The high cost of materials and difficulty in finding skilled labor have delayed the groundbreaking for a Catholic high school planned for the Cherry Hill development in eastern Prince William County.
Earlier this year, officials with the Diocese of Arlington planned a fall groundbreaking on the 40-acre parcel the diocese owns in Cherry Hill, along the Route 1 corridor.
However, the diocese is undertaking a comprehensive review of all its projects, said spokesman Soren Johnson. The review is expected to last through the end of the year, he said; the construction start date is not yet determined.
"The rebound and subsequent boom in the Northern Virginia economy have resulted in price increases and shortages in skilled labor," Johnson said. "This review is really to ensure that all the diocesan projects are successful." In addition to the school, the diocese plans to build a spirituality center and a retirement home for priests, at still-undetermined locations, Johnson said.
Johnson said the diocese still intends to build the school, along with another high school slated for the eastern Loudoun County neighborhood of South Riding. The target opening dates are 2006 for the Prince William school and 2007 for the Loudoun school.
Those two schools would be the first new secondary schools to open in the sprawling diocese since 1983. Funding comes from a 2001 capital campaign that raised $115 million.
Planning for the Prince William school, which will hold about 1,000 students in ninth through 12th grades, is nearly complete, according to county planner Don Margraf. "They just have to make some fine adjustments here and there," he said.
The Diocese of Arlington comprises 21 counties and cities from the Northern Virginia suburbs all the way through Virginia's Eastern Shore. There are six Catholic high schools in the diocese. Three -- Paul VI in Fairfax City, Bishop O'Connell in Arlington and Bishop Ireton in Alexandria -- are run by the diocese and have lengthy waiting lists. Seton School in Manassas, Oakcrest School in McLean and Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg are associated with the diocese but privately run.
The diocese's school population is among the fastest-growing in the country, Johnson said, mirroring the growth seen in the area's public schools. Catholic school enrollment has grown 32 percent in the past 10 years and now stands at more than 18,000 students in the 42 Catholic schools in the diocese. About 2,000 children in all grade levels are on waiting lists.
Though construction of the high school in Cherry Hill has been delayed, an architect has been hired. Renderings for the school "are beautiful," said Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries), in whose district the new school is located. Caddigan, who attended parochial schools, said she first spoke to then-Arlington Bishop John R. Keating eight years ago about bringing a Catholic high school to the area.
"It's a benefit for Catholics and non-Catholics," Caddigan said. And she said she envisions students coming from a broad area to attend the school, just as they do to the diocese's other high schools.
"These students will come from Fredericksburg, they'll come from Stafford, they'll come from Lorton," Caddigan said. "It's an asset for Prince William County."