Should we demolish the school in order to build a new and better one?

Students shuffle into Mr. Rudy’s English class and file into their small desks that are clumped together in groups of five. As the teacher goes up to teach his class, he pushes away his small cart in order to reach the Promethean board. At 540 square feet, the English classroom is barely the size of the average household living room. This summer, the room was twice the size but then was cut in half to make more classrooms to account for overcrowding. 


Due to the class being cut in half, the original HVAC system had to be moved, so temperature is a mystery to students who learn there everyday. Some days, the air is stifling and others, students shiver without a sweatshirt. This forces Mr. Rudy to open the windows to somehow stabilize the temperature. As he opens the windows, multiple students complain as their Chromebooks are dead and there are only two student outlets, so they are forced to relocate, awkwardly shuffling closer to the outlet. As he asks them to open their Chromebooks, the internet is unstable due to the spotty wifi. This picture paints a sad reality as these students are forced to learn in an environment that isn’t up to standards. With temperatures being unstable, no room to move around, bad internet, and no electric outlets to charge computers, the learning conditions in that classroom are worse than when students were forced to endure distance learning.


 Not only are these learning conditions bad but our school is overcrowded to the point where the teachers suffer. Our school is overflowing and the main issue of this is the district lines. A kid who lives right across from Heritage would be sent to the County. Another issue with the overcrowding is that the teacher numbers remain the same. These teachers are forced to work in a classroom cut in half with the room not working and having the same number of students you would have in a bigger classroom. They are forced to work in half the space but with the same number of students, not to mention all the technical issues.


But what solutions are there? School board meetings often include discussions of redistricting some County students to surrounding high schools. Other plans include extensive renovations. While there aren’t lots of concrete ideas and everything’s up in the air, one idea has been to demolish the school and relocate the students to trailers or elsewhere while the school is rebuilt to be up to standards. 


Splitting the classrooms in half is a cheap solution. These classrooms were renovated quickly, with renovations being rushed and not even finished by the time the school year started. Even if the renovations were conducted with more time or care, there are still the same number of students sitting in now half the square footage. 


The Virginia Department of Education recommends that high school classrooms are 700 square feet in size. Many of our classrooms struggle to meet that size as they were originally built, not to mention the classrooms that were cut in half. 


Demolishing the school would allow for the creation of classrooms with care and attention. Park View High School has been in the news recently, with its physical building being compared to state-of-the-art new schools such as Light Ridge. It’s the same issue with County: there is only so much that renovation can accomplish when the school was designed for use with 1950s populations. 


Another positive of demolishing the schools would be to help accommodate the elective departments in our school. Many of the elective departments in our school are under-resourced compared to other schools like Heritage, many of the electives equipment are out of date, and the space in some of these classrooms are cramped. 


The art department has a very difficult learning environment as both of the classrooms are different sizes with one half the size of the other. Desk clumps make it difficult to move and there is a giant pillar blocking the teacher’s viewpoint from the clay area. If we were to demolish and rebuild the school, then the art department and other electives would have their classrooms built with more attention to the needs of learners in the 21st century. We could even use the previous classroom as a blueprint on what not to do. 


This solution would be more effective than renovation. Some have suggested turning the adjacent courtyard into another classroom, but these types of renovations are restricted to the current footprint. 


Some might argue that destroying the school would be to destroy the area’s heritage and history. However, keeping history shouldn’t come at the expense of our students. Many students have to come to school everyday and learn in terrible conditions. They have to learn in a class with no space to move, uncontrollable temperature, and they aren’t guaranteed a bathroom as even in its best conditions, the number of bathrooms here falling far short of the newer high schools, even Heritage. 


The current renovations in the school serve nothing but to be a bandaid on an open wound. These renovations do nothing to address or fix issues going in class and are a cheap attempt at fixing an issue that runs deep.


Many people in the community have attended this school and many are very vocal about their high school career here, leading to vocal support to keep the school the same as it is a staple of Leesburg and Loudoun County.


Should we stifle the learning environment just because 50 years ago this school was the first one in the county? When this school was created it was an all-White school as Black students were sent to Douglass High School. Then, the mascot was the Raider, which was a Civil War hero who fought for the Confederacy. The school was started and created with racism at its core, and recently we decided to change our mascot to better represent our community’s values. Likewise, to keep the school the way it is simply because of it being historical is doing a disservice to the students who are trying to learn.