By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on March 21, 2022
With the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new College of the Albemarle (COA) academic building in Manteo just a few weeks away, COA President Dr. Jack Bagwell took the Voice on a tour through the building that he says was built with a primary focus on flexibility and functionality.
The nearly $18 million facility, designed by Boomerang Design and constructed by Barnhill Contracting, was funded primarily by a more than $16 million contribution from Dare County with another $1.5 million coming from the state Connect NC bond money.
State-of-the-art classrooms with technology that allows students to connect virtually to other campuses to increase learning opportunities as well as welcoming student gathering areas and workspaces are just a few of the features of this modern 35,000-square-foot building off U.S. 64 that will serve as the hub of COA’s Dare Campus.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on April 8 and Bagwell said the building will begin to come to life over the summer. But he added, “In the fall is when it will really hit its stride.”
The new facility replaces the more than 60-year-old COA building that was originally the home of Manteo High School, then Manteo Middle School, and finally, COA. The adjacent Professional Arts Building has received an external makeover to match the facade of the new building, lending a cohesive feel. And with lots of new outdoor gathering spaces in front of both buildings, COA Dare has a true campus sense.
The first level of the building is the library with open barn doors, student-focused seating, individual group rooms with virtual capabilities to collaborate with off-campus programing, student success and testing centers and the Veteran’s Memorial Lecture Hall. The many windows in the new facility offer a number of vistas of the nearby Shallowbag Bay.
As Bagwell gives the tour, he often returns to one key point – that he envisions the building being used not just by students and faculty, but the entire community. “We want people in here, we want this to be another piece of the community’s resource toolbox,” he asserted.
The new building will also serve as the hub for classes in the nursing assistant and emergency medical services programs and will house faculty offices. There are cameras and microphones in each room to allow for Zoom meetings, and desks that convert into computer workstations.
The existing COA site on Russell Twiford Road has been slated for future use by Dare County Schools. With some programs moving from the Professional Arts Building to the new facility, Bagwell said that COA is currently working on what new opportunities open up with the freeing up of the space in the Professional Arts Building, including the possibility of additional arts offerings.
Bagwell added that COA is really excited to finally be consolidated as far as its physical location. With an outdoor amphitheater, a lawn and plenty of outdoor “Outer Banks appropriate” seating, Bagwell also said he foresees the campus being a venue for concerts and other community events, including existing events such as the annual Dare Days.
For his part, Dare County Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard told the Voice that one key to the county’s commitment to the project was an agreement that the new building meant Dare County students could earn their associate’s degree in Dare County without having to travel to the Elizabeth City campus for classes.
“We were able to get that [commitment], so we moved forward and that’s when I brought it to our board and discussed the importance of a new campus and an investment in our children’s future. And our board grasped that unanimously, and then we stepped up to the plate,” Woodard added.