Culpeper Technical Education Center Wins VSBA Silver Design Award.
In the southeast corner of Culpeper County, nestled between James Madison Highway and Mountain Run, the new Culpeper Technical Education Center (CTEC) has come to life. Opening in August 2021, the center is home to Culpeper County high school students who want to graduate with immediately applicable skills and certifications to acquire jobs.
Staff and students find value in CTEC’s simple, yet effective, organization. Lab space, classrooms, staff, and community spaces are all connected by one continuous student-centric work zone. This organization facilitates collaboration, subtle security, and strong connectivity between programs. One walk down the hallway will allow administrators to see what is happening throughout the entire building. Students can also easily see what other classes are working on. A covered outdoor area in included in the design for the construction trades to work outside.
“With a site, a program, a budget, and a great group of educators and administrators, we just dove right in and had fun creating something bold and new with the CCPS team,” says Rob Berz, RRMM Principal and Co-Director of the K-12 Design Studio.
The building is a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally. Extensive windows invite daylight to stream through and illuminate. HVAC systems treat and bring in outside air, and flexible spaces and furniture differ from traditional classrooms. Additionally, CTEC is a net-zero electricity facility.
Utilizing building orientation, daylighting, and envelope and systems optimization, the RRMM design team reduced the building’s projected energy consumption, allowing the entire building’s electricity needs to be fulfilled by a rooftop solar energy system. Other sustainable aspects of this project include the preservation of Mountain Run, a tributary within Culpeper County’s borders that empties into the Rappahannock River. Site development was very sensitive to Mountain Run and its surrounding wetlands. The design incorporated a concrete culvert to bridge Mountain Run. This essential piece of infrastructure allows the stream and its associated ecosystem to continue traversing the site undisturbed.
A key notion when designing CTEC was how to best incorporate flexibility and multifunctionality. Structure was purposely kept out of the southside lab partitions to easily adapt to program changes over the years. The training room’s operable partition allows the space to morph from an area large enough for district-wide professional development classes into small classrooms.
The makerspace and cosmetology spaces are places near CTEC’s main entrance for ease of use by other schools and the public with minimal disruption to other programs. To reduce noise transmission from the heavy tools and loud machinery used in certain disciplines, acoustical glass and wall treatments were incorporated throughout the interior. Laminated glass was also strategically placed for additional security.
CTEC’s programming is the result of extensive collaboration with local businesses. Companies in industries ranging from medical, cyber security, engine mechanics, construction, culinary arts, and industrial maintenance came together to form a CTE Advisory Committee. This committee had a vested interest in supporting students who could go on to become part of the County’s skilled workforce and potentially fill positions within these companies. The CTE Advisory Committee was included in the design effort to help recreate real world work settings and experiences students need to succeed in these industries.
“One key to success was having all stakeholders involved throughout the project. CCPS’s and the community’s positive, all-in approach maximized what the CTEC project could achieve. It was great to see and to be a part of,” says Berz.
“Our journey to opening CTEC was one of great joy,” says Randi Richards-Lutz, Culpeper County Public School’s Director of Career & Technology Education. “The team that I was blessed to work with from RRMM to Lochridge Construction, the community stakeholders and more all had the same goal. The goal was to build a school where students felt excited to be there and eager to learn. Our team became a family and together we broke ground, together cut the ribbon, and together we continue to celebrate the goal coming to fruition.”
Further keeping the students as a focus, RRMM required in the specs that the solar installer involve CTEC students in the installation of the solar panels. As a result, one of the student participants was hired for a full-time position with the solar installer upon graduation.
Another crucial partner in this project is CTEC’s neighbor, Germanna Community College (GCC). These two schools work closely together, offering dual enrollment at the community college level to the high school students, and offering state-of-the-art facilities for the college students to use after hours. This mutually beneficial arrangement presents CTEC students with the opportunity to graduate from high school with a professional degree from GCC, or with significant credits toward an advanced professional degree. This program creates a viable, cost-effective alternative to the traditional higher education route for Culpeper County students. It also allows GCC students to utilize facilities and technology that they may not have access to on their campus.
“Many of our first graduating class have entered the workforce with multiple credentials and some are continuing their education through paid apprenticeships that started at CTEC,” says Richards-Lutz. “Each day I see this beautiful building and watch the students and staff make it come to life, I am full of pride for our accomplished goal, our students, and the future of our workforce.”
CTEC was recently awarded the Silver Design Award at the Virginia School Board Association’s Exhibition of School Architecture.
About Culpeper County Public Schools
Culpeper County Public Schools is steering their students on a sure and steady course of lifelong learning. They are committed to equipping them well for their journey toward success in school and life. CCPS has six elementary schools, two middle schools, and a career & technical education center. To learn more about CCPS, visit: https://www.culpeperschools.org/
About Virginia School Board Association
Virginia School Boards Association, a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia school boards, promotes excellence in public education through advocacy, training, and services. The Association offers conferences, information, training, and counseling designed to meet the needs of the Commonwealth’s educational leaders. To learn more about VSBA, visit: https://www.vsba.org/