Loudoun's two newest high schools, Woodgrove and Tuscarora, to open

Ric Gauriloff, Woodgrove High.
Ric Gauriloff, Woodgrove High.
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By Caitlin Gibson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2010

For the first time in nearly half a century, western Loudoun County students have a new high school.

Woodgrove High in Purcellville will open Tuesday, 48 years after Loudoun Valley High School had its first classes in the county's rural area. Another new school, Tuscarora High in Leesburg, is the first public school in Loudoun to be led by an African American principal.

Woodgrove and Tuscarora face challenges that are inevitable for new schools: establishing a sense of identity and school pride, inventing traditions and launching clubs, groups and athletic teams. In Purcellville, the very idea of a new school got a mixed response from residents, said Wayde Byard, Loudoun public schools spokesman. The town had long been accustomed to Loudoun Valley High as a cornerstone of the community, and some families have multiple generations of Loudoun Valley graduates, he said.

When such families faced sending children to a new school, "some people were upset," said Ric Gauriloff, Woodgrove's principal. "Here we have families with grandparents who graduated from Valley."

The adjustment to a new school in a tight-knit community "is always traumatic," Byard said. "The rule is that after three years, it settles down . . . and it's always the parents who get upset, not the kids."

Residents also expressed concern over Woodgrove's effect on traffic, Byard said.

"We've worked with Purcellville to take as much traffic out of downtown as possible," he said, adding that the school's location, 36811 Allder School Rd., was made possible following the county's agreement to fund $5.78 million in transportation improvements for Purcellville.

The new schools -- which will open with about 1,100 students each and no senior classes -- have state-of-the-art, environmentally sensitive facilities, top-notch athletic fields and diverse curricula. Tuscarora's campus, at 801 N. King St., includes a protected and thriving trout stream, which will be incorporated into lesson plans for science classes, Principal Pamela Paul-Jacobs said.

"It will be very advantageous for environmental and biology students to have access to it," she said.

Paul-Jacobs, who has worked in the Loudoun school system for 21 years as a teacher and assistant principal, will be leading a school for the first time in her career.

"It's very exciting," she said.

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