|A sink in a FCHS science lab.|
FCHS is the only “legacy high school,” which refers to schools built in the 1960s, that has never been fully renovated. Among other problems, its science labs are woefully outdated and have sinks with non-working faucets, its music rooms are inadequate, and while it has a large special education program, it doesn’t meet federal accessibility standards for people with disabilities.
Evans said it’s more critical for high schools to have up-to-date facilities because they have a greater impact on student learning and serve more students than elementary schools. She also believes schools that serve a high-needs population should have a priority.
Accelerating renovations for FCHS, however, means renovations for 13 other schools would be delayed by 12 to 18 months. The only school in Mason District on that list is Annandale Terrace Elementary School, which is overcrowded.
During the work session, school board chair Tammy Derenak Kaufax (Lee) and members Kathy Smith (Sully), Jane Strauss (Dranesville), and Ted Velkoff (at large) said they opposed “queue jumping.”
Superintendent Karen Garza said the idea of giving high schools more weight is a worthwhile conversation for future sessions on the Capital Improvement Program but it would be problematic to push back the renovation of schools already promised.
Board members Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) and Patty Reed (Providence) supported the idea that FCHS should be renovated sooner, and Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) said there needs to be some flexibility in the queue.
“I have seen what Falls Church looks like,” McLaughlin said. “A mistake was made and Falls Church got overlooked.” High schools are critical as students try to get into college, she said, noting, “I’m not convinced we have to keep the status quo.”
“We all represent all of these schools,” Reed said. “We have to consider educational equity.” She said it’s embarrassing that FCHS is a Governor’s Health Sciences Academy and it’s in such bad shape, adding that the school’s planetarium uses 1968 technology.
Jeffrey Platenburg, assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation, argued against disrupting the queue but suggested there are some creative ways to address some of the needs at FCHS, such as using proffer money, without waiting for a full renovation. FCHS Principal Mike Yohe plans to submit a list of facility repairs and maintenance needs to FCPS.