Manassas students can look forward to a new high school within months after they start classes Tuesday--a school that has been built right around them.

The new Osbourn High School, with a capacity of 2,000, will open during the first semester, said Superintendent James E. Upperman. Architects were challenged to create the new building while incorporating an almost-new vocational education wing, stadium and gymnasium from the old Osbourn High.

When the new wings open, students will move in there. Meanwhile, the rest of the school will be completed by fall 2000. When all the work is done, the high school will house grades 9-12, instead of 10-12 as it does now.

To accommodate that, Metz Junior High will become a middle school, housing grades 6-8. All students will leave the city's five elementary schools for middle school after the fifth grade.

Manassas has about 6,000 students.

Manassas teachers have dedicated much of the summer to revamping the school curriculum to match state standards, Upperman said. The exacting work will help ensure that by the time students take the Standards of Learning exams, they will have been exposed to all the subjects tested, he said.

In Manassas Park, fourth- and fifth-graders will shift to a new "parallel-block" schedule, said Superintendent Tom DeBolt. The schedule means that students will split their day, spending extra time in small groups working intensively on math and language arts.

"We think it is the most powerful elementary school schedule you can implement," said DeBolt, who plans to welcome about 1,900 students back Tuesday.

Manassas Park, which finished its new high school last year, is also building a new elementary school, which will open in about 16 months, DeBolt said. That school will house kindergartners through third-graders.

"We continue to grow," DeBolt said. "We're just in a race to keep up."