Parents are urging school officials to work with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in crafting solutions, which they say include greater funding for construction, to crowding issues within the school system.
Enrollment has grown by more than 17,000 students since the fall of 2006, according to FCPS, and is projected to continue. The new student enrollment anticipated during the next five years could fill five new elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school, now-retired Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt told the School Board last month.
On Monday, the School Board hosted a public hearing to gain input on its proposed five-year Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2014 through 2018. The CIP proposal includes three new elementary schools, a new high school, and renovations and capacity enhancements to six existing elementary schools. These improvements and other construction projects under the CIP total $871.2 million.
Among the proposed new elementary school construction projects is one at Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria. Glasgow, which opened in 2008, currently hosts 1,440 middle-schoolers. It is projected to reach its program capacity — 1,523 — by next year, with a five-year enrollment projection reaching about 1,990 students. Glasgow’s projected enrollment growth is a concern voiced by parents and nearby residents.
“Increased traffic would be a nightmare for our neighborhood and for Barcroft Forest and Barcroft Terrace, surrounding communities,” said Mollie Loeffler, who spokeswoman representing the Parklawn Civic Association. “Glasgow is going to be overcapacity in a few years and adding another school to the property is only going to make matters worse. … The field at Glasgow is heavily used by the community and taking it away would be a detriment to the community.”
While Glasgow currently has several sports fields, adding a 950-student elementary school on the site would mean Glasgow and the elementary school would share one field, school officials said.
“The Glasgow site has already raised some opposition in the neighborhood,” said parent Suzie Phipps, who will have four children in FCPS next year. “There are concerns about [who] would need to populate the school when it opens … and it is not in the right location to relieve overcrowding in the most crowded areas.”
Parents like Phipps are calling on the school board to look at the county’s Willston Multicultural Center at Seven Corners as a potential new elementary school site. The center was previously owned and run by FCPS, but is not run by the county.
“If the Willston property were already owned by FCPS and available, the Glasgow property would likely not even be considered as a site for the new elementary school,” Phipps said.
Adding a new school on the Glasgow Middle School site is not ideal, said Kevin Sneed, director of the school system’s Design and Construction Services office. He added that options in this part of the county were limited because of growth, cost and access to open land. Sneed also said FCPS has not looked at the Willston center as a possible location, but anticipates that it will be part of Monday’s school board work session discussion on the CIP.
Other proposed new schools include two additional elementary schools in the Richmond Highway corridor and western Fairfax County, and a new high school in southwestern Fairfax County to relieve crowding at existing Centreville, Chantilly and South Lakes high schools.
Sneed said the proposed new high school will likely impact the queue for renovations of existing schools, pushing as many as 12 schools start-dates back by six months to a year.
“The school system is facing a challenging situation in which student enrollment growth is projected to exceed the school system’s ability to accommodate students within existing school buildings,” said Superintendent Jack D. Dale. “This means we will need an increased allocation of capital dollars to build new facilities and enhance capacity in current facilities and continue to rely on temporary classrooms, modular additions and boundary adjustments to address uneven enrollment growth throughout the county.”
The school board is scheduled to vote on the CIP at its business meeting on Jan. 24.
Reporter Kali Schumitz contributed to this article.