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Paul VI High School opens Chantilly campus

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This story has been updated. 

Members of the St. Paul VI Catholic High School community put a new address in the GPS as they headed off to school this year. When they arrived, they were met by a building totally unlike the former one. 

Fortunately, a familiar piece of the old campus was there to let them know they were in the right place — a 6-ton rock that has served as a colorful billboard of sorts, announcing school news to all who pass by. In the school colors of black and gold, it simply read, “Welcome home.”

St. Paul VI Catholic High School kicked off the new year and the official opening of its Chantilly campus with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mass and a blessing by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge Aug. 27.

Five years and 84 days ago, the Arlington Diocese announced its plan to relocate Paul VI, a diocesan high school founded in 1983, from its original home in the former Fairfax High School to a brand new building on 68 acres in Loudoun County, said Head of School Ginny Colwell. 

“There have been years of planning and design, negotiations and some compromise,” she said. “We have traveled as we, as a PVI family, have always traveled — with faith, with hope, with love and always with prayer. We are now in what I consider our forever home. We are ready to make new memories.”

Read about the school chapel blessing.

The new school has some 60 classrooms, eight science labs, a 700-seat theater and a cafeteria with indoor and outdoor seating. A covered walkway leads to an athletic building with two gymnasiums, a wrestling room and a trainer facility. The grounds have multiple sports fields and tennis courts.

The cost of construction, approximately $78 million, was funded by a combination of proceeds from redeveloping the Fairfax campus— which accounts for about half of the new campus expense — an ongoing fundraising campaign, and debt.

About 40 of the school’s 1,000 students attended the socially distanced ceremony, their smiles hidden by black masks. They watched Bishop Burbidge and Colwell cut the black and gold ribbons, and then accompanied Bishop Burbidge around the grounds as he blessed the façade of the school, the theater, the basketball court, the football field and the baseball diamond. They listened to his homily during Mass in the Mary, Mother of God Chapel. 

“Approach this year in joyful anticipation for the new gifts, the new blessings, the new opportunities that God has waiting for you. Open the doors to truth and wisdom and to the lessons that God will teach you this year,” Bishop Burbidge told them. “Your vocation right now is to be a student, so just don’t get by. Give God your best efforts.”

 

After the morning’s festivities, Bishop Burbidge joined the students for lunch in the school’s sunlit dining commons. This week, the students have been going through orientation, acclimating themselves both to a new building and new coronavirus prevention procedures. Next week they’ll begin classes, with half the students in the building while the other half learns from home. 

This wasn’t how Sabrina Smith pictured her senior year starting, let alone the opening of their new school home. But she’s glad they were able to celebrate together safely. “It’s not what I hoped for, but I’m very proud of us as a school for how we’ve been able to do this,” she said. 

She’ll miss the drive-thru Starbucks next to Paul VI’s Fairfax campus but really won’t miss some other aspects of the old school, such as the theater curtain that often got stuck during rehearsal. “I’m nostalgic for the old memories of that school but I'm very excited for this one,” said Smith. She’s been impressed by the beautiful theater, and the rest of the facilities. “It’s all so new, I’m afraid to touch anything. It almost doesn’t feel real,” she said. “The fact that we’re in here and still able to do as much as we can, I’m very grateful for. It’s crazy seeing (this) become a reality.”

 

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

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