Hoover City Schools’ Riverchase Career Connection Center (RC3) was recognized as one of the 2020 Building Birmingham Awards honorees by the Birmingham Business Journal. GMC designed the new school, which is the first-of-its-kind for a high school in Alabama. The project included a $13.5M renovation and addition to an existing 92,000-sf building, originally constructed in the 1970s. The new facility, designed by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood (GMC), includes five career academies for high school students, including health science, fire and emergency services, cyber innovation/computer tech, food and hospitality, and skilled trades (carpentry, HVAC, welding, and electrical). Other potential future courses in skilled trades include plumbing, heavy equipment operation and advanced manufacturing. The school system initially had a goal of enrolling 400 students the first year, but actually enrolled 735 students due to the demand.
RC3 represents a significant step toward filling the growing gap in the skilled workforce and better training students for the “real world.” This first-of-its-kind school will help prepare students for what they will see in a real-life work environment and help them find careers best suited to their skills and abilities. As such, the Alabama Department of Education plans to use Hoover’s cutting-edge approach to workforce development as an example throughout the state.
Designing the school without the first personnel or teacher having been hired to fulfill the type of structure or school curriculum they envisioned was a challenge. To overcome this, the design team met with industry leaders that were willing to help and provide instructors that wanted to be part of the endeavor. By listening to the industry leaders and figuring out the needs of the local area, each of the individual programs was formed. Once it was determined what fields and academic classes were going to be taught on site, the team had to determine how to use the existing spaces and rooms to fit all of the programming.
One of the challenges was to take a 1977 existing middle school building with old bones and utilities and transform it into a modern facility. The existing building also contained hazardous materials that had to be abated.
One of the other brainstorms developed during the project was to open the building to adults at night for classes in the same field of study. Currently they have a grant and instructors to provide adult classes for general construction, HVAC and electrical.
GMC served as the civil engineer and landscape architect ; Tucker-Jones Engineers Associated served as the structural engineer; Edmonds Engineering, Inc. served as the mechanical & plumbing engineer; Jackson, Renfro & Associates, Inc. served as the electrical engineer.