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Franklin Sherman Renovates

Parents and neighbors gather for final informational meeting before construction commences.

Joan Hicks has been a neighbor of Franklin Sherman Elementary School since 1954. Her children attended the school, and Hicks currently volunteers there every Thursday. She is thrilled with the upcoming multi-million dollar renovation project.

“I think it’s marvelous,” said Hicks. “If we had the choice between this and building another school — because they could have put another school on the site — we would have ended up with a much larger school, and I don’t think that would have been good.”

On Monday, Dec. 10, parents and neighbors attended an informational meeting on the impending renovations at Franklin Sherman.

“We’re mostly here to talk about construction because that’s what’s next,” said project leader Mark Hilty, noting that the design phase, building permit process and bidding process have all been completed. Construction on the school will begin in the next two to three weeks and will be done in “discreet phasing,” as it will be an occupied renovation. The estimated project completion is fall 2009.

“We are adding three big huge additions … this is a big elementary school renovation — you won’t recognize the inside of this building by the time it’s done,” said Hilty.

HILTY ASSURED parents that the number one concern of everyone involved is the safety of the students. To ensure their well being at all times, physical barriers will be placed between all construction areas and the segments of the school that are in use. In addition, all demolition work will be performed after school hours, and all construction workers will have to display identification badges at all times, or else they will be asked to leave. Workers have also been told not to speak to or interact with any of the students at any time.

In Phase I of the project, a temporary main entrance will be built and workers will install a new sprinkler room, update the boiler room and existing electric, add a media center, an administration addition and a new section of classrooms. A main lobby will also be added, as well as toilets and new staff lounge area. Phase I is expected to be complete in August 2008.

Phase II is planned for September 2008 to December 2008, and the existing classrooms, media center, toilets and reading room will all be renovated. Phase II is expected to run from January 2009 to May 2009, and the third section of classrooms will be renovated and completed. The fourth and final phase is scheduled to take place from June 2009 to August 2009, and will see construction of a new gym, kitchen, cafeteria and music center.

WHILE THE NEW and improved Franklin Sherman will not be able to hold much more of a capacity than its current enrollment, it will offer students significantly upgraded facilities and additional learning space for music and arts classes and specialty courses.

“We’ll have the same number of classrooms but the primary rooms will have bathrooms and every classroom will have a window, which is something that we didn’t have before … but the good news is that we’re still just going to be our small school which I think is very important,” said Franklin Sherman principal Vicki Duling, Ph.D.

With an enrollment of 376, Franklin Sherman is the smallest elementary school in the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) system.

Some residents at Monday’s meeting raised questions about traffic patterns and construction disturbances in the neighborhood, but project manager Tom Ours predicts that while there may be some impacts on the surrounding community, they will most likely be minimal.

Franklin Sherman parent Kelly Treivitz has young children who just started at the school. She says she is pleased with both Franklin Sherman as a school, and the way in which the renovations are being handled.

“But I almost wish that the plan would be a little bit bigger, but we just moved to a new house to stay in this school district,” said Treivitz.