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Hampton Roads Academy

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Type  Private, Coeducational
Oversight  Board of Trustees
Age range  4-18
Founded  1959
Colors  Navy Blue, Gold
Established  1959
Grades  Pre K - 12
Phone  +1 757-884-9100
Average class size  16
Headmaster  Peter W. Mertz Karen Gillespie (Upper) Rhonda DeChirico (Middle) Susanne Swain (Lower)
Address  739 Academy Ln, Newport News, VA 23602, USA
Similar  Peninsula Catholic High Sch, Denbigh Baptist Christian, Menchville High School, Bethel High School, Woodside High School

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Hampton Roads Academy is a private independent, co-educational, college-preparatory day school in Newport News, Virginia serving 653 students in grades Pre-K through twelve, and part of the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools. HRA is accredited through the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, a member of the National Association of Independent Schools and is a National Blue Ribbon School. The average class size is 16, and there are 65 students in the Class of 2017. The school has a racist history as a segregation academy.


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Admission to Hampton Roads Academy is selective, with consideration given to the applicant’s past academic performance, teacher recommendations, test scores, and personal interview. The Academy admits highly motivated, college-bound students, without regard to race, creed, nationality, physical disability, or gender, who can benefit from and contribute to the school community and its programs.


As a college preparatory school where 100% of graduates are admitted to four-year colleges or universities, the curriculum is accordingly rigorous; therefore, it is the Academy’s practice to recommend that most students take no more than 3 AP courses in the 11th or 12th grade year, and most AP’s are not available until 11th/12th grade years.

Hampton Roads Academy offers 18 Advanced Placement Courses: English Language, English Literature, Calculus BC, Statistics, U.S. Government and Politics, U.S. History, World History, Psychology, Comparative Government, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Physics 1 and 2, Studio Art Drawing, Studio Art Design, French, and Spanish. Honors courses are offered in Chemistry, French, Latin, Spanish, Algebra II/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Photo Design, and Drawing. All students who are enrolled in an AP course will sit for the respective exam in May. (Please note: AP Biology and AP Chemistry each require a “double period” in a student’s schedule; one period is dedicated to classroom instruction, while the other period is spent in the lab.)

In the English department, seniors may choose to enroll in AP English Literature and/or a variety of semester course options. In the History department, seniors may choose to enroll in AP U.S. Government and Politics and/or AP Psychology and/or they may choose from a variety of semester course options. These curricular offerings are robust seminars, critical inquiry-based and writing intensive and are considered among the most demanding courses offered at the school. Core courses in English this year include: Contemporary Fiction and Film, Public Speaking, Creative Writing, World Literature, Behind the Lyrics: American Pop Music, and Deconstructing Gender.

The History options include: General Psychology, Economics, International Relations, and The Constitution and Social Issues. In addition to these rich curricular offerings, the school has implemented a 1:1 iPad program as well as online course offerings to increase students’ facility with technology.

Hampton Roads Academy is one of only 16 schools in the state of Virginia to be awarded a chapter of the [[Cum Laude Society]] (1971); other academic honor societies include those for French, Latin, and Spanish, Mu Alpha Theta, National Art Honor Society, and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Students must also complete at least forty hours of community service in order to graduate from the Academy; most students will exceed this requirement. In addition, each senior completes an independent research project with a faculty member that is part of the requirement for graduation.

The Honor System

The student-run Honor Council administers the Honor Code of Hampton Roads Academy. The purpose of the system is to create a community of trust throughout the school, to develop in each student a strong sense of individual integrity, and to allow each student responsibility in making personal decisions.

Extracurricular Life

Hampton Roads Academy encourages development in all aspects of a student’s life. The majority of students participate in athletics, fine and performing arts, forensics, and community service. The bi-annual Leadership Institute prepares students for positions in clubs and organizations within the school, and outdoor education programs are offered on HRA’s Challenge Course and in the Shenandoah Valley.


Hampton Roads Academy was founded in 1959 as a segregation academy with a student body of sixty all white students in grades seven through eleven. It was the first, and remains the only independent, nonsectarian secondary college-preparatory school on the Peninsula.

