|Modular units, like these classrooms at Glen Forest Elementary School, don't count when determining whether a school is overcrowded.|
Now, it doesn’t seem to be such a problem – at least according to the Fairfax County Public Schools’ 2017-21 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), approved by the school board Jan. 21 – mainly because enrollment growth is slowing.
The most recent CIP notes that several elementary schools that had been listed as needing capacity enhancements in the past are now projected to be under capacity in five years. They include: Annandale Terrace, Braddock, Bren Mar Park, Columbia, Glen Forest, Sleepy Hollow, Weyanoke, and Woodburn.
Last year’s CIP for example projected Woodburn to be 130 percent of capacity in 2019-20, while the most recent CIP puts the school at just 90 percent for 2020-21. In other downward adjustments over the same period, Columbia is reduced from 114 to 90 percent, Weyanoke from 115 to 76 percent, and Glen Forest from 132 percent to 92 percent of capacity.
“That’s a dramatic shift,” says Mason school board member Sandy Evans. “I have asked many, many questions about this and will continue to do so as we monitor the enrollment situation and our capacity needs.”
“Facilities staff say there is a moderation in enrollment growth, which would give us some relief from the astounding growth we’ve seen in the past few years,” Evans says. “However, the reality at our schools look somewhat different.”
Glen Forest Elementary School in Bailey’s Crossroads, for example, has more than 1,000 students and many of them attend class in modular units, which were not part of the permanent part of the building, she notes. Modular classrooms count as part of the school building in terms of determining whether a school is at capacity, while trailers don’t.
The 2017-21 CIP includes a total of $777 million over the next five years for new schools, capacity enhancements, and renovations. It includes funding for one new high school and three new elementary schools – none of them in the Annandale/Mason area.
After FCPS enrollment gained about 2,400 new students a year for the past six years, enrollment
growth is slowing down, the CIP states. The birth rate has slowed, while FCPS is seeing “a rapidly declining in-migration of new students.”
But while elementary enrollment is projected to decline slightly every year over the next five years, enrollment in middle and high schools is projected to increase.
Glasgow Middle School is projected to be at 115 percent of capacity, and Luther Jackson at would be at 143 percent by 2020-21. Stuart High School would be at 119 percent.
The enrollment trends are inconsistent across the county, the CIP states, which might necessitate boundary adjustments.The CIP does discuss the impact of new development but does not recommend changes in how many new students are project or how proffers are calculated.
Among other elements in the CIP that affect schools in the Annandale/Mason District area:
- The CIP calls for renovations at Falls Church High School “to be completed in the 10-year CIP cycle.”
- Annandale Terrace Elementary School is on track for renovations to be completed in 2020-21. When completed, that school will have a capacity of 800 students.
- The CIP includes funds to build a gym at Bailey’s Upper Elementary School. According to Evans, the school board should approve a construction contract next month, and the work should be done this summer.
- The CIP calls for FCPS to work with Fairfax County “to construct a new community elementary school at the Willston Multicultural Center to alleviate potential future capacity concerns in the region.” That project is also listed in a Lines of Business document on public-private partnerships presented to the Board of Supervisors.
- The CIP recommends reopening the Graham Road Community Building (the former Graham Road Elementary School) to provide capacity relief to elementary schools in the Falls Church, Marshall, and McLean pyramids.