|Students head into Bailey's Elementary School.|
Parris urged the task force to incorporate new school facilities into the revitalization plan for Seven Corners because the area is experiencing “vast growth in population” and existing schools are overcrowded.
According to Parris, FCPS has identified the need at least one and possibly two new elementary schools in the Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners area—to provide seats for 898 elementary students over the next five years.
A major challenge, though, is finding the land for new schools. An earlier proposal to build a new elementary school on the grounds of Glasgow Middle School has been dropped, Parris said.
Both Bailey’s Elementary School and Glen Forest Elementary, the schools closest to the Seven Corners revitalization area, are severely overcrowded and don’t have any room to add more modular units or trailers.
|Modular classrooms at Bailey's Elementary.|
Glasgow Middle School is projected to be 119 percent over capacity, and Stuart High School will be 128 percent over capacity in five years.
Without any land readily available, Parris suggested several innovative solutions, such as retrofitting a commercial building as a school; providing a facility that combines a school with county uses; looking at new partnerships, such as a combined elementary/middle school model; and building a multistory school on a smaller lot.
Fitting a school onto a three-acre site, when most school sites are generally five acres, means “you need to go up rather than out,” Parris said.
Kevin Sneed, director of design and construction services at FCPS, described a hypothetical five-story urban model for an elementary school serving about 1,000 students that is being considered for Tysons. Common areas would be on the ground floor with classrooms on the upper floors. The plan would include an above-ground parking structure.
Another model designed by Sneed’s office is a three-story, 750-student elementary school on four acres that incorporates community uses, such as a shared school/public library, health clinic, social services, and community meeting rooms. This concept would work well in Seven Corners, which has a need for these kinds of services, he said.
According to Parris a school in the Seven Corners area will need special programs, such as preschool education, to meet the needs of the local population. Sixty-five percent of the students at Bailey’s are eligible for free or reduced-prices lunches, and 62 percent are English language learners. At Glen Forest, those percentages are 74 and 66, respectively.
Whether the Willston Cultural Center could revert to its original purpose as a school is still very much up in the air. Parris indicated it’s not currently under consideration as the building is owned by Fairfax County, not FCPS.
At the next Seven Corners Task Force meeting, May 14, tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Mason Government Center, there will be an opportunity for public comment. All of the task force’s monthly meetings are open to the public, but the group only allows non-members to speak at every third meeting.
That meeting will include presentations on mixed-use development and the form-based zoning concept. The task force will also take a bus tour of Seven Corners in May. At the June 11 meeting, the group will begin to identify planning and urban design principles for Seven Corners, and on June 27, the group will have a “design charette,” an intensive, multi-hour session aimed at coming up with a land use and vision concept.
Task Force chair John Thillman said the work will likely continue for another year. He expects the task force will submit a final plan to the Fairfax County Planning Commission in spring 2014.