Fairfax County legislative and school officials lauded all those involved in the three-year, $72 million renovation of Lake Braddock Secondary School as the renovation came to a close. Before a crowd of community and student leaders Tuesday, Sept. 18, administrators at the Burke school officially cut the ribbon on the project.
"In terms of renovation projects, there has been nothing as huge as what we did here," said Kevin Sneed, director of design and construction for Fairfax County Public Schools. "We rearranged the entire school really. The size alone makes this the biggest facility we’ve ever done."
The entire school, save the floors in the main hall, was revamped, with another 75,000 square feet added on. The school of about 3,800 students now boasts a total floor space close to 600,000 square feet and about 35 new learning spaces, including classrooms and other specialty areas, like science and computer labs, according to Sneed.
For quicker turnaround and a more effective use of school space, the school was renovated one segment at a time, allowing students access to both the school’s newer and yet to be reconstructed sections, he added.
But most amazing about the renovation project was the time in which it was completed, said Dave Thomas, Lake Braddock associate principal and administrative liaison. Finished in just about three years, the project concluded seven months ahead of schedule, a fact that is directly attributable to the allocation of the entire funding for the project in one bond referendum, he said.
"In terms of renovations, the three years are pretty short. We’ve had renovations in this county that have taken seven or eight years," Thomas said. "So, for us to see this school completed in what is essentially a school year early … it’s very exciting."
ONE OF THE largest changes made during the renovation was in bringing Lake Braddock from its former architectural concept of an "open school" — one with no doors for classrooms or study areas — to a completely enclosed area, according to Thomas.
"When it comes to the school as whole, the most apparent thing is that they basically enclosed the entire place. Closed all the classrooms, added doors, added a lot of windows," Thomas said. "It gives the teachers a little bit of a relief from any noises in the halls and goes back to the traditional layout of a school."
Aside from the addition of the new classroom dividers and learning spaces to the school, the renovation project is most easily characterized in allowing its students and faculty direct access to all of the most recent technology available, Thomas said.
"Prior to the renovation we just had basic TVs and computers in the classrooms," he said. "Now we basically have state of the art classrooms throughout the school. We’ve set the model at this point for the renovations of schools in the county when it comes to technology."
Gone are the overhead projectors and erasable markers once used by teachers, replaced by interactive Mimeo learning boards, LCD projectors and cable television monitors.
THE RENOVATION was a big improvement from how the school had previously looked and classes had formerly operated, said Carl Rudebusch, a 17-year-old Lake Braddock senior from Springfield who attended the school throughout the renovation.
"It was well worth the wait," Rudebusch said. "The school really looks great, there’s a lot more space. I think it should be a great school for a long time."
Having a school that could be considered one of the county’s newest high schools is the biggest advantage now that renovations have been completed, said Lake Braddock senior Chris Norman, 17, of Springfield.
"Since this has been completed, we’re the newest school basically," Norman said. "It’s really like having an entirely new school for your senior year."
The advantages in the renovation and the school’s new technology are most apparent to Lake Braddock senior Melissa Duffy, 17.
"It’s a big change, but you can see the differences especially when you go to other schools … and they don’t have the same technology that we have here," Duffy said.
Still, students and staff will face a period of getting used to the greater amount of space at Lake Braddock, said senior Sasha Doran, 17.
"After going through [the renovation] for the past three years, to have this much space, it’s an adjustment," Doran said. "But I think that most of us can get used to having a lot more room to move around."