The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved a proposal from Fairfax County Public Schools Tuesday night to permit a vacant office building at 6245 Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners to be used as a school to relieve severe overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary School.
The Fairfax County School Board is holding a public hearing on the plan tonight, 7 p.m. at Luther Jackson Middle School before it votes on whether to purchase the building. If that process goes smoothly, students could started attending class in the building in September 2014.
The Planning Commission hearing was contentious at times, and the final vote didn’t occur until about 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 5.
A representative from Bailey’s PTA spoke in favor of the plan to use the office building, while several residents who live nearby raised concerns about traffic, access, and future site improvements to the exterior of the building and grounds.
There was also concern that FCPS might redraw school boundaries to shift students from Sleepy Hollow Elementary School to the office building school. According to FCPS, a boundary change isn’t planned for the immediate future.
FCPS will start retrofitting the interior of the five-story, 96,500-square foot building for classrooms as soon as the project is approved. Meanwhile, it will begin planning site improvements, including a playground and athletic fields, which will need to undergo a more extensive review process.
Planning Commission Chair Peter Murphy (Springfield), who voted for the project, noted this would be the first urban school design in Fairfax County. “We’re charting new territory here,” he said.
Commissioner Janet Hall (Mason) said she originally thought the vote should be deferred but by the end of the meeting agreed that the project should go forward. “I do have confidence that if the school board takes it on they will in fact do a good job,” she said.
Hall said she like the fact that the office building is close to Bailey’s—it’s just a mile and a-half away—and has large windows. There’s no other facility available that can be used for a school, she noted.
The Department of Planning and Zoning staff report on the project says the office building school would have about 700 students and 60 employees. The 3.4-acre property has 280 parking spaces. All students would arrive by bus, using the two existing access points from the service road in front on the building on Leesburg Pike. There would be 10 to 15 buses every day. Ultimately, it calls for the western point to the service drive would be closed and a new one developed.