|Construction has started on a multifamily housing complex in Seven Corners.|
With lots of new development under way or planned in the Annandale/Mason area, lots of people are wondering how that will affect the already overcrowded public schools. We asked Fairfax County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Platenberg, who’s in charge of the Department of Facilities and Transportation, to explain how FCPS determines how many new students are likely to live in a new housing development and how that fits in with its enrollment projections. His responses are reported below in a question-and-answer format.
Among the projects under way are a 188-unit apartment complex in Seven Corners between Route 50 and South Street and the addition of 100 units at the Monticello apartments in Falls Church.
Platenberg said one of the challenges facing FCPS is that the facility planning department calculates future enrollment both as part of its own enrollment projection processes and also during the review of proposed housing developments. His answers to the following questions consider both scenarios.
Annandale Blog: What formula does FCPS use when calculating how many students will live in a new apartment building with a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom units?
Jeffrey Platenberg: We do not project or estimate the potential numbers of students based on the expected or approved number of bedrooms to be built for any type of housing (single family detached, townhomes, or multifamily).
The calculation of students from a development occurs in two different processes. For the purposes of development review (during a rezoning or planning study), a county-wide average ratio is used to estimate the average number of students a housing unit type will generate.
The ratio used is created by looking at recent students whose addresses are matched to recent existing housing by housing categories. This ratio is multiplied by the proposed number of units to generate an estimated student yield. The estimated student yield is used in the calculation of a recommended school proffer contribution and initial school facility planning; it is not used for official enrollment projections.
We calculate ratios for 24 areas (one per high school attendance area) of the County/City of Fairfax recent students whose addresses are matched to recent existing housing by housing categories. We project by applying the appropriate ratios to forecast housing (Fairfax County government) for each attendance area. These calculations are used for the official school enrollment projection.
AB: Does the formula look at other factors, such as the expected monthly rent and demographics of residents?
JP: Since we project for a horizon of six future school years, we cannot know the composition of families or individuals who may move into forecasted housing nor the likely rent they will pay. The calculation is based purely on a matching of students to housing.
AB: Does the formula take into account projected numbers of preschool-age children?
JP: We do not project for the population at large, only potential FCPS students by level. Some of our students used in the calculation of the ratios may be preschool aged, however, but that smaller student group may not reflect the number of preschool aged population at large in the preschool age range.
AB: How accurate is the formula compared to actual numbers of children in apartments?
JP: We have only broadly looked at histories of students by housing types. The accuracy of the estimated student yield using the county-wide average has not been analyzed in detail comprehensively.
Since it is an average, there will be projects that will generate more students and likewise projects that will generate fewer students. A trend that has been observed by FCPS is in older multifamily housing, student counts tend to exceed the county-wide average, while newer multifamily housing tends to see fewer students in the initial years.
So through the life-cycle of an apartment project, it may initially fall below the average, but as it ages it may approach the average and even exceed it. Because the actual number of children in a development would change from year to year, so too would any accuracy measurement.
AB: Is it correct that developers are expected to pay FCPS $10,000 per projected school-age child?
JP: Because proffers are designed to mitigate the impacts of development, the proffer contribution is based on the net increase in students. The current recommended proffer contribution per student is $10,825. This amount is reviewed on a regular basis as school capacities and construction costs change. This is to ensure the recommend proffer most accurately reflects the current cost per student.
AB: Does that money go directly to the school in the attendance area served by that apartment complex—for extra trailers, for example—or does it go to FCPS as a whole?
JP: The proffer language typically designates those funds to the schools serving/impacted by the development. Proffer funds are used toward projects which enhance the capacity of the impacted schools.
AB: Does FCPS consider overcrowded single-family houses—we have many with three and four families crammed in a three-bedroom house—when calculating enrollment projections?
JP: Because we use actual student counts, FCPS students in housing of all types will be included in the ratio calculations as part of the set of ratios calculated for each of the 24 high school attendance areas and the county-wide average.