100 Years and Counting

Since coming in-house, director of facilities management and construction Scott Carson has given the century-old Collegiate School a modern face-lift while respecting its history

The Collegiate School’s 26,500-square-foot Sharp Academic Commons, opened in 2013, is one of several new facilities on campus. (Photo: Chris Cunningham)

In January 2015, the students, faculty, and staff of Collegiate School gathered in the Seal Athletic Center to launch their centennial celebration, a rare milestone for an independent K-12 day school. The institution has a long history in Richmond, Virginia, that began when Helen Baker founded Collegiate as a girls’ school in 1915 with a vision built around honor, love of learning, excellence, and respect.

The school moved to its current Mooreland Road location in 1953, and in 1963 boys graduated from Collegiate for the first time. Today, it has an enrollment of approximately 1,600 students, with 350 full-time faculty and staff. The essence of Collegiate lies in the interaction of students, faculty, parents, administrators, and alumni in a dynamic learning community with high personal and academic expectations. This exceptional educational environment enables Collegiate students to develop and harness their potential for intellectual growth, leadership, and service. Collegiate’s facilities, including the Mooreland Road Academic Campus, the Robins Athletic Campus, and the Collegiate School Aquatic Center, were designed and built to support this notion, and Scott Carson has had a major hand in shaping their design.

Carson, Collegiate’s director of facilities management and construction, is a licensed landscape architect and was an associate with CHA Sports before working at the school. While with CHA, he planned, designed, and managed athletic and recreational projects throughout the eastern United States, including Collegiate’s Robins Athletic Campus, which is now a 177-acre multisport complex with 12 outdoor fields, 13 tennis courts, an indoor sports-performance space, and a cross-country and mountain-bike trail network. After planning wrapped on the initial facilities, Collegiate hired Carson to continue planning and management efforts for the athletic campus and the school’s other sites.

The Kathy Watkinson Ivins Sports Performance Center at the Saunders Center is used for strength and conditioning activities.
The Kathy Watkinson Ivins Sports Performance Center at the Saunders Center is used for strength and conditioning activities. (Photo: James Dickinson)

Carson says the school’s board of trustees and its administrative team have an enlightened approach toward master planning and design. The school maximizes the ability of its physical environment to support expanded programs and future opportunities while preserving and enhancing the features that make Collegiate unique. Its plans are firmly rooted in its core pillars, including K–12 STEM, economic education, entrepreneurship, and community service.

According to Carson, physical space needs flexibility and technological infrastructure to support adaptive teaching and learning styles, so in the Collegiate model, the “traditional classroom” is a rarity. And, as Collegiate renovates and moves from traditional classroom and computer lab configurations to more flexible and mobile models, the school can grow without adding significantly to its footprint.

Carson and his consulting team have incorporated moveable walls, mobile furniture, and strategically located utility services into almost every recent design project. And, in flex meeting spaces and classrooms, the team has added communication and projection systems that allow video conferencing with multiple participants, including Collegiate’s partner schools in China, India, and Mexico.

In 2013, Collegiate opened the Sharp Academic Commons, its first LEED-certified building. “We need to plan ahead while we respect where we’ve come from,” Carson says, adding that the school’s architects, Tymoff+Moss, are excellent about incorporating design cues that combine the school’s history and quest for innovation. As the institution enters its second century, it and Carson will continue to deliver solid, sustainable projects that adhere to Collegiate’s foundational pillars.