School Board Approves New Fitness Center for Henley


By Rebecca Schmitz

The Albemarle County School Board approved a design for a $2.2 million multi-purpose fitness and physical education center for Henley Middle School at its October 9 meeting. Construction will begin in early 2015 and is expected to finish by winter of the 2015-16 school year. BCWH Architects, which has offices in both Charlottesville and Richmond, is the project’s designer.

The space will better accommodate Henley’s growing student body, which is projected to reach 900 students (up from 823 now) in the next four to five years. Currently, four classes at a time take P.E., and on bad-weather days, 140 children might be at the gym at once.

Henley Principal Patrick McLaughlin notes that the children “often end up sitting and waiting their turn. We need more space to have a P.E. program where the kids can participate a lot.”

The new 7,400-square-foot fitness center will mean more participation and less observation, and will have room for up to 200 students.

McLaughlin said the new space will reflect a “modern-day P.E. program,” and will look like what students might see at a commercial gym such as ACAC.  Roger Richardson, a principal at BCWH Architects, said, “The project goes beyond just additional space to support physical education activities. It will support other curricula by promoting and developing health management skills.”

The new space will be divided into four areas. There will be a large multi-purpose room, slightly smaller than Henley’s current gym. An attached fitness center will house equipment such as weights and treadmills, and provide room for jumping rope, stretching, and other activities. It will have a retractable glass wall that provides a connection to the outdoors and opens onto a courtyard, where students can rotate to various fitness “stations” and other outdoor activities. A hallway between the courtyard and the interior of the school will have writable glass walls on one side and a writable projection wall on the other, providing an area that will “solve our problem of space for P.E., and also give a learning space to the rest of the school,” said McLaughlin. The hallway will also provide a project/breakout area for use by the entire school.

Although the fitness center will have room for weights and equipment, Richardson said that “It’s not about pumping iron—it’s educating students about what they need to do to be healthy throughout their lives.”  The designers also incorporated an area into the fitness room where digital capture technology will be used as a teaching tool.  Richardson said that “Digital motion capture and review will allow students to not only work on their skills and maintain physical fitness, but to understand the science of physical fitness and body movement.”  The motion capture technology will allow students to better understand how they can improve their skills, much as a golfer would watch a videotape of his or her swing to recognize how it can be improved.



  1. Kids are not little adults and building them a gym “that will look like what students might see at a commercial gym such as ACAC” is wrong. Weigh machines, treadmills, bikes, etc. is equipment the fitness industry itself is moving away from, the ACSM says that functional (FUN) body weight exercise will be the wave of the future and trend for 2015- give your kids a fun and functional exercise experience so they can build a positive attitude towards fitness they can take with them in the future, don’t bore them to death on weight machines that isolate muscle groups in a way that is virtually useless as they run and play. You’ll spend thousands less giving them a better and more useful exercise experience.


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