Local Commentary

A Remarkable New High School

The News-Press got its chance to tour the brand new $120 million high school facility this week, and we were truly amazed.

Honestly, this is the first-rate, state-of-the-art institutional living and beating heart of a community committed to advancing and elevating the great calling of education, the development and enhancement of the human mind and spirit to the benefit of our entire species.

Citizens of Falls Church, and anyone over the years who has contributed to the advancement of this community, should feel genuinely proud of our collective work to bring us to this point, the point where the students of our high school are about to move into this remarkable facility. They may not yet be able to flow in freely to begin the functioning of this school because of the pandemic for now, but it is something to surely anticipate.

The most recent chapter of the process to this point began with the passage of a $120 million bond referendum by a wide margin in November 2017. But there was a lot that led up to that point. Truly, the process can be seen dating back to the early 1990s to the point under the leadership of Superintendent Stuart Robertson and of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce to forge an informal new shared objective of achieving enhanced commercial revenue development for the purpose of supporting the City schools. Up to then, the interests of the business community were seen at odds with the schools and vice versa.

By 2001 the City had created conditions for the first large scale mixed use project, The Broadway, and by 2005, many in the community participated in the bond referendum for the construction of the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School and initial planning for a new high school. The process got a boost from Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Schiller, called for his lengthy experience in school construction projects, and then the arrival of current Superintendent Peter Noonan, who came on board in 2016, leading the process for the passage by the full Falls Church community of the $120 million bond.

Under Noonan’s leadership, the entire F.C. community remained fully engaged as the process moved forward to the present day and including the West End Gateway Partners’ plans for dense development of 9.7 acres directly across from the new school, atop the current high school with its May 2021 date for demolition. The completion of the plan awaits the development of that commercial plan aimed at paying for the entire thing, and its linking with adjacent developments leading to the West Falls Church Metro.

City residents should take legitimate pride in this culmination of a vision and perseverance leading to the achievement of this project. It will now be enhanced by new commitments to the kind of diversity that will make the system a beacon of hope for the full enfranchisement of the full array of our population.