Like most school administrators preparing for the first day of classes, Fairfax County high school principal Paul G. Douglas is feeling a bit anxious.
But he has more excuse for opening-day jitters than most.
Douglas and his staff of more than 100 teachers, coaches and counselors are overseeing the birth of West Potomac High School, the outgrowth of the merger of Fort Hunt and Groveton high schools in southern Fairfax County.
West Potomac High's fresh start stretches beyond its new name, its new blue and silver school colors, its new wolverine mascot and its new school sign. When school opens Aug. 26, students will find new and renovated classrooms, enlarged cafeterias, six "relocatable" or temporary classrooms and a new weight training room, plus new courses, activities and friends.
Douglas, who was Groveton's principal for the past two years, is feeling the pinch.
"There's pressure to be better than perfect," Douglas said. "There will be some who will criticize anything we goof up."
But school maintenance crews, faculty members, students, parents and athletes have been busy in the effort to make opening day for West Potomac's 2,385 students as smooth as possible.
Police units will monitor traffic at key intersections around the school on the first day, Douglas said, and a permanent crossing guard was hired to control the flow of more than 40 school buses -- almost double the number that serviced the former Groveton building -- on Quander Road at the school's entrance.
A $2,500 marquee with the West Potomac High School name emblazoned across it will will greet students at the front.
West Potomac officals have scheduled schoolwide open house programs for Aug. 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. for students and parents to familiarize themselves with the facility. A special orientation for ninth graders is scheduled for Aug. 23 at 9:30 a.m.
The athletic booster club is sponsoring a $4 all-you-can-eat barbecue Aug. 28 in front of the Quander Building, followed by a pep rally with the new drill team and cheerleading squad. Parents will be able to meet with athletic coaches to discuss games and practice schedules.
Returning students should find a fresher look to the exterior of the school, as booster club volunteers are scheduled to repaint the football field bleachers and ticket booths, spruce up the landscaping and provide moral support for nervous students and faculty members.
Jeff Dietez, director of student activities, said his biggest worry is making sure the sports teams are appropriately outfitted for the fall season.
He said the football squad's uniforms will not arrive in time for the team photograph in the program, but he said he was promised that they will be there for the first game.
Other potential first-week glitches include parking problems, locker shortages, equipment malfunctions and bewildered students and faculty members overwhelmed by the sprawling West Potomac campus.
Guidance counselor Emily Baker has spent the past several weeks calming students who have scheduling conflicts and answering questions about lunch shifts and bus routes.
"The kids really seem to be adjusting and mixing in well. It's almost easier to schedule classes now," Baker said.
"Before the merger some of the classes were small with only one section. With both schools combined there are more classes to choose from," she added.
West Potomac's curriculum will include at least 40 courses that neither Fort Hunt nor Groveton could have offered. There will be an advanced studio art course and additional advanced mathematics, foreign language and social studies classes, among others.
Douglas said officials will issue only 300 parking permits to students. He said the permits will be given to students in the work program, who have medical problems or who are involved in after-school extracurricular activities, such as the marching band and sports.