Murky water poured through the unfinished roof onto the main entrance. Boxes containing 28,000 books sat waiting to be sorted and unpacked. But library secretary Eunice Yellman had no complaints yesterday about conditions at Fort Hunt High School.
"It feels like coming home," she said.
Exactly 247 days after three former students started a fire that did nearly $4.5 million in damage to the Fairfax high school, the building is scheduled to open Sept. 4.
"The administrative offices and the guidance counselors will start the year in the library, the cafeteria won't be able to prepare food, and some teachers can't find their supplies," said Principal James E. Manning, but he vowed the school will open for classes in 14 days.
Cement-powdered workers struggled to patch the roof yesterday as electricians rushed to complete the wiring and plumbers worked to hook up the plumbing.
Meanwhile, teachers laden with piles tracked mud on the newly mopped floors and workmen cursed.
But the mood was upbeat despite the disarray.
Parents, students and members of the Fort Hunt High drill team, football squad, school band and Booster club combined to clean the library's 28,000 books, all of which were smoke damaged in the fire, Yellman said.
"If not for their help, and they cleaned every book, there is no way that this library would be ready to open," Yellman said. The school paid 50 cents for each cleaned book, and the money was used to buy team uniforms and sponsor school trips.
"We've gotten total support from the Fort Hunt community," Manning said. "So much so that we had to limit the number of people in the school so they didn't bother the workers."
After the fire, the administrative areas and cafeteria of the school were demolished and rebuilt. New roofs were added above both sections as part of the country's $6 million reconstruction effort. A complete renovation, paid for in part by $2 million already allocated to the school before CAPTION: Picture 1, Boxes of books to be unpacked crowd the library at Fort Hunt High School, by James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, Repairs continue on the front of the school, which is scheduled to open Sept. 4. the fire for remodeling, will not be completed for another two years, Manning said.
"Essentially, we have a new building here," he said. "The home economics section suffered bad smoke damage and all the ceiling supports in the building had to be replaced. But the smell and smoke stains are gone. It feels like a school again."
Sporting "Fort Hunt Lives" buttons, faculty members dodged empty crates and stray tools in the halls yesterday as they moved into the school.
Most refused to mention Robert P. Smithwick, 18; Timothy M. Greer, 19, and Matthew Musolino iii, 18. They were sentenced on charges related to the Dec. 30 arson and sentenced to 119 days in jail and $10,000 in financial restitution to the county, and ordered to perform 3,000 hours of volunteer community work.
"That's all over," said business teacher Nancy Driscoll. "Now we can get back to what we're really in business for."
Three senior editiors of The Front Line, the Fort Hunt High student newspaper, were at the school yesterday, laying out pages for the Sept. 7 edition.
"It's real confortable being back," said Chris Miller, chief editor for The Front. "We're back at our own school now. We aren't intruders anymore."
About 1,730 Fort Hunt students attended Mt. Vernon High School for the spring semester, on a class schedule of 1 p.m. to 6:05 p.m.
A dawn "thanksgiving" ceremony is planned for Sept. 4th to celebrate the reopening of Fort Hunt High. Students have planned a "rededication extravaganza" for Sept. 7 at the first home football game.