the city’s website. In this process a guaranteed maximum price for the City is locked in earlier in the design period, Williams said.

Other schools currently under construction are Larchmont Elementary School, 1145 Bolling Ave., and Ocean View Elementary School, 9501 Mason Creek Rd. Both are set to open September 2017. Camp  Allen Elementary School, 501 C St.,  is slated to open in January 2018, Williams said.


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