Ruth Dell


Ruth Dell, school board member from Mt. Vernon district, lives in the Groveton community.

I don't really feel that I can speak for my husband because he had a rather unusual experience. He came in very early and served with the first citizens' group. That was, uh, '68 to'70, and then the committee, as well as the larger S. P. T. A. began feeling disappointed at what the architects actually came up with.

The fall of '68 was when the citizens set up their group. The bond referendum was passed in the spring and in the fall of '68 the citizens wanted to try to develop something, along with the cooperation of the faculty. And there was some simultaneous work going on.

The School Board actually approved some general specifications for a high school, in the spring of '69. And then in the summer the first preliminary sketches of Groveton came about. The committee, reviewing them in the fall began to feel strong disappointments with the sketches. Then in January of '70, they met with the Superintendent and a School Board member -who at that time was Ned Orleans. They (the plans) were to the best of my recollection, much like the Falls Church conversion. It was the same thing of converting an intermediate school into a high school, but much more in terms of the same kind of orthodox building programming that we had had in the county all during the 60's.

There was a county wide committee of educators within the system who with some community participation were developing the plans for Robinson High School. (Robinson) was the first high school that was really going into the new high school design, where you could have much more open and flexible space, and they were hopeful that that was going to influence the kind of design that would evolve for Groveton. (They) were very disappointed when it didn't.

Dr. Watts seemed to appreciate the disappointment, and it was at that point, in very early '70 that he suggested the community and faculty and staff try a Charrette. I don't believe that (the architect) had been involved in designing any contemporary school up to that point. And for some reason or other, the ideas and concepts were just not moving from the community and faculty through the administration to the architect and getting translated.

The charrette did continue to work until January of t71 when the final sketch was brought to the community. The campus plan came totally out of the Charrette. There was a breakaway from the old design.

From there we go to the bond referendum in 72 and our next big disappointment. The school board did approve the money for the conversion to be in the referendum, and then the referendum was defeated. (The) first thing they did, following the defeat of that referendum, was to consider not building the conversion, but renovation. And this is when the community had to give some very serious thought. During the summer it was considered very strongly. I think it was about December of 72 when the feasibility studies came back. The school board then in fact did reject the renovation. Indeed, it was too high a cost for a very limited place.

The community sensed a good possibility that the School Board would go ahead and stick to the conversion in the bond referendum if the cost was not too high. The cost figure that was decided upon seemed to be somewhat pulled out of the air at that point. The amount was 7 1/2 million and this was less than what had been put in the previous bond referendum.

The academic building, with all four wings on it, originally would have accommodated 2800 students. The School Board adopted it on the basis of 2100, which took off one wing. Then we got, in the latter part of 73, after the bond referendum had succeeded, to see what we could get in the way of bids. We were running into new problems - these very highly inflated construction costs going up monthly. So we went through and several more community meetings. The community was concerned about what might be done in order to come down to the amount of money we had.

We bad not been able to get a bid for around that amount and we went up the creek again, so to speak. But, this time we made it. It seems to me that there had been lots of different people involved in this whole process over all this seven year period and its taken a lot of work and fortitude and people staying with this problem to really make the Groveton High School come true.

So, uh, the Charrette started in March 70, and was only underway less than a month when they discovered that funds in the 1968 bond referendum were not adequate. When another referendum came around, people did pull themselves together and began to work. They persuaded the school board that because there was going to be a long delay they would like to have a few things done in the Old Groveton, and thatts how the library was modified. It was just a sort of a stopgap kind of thing. They hoped to do some other renovating, but that sort of got lost in the process.

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