In the midst of the first global pandemic in more than 100 years, Loudoun County’s newest high school closed its longtime Fairfax campus, finished construction of a new one in South Riding, and developed plans to accommodate its student population both on and off campus this fall.
To say it’s been a wild few months for Paul VI Catholic High School would be a gross understatement.
“None of us could have ever imagined that the end of the school year would be at home, much less the end of Paul VI’s time in Fairfax,” said Head of School Ginny Colwell. “Moving an entire school to a new location during a global pandemic was a huge undertaking, but with planning, teamwork, faith, and of course social distancing, we are in our new home. Our beautiful new campus will ensure that PVI continues to offer an extraordinary college preparatory Catholic education for generations to come.”
The move required 2,000 boxes and 500 crates to pack up the contents of its former building on Fairfax Boulevard, where the school had resided since its opening in 1983. The new South Riding campus is a serious upgrade in many ways, from 16 acres in Fairfax to 68 in Loudoun; more than 60 classrooms and eight labs; performing arts space with a 700-seat theater; and a chapel at the heart of the campus.
Buried beneath the soil of the new campus is a physical representation of the prayers that brought it to fruition—more than 1,000 rosaries that were prayed over by faculty, staff, alumni and students are buried in the foundation of the school.
And with all that in place, on Thursday, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, cut the ribbon on the new school, then led Mass and blessed the auditorium, stadium and baseball field.
“This is an exciting time for the St. Paul VI Catholic High School community and the Diocese of Arlington. The new state-of-the-art facilities will ensure that the school continues its tradition of excellence in Catholic education for generations to come,” Burbidge said. “Most importantly, this new campus provides a place for students to find truth through instruction and service inspired by the Gospel. I pray that God will send his Spirit upon the students and teachers at St. Paul VI Catholic High School so that, growing in grace and wisdom, they may follow Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Enrollment for the fall hovers around 1,000, said Eileen Curren, director of communications for the school. The school’s teacher-to-student ratio is 14-to-1, with an average class size of 24 and a one-to-one student laptop program. The school has 67 dual enrollment, advanced placement and honors classes, and 78 extracurricular activities. Paul VI has previously been recognized as one of the Top 50 Catholic High Schools in the U.S.
Colwell said the campus feels like family—in part because for many people it is.
“We probably have over 50 percent of the faculty and staff that has some sort of family connection,” Colwell said. Many are current or former parents of students, she said. And some were students themselves.
“We have 22 or 23 alumni who have come back to teach in the building, so when we say your mother’s always watching, it’s pretty much so,” she said.
Paul VI is opening for the 2020-2021 school year Monday, Aug. 31. The reopening plan offers instruction five days a week, with a hybrid model that combines in-person and e-Learning components. The school has implemented a number of changes to allow for safe social distancing, including a cap of 50 percent of the students in the building at one time and 50 percent joining in class from home via livestream, switching on an alternating block schedule. Families were also able to choose a 100 percent virtual option.
The school’s new address is 42341 Braddock Road in Chantilly. More information on the school can be found at paulvi.net.
Deputy Editor Renss Greene contributed to this report.