Falls Church City Schools’ Superintendent Peter Noonan at a town hall meeting in the Community Center Sunday unveiled to the public for the first time the final schematic rendering of the new George Mason High School, which if all goes according to plan, will begin construction next summer and be completed and occupied by the winter of 2021.
Working with the team of Gilbane Construction with Stantec and Quinn Evans architects changes and tweaks to the original plan first unveiled last summer keep the essential components of a two-vertical building structure, one now affectionately called the “skinny” bar and the other the “fat” bar with a heart of the school between them, and attached at a point to the existing Henderson Middle School with a common kitchen. “We have a plan for a school that works for us, not against us” providing critical elements of education including communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity, Noonan said. “We can do all these with this design.”
There will now be four months of detailed design development in collaboration with teachers, students, the school board and the community, he said, before the work begins the day after school lets out next June. Students will stay in the existing high school while the new one is built around it, and the demolition of the current school will occur after the new one is completed and occupied. Modifications to the schematic design presented Sunday included more outdoor spaces, a “welcoming” entrance area, additional parking, a LEED Gold net-zero project, a memorial garden space, an additional outdoor space for the middle school, lights on the new soccer field, bollards for safety in front of the entrance to the school, two vomitoriums to connect the dressing rooms in the building with the sports fields, a full-sized gym floor with a 1,500 seat capacity, a 600 fixed seat capacity auditorium (capable of adding another 75 loose seats) with a wider (50 foot) proscenium opening on the stage that is deeper front to back, and an outdoor terrace overlooking the softball field. There will be gender neutral dressing and bathrooms, a black box theater space, a music lab, and a staircase that goes five floors up the spine of the school.
The school is also well equipped with security measures, and the second floor will have the media center (library) and upper level of the auditorium with another 100 seats possible. Classrooms (now called “learning studios”) will be augmented with science and visual arts labs with robotics and fabrication areas, and an interior open “learning stair” and TV studio on the third floor.