Hammering Out a Deal: Construction Plans are Finalized


The yellow portion of the image will be the new additions to the school.

West Po will be undergoing a $22 million dollar construction project to increase the capacity of the school by one third, from 2,331 students to 3,000. The construction will commence in December 2020, and it will last two years if it stays on its ambitious schedule, according to design plans. If followed, the project describes plans to eliminate all the trailers, add more classrooms, as well as change parking by adding spaces in the parking lot by the Pulley Center and subtracting the overflow lot.

“We are 119% over capacity. We are built to have a little over 2,200 students and we are almost 2,700. Within the next 3 years we are projected to reach almost 3,000. The overcrowding is having a direct negative impact on teaching and learning.” Ms. Tanganika Millard, principal, said.

Once finished, the new space could change the way students navigate campus by allowing to require students to stay inside while walking to and from class.

Leaders hope the result of the construction will be “a facility that can fully support our students and staff which will maximize access to instructional programs and improve overall teaching and learning,” Millard said.

What will change with the construction?

The plan for the new renovation is to add a connector between Quander and Springbank, along with 26 new classrooms, 6 new science labs, and 1,000 additional square feet to the cafeteria. This construction process is valued at 22 million dollars in Fairfax County’s budget for new additions and renovations, according to information on the West Po website.

Most of these new rooms will be built in the new addition that is being developed where the overflow lot is now.
Fairfax County is also incorporating new features into the additions that make them more sustainable, according to the minutes from the PTSA meeting on October 21, 2019. These features will include high-efficiency lighting as well as solar panels to heat the water heaters instead of using electricity.

And, once the construction is complete, there will be more parking spaces after construction is finished as the new Kiss’n’Ride lane will be where the tennis courts are now, which will lengthen the parking lot next to the Pulley Center.

According to the plans from the October 21, PTSA meeting, the new lot will add 136 new parking spaces. The tennis courts will be relocated between the football and baseball fields.

“I think [the new construction] is really good because we are super overpopulated and making [the school] bigger will make the hallways less crowded,” said Grace Viani, sophomore.

How Students Will be Affected During Construction

The main side effect of this construction that students will contend with during the building process will be the loss of parking spaces, as the overflow lot will have some equipment moved onto it in preparation for adding the new building there. There are approximately 115 parking spaces in the overflow lot, half of those are student parking spots. This is almost a third of the Junior parking spots at West Po.

It is also expected that there will be some spaces lost in the Junior lot, although it is unclear how many at this point. According to Millard, this should be discussed in upcoming meetings during construction.
Because of how long this construction is expected, the current Juniors and Sophomores will not be able to reap the benefits of the new additions, as they will graduate before construction is officially finished. The Juniors and Sophomores will also be most affected by the reduced parking spaces, as they will be Juniors and Seniors when the construction begins. “I hate the fact that we’re losing parking spaces, but I’m happy to leave before they don’t allow anyone to go outside,” said Sara Langdon, sophomore.

Effects After Construction

Once the construction is finished and a new connector is added between Springbank and Quander, students will no longer be allowed to go outside during passing periods and to or from lunch according to Matt Dunne, a member of the parent, teacher, student association (PTSA).

“I don’t like the idea of not being able to go outside… the idea of not being able to go outside is silly. It’s not natural to keep teenagers inside for seven hours,” said Hannah Orenstein, sophomore.
The ability to go outside will become restricted due to concerns many of the parents had about school security, according to Dunne.

Because students will no longer be outside during passing periods, the newer hallways will be larger, 12-16 feet across, and because students will be more spread out with the new additions, so the traffic should become less concentrated. This new construction will eliminate the 18 existing trailers.