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It’s Official! As New High School Rises, F.C. School Board OK’s Final Terms

INKING THE FINAL PACT for the construction of the new George Mason High School, currently under construction, at Tuesday’s School Board meeting were (left to right) Board members Justin Castillo, Vice Chair Greg Anderson, Chair Erin Gill and Superintendent Peter Noonan. (Courtesy Photo)

The Falls Church City Public Schools’ elected school board voted unanimously at its Tuesday night meeting to authorize Superintendent Peter Noonan to sign a watershed “Guaranteed Maximum Price 2” agreement with the Gilbane Building Company to complete the full construction of the new George Mason High School where work is already well underway.

The new “GMP 2” establishes that the cost of the project will not exceed the $120 million dollar total that voters approved by a wide margin in a general referendum in November 2017.

Construction has been proceeding at breakneck speed since the first shovel went into the ground in late June, and all hands are optimistic that the new school will be ready for occupancy by December 2020 in time for students to move from the existing building to the new one by that winter break.

The early deadline comes a good six months before the time such projects usually take. It helps with the process of moving to phase two of the overall plan for the school site, which is to vacate and demolish the old school in early 2021 to make way for a dense 10.3 acre mixed-use project that is projected to generate sufficient new revenues to the City to completely pay for the new high school and more.

Noonan provided an upbeat update to the Falls Church City Council at its meeting Monday on the eve of the signing of the GMP2.

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“The excavation of the new Mason High building’s footprint is almost complete,” he reported. “Over 50,000 cubic yards of soil has been excavated from the building footprint and trucked offsite in over 5,000 truckloads, all without incident.”

All of the temporary measures are in place (pathways, asphalt road repairs, fencing). Concrete foundation shop drawings are approved and work has started on the east side of the new building. Work on the foundation will continue into October and walls are forming at a pace of 150 linear feet per week. Steel “will be in the air” by mid or late October, an important milestone to achieve before the onset of less reliable weather in the winter.
Through the FCCPS website, there are two live cameras operating 24 hours a day showing live coverage of the construction process, and Noonan said that a “hard hat” tour of the site for Council members and others will be provided before the onset of the winter season.

milestone to achieve before the onset of less reliable weather in the winter.
Through the FCCPS website, there are two live cameras operating 24 hours a day showing live coverage of the construction process, and Noonan said that a “hard hat” tour of the site for Council members and others will be provided before the onset of the winter season.

Meanwhile, the $15.7 Virginia Department of Transportation project to upgrade the intersection of W. Broad (Route 7) and Haycock/Shreve Road is also underway, along with work on “Mustang Alley,” one of the new interior roads in the overall project extending from Haycock Road through the middle of the site to the new high school.

Work on “Mustang Alley,” which is on the mixed-use development site, known as the “Little City Commons” that EYA, Hoffman & Associates and Regency will develop, is due to be completed by the end of October to make access through the whole site easier.

At this stage, there are 400 more parking spaces available to the existing high school than before, Noonan said.

He quipped that the new high school “is not a Ferrari, but not a Pinto, either.”

Last week, the City Council approved the sale of the bonds for the project ahead of schedule to lock in record-low interest rates that could save the City over $10 million, according to Chief Financial Officer Kiran Bawa. The sale of those bonds (originally set for two separate sales down the road) is now slated for early October, and for as long as the revenues from those sales are held, the City has been advised that they will earn the City more in interest gained than the bonds will cost the City in interest.

The resolution adopted by the School Board Tuesday night states that “Whereas the Falls Church community overwhelmingly approved (64 percent to 36 percent) a $120 million bond referendum to fund” the new high school project in November 2017, and that following a competitive selection process, five well-qualified proposers were asked to provide detailed Requests for Proposal responses.

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From that and “many public meetings, forums and comments received from the community,” the School Board and City Council approved a contract with the Gilbane Group in July 2018 to build a new high school in collaboration with Stantec and Quinn Evans Architects.

It cited the official groundbreaking on June 14 and the signing of the first GMP, the GMP1, on May 14.

Now, the School Board having participated in the progression of the project since then, authorized the superintendent to sign the GMP2 deal for the “full construction” of the new school.

With the excavations and foundations due to be completed by November, a site plan amendment process will follow in January 2020 and the structure of the building will arise by February, enclosures completed by June and interiors completed by December 2020. Work on the fields will then follow from April through August 2021.

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