The money has been spent. The new Seneca Valley High School building is going to happen and work is expected to begin sometime in July.
At the June 26 meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education, the Board voted to approve the contract bids for companies for the construction of the new Seneca Valley High School project.
The overall construction bid was awarded to Ijamsville-based Dustin Construction, Inc. for the amount of $138.4 million.
The new school, once completed will be a massive four-story building centered on the area of land currently occupied by the football stadium. The building will be 440,000 square-feet and will be the largest school in the state of Maryland in terms of size, according to Cross. It will have a capacity of 2,400 students, nearly double the current enrollment of 1,278 students.
The increased capacity to Seneca Valley High School provides the opportunity to address projected overutilization of nearby Clarksburg and Northwest high schools through student reassignments in the future. The cost for the new school construction is estimated to be around $130 million. The new school will replace a school which was built in 1974.
The approved Board of Ed resolution stated that the project would be accomplished in three phases over the course of four years, with anticipated completion dates for the existing utility relocation of August 2017; the new building, adjacent parking lots, and stadium to be completed in of May 2020; and building demolition, parking lot, and field completion of August 2021.
“The construction is going to be a three-year build,” said Cohen. “It does push the project out a year but doesn’t change the groundbreaking time, which I think is most important to our community — to actually see that the project is happening. When they see shovels in the ground and big rigs coming in, it will get everybody pretty excited.”
The reason for the delay explained Dennis Cross, a project manager with Montgomery County Public School’s Division of Construction is the complexity of the project, the highly choreographed dance of building a new school and while keeping the existing school open, and the fact that the 29.4-acre property sits on a significant hill.
In May, Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen sat down with the Germantown Pulse to discuss the changes that would be taking place at Seneca Valley once work begins next month. “The work should begin in earnest sometime in early or mid-September,” said Cohen. “I am hoping for a formal groundbreaking ceremony to be scheduled sometime in September. My hope is that we can do it as part of a pep-rally. I want our students to get excited about this project. They are going to have to live this for the next couple of years, and I want them to feel like they are part of it.”
“The current timeline has work starting sometime in mid- to the end of July,” said Cohen. “Sometime in July, there will be big trucks arriving and fencing will go up. The fence will begin somewhere near the current softball field and run up to the building. It will come all the way around up to the building and through the cafeteria side parking lot.”
The first phase of the work is the relocation and construction of new utility lines. That work will require about half of the current property, but none of the current building, to become off-limits to everyone but construction workers. As a result, the construction fencing will be going up.
The area of the property where work will begin is the current location of the baseball field, the stadium, and a good portion of the lower field which runs along Great Seneca Highway. The new building will be built on this location, according to the construction plans.
To allow construction to begin, a large portion of the current student parking lot, located on the cafeteria side of the building, near Wisteria Drive, will be fenced off.
“This will mean a change in our parking situation for students,” said Cohen. “The cafeteria side parking lot has been for student and staff parking. We are losing slightly more than half of that parking lot. Once this happens, the Middlebrook Road parking lot will be exclusively for staff parking.”
He explained that there should about 50 spots on the cafeteria side parking lot available for student parking only. “We don’t have a large number of student drivers,” said Cohen. “We base our number of spots on the number of students who buy parking permits. We do have students that park off school grounds. We may have to do some sort of lottery system for students that want to buy parking permits. I think folks are going to realize that parking is going to be at a premium. As a result, we will be watching every day that only people with permits are parking in that lot so that those who purchased permits will have spots.”
While the staff only will parking in the Middlebrook Road lot, that lot will also be the new student drop-off spot for parents driving students to school in the morning. “The auditorium side parking lot will remain fully functional. That is going to be the main entrance for staff and the parent drop off loop.”
“The student drop off will be on the Middlebrook Road side in the parking lot,” explained Cohen. “Everyone will have to turn right from westbound Middlebrook Road into the parking lot, and then exit the lot turning right back on the westbound Middlebrook Road. We will have lines painted and signage up to direct people.” However, Cohen warned that it could lead to some backups. “it could create some traffic issues on Middlebrook Road in the short-term as folks get used to the new system.” Cohen said he expected school security personnel to make the process orderly, but also added that if the problem persisted a police officer might be required to keep things moving.
Cohen does not expect to be any changes to the front parking lot on Crystal Rock Drive which will remain for visitor and some staff parking. The current front of the building will also remain as the bus loop for students arriving and departing school via MCPS school buses.
The fencing will come up about eight- to 10-feet from the rear wall of the school. Cohen said the plans for the fence allow a corridor between the building and the fence running along the back of the building which will serve as an emergency evacuation route to the lower field, which will be the evacuation site.
The lower field, which is the northwest corner of the property — where the softball and practice field currently sit — will be available for use to the school for outdoor physical education classes, as well as, after school practice fields for at least two years. “The construction company met with me, and they said there is no reason for them to touch that area for the first two years. They are going to fence it off and make sure it secure, with a pathway for students to get to the field safely.”
Once completed, the new building will sit about 18-feet from the gym corner of the old building. Cohen said that when both buildings are standing at the same time, one of the walls of the new building will be at about the same location one of the basketball baskets which sits in front of the stadium, just outside the gymnasium doors.
Of course, the construction will play havoc with Seneca Valley sports teams for the next four years.
According to Athletic Director Jesse Irvin, in the fall varsity football will practice on the practice field (current softball/practice field). Soccer teams will practice across the street at Gunners Branch Park where they’ve always practiced. He said field hockey would be on the lower field in Gunners Branch Park near S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School. However, that is not yet completely confirmed. Tennis will practice and have matches at Martin Luther King Middle School on Wisteria Drive in Germantown. He said that the cross country team should be able to run around the area near the school during construction but that too still being determined. Indoor sports should not be affected, other than changes in the parking situation near the gym.
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles about the construction of the new Seneca Valley High School. Look for more articles about what students, parents, and community members can expect as the Seneca Valley community begins to grapple with the challenges of building a new school while continuing to use the existing building and grounds.
Top: An architectural rendering of the side of the new Seneca Valley High School including the football stadium and tennis courts.
Video: The architectural animated flyover of the new Seneca Valley High School property.
Next: Phase 1A of the construction plan, which will be in effect from the start of work sometime in July to August 30, 2017. They yellow areas will be fenced off, and existing utilities will be relocated to serve the new school building. The blue shape is the existing school. Once the fence goes up, it will take about half of the student parking lot.
Next: An architectural rendering of the rear of the new Seneca Valley High School.
Next: Phase 1B of the construction plan will be in effect for two years, from August 30, 2017, to June 15, 2019, while the new school building is constructed in the yellow areas. The tan shape is the new school. The pink areas are the where construction equipment will be stored.
Next: The pole in the foreground is believed to be the location of the new building in relation to the existing school. This is the closest the new building will be to the old building.
Photos courtesy MCPS and Mosely Architects.