Message to the “VI Man” — Don’t Leave Us!

Merry Christmas everyone.  I trust that you enjoyed the holidays with your friends and family.  We definitely did.

In the coming weeks, the focus will be shifting to the 2014 session.  There’s a lot of legislation, which I’m about to file.  Many of those topics I’ve written about; others are new material and new ideas.

Today, I’m writing about a local issue:  the presence of Paul VI Catholic High School, which has been our neighbor in Fairfax City for the past thirty years.

Paul VI sits on an eighteen-acre parcel, which was formerly Fairfax High School.  The site — formerly the Fairfax County Fairgrounds — was selected by the School Board in 1933 to be the first full-service public high school in Fairfax County.

The school was subsequently built with funds from FDR’s Public Works Administration.  It opened in 1935  and graduated thousands of aspiring local youths, including the current Speaker of the House (class of 1961).  My own class is 1986, which was the fiftieth class. Alas, the Old School had closed a few years earlier in 1973 and Fairfax High School moved to its current location on Old Lee Highway.

But I digress …

The Archdiocese of Arlington purchase the land in 1983, with the intention of re-opening it as a Catholic high school serving Fairfax County.  Previously, the site had been operating as George Mason’s “North Campus” for graduate education  (My mom took business classes there).

The move was a “win-win.”  George Mason consolidated its graduate level campuses in Arlington.  Meanwhile, the Archdiocese has done a great job of renovating the school and making it a modern, yet classic, building for instruction. It is the centerpiece of our neighborhood in historic Fairfax.

Unfortunately, the confined nature of the site, the limited parking, and the residential character of the neighborhood (where my family lives), make Paul VI a poor candidate for “super campus” status.  As a result, the Archdiocese recently announced that it will leave the  site by 2020 and move to a location in Loudoun County which is four times larger.

I hope that the Archdiocese will reconsider that move.  The “Old Campus” is a historic site, dating back to the 19th century.  It is a great campus, highly visible and easily accessible from all parts of Fairfax County. Most importantly, it is the ONLY Catholic high school within the borders of Fairfax, which is a jurisdiction of 1.1 million.

I recognize that the Archdiocese owns the Loudoun property also, but I don’t understand why it can’t use both properties for academic purposes.  It’s not like the NOVA population is decreasing and the demand for parochial education is always strong.

Anyway, I’m not Catholic.  Nor am I an alumus or parent of Paul VI.  But I feel a strong kinship to the school and its families.  (And, yes, I won their 5k race in 2012 in the “old slow guys” division).  My son and I frequently walk over to watch their football games, which are a stone’s throw from our back yard.

But let’s hope we can keep the “VI Man” in Fairfax.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Cara

    Thank you Chap! There are many people that feel the same way you do and numerous studies that show that buildings of that era are capable of being restored to current educational needs. In my opinion, PVI is an asset to the City of Fairfax and we need two schools. One in Loudoun and one in Fairfax.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that you employ the demand for parochial schools as justification for PVI to maintain its Fairfax campus. You’re absolutely correct. The demand for parochial (especially Jesuit) schooling is extremely high as a byproduct of said schools ability to provide a higher quality product than their publicly funded alternatives. If you would truly like to see more top-notch schools such as PVI, it would be worth investigating how to make these schools more accessible to families who cannot afford the tuition on their own.