Rain Delays Progress on New High School

Rain Delays Progress on New High School

Teetering on the brink of delays, construction crews on the South County High School are kicking into high gear, working weekends and overtime, in order to meet the school's 2005 opening date.

The project started in April but with all the rain, construction crews are 100 days off schedule, according to Dean Tistadt, assistant superintendent of facilities and transportation at Fairfax County Public Schools.

"We're already working on extended hours," Tistadt said.

Parent advocate Liz Bradsher is leading the pack of supporters of the school. Her children now wake up before the sun rises in their Crosspointe home, traveling to Hayfield Secondary every weekday. She has her fingers crossed.

"It's got to be open," she said. "We're hoping everything is going on as scheduled. As of this time, we're still on schedule."

According to Tistadt, a fine line exists between being on and off schedule.

"We're still trying to be optimistic," he said. "This was a tight schedule to begin with. We could use some breaks in the weather."

At the site on the western side of Silverbrook Road in Lorton, with the old prison fences and towers looming nearby, construction continues. The land has been cleared, and part of the concrete platform is down. But every time it rains, the work stops.

"There were days it's almost a lake there," Tistadt said.

THE SCHOOL is being funded with a public/private partnership with the Board of Supervisors, Park Authority, Clark Educational Advisors LLC, and KSI Services, a developer. In the plan, the school will open as a secondary school, providing a local place for middle-school students until a middle school can be built there as well. The future middle-school site is just west of the high school.

Among parents in that part of the county, all eyes are on the project. At a recent School Board candidate forum, the first two questions were about the school. Rita Thompson, one of the at-large Board incumbents, tried to put parents' minds at ease. The school project was not financed the typical county way, and she credited the ingenuity of some parents.

"You thought out of the box," she said. "You're going to get more than what you deserve."

Springfield Board incumbent Cathy Belter was optimistic as well. She has grandchildren who might be affected by the new school in the future.

"We will open that school in 2005," she said. "We're just praying the rain will hold off."

Some candidates had ideas to ensure that construction remains on schedule. Steve Hunt, at-large candidate, liked the weekends and overtime but also sees the public/private partnership as a driving force.

"They will not begin to receive lease payments until there is a school to occupy," he said in an e-mail.

At-large candidate Nell Hurley wants to examine the contract to determine whether there are other options, and Springfield candidate Scott Martin wanted to renegotiate the contract with incentives and penalties.