No school project—not even long-embattled Woodgrove High School—has been more debated, delayed and re-envisioned than the Academies of Loudoun.
When the new campus officially opens next week, it will be the realization of a concept that was too far ahead of its time for many years. While school board after school board declared support for the project, it usually was the first one hit by the budget axe as they worked to keep pace with unending enrollment growth. It wasn’t easy to break that cycle, but school and county leaders finally agreed that the Academies should be a community priority and to pay the tab.
Now it’s time to ensure that extraordinary investment is put to its best use.
The classrooms, labs and specialty spaces of this high-tech training ground might not be completely assembled when students arrive Thursday morning, but even after the final touches are complete there will be a lot of work to do—not for construction contractors but for Loudoun’s business community at large.
The Academies should offer Loudoun students a special opportunity to hone their talents in a challenging educational environment that provides access to all the latest tools of their chosen pursuit. For Loudoun businesses, the new campus represents not only an opportunity to give back to the community by sharing their time and talents, but also the chance to have a hand in shaping the home-grown talent needed for their industries to grow.
To be successful, the Academies must be a partnership between school administrators and front-line educators and business leaders. It won’t be easy to accomplish. It will require public-private sector collaboration, curriculum flexibility, and a general nimbleness to react to changing circumstances or opportunities.
A key architectural feature of the new campus is the effort to create barrierless spaces to promote student interactions and creativity. For the Academies to achieve its full potential, that approach needs to extend beyond the school’s brick and mortar shell as well.