Following its impending renovation, the Douglass School in Leesburg will, as currently planned, provide space for several local education organizations as well as the display of historical artifacts.
“It is a very important project, and we are really looking forward to a beautiful project that the whole community can be proud of,” Loudoun County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Kevin Lewis said during Tuesday’s School Board meeting.
The Douglass School opened its doors in 1941 and acted as Loudoun’s first secondary school for African American children. In later years, it became an alternative high school and adopted programs dedicated to special-education students, English-learners and substance abuse education, as well as housing the Douglass Community Center.
This fall, a new LCPS facility called The North Star School at 715 Childrens Center Road SW in Leesburg will begin to host all of Douglass’ programs, as well as its current occupants. This transition will give way to the “complete renewal of the Douglass High School building,” according to School Board documents.
In June 2019, LCPS awarded the architect of record contract for the Douglass High School renewal to D.C.-based firm Beyer Blinder Belle, and it awarded the project’s construction management at risk general contractor title to Gilbane Construction of Rhode Island the following January.
Current LCPS programs to be housed in the renovated building include the English Learners Welcome Center, Head Start, Starting Towards Excellence in Preschool (STEP) and the Child Find program, and the building will include space for use by Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services. Another space will provide for historical artifact display by community stakeholders.
In collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle, LCPS has developed a potential layout for the interior of the original 1941 building. This floor plan arrangement includes three, 596-square-foot meeting rooms, as well as a child’s play area, family break room, wellness room and flex space.
School system staff last year held public informational presentations on the project to gather input from the community and organizations like the Loudoun Douglass High School Alumni Association, the Loudoun NAACP, the Edwin Washington Project and organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. March Event.
According to Lewis, several organizations have requested to receive designated spaces in the building. In accordance with LCPS Policy 6310, Facility Use, “public spaces mostly associated with the historic portion of the facility” will be available to reserve in coordination with LCPS administrators, per board documents.
“The original 1941 structure ... was built by the African American community, and so we want to make sure that the folks that would like to come and see the building are able to use and see and visit the building and make use of the public portions of the building,” Lewis said.
Leslee King, who chairs the School Board’s finance committee, said the committee will have a timeline of further meetings on the project ready by the end of March.