With its student population continuing to grow each year, Fairfax County Public Schools is planning to add new school buildings in the coming years.
The school system has grown by more than 17,000 students since the fall of 2006, and enrollment growth is projected to continue for at least the next five years.
The new students expected in the next five years could fill five new elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school, Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt told the School Board last month.
To accommodate the growth, FCPS’ proposed capital improvement program for fiscal 2014 to 2018 proposes two new elementary school buildings as well as renovations to add capacity at six existing elementary schools. It also includes some preliminary funding for planning and designing a new high school in the southwest part of the county.
In the longer term, school officials are planning for two more elementary schools.
The proposed capital improvement program also indicates plans to complete renovations on 21 elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools in the next five years, as well as starting work on a handful more schools.
“We are having to divert money from the renovation program to the capacity enhancement program to accommodate the growth,” Tistadt said.
The two new elementary schools would be in the eastern part of the county, to relieve overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary School, and in the Route 1 corridor, to relieve overcrowding at several schools in that area.
“The most pressing situation today is at Bailey’s Elementary,” said Denise James, director of Facilities Planning Services.
Bailey’s is currently operating at 130 percent of building capacity. If nothing changes, its enrollment is projected to equal 160 percent of the number of students the building is designed to accommodate by the 2017-18 school year.
However, the school system has yet to identify a suitable site for a new school in that part of the county. There is also no identified site for the southwestern Fairfax high school.
“We need to find a way to engage the county and the Board of Supervisors [in finding school sites],” Tistadt said.
FCPS does own some property in the Route 1 corridor that could be used for a school site, James said.
Total projected costs for the next five years are about $870 million, $680 million of which is considered “unfunded,” because it is not covered by FCPS’ existing bond authority. Voters will be asked to approve additional bonds this fall.
School officials are also counting on additional funding from other jurisdictions to help fund renovations at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a regional magnet school based in Fairfax County, James said.
The School Board will hold a public hearing on the capital improvement program Monday and they are expected to vote on the plan Jan. 24.