Potomac Local: School Board Approves Swimming Pool for Prince William’s 12th High School
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.