The screech of circular saws, the rumbling of bulldozers, the teeth-shaking rattle of jackhammers--put it all together and you have a raucous theme song for Prince William County schools this summer.
Summers are usually busy for school construction and maintenance crews because much of their work can't be done while students and teachers are in the classrooms.
But this summer, the work is even more frenetic. Close to $80 million worth of construction and renovation projects are starting or continuing this summer.
"We're probably doing more this summer than we have in the past 20 years," said Robert Ferrebee, associate superintendent for management.
An increase in funding provided by a rebate of state lottery money allowed the county to speed up many of its projects.
"It's a big job," Ferrebee said. "Those boys are busy."
For a peek at new construction, head to Signal Hill Road and Birmingham Drive near Manassas, where a new elementary school will replace Parkside Elementary in 2000.
The location is remote enough that a rooster can be heard crowing in the distance, but the signs advertising the locations of new housing projects are evidence that the school won't be isolated much longer.
The new elementary school, similar to Penn Elementary school in Woodbridge, will cost about $11.9 million. Other continuing projects are the mid-county middle school on Hoadly Road, which carries a $19.7 million price tag, and the eighth high school, Forest Park High, at $38 million. Both schools are scheduled to open by fall 2000.
As for school renovations, Mullen, Marshall and Bennett elementary schools all will have additions opening a year from now, at a cost of about $3 million.
The Brentsville High School renovation continues--a $10 million project that is outfitting the school with a new gymnasium and new locker rooms and improvements to the media center and the auditorium. The middle school students who once attended Brentsville will be moved to other middle schools over a two-year period.
Then there are the smaller but no less important projects, such as new roofs, new computer labs, new heating and cooling systems.
"There's very few schools that nothing happens in," said Paul O'Connor, capital projects coordinator for the school system.
At the building that houses Parkside Middle and Elementary schools, the magnitude of the task becomes most clear.
This is not because Parkside has more work scheduled than other schools but because much of the work must be done in just a handful of weeks, before students return. (Construction crews try to work around teachers, who must return earlier.) So a hallway that is now stripped of its ceiling and lighted by bare hanging bulbs must be child-ready by September.
Ditto for the gymnasium and auditorium, each getting a new coat of paint and general sprucing-up. Asbestos tiles also will be removed.
The entire Parkside conversion project, which will last through the summer of 2001, is estimated to cost $8.3 million.
When complete, the school will house only middle school students, with a new technology education center, new bleachers, landscaping, lockers and other improvements.
"This is an extraordinary summer," said Randy Dasher, director of construction for Prince William schools.
"We're having to take advantage of every day we can, right up until Labor Day weekend."
CAPTION: A worker cleans up from construction at Brentsville High, which is gaining a new gymnasium, locker rooms and improvements to the media center and the auditorium.
CAPTION: Diego Hernande smooths concrete for a new sidewalk at Brentsville High School in Nokesville, which is undergoing a $10 million renovation.