|Graham Road Elementary School|
The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously to eliminate the Graham Road Elementary School building as a site for the proposed Fairfax Leadership Academy and to defer action on the charter school until the FLA submits a revised application addressing concerns raised by a review committee and board members.
The board did however affirm its interest in the FLA’s concept for seeking to address the educational needs of at-risk students. The board held a public hearing on the proposal earlier this month.
Falls Church High School PTA President Joan Daly said she was “really surprised that they took Graham Road off the table.” Daly is a member of the FCHS parents group, UPROAR, which strongly opposed having the FLA at the Graham Road building. “This is huge for us,” she said.
The school board had already indicated it would defer a decision on approving the charter school’s application because the FLA failed to get a federal grant it needed to make the concept work.
The amendment to defer a vote and remove Graham Road from consideration was proposed by Patty Reed of the Providence District. Sandy Evans of the Mason District spoke in favor of those amendments and mentioned the opposition by the FCHS parents, adding, “We need to listen to the concerns of the community.” Both the Graham Road building and FCHS are in Providence, and some of the students who attend FCHS live in Mason. Reed is planning a joint meeting with the county in November on the need for services in that community and to discuss how the Graham Road building can be used.
At the meeting Reed noted that in 2008, when the school board voted to relocate Graham Road Elementary School to the Devonshire Center, the board had promised the community that the Graham Road facility would be available for community use, such as recreational and social services. That building would have needed extensive renovations if it were used to house another school.
“A lot of board members liked aspects of the charter school,” said Daly, who attended the board meeting, “but in practical terms, who’s going to pay for it? FCPS has a large deficit. Any program that gets funding really to justify itself.”
While UPROAR is gratified that the FLA, if approved, won’t be using the Graham Road site, “we had other issues besides the location,” Daly said. “How are we going to get those at-risk kids to enroll when it’s open enrollment? They can’t preselect. It has to be open enrollment.”
Welsh’s concept calls for the school to be targeted to lower-income, minority students who are struggling in traditional public schools. The FLA would have longer school days, a year-round schedule, and other supports aimed at reducing the achievement gap between those students and their more affluent peers.