Elementary schools and high schools serving the Oakton area are expected to see significant overcrowding in the next five years.
A potential solution, according to the recently released draft of the Fairfax County Capital Improvement Plan: two new elementary schools in the Fairfax/Oakton/Route 28 area and a high school serving Oakton and southwestern Fairfax County to provide relief for Centreville, Chantilly, and South Lakes high schools, along with Oakton High.
The five-year CIP budget will total $871.2 million or roughly $174.2 million per year. Funds approved in the 2011 School Bond Referendum and previous referenda will address approximately $190.8 million of the five-year requirement