The idea of establishing a private school on the Peninsula was raised in 1958 by a group of parents who were opposed to the racial integration of the public school system. On February 13, 1959, the public was invited to an informational meeting at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newport News. A committee, meeting at the home of local businessman William H. Ferguson, Jr. in Newport News, decided to proceed with the school. Mrs. Pauline Trimpi, who would later become the first secretary of the board of trustees, consulted with her neighbor, the Newport News tax assessor, on trends in property development. Spreading out a map on her kitchen table, they predicted that a future central site on the Peninsula would be near the proposed Interstate 64 at Oyster Point. Within six months, a 72-acre parcel of land was purchased with the help of Mrs. Woodroof Hiden Hussey for $500 an acre, and the school was built. Russell Buxton, M.D. of Hampton was the first chairman of the board of trustees. The first headmaster was Mr. Robert Herzog, former assistant headmaster at Norfolk Academy.

Initial funding consisted of $30,000 raised from patron subscriptions, and a $75,000 loan from the First National Bank of Hampton which was guaranteed by trustees individually. Parents, trustees, and friends donated books for the library, trees for the landscape, coat racks, and boardwalks extending from the school building to the dirt parking area.

On June 6, 1961, the first graduating class of six students received their diplomas, awarded by U.S. Congressman Tom Downing. The multipurpose room was built in 1962, along with three faculty houses on Academy Lane. A fourth faculty house was built in 1964. The library was expanded in 1965 to accommodate 18,000 volumes, and the tennis courts were resurfaced the following year. Art, music, drama, and a school newspaper were also added.

The school earned accreditation by the Virginia State Board of Education in 1971, and enrollment grew to 319 by 1972. The school rented space in the Jewish Community Center for physical education classes until the first gym, now known as the Joseph Carpenter Gym, was completed in 1973. Enrollment passed 400 in the fall of 1974, but then began to decrease. In 1973, financial gifts provided for completion of the library and three athletic fields. In 1974, the parking lot was paved for the first time. The Development Office was established in 1976, and an endowment fund was established in 1977. In 1979, a gift of $60,000 for the tennis courts was announced. By that year, enrollment had dropped to 343, and a commission was appointed to study ways to improve the school’s image and recruitment.

With the addition of grade six in 1979, a middle school was established. In 1984 an Apple computer lab was equipped. In 1985 a Costa Rica exchange program was established. Also, in 1985, plans were made to build an auditorium following the announcement of an anonymous gift of $250,000. In 1987, the state announced plans to purchase HRA property to allow improvements to Oyster Point Road, resulting in a substantial financial windfall for the school and in 1989, the auditorium construction began with a campaign totaling $1,018,000. The trustees launched the New Wing campaign in 1990, and the $1 million state-of-the-art Arts and sciences wing was completed in time for the start of the school year in September 1992.

Planning for a library and a new Upper School began in 1995 under the “A Future Based on Excellence” campaign. Lights were installed on the football field that same year. The Phillips Commons, the new library and classroom wing of the Upper School opened during the 1997-1998 school year. In the summer of 1998, the former library was converted into the Lecture Hall along with the addition of the adjacent kitchen and two music rooms.

The parking lot was expanded in 2003 followed by a track re-surfacing in 2004. The Charles R. Spencer, Jr. Gymnasium was dedicated in December. Three of the four faculty houses were demolished. The fourth house still stands and is the current home of the Development office.

In 2005, Hampton Roads Country Day School (HRDS) approached HRA about renting space on the campus for a newly formed school consisting of grades PK-5. The 1959 Wing was renovated to accommodate the middle school which allowed HRCDS to take over the former middle school.

Bleachers and a press box at the football field were put into service for the 2005-06 school year under a project driven by the Navigator Club and the Parents Association. Enrollment reached a record high of 538 in 2006 – or 679 counting HRDS. In 2008 HRCDS merged with HRA and HRA became a PK-12 school. A new baseball field was constructed and opened in the spring of that same year. The old baseball field became home to the softball team.

The first day of school, August 28, 2009, marked the 50th year of Hampton Roads Academy.


Hampton Roads Academy Wikipedia

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