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FCPS: New Elementary Schools Slated for Route 1

Capital Improvement Plan proposes two new elementary schools in Route 1 corridor.

Elementary schools serving the northern portion of Route 1 and Fort Belvoir are expected to see significant overcrowding in the next five years.

A potential solution, according to the recently released draft of the Fairfax County Capital Improvement Plan: two new elementary schools for the Route 1 corridor.

The five-year CIP budget will total $871.2 million or roughly $174.2 million per year. Funds approved in the 2011 School Bond Referendum and previous referenda will address approximately $190.8 million of the five-year requirement, leaving a balance of $680.3 million unfunded.

Officials expect another referendum in fall 2013.

Along with two possible elementary schools in the Richmond Highway Corridor and the eastern area of Fairfax County, officials anticipate needing two more elementary schools in the Fairfax/Oakton area and in western Fairfax County, in the vicinity of Route 28 and the Dulles Airport Access Road.

The plan also explores potential new high school in the southwestern portion of the county to provide relief to overcrowding at existing high schools such as Centreville, Chantilly, and South Lakes.

Some of those projects might come from cash flow beyond FY 2018, according to the report. 

"Finding funds for new schools is going to cause delays in the schedule of many future renovation projects. Favorable construction pricing is helping mitigate these delays but they will occur if the school system does not receive additional capital funding from the Board of Supervisors," Superintendent Jack Dale wrote in the CIP draft.

A Booming Route 1

Along Route 1, projected growth puts Groveton Elementary School at 125 percent, Hybla Valley at 143 percent and Fort Belvoir at 122 percent by the 2017-18 school year, according to the CIP.

Groveton is currently at 91.4 percent capacity; Fort Belvoir and Hybla Valley are at 99.6 percent and 112 percent respectively.

The percentages are calculated based on on the building’s program capacity and the number of enrolled students. A school is considered overcrowded when the enrollment of the school is higher than its capacity.

Capacity is calculated differently depending on the school level, according to school documents: 

Elementary schools are calculated based upon the number of core classrooms and self-contained special education rooms. FCPS middle schools are team taught, which limits the amount of students to the quantity of rooms required to support a team. High school capacity is far more complex than that in elementary and middle schools. The capacity of a high school is based upon the required core programs and the various elective options available. Modular additions continue to be counted towards capacity while trailer classrooms do not. 

Six elementary schools in cluster four are slated for renovations in the next five years, according to the plan, including include Bucknell, Mount Vernon Woods, Stratford Landing, Waynewood, Woodlawn and Woodley Hills.

Many of the elementary schools in the Route 1 corridor were built for 300-650 students per school, school board member Dan Storck (Mount Vernon) told Patch. Elementary schools are now built for 900 to 950 students.

Storck said 1,000 more seats for elementary school students will be needed in the Northern Richmond Highway area north of Fort Belvoir, and an additional elementary school is needed for Fort Belvoir.

Storck said the school board is considering three options to alleviate the projected overcrowding.

"One option is to build a new elementary school," Storck said. "Another would be to convert an existing building not in use such as the old Mount Vernon High School, which is currently rented through the county by the Islamic Saudi Academy. A third option would be to take the existing elementary schools and build additional capacity onto those schools. If you build a wing onto existing schools, you can get capacity. Many schools have a fair amount of land, more land required for elementary schools today, and they could handle additional student seating."

Storck told Patch discussions with the community could take place this fall.

"It's not a decision, it's a public meeting discussing what do to address overcrowding," Storck stressed.

Growing County Membership

Between September 2011 and 2012, total FCPS membership grew by nearly 3,000 students; enrollment has grown by more than 17,000 since 2006, Dale wrote in the CIP report.

Dale noted the increase in enrollment is largely caused by the economic downturn and higher birth rates among some populations in Fairfax County. He predicted enrollment, particularly in the elementary schools, will continue to rise rapidly. By 2017-18, he predicted membership would reach 195,800 students. 

"The current and anticipated increases continue to present a major challenge as the school system struggles to provide sufficient capacity in our schools," Dale said. "Despite the planned additional capacity intended to address projected capacity needs, uneven enrollment growth throughout the county will necessitate the continuation of small and large scale boundary adjustments to take advantage of available capacity whenever it is practicable to do so."

The School Board will hold a public hearing on the FY 2014-18 CIP at 6 p.m. Monday at Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church. 

The Board has scheduled a work session Jan. 14 and will vote on the CIP at its business meeting Jan. 24.

To see the entire CIP report, click here.

John Farrell January 03, 2013 at 02:01 PM
When did Stu Gibson return to the School Board? After I went to all the trouble of the countdown and everything! Or is Patch making an editorial comment that, while the person in that chair may have changed, the near total deference to all things Gatehouse hasn't? ;-)

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