Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna will be relieved of about 100 students within its attendance area next year.
The School Board voted April 26 during a regular meeting to shift those students to neighboring Lemon Road Elementary School in Falls Church.
“Freedom Hill Elementary School has been severely overcrowded for a number of years,” said School Board member Patty Reed (Providence District). The school currently is at 116 percent capacity with a projected enrollment of 136 percent capacity by 2016.
“They’ve got eight trailers. It’s very difficult to move through the hallways,” Reed said. “It’s a situation they’ve lived with for much too long. Lemon Road on the other hand has been under enrolled and is currently at 72 percent [capacity] and is projected to go down to 59 percent by 2016.”
School Board members voted 11-0-1, in favor of Option B, which was the second of two options before the board. Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) abstained.
Option A would have reassigned a portion of Idylwood Apartments, located along the northwest side of Idylwood Road and south of Route 7, from Freedom Hill to Lemon Road.
Option B reassigns Marshall Heights and Dominion townhomes and a portion of Idylwood Apartments from Freedom Hill to Lemon Road.
“Both communities told us that they wanted to maintain the personalities of the schools. The Freedom Hill parents told us they wanted more people moved. The Lemon Road folks didn’t want to accept too many people too fast. We heard everything you had to say,” Reed said. “It is not the perfect solution. Concerns remain about the [Advanced Academic Program], the involvement of certain parents, issues associated with grandfathering, criss-crossing buses, split neighborhoods and other assorted issues. So we had to weigh this.”
The boundary shift between Freedom Hill and Lemon Road elementary schools marks the beginning of a larger look by the School Board on how to accommodate growth in the Tysons Corner area.
“This is the beginning of some of the change that will occur as the Tysons area continues to grow … This change is dramatic, but I think that Option B is appropriate,” said School Board member Jane Strauss (Dranesville District). “We must make use of the space that we have. Where we can add on to schools, we must do that. Where we have to adjust attendance areas, it is the best way to serve students and also to make the best use of the resources we have. That is just simply the reality of public schools.”
Some School Board members had questions about alternatives to the two options presented by the Fairfax County Public Schools administrative staff.
Schultz said she abstained because she thought not all options were considered.
“My abstention is a message that we need better processes. We need to not come up with answers before we really know what those answers are and how those answers meet and affect the communities on whom we foist those answers,” she said.
School Board members also had questions about nearby Pimmit Hills school, which originally was an elementary school that had been converted to an alternative high school. It was closed two years ago to cut $1 million from the school system’s $176 million budget gap for the 2010-11 school year. The facility still is being used for community education programs.
“At some point that property will likely be torn down and a new, more modern elementary school would be built there … but that will come when it’s clear that we need a brand new school,” Strauss said.
To help accommodate new students at Lemon Road, a $2 million, eight-classroom addition is planned for the school.
For more information, visit www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/freedomlemon/index.shtml.