8News toured the site of the new building Monday, some of which has been constructed upon the footprint of the original, decades-old building. For example, the former football field will be transformed into an outdoor amphitheater and classrooms.
“Almost everything’s different, except for the enthusiasm and expertise of our teachers,” Henrico County School Board Vice-Chair and Tuckahoe District representative Marcie Shea said. “We still get to build on having our wonderful staff from Tucker come over to the new building. But we’re converting from an open-style campus to a closed building that provides a lot more safety for our students.”
Henrico County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell said that although the outdoor nature of the current J.R. Tucker High School is changing, it’s not going away altogether.
“An outdoor campus, which they currently have in the old building, offers lots of green space and sunlight, and so it also offers a lot of challenges with weather issues and safety,” Cashwell said. “Thinking about moving to a new building and a new campus, what you’ll see in this design is that there is a lot of natural light, an opportunity to get outside and inside seamlessly with courtyards and outdoor learning spaces.”
According to Henrico County Public Schools Spokesperson Andy Jenks, the bid for the new J.R. Tucker High School came in just under $93 million.
“It was really built with innovative instruction in mind,” Shea said. “It’s not just about the building. It’s about rethinking the way we do instruction, rethinking the way we do high school.”
The new building features several flexible spaces and common areas, which include large white boards and movable partitions to divide or unite classrooms.
“We have a lot of flex spaces in this building, which not only provides new instructional opportunities but also community building opportunities for our students, which we know are so crucial to the social-emotional wellbeing of our individual students and our school as a whole,” Shea said.
Once completed, the two-story high school will house an auditorium with additional seating in the back that can be used for separate lecture halls or to expand capacity for a main event, color-coded wings to help the school community navigate the building, new culinary arts facilities and outdoor murals to brighten the courtyard.
“I think our staff and students are going to walk into an incredible space for teaching and learning,” Cashwell said. “It’s going to re-energize everybody for the start of a new school year, after what was an unanticipated year of hurdles.”
The new J.R. Tucker High School is set to welcome students on the first day of the 2021-22 academic year.
“My favorite part has been hearing the unique things that matter to the community, the teachers, the students, and being able to see those elements come to life here as the structure grows and is nearly finished,” Cashwell said. “It’s incredible.”