Local Commentary

Editorial: An Upbeat New School Year

For as truly bad as things have been because of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last 18 months, especially for families with school aged children having to cope with the effects of lockdowns and quarantines, it was remarkable that the convocation marking the beginning of the new school year for the Falls Church City Public Schools was as upbeat as it was this week. The onset of the new school year is going to require masks for all students, in accordance with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s mandate, but beyond that, it was all thumbs up and positive at the convocation, the first ever large scale public event held in the brand-spanking new $120 million state of the art newly-renamed Meridian High School.

The school will open its doors on the first day of school Monday to a full complement of students for a full time in person education with the minor stipulation that, while indoors, all must wear masks, at least for the time being.

FCCPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan’s message to students, staff, parents and the wider Falls Church community was enormously positive and, as they say, cautiously optimistic. It is premised on the remarkable demonstration of support for the school system by the vast majority of City residents, a support that was underscored in recent years by the amazing majorities of school bond and other referendum votes. They were redoubled by the clear satisfaction the huge majority of citizens have indicated, even with, as Noonan noted, their “silence,” regarding the incredibly complex and complicated process by which the City and its school system leaders were able to work together to run the construction of the new high school and the imminent large-scale mixed use development of an adjacent 10 acres on the site of the old, now demolished high school.

No balls have been dropped in the astonishing juggling act it has taken to accomplish both results simultaneously, even with the added emergency of a fierce Covid-19 pandemic. It has all proceeded flawlessly, to the considerable chagrin of a tiny band of naysayer residents who have never been able to accept that the City could do anything right.

All this has happened even as one must accept the inevitability that something must go wrong. But, nope, not so far. The process has not only paid for the whole new high school with all the bells and whistles, but it’s done so by providing the region’s biggest real estate tax rate cut for all City taxpayers.

Moreover, while we say all this while “knocking on wood,” superstition is proving no match for the competence and dedication of well-chosen professionals and talented volunteer residents of the Little City. Amidst all this, the City survived a global pandemic and years of one of the ugliest presidential regimes in U.S. history, and our students have proven themselves both highly qualified and uniquely compassionate, amazing present and future leaders.