|A rear view of the office building to be transformed into a school.|
Fairfax County Public Schools officials shared some of their thinking about how the annex to Bailey’s Elementary School, in an office building at 6245 Leesburg Pike, might look and function at a meeting with parents Dec. 12. The new building will serve about 400 students in grades 3-5, beginning in fall 2014.
School Board member Sandy Evans said she hopes FCPS will be able to take ownership of the building by the end of the year and that the school system will be able to purchase it rather than have to acquire it through eminent domain.
Although none of this has been finalized, FCPS Cluster 3 Assistant Superintendent Douglas Tyson presented a conceptual overview of the current thinking on the school design. The center of the L-shaped building will be used for common spaces, while classrooms will be at the ends, he said.
The classrooms and other facilities in the new building will meet the size and other specifications for any FCPS school, Tyson said. To ensure security, there won’t be any classrooms on the first floor. The architectural firm, Cooper Carry, would bring in acoustical engineers to address noise levels in the building.
Bailey’s Principal Marie Lemon said the building will provide all of the services required for Bailey’s status as a magnet school for the arts and sciences, such as a TV production studio and spaces for music, dance, and other physical activity.
Tyson emphasized that the new building will be part of Bailey’s Elementary, not a separate school, and that Lemon will be the only principal. He also said the two buildings could be called something like the east and west campus of Bailey’s but he hopes the community will come up with a more creative idea for naming the buildings.
Lots of issues need to be worked out, he said, including the possibility of staggered start times to make it easier for parents with children at both buildings, the configuration of the kiss and ride area for parents dropping off their children, and whether there would be a shuttle between the two campuses.
The outdoor play space also needs to be figured out, he said, and that will be done with people who live near the building. “We want to make sure it’s going to be in the best interests of the children at Bailey’s and we also want to be a good neighbor,” he said.
Charges to the grounds require a lengthier planning and approval process, which won’t be completed before school starts next fall. “There is plenty of space out there for outdoor recreation,” Tyson said.
When asked if there will be improvements at the existing Bailey’s building, Tyson said, “We have every intention of making some improvements here, as well,” but no decisions have been made on that. He also said there will need to be more space for the School-Age Child Care program, but doesn’t know if it will be at the old or new building.
Regarding the possibility of a boundary change, Evans said, “this is a Bailey’s solution” and there won’t be any changes for next year. She said a boundary study is a lengthy process that would take more than a year.
A tab on Bailey’s website will provide updates on the building project, as well as a form for parents to submit questions. Evans addressed some issues in a FAQ document.
Brian Butler, the principal of Mason Crest Elementary School, which opened in fall 2012, shared some insights on the process of developing a new school. Butler was hired after the school was already designed and built, but he was responsible for ordering the furniture, technology, and other equipment. A “new school committee” with representatives from many FCPS departments was very helpful, he said.
Mason Crest drew students from four elementary schools, and Butler reached out to parents months before the school opened. Incoming students were invited to vote on a new playground design, school colors, and a mascot.
Rock Rockenbach, the Parent Teacher Organization president at Mason Crest, said he, like many other parents, “wasn’t happy about having to leave a school we loved”—Woodburn, in his case—but the FCPS boundary study and school construction process was expertly done. “As scary as change can be and as difficult as it is to move to a new school, you can have a lot of faith that FCPS will handle this well,” he advised the Bailey’s parents.