A Whole New Woodson

A Whole New Woodson

Renovations to high school include science wing, new auditorium.

A tour through W. T. Woodson's newly renovated building shows a brand new science wing, a large auditorium, refurbished hallways and floors. Of course, it is a virtual online tour, since Woodson isn't due to begin construction on these same renovations for another year.

"It will be a nice, new, clean school, where everything works," said assistant principal Jeff Yost, who has been involved with the renovation since the beginning.

Plans for renovations to Woodson first began three years ago, said Yost. The funds came through in the 2003 bond cycle, and the project is currently in the permitting stage of the process. It will go out to bid in September 2006.

Woodson could use the renovations. According to Yost, the school has had only one addition since it was built in 1962.

Students in particular feel the age of the building. The insides of the lockers still have stickers on them from what looks like the late 1960s, said senior Chris Johnson. The temperature in the school is never quite right either, said senior Jay O'Brien.

But one of the greatest concerns for students is crowded hallways, lengthening the commute between classes.

"A couple years ago, you had time to talk to friends between classes," said O'Brien. "Now, you have to hustle to your locker if you want to get to class on time."

NEW LOCKERS in the hallways are a part of the deal, and there might be a way to widen the hallways with more locker room space, said Yost. All school renovations have a general template or "educational specification," said Chuck Bolen of the Office of Design and Construction Services for Fairfax County Public Schools. In addition, design committees made up of staff and PTA members meet with architects to customize the template. Some of the typical renovations for a high school are new windows, lockers, and tiles, which Woodson will receive as well as refurbished athletic fields and bleachers.

The new Woodson will also have five major additions, said Bolen. It will have a new auditorium, science wing, administrative wing, weight room and locker room.

The auditorium is the school’s most formidable addition. It will sit where the main parking lot is now, taking up the entire parking lot area, said Yost. It will have dressing rooms, a set elevator, a black box theater and a balcony, and will seat 2,300 people.

"The existing [auditorium] is a lot smaller than a lot of other schools’," said Bolen. "The new one will be the best in the county."

The new science wing, to be added to the back of the building, will have 14 rooms. The new science rooms will be larger than the current ones, with laboratory space as well as classroom space, said Yost.

Features such as Woodson’s auditorium and science wing are tailored to the school’s particular needs and strengths, said Bolen.

"Typically, schools ask for something special that is not covered in the [educational specification], and we try to accommodate them as much as we can because we don’t want to be a one-size-fits-all design, but on the other hand, we have to be consistent across the county with the level of expense going into the project."

Woodson’s performing arts department is "fantastic," said Yost, and the new auditorium will reflect that strength.

"I think it's a well-rounded high school," said junior Sophie Johnson. For athletics, however, not enough space exists, she said. Right now, people are often turned away at indoor home games because not enough seating is available in the gym, she said.

The gym will not be expanded, said Yost, but the renovations will add more locker room space for athletic teams, as well as space for gymnastics and cheerleading teams. A new weight room will also join the rest of the athletic wing on the west side of the school. Winter sports and gymnastics teams share the same space, he said, sometimes having to practice in the gym at Robert Frost Middle School nearby.

Many students are a part of Woodson's sports teams, said O'Brien and Chris Johnson, and would appreciate the renovations to the athletic department.

Part of the deal in the recent sale of the South County property condensed the amount of time it would take to renovate Woodson, said Yost. From the time the construction trucks unload their equipment until they pack up is just over three years, he said.

The new auditorium will take 18 months to complete, finishing in winter 2008. Because of the timing, Woodson’s drama program will have an auditorium for all but one production season during the entire process. Additions and refurbishment are spaced out so that students will be able to use the high school during renovations, said Yost.

Current students look forward to the renovations, even though this year's freshmen will have just graduated by the time the renovations are completed.

"I say the sooner, the better," said Sophie Johnson.