Winchester, Va — Katie Lockhart, Winchester Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education coordinator, was incredibly excited as she walked through the halls of the almost complete Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center.
Following years of planning to make the Innovation Center at 536 Jefferson St. a reality, Lockhart said she’s ready for students to step into the new CTE hub this fall. Construction is mostly done, and furniture and equipment are being set up. The new space will be utilized by Handley High School students during the day and Lord Fairfax Community College students at night.
Construction on the project began at the former John Kerr Elementary School in fall 2019. The elementary school, which was constructed in 1972 as an open concept design with very few interior walls separating classrooms, has been completely transformed during the two-year renovation.
Once open, the Innovation Center will feature three academies: health sciences, professional skills, and advanced technologies. Each academy will be linked to a work-based learning program to connect students to regional businesses paying high-wage jobs. The academies are designated by different colors throughout the Innovation Center. Health sciences is blue, advanced technologies is yellow and professional skills is green.
The Innovation Center features new equipment for all three academies, including 3D printers, a robotic arm that can be programmed by students, medical simulations, and more. The design of the space is colorful with lots of natural light from 60 tubular skylights in the ceiling throughout the building.
Charlottesville-based VMDO Architects was the project’s architect. Howard Shockey & Sons of Winchester was the general contractor.
The project cost about $17 million. Most of the cost was funded by Winchester City Council, with other funds coming from donations and grants. Loudoun County residents Karen and Fred Schaufeld donated $1 million to the project in honor of Karen Schaufeld’s parents, Emil and Grace Shihadeh, who worked as a welder and a nurse, respectively.
During the 2021-22 school year, 200 Handley students will have classes at the Innovation Center in the morning and another 200 students will have classes there in the afternoon, or 400 students per semester. Handley has about 1,300 students. Students will attend the Innovation Center while also completing core academic classes.
LFCC students will utilize the space at night. WPS has established a partnership with LFCC in which the community college will provide instructors and equipment for certification and credit-bearing courses at the center. For now, LFCC will be teaching electrical CTE classes at night, but it could develop other programs moving forward, Lockhart said.
— Source: Winchester Star, story by Anna Merod. Photo by Jeff Taylor/Winchester Star