State approves Isle Marine Trades lab school in Smithfield 

Published 2:05 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

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The Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously on April 25 to approve a lab school at Paul D. Camp Community College’s Smithfield campus.

The Isle Marine Trades Academy, which the college plans to operate in partnership with Isle of Wight County Schools and Newport News Shipbuilding parent company Huntington Ingalls, will allow up to 80 high school students to earn an associate of applied science degree in technical studies and industry credentials in either maritime welding or electrical concurrently with their high school diploma. IWCS Director of Secondary Education Marsha Cale said this is the only lab school approved to date offering this.

Per the board’s vote, the lab school will receive $1 million in state startup funds plus $1.7 million from the state’s College Partnership Laboratory School Fund spread over its first four years in operation.

The final vote followed a 10-day public comment window and tentative approval on April 11 from the state’s College Partnership Laboratory Schools Standing Committee. Camp’s proposal was one of six lab schools the board approved at the April 25 meeting.

The creation of workforce-tailored K-12 lab schools has been a priority of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who in 2022 signed a two-year state budget that included $100 million in state funding for the initiative. Virginia’s proposed 2024-26 budget, which Youngkin has yet to sign, calls for $20 million to remain available in the College Partnership Laboratory School Fund over the next two years.

““With the addition of these six Lab Schools, the Board has created enriching, future-focused opportunities that reach students across Virginia,” Youngkin said in an April 25 news release. “These schools are establishing innovative pathways for students to explore potential careers and be better prepared for the future, with a specific focus on addressing the needs and demands of their regions. These Lab Schools are not just shaping the future of our students, they’re also shaping the future of Virginia.” 

Cale told The Smithfield Times on April 11 that the goal is to begin recruiting students next school year and to open the school by 2025. IWCS, she said, wouldn’t be required to make its own cash contribution but rather would provide teachers, students and use of Smithfield High School’s and Windsor High School’s facilities, including transportation for students to and from Camp’s Smithfield campus.

Students will enroll in the lab school during their junior year, during which they will complete general education courses at Camp’s Smithfield campus from 7:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., then travel to either Smithfield High School for welding or to Windsor High School, which houses the school division’s electrical career and technical education equipment, from 11:45 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. Seniors would spend their mornings at Camp’s Workforce Trades and Innovation Center in Suffolk, which the Navy recently donated $1.3 million toward building, and spend their afternoons at Camp’s Smithfield campus.

Camp held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Workforce Trades and Innovation Center project at the end of March. The center is projected to open by spring 2025.

Plans to launch a lab school began in the fall of 2022 with talks between Cramer and Paul D. Camp President Corey McCray on ways to establish a pipeline for students from high school to college to work.

McCray pitched the  lab school to county supervisors school seven months ago in hopes of persuading them to continue the college’s lease of its county-owned Smithfield campus, housed on the second floor of a former high school on James Street. At the urging of former Supervisor Dick Grice, supervisors voted last summer to end the lease come mid-2024 on grounds that the campus was going underutilized, but they rescinded the vote in September after embracing McCray’s lab school concept.  

“The Isle Maritime Trades Academy is not just an avenue to a career pathway for Lab School

students from Isle of Wight and the surrounding school districts, it will also allow them to be a

part of something bigger than themselves, National Security,”McCray said in a Camp news release. “Lab School students will ultimately have the opportunity to help build Navy ships that will ensure the nation’s defense and security. In addition, the IMTA will help our partners at Newport News Shipbuilding fill the projected 19,000 craft employees they anticipate hiring over the next decade.”

“We are excited to partner with Camp and Isle of Wight County Schools on the Isle Maritime

Trades Academy,” said Xavier Beale, vice president of human resources at Newport News

Shipbuilding, in Camp’s news release. “Partnerships between industry and education are key to developing a skilled workforce to ensure our Navy continues to have the most capable ships in the word. At NNS, we build great ships and great careers.”

“We are tremendously excited about the opportunity that the IMTA offers our students and our

community. We are looking forward to this collaboration with our incredible partners—Camp

Community College and HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding,” said IWCS Superintendent Theo Cramer in Camp’s release. “Although this opportunity will offer life changing benefits to our students, our community will be the ultimate beneficiary.”