Summer Break Ends, Students Return to Class
– September 3, 2013 4:37 pm
Back to School 2013
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – With first-day schedules in hand, students at Potomac Senior High School spilled into a newly renovated locker bay, dubbed “The Panther’s Den,” trying to find their way to class.
“Let’s go, let’s go,” shouted a security guard herding students through the hallway. “We’re the best in the county bringing out the best of each other!”
For some 1,700 Potomac Panthers students and staff, it was the first day back to school Tuesday. They, along with other public schools in Prince William, Stafford counties, and the Greater Manassas area went back to class after a long summer break.
At Potomac High, this year marks the completion of a major 3-year renovation to the 32-year-old school that brought the addition of 30 new classrooms, the conversion of old outdoor courtyards to a new culinary arts center, a newly expanded gymnasium — now the largest of any high school in Prince William County, a new turf football field, and a newly renovated dining hall and cafeteria.
While enrollment numbers at the high school remain below capacity, that is expected to change. Construction has just begun nearby on a new neighborhood, Potomac Shores, where some 4,000 homes and a new town center will be built along the Potomac River.
“We expect our enrollment to increase to as many as 2,300 once Potomac Shores is built,” said Principal Michael Wright, 53, who is returning to the school for a second year as it’s top administrator. “We’re not at capacity yet, but we’re pretty sure we’ll get there.”
At the end of first block (students attend classes on block schedules with each block spanning 1 hour 30 minutes), 15-year-old Destiny sat in Ancient World History Class. When the bell rung at 10 a.m., her next stop was not another class — its was lunch.
“I’d like to have a later lunchtime so it’s more on schedule of when I normally eat,” she said.
About half of the 31 students in the class were headed to lunch. The other half to their next class.
Awaiting those headed to the cafeteria was a smorgasbord of spaghetti, chicken, mixed vegetables, french bread pizza, rolls, rice, and a self-service salad bar.
“Lunch is a major undertaking,” said Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Steven L. Walts, who was visiting the school on opening day. “We can move 450 students through this cafeteria in 30 minutes.”
While academics are paramount here, some students like 14-year-old Elijah had extracurricular activities on the brain.
“I’m looking forward to joining ROTC,” he said. “Pretty much everyone in my family has served in the military, so it’s what I want to do.”
The school has a Navy Junior Officers Reserve Training Corps program.
From the renovations, student scheduling, preparing lunches, to transporting students here by bus, thousands of preparations went into making the first day of school at Potomac Senior High School, and at 92 other schools in Prince William County a success.
Schools spokeswoman Irene Cromer distributed facts and figures about the school division — the second largest in the state behind Fairfax County — prior to opening day:
* Expecting more than 85,000 new students in our 93 schools; continue to be Virginia’s second largest School Division
*Hired approximately 600 new teachers
*173,657 job applications were received this past year, including 66,495 teacher applications
*Approximately 10,000,000 square feet of building space cleaned
*School additions at the following schools increased student capacity by 2,100
Potomac High School
Benton, Parkside, and Potomac Middle Schools
Penn, West Gate, Sinclair, Sudley, Mullen, Loch Lomond, and River Oaks Elementary Schools
*Over 11,000 new computers installed, with over 45,000 on the PWCS network
*Over 300 new interactive whiteboards installed, resulting in two-thirds of our schools now having 100% of their classrooms with this technology
*Self-supporting Imaging Center is prepared to handle over 4,500 print jobs with almost 18 million impressions (based on last year)
*Information Technology Help Desk is prepared to assist with approximately 88,000 calls (based on last year)
*Over 12,000 students attended summer school for remediation, enrichment, extended school year, and high school academic programs
*Over 13,300 staff at all levels participated in 848 professional development courses this summer, in preparation for the new school year
On the first day of school:
*15,000 breakfasts and 53,500 lunches will be served
*825 buses will transport about 63,000 students