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Panthers on the move

First slide

As schools deal with the unprecedented situation of moving online for the last few months of the school year, St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax has been working through another unique situation —  moving an entire high school to a new location during a global pandemic. 

Paul VI opened in the city of Fairfax in 1983. For the 2020-21 school year, Paul VI will open at a new campus in Chantilly on 68 acres in southeastern Loudoun County.

“None of us could have ever imagined that the end of the school year would be like this, much less the end of our time in Fairfax,” said Ginny Colwell, head of school. 

According to Anne Nuttall, project manager for the move, the moving company provided Paul VI with approximately 2,000 boxes and 500 crates to use for packing up classrooms, offices, labs and other spaces.   

Despite the size of the job, the process of packing has gone very smoothly, according to Colwell. Packing days were scheduled and spaced out to ensure that only a safe number of people were on site at any one time, everyone kept social distance, and gloves and masks were provided. 

“Pre-pandemic, the process might have led to a party atmosphere; now everyone wants to get in the building and get the job done as quickly as possible,” said Colwell.

Beth Revor, Paul VI librarian, had been preparing for the move for the past 18 months. 

With an increase in digital resources and less shelf space at the new campus, Revor and others analyzed circulation data, current course offerings, publication dates and conditions of every item in the library, going through each section twice. Books that would not be making the move to Chantilly were donated to Better World Books or offered “free to a good home” to faculty and staff. 

After more than a year of organization, mapping and planning, the library moving day went smoothly. Books were placed in order on shelves on movable carts and wrapped for transport, and at the opposite end, placed in the same order on the shelves in Chantilly. 

“While it is sad to say goodbye to Fairfax, I am so excited for our new space. The library will be part of a larger Learning Commons, which is designed for collaboration and has so much potential for growth and space for all different types of learning,” Revor said.

At the opposite end of the building, moving the athletics department also was a major undertaking, with all the athletic equipment, trophies, balls, uniforms, goals, practice dummies and outside equipment in need of packing. 

“The small blessing is that we are not trying to pack up our department while finishing up our spring sports at the same time. I am sad that the spring season had to be canceled, but that has been one silver lining,” said Billy Emerson, athletic director. 

“We were able to work around social distancing, scheduling coaches to come at different times, but it was also challenging, for instance: having to lift heavy items together while keeping distance. We found some great vintage uniforms that our alumni will appreciate, which we packed for our archives and are a fun blast from the past.”

With packing underway, Tom Opfer, Paul VI principal, and Colwell decided they wanted to be “good stewards of what we have in the building,” according to Colwell.

Opfer took photos, contacted diocesan elementary schools, and worked with Stella Marina, an Operation Starfish project in Haiti, to make sure that Paul VI would not leave behind anything that could be of use to others, including file cabinets, storage cupboards, tables and chairs, art room tables, and stools from the science labs.

Student and teacher desks and other classroom furniture was donated to St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, St. James in Falls Church, Epiphany Catholic School in Culpeper, St. Patrick in Fredericksburg, St. Michael in Annandale, St. William of York in Stafford, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Vienna, St. Andrew the Apostle in Clifton, and St. Leo the Great in Fairfax. Epson BrightLinks, interactive displayers, were donated to Our Lady of Good Counsel.

“I am so grateful to Dr. Opfer for his countless trips through the building to make sure others in need are not forgotten,” Colwell said. “It has been hard walking the quiet hallways and saying hello to teachers as they pack and not being able to sit and talk with them. New space or old space, I just want us to safely be back together.”

Curren is director of communications at St. Paul the VI Catholic High School in Fairfax.

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020