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School Board Approves Swimming Pool for Prince William’s 12th High School

By Uriah Kiser December 18, 2013 9:43 pm

5 Comments

121813-school-pool

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – School officials on Wednesday night voted to approve Prince William County’s controversial 12th high school.

The $97.9 million high school will be one of the costliest ever built in Virginia, and for the past year it has been the center of a debate on whether or not it should include a $10 million swimming and aquatics facility inside the school. The Prince William County School Board on Wednesday, during their last meeting of the year, voted to approve the school pool along with the new school construction at the future school site on Va. 234 near Hoadly Road..

“This has been probably the ugliest decision that I’ve seen during my 10 years on the Board,” said Chairman Milton C. Johns, who noted many of his constituents would not support his decision and that he may catch political flack due to the overall construction cost to be paid by taxpayers.

Betty Covington was one of five of eight School Board members who voted to approve the school pool. She was thought to be a swing vote, she said.

“What better exercise is there than swimming… it’s a life saving skill, and I can’t think of a better skill to have” said Covington.

Three School Board members, Lisa Bell, Alyson Satterwhite, and Gil Trennum, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the School Board to table the school approval until next month.

“I am not against swimming, and I am not against the pool. There is no doubt there is a lack of [swimming] lane space in this county…I don’t think it’s the job of the Prince William County Schools to provide the pools,” said Satterwhite.

It became clear Wednesday that a deal that was in the works to have the Prince William County Government pay the cost to build the school pool and have the school system maintain the pool never materialized.

“If the Board of County Supervisors wanted to build the pool at the site of the 12th high school, that is a partnership that we would have all liked to have been apart of, but they have other plans and that’s their prerogative,” she added.

The meeting hall was filled with supporters of the school pool. They wore stickers that read “pool the school,” and many of them spoke of the benefits of having an aquatic facility at the new school.

“My son has had a lot of aqua therapy, and he’s had a hard time walking, they told us he never would, and he hits the water and he flies,” said Casey Burrows, of Woodbridge.

Burrows moved to Prince William County in 2005 from Tysons Corner. She said the pool will not only help her son and daughter in public schools, but the school pool will make Prince William a better overall community in which to live.

No one at the meeting spoke out against the decision to include a school pool, but Coles District School Board member Dr. Michael Otaigbe said he was prepared to have “his name dragged through the mud” on social media for his decision to approve the pool.

Re-interring the graves at the new high school

In November, school officials exhumed several graves found on the school site, which were located on land where the school’s football stadium will sit. That sparked outrage among community residents, and from the Lynn family whose ancestors are believed to be buried there.

Members of the Lynn family, who can trace back their roots in the area of the new high school site to the turn of the 20th century, say the remains should be reburied on the same tract of land on which the high school will sit.

This evening, following a public meeting on Monday, Chairman Johns said his Board supports a plan to reinter the remains at the school site, in a new location other than where they were found. It should take six to eight months to get the proper permits for the work, he added.

According to school division documents, re-internment site would be relocated from the football stadium grounds to an area on school grounds closer to main school building.

The school is slated to hold 2,200 students and is scheduled to open by 2016.

  • True Grit

    Mr.Kiser,

    I want to thank you for your coverage of this issue.

    You may not be aware that some of these board members who were not supporting the pool were also using our local hate bloggers as conduits of inaccurate information.One of those sites is directly linked to one of those board members.

    This was never just about a pool,some of those board members you quoted are planning to run for higher office and were inflaming the pool issue for political gain.Why were reporters like yourself constantly parroting the storyline about the process not being transparent when on more than one occasion it was mentioned in a board meeting and again reiterated by other board members last night that the information had been made available for inspection months ago?

    It is my opinion that reporters who mine blog sites for information for stories are relying too heavily on the accuracy of this information.Most residents don’t access these sites and many I have spoken with were in support of the pool.It always seems that the anti-crowd receives all of the attention from the press even though they are usually in the minority on many issues.

    Why is the press not asking why those same board members who were using the issue of large classroom sizes and low teacher’s salaries as the strawman for not supporting the pool,why were they not taking action early on in their tenure to address these important issues by advocating for raising taxes so these issues can be adequately funded?

    Just asking!

    • the taxman cometh

      You’ve got your wish! Taxes are going to be raised for the pool; you should be dancing in the street. Forgive me, but if you absolutely had to have a pool…why has NO ONE been lobbying the BOCS to provide one as part of their strategic plan for PW County parks and recreation? There’s no free lunch, so now taxes will definitely be raised for the school aquatic center. It’s just that a goodly number of parents would rather have seen the SCHOOL Board be more passionate about classroom sizes and classroom teacher compensation.

      Just answering!

  • dumfries citizen

    It is a sad day for Prince William County Schools, when some school board members would rather have a big fancy school, then to find ways to help with the overcrowding in classroom and teacher’s raise.

  • Ed

    What information was inaccurate? Be specific rather than just slinging abuse.

    They have been asking for a plan to reduce class sizes but as usual, they were ignored.
    The worst overcrowding by district will be helped by this school which is being built in the wrong place. Districts will have to be massively redrawn to balance Patriot and Battlefield and nothing annoys voting parents more than busing their kids further because of the school boards’ terrible planning.

    • Ed

      Correction: overcrowding will not be helped by this school