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Hampton Roads Academy Opens New Dining Hall and Lower School Wing

On Tuesday, Hampton Roads Academy celebrated the largest campaign in the school’s history with the official opening of the Mary and Larry Pope Dining Hall, Rona and Erwin Drucker Lower School and the Martha H. Patten Hydroponics Lab.
Through the generous support of more than 350 donors, including 100 percent of HRA’s faculty and staff and 100 percent of HRA’s Board of Trustees, the “Navigating Our Course” campaign funded the 400-seat full-service dining hall, new Lower School wing with 12 spacious classrooms, an Innovation Lab/Makerspace and a unique 1,000 square foot hydroponics lab. Hampton Roads Academy has been working with W. M. Jordan Company, James River Architects and Bayfront Development on this project.

Hampton Roads Academy Head of School Peter W. Mertz, Campaign Chair Wendy Drucker ’76 and Board of Trustees Chair Keith Vander Vennet ‘83 led the ceremony and student leaders cut the ribbon to officially open the doors to the new building while students, faculty, staff, donors and invited guests celebrated.

“HRA is committed to a process of continual improvement for our students, their families and the broader Hampton Roads community,” said Head of School Peter W. Mertz. “The addition of the Lower School wing, dining hall and hydroponics lab represents a milestone on this journey in pursuit of excellence.”

Hampton Roads Academy’s new state-of-the-art, 400-seat Mary and Larry Pope Dining Hall with a full-service professional kitchen, provides every student with a daily selection of healthy meals in a space where the HRA community can come together to break bread, develop social skills and build relationships. Fostering a sense of community and closeness is a hallmark of HRA and this new space reflects the school’s commitment to healthy bodies and healthy minds.

The new Rona and Erwin Drucker Lower School wing features 12 large, bright classrooms with enhanced 21st-century learning opportunities. A large, flexible Innovation Lab/Makerspace is at the center of the Lower School and accessible to all HRA students.

A unique feature that connects the dining hall and Lower School wing is the 1,000-square-foot Martha H. Patten Hydroponics Lab. The laboratory includes vertical growing towers of leafy greens for HRA’s dining hall with the potential to grow other fruits and vegetables. Beyond providing produce for the dining hall, this space will be the perfect backdrop for innovative academic lessons and support HRA’s concentration in community service as extra produce will be donated to local food banks.

“All major capital improvements at HRA – every building, every field, every classroom and even the land on which the campus sits - have been realized through the generosity of donors, especially Hampton Roads Academy parents, grandparents, alumni and business owners,” said Wendy Drucker '76. “This latest, most anticipated improvement will benefit every HRA student, now and for generations to come.”
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