Jul 29, 2014

Parents Talk School Crowding at FCPS Hearing

Fairfax County school board members will vote on five-year school building, renovation plan later this month.

Parents Talk School Crowding at FCPS Hearing

Parents and students told the Fairfax County School Board on Monday night it worried the 2014-2018 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) wouldn't adequately address overcrowding in all places.

Doing small boundary adjustments to overcrowded areas and then readjusting the plan's renovation queue, which calculates the order in which major school repairs will occur, might be a better, more efficient long-term strategy, they said.

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 school bond referendum in 2013.

Along with detailing renovations at 63 Fairfax County school buildings, the CIP -released in December - anticipates needing two possible elementary schools in the Richmond Highway Corridor and the eastern area of Fairfax County and 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 a 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 Reston South Lakes High School.

utilization for 2012-13 and will be at capacity utilization of 140 percent by 2017-18 if an addition or a nearby area high school is not built.

The latter number would make South Lakes the most overcrowded school in the county.

Capacity utilization refers to the percentage of capacity that is being utilized by a building based 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.

To see the entire CIP report,  click here.

Despite a contentious redistricting battle five years ago, there was little input from SLHS-area parents at Monday's public hearing. Most speakers were from Haycock Elementary. Speakers from Haycock, set to be renovated by Fiscal Year 2016, said renovations would diminish the remaining green space at the school, something parents called already sorely lacking.

They also said renovations would fail to accommodate the high numbers of students expected in the future.

“Does the current design really solve all of our problems?” asked Christie Johnson, a member of the Haycock PTA.

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. By 2017-18, he predicted membership would reach 195,800 students. 

Parents urged the school board to consider rezoning the school and revising the design, because once it was renovated, officials likely wouldn’t come back to it for decades.

Some parents at the meeting used the opportunity to remind the school board about how renovations and overcrowding impact its potential restructuring  Advance Academic Programs (AAP).

Amy Yam, Benjamin’s mother, agreed with officials that Haycock, a school currently at 120 percent capacity, desperately needed a renovation, but not at the expense of her son’s classes.

Benjamin Yam, a 4th grader at Haycock and a student in AAP classes, may have to attend AAP classes at Lemon Road Elementary School as part of an overcrowding solution, his mother said.

“I’d like to stay at Haycock,” Benjamin, the evening's first speaker, said. “I think that I should stay with my friends … I love it there.”

But Sally Johnson, another Haycock parent, didn’t think it would be fair to keep extra AAP students in a school so overcrowded.

“It’s just not fair,” she said. “We’re stretched too thin.”

The school board is scheduled to have a work session on the CIP on Jan. 14. It will vote on the five-year plan Jan. 24.

Jessie Biele and Karen Goff contributed reporting to this story.

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