Old graves at site of new school set to be moved - INSIDENOVA.COM: Education

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Old graves at site of new school set to be moved

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Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 9:35 am

The Prince William County school system has permission to begin moving several grave sites discovered on the site of the new high school. But some say more should be done to avoid disturbing what is likely a 100-year-old family cemetery.

The still unnamed high school, which will be built near the intersection of Va. 234 and Hoadly Road, has been in the news for more than a year because of proposal to include a $10.5 million aquatics facility in the new school, despite the school system’s ongoing budget challenges.

The school board has yet to approve the pool but is expected to make a decision before construction begins this spring.

But school officials said in August that graves were found on a portion of the school site designated for the football stadium – sparking some criticism about the location of what will be the county’s 12th high school.

Following state law, the school system filed the necessary paperwork with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to disinter and move the graves and have received permits to do so, Prince William County School Board Chairman Milt Johns, R-At Large, said Monday in an email.

The gravesites are unregistered, and the school system still does not know whose remains are buried there, Johns said.

William Olson, chairman of the Prince William Historical Commission’s cemetery committee, said the commission was not told contractors would soon begin moving the gravesites and says more should be done to identify the remains and avoid disturbing the site.

“I think removal of the graves needs to be something that is justified by a real need,” Olson said.

The cemetery is marked with surveying ribbons and was likely discovered in 2009 or earlier, Olson said. The graves were initially found by surveyors who identified them based on field stones placed around the graves and telltale depressions in the ground. It is believed the cemetery dates back to before 1903, Olson said.

Olson said he wants to know if the design of the new school stadium could be altered to avoid moving the cemetery. That’s what happened when gravesites were discovered on the site that became Hylton High School. Construction plans were shifted so that burial sites there were not disturbed, he said.

“The other thing is to have a full, open meeting where the public is told of the need to move the gravesites,” Olson added. “It just seems to be a little too quiet.”

Olson said it’s equally important to identify the cemetery so family members can be notified. Although local historians have begun looking through land records and old obituaries, they haven’t yet figured it out, Olson said.

To get more details about state’s reasons for approving the graves’ removal, Olson said he has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with both the school system and the state Department of Historic Resources.

Johns said public notice was given of plans to move the gravesites, and no comments were received.

“Archeologists will handle the excavation,” he added. “If there are remains they will be handled sensitively and with dignity no matter whose remains are there.”

The school system has hired Wetland Solutions to move the graves, which could take two to three weeks. Calls to the Gainesville-based company were not returned Monday. Johns said he did not know where the remains would be relocated.

Olson said the disinterment process is a tedious one, involving people carefully removing the soil by hand, and doesn’t always result in the discovery of intact remains.

“It’s hard to tell what they’re going to find,” he said. “Depending on the acidity of the soil, they might find nails from the coffin. They may find bones. It just depends.”

Olson said he the county Historical Commission has a meeting Tuesday night and will likely discuss the situation at the high school site. 

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  • HR1487 posted at 9:10 am on Tue, Nov 26, 2013.

    HR1487 Posts: 19

    There is nothing sacred in this county. The BoCS and the School Board would like nothing more then to see developement from the Potomac to Broad Run, from Occoquan to Stafford. When "notice" is given of "Public Hearings" it is, I imagine, given in the form of a small cardboard sign staked up on the side of the road. The only hope one has of reading it is braking in the middle of 234 to stop. The heritage and heart of this county is gone. It has all slid into the pockets of builders. I wonder what could have been found in the area of Vint Hill/Rt 28 where another development is being crammed in. Good luck getting to/from work, new and old residents!

  • Brad posted at 9:31 am on Tue, Nov 19, 2013.

    Brad Posts: 399

    Some interesting comments lol...

  • Amos Moses posted at 3:36 am on Thu, Nov 14, 2013.

    Amos Moses Posts: 112

    The historical society can save a house (Liberia Plantation house in Manassas) or a water tower (City of Manassas), but not something like a graveyard????

    I guess the people buried at Manassas Cemetery are next. We need 400 new townhouses built where the current cemetery is. We can pack another 1,000 people in a few acres and get some much needed revenue.

    Just move the dead bodies, most relatives will never know, we need a $10 million dollar swimming pool to go here.

    What if they miss one dead body, just think, the kids will be swimming all around dead people. Now we will need extra counselors, for the kids who swim with dead people?

  • You Know posted at 8:09 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    You Know Posts: 49

    Haha it will be haunted, with the smell of the landfill. Good choice of location.

  • cvoorhees posted at 6:58 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    cvoorhees Posts: 10

    I hope the school becomes haunted. No such thing as rest in peace in this county.

  • Paul Miller posted at 4:53 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Paul Miller Posts: 371

    Name suggestion: Poltergeist Pool, Waterslide and High School Center

  • You Know posted at 4:33 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    You Know Posts: 49

    Mr. Johns you need show proof that notice was sent because the attention that the pool situation has gotten I'm sure someone would have responded. I have watched very closely and haven't seen any thing of sorts. It seems to be one of those quiet things that happen in government particularly the school system.

  • EdP posted at 1:14 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    EdP Posts: 197

    The historical society better get their checkbook out; the school system charges top dollar for FOIA requests...
    Done quietly...that's how they seem to be operating these days. The less public involvement, the better.