- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Construction is under way on Northern Virginia’s first new Catholic high school in 20 years as the Arlington Diocese tries to catch up with one the nation’s fastest-growing populations of Catholics.

The $60 million school is being built in Dumfries, in eastern Prince William County. The diocese operates three other high schools.

Features such as the trussed entry and glass-encased chapel are designed to make the school “architecturally stunning” but also “a very practical and functional educational facility,” said Kathleen A. Langan, senior vice president of Hess Construction, the school’s primary contractor.

The new high school is funded through bonds and private fundraising efforts of Northern Virginia churches.

The 180,000-square-foot facility, which has not yet been named, will include eight science laboratories, two gymnasiums, a lecture hall, auditorium and a chapel.

Courses will include a unique four-year science bioethics curriculum in a region where the biotechnology industry is a major employer.

The school is scheduled to open in 2008 for about 1,000 students and with capacity that would allow it to expand to 1,500 students.

Hess Construction Co., based in Gaithersburg, is one of the region’s biggest builders of educational institutions.

Many of the students are likely to be part of the influx of Hispanic residents moving to Northern Virginia, according to diocese officials. Hispanics represent the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the past decade, the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Arlington, which covers 21 Northern Virginia counties, has increased 40 percent. Catholic school enrollment went up 25 percent during the same period, according to the diocese.

Data from the 2000 U.S. Census shows that 224,420 Hispanics live within the Diocese of Arlington. About 160,000 of them are Catholic, the diocese reports.

In other news …

• The National Capital Planning Commission last week tentatively approved a design for Washington Canal Park, a three-block site in Southeast currently used to store school buses.

Washington Canal Park will be the first new public park built under the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a partnership between the federal and D.C. governments to redevelop the Anacostia riverfront. It is designed to eventually link a series of parks and trails along the riverfront.

“I think this will provide breathing room for the new development that is under construction around that park,” said Christine Saum, urban design and plan review director for the National Capital Planning Commission, which serves an advisory role on the park design.

The park is supposed to fit in with the mixed-use developments being built near the new baseball stadium.

“Creating a park there on that site is something that has been talked about for several years,” Miss Saum said.

Bordered by Canal, Second, I and M streets Southeast, it is designed to include a boardwalk, raised crosswalks and green space. A centerpiece of the design is the aquatic gardens that would have storm runoff flowing through them and water attractions for public use.

The long expanse of the park is designed to mimic the canal that used to be on the site. Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail [email protected] times.com.

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