South County Secondary School, a construction project spanning 70 acres and costing about $63 million, is almost complete. Development of the Laurel Hill property began in the spring of 2003 and is expected to cease between July 18 and Aug. 1.
"The big rumor is the building will never be done, and we will be going to school in tents," joked Dale Rumberger, principal of Fairfax County's newest secondary school.
Rumberger was speaking to a group of future students at a meeting on Wednesday, June 29, at Silverbrook Elementary School. Middle schoolers met separately from high school students interested in leadership positions for the upcoming school year. In his speech, Rumberger emphasized the importance of student involvement in shaping the identity of the school.
"What I'm looking for are students that want to make their school better," Rumberger said. "Our school is what we make of it."
By sharing what they would want to tell their best friend and the director of admissions of a prospective university about their school, students expressed personal and academic expectations of South County Secondary. Good food, respectful classmates, safety, qualified teachers, extracurricular activities and challenging programs were among the desired qualities.
"I'm excited," said Angela Vergel de Dios, 12. "I think it will be a good school."
One of the goals of the June 29 meeting was to enlist the help of the students as tour guides for the "Stallion Stampede," a formal open house introducing the new school to the community on Monday, Aug. 29, from 3-7 p.m.
RUMBERGER SPOKE to the group of students about their role as school leaders. Reading definitions of "lead" and "leadership," he highlighted the students' position as guides. The student volunteers will help organize the mass of students and parents who will be present for a glimpse at the school and to learn their class schedules for the upcoming school year.
"The school system is a very nice dictatorship, [but] every successful leadership effort takes a group of people," Runberger said. "Each class will have a cabinet or senate." A variety of positions in class office, school-wide office and the Superintendent's Advisory Council will be available. Elected leaders will be responsible for organizing such events as Back-to-School Night and the Homecoming dance. Videotaped speeches of the hopefuls will be aired to the school in the fall.
"I ran for offices in high school, but I was never elected," said Ann Marie White, a 10th-grade chemistry teacher. "Now it's not so much about popularity. It's about kids that really want to do things."
"I want people to look up to me," said Kim Matthews, 12, explaining her interest in leadership.
"A good leader is able to help others in difficult situations," said Steven Adler, 15.
The meeting also offered students some vital information. Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 6, school will be in session from 7:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. South County Secondary will use block scheduling, extending classes to 90 minutes, with 10 minute breaks between bells. An assistant principal and two counselors will be provided for each grade level. Perhaps most importantly, the Stallions will not be sharing lockers.
For more information and updates, visit the school's Web site at www.fcps.k12.va.us/fts/southcounty or call 703-446-1500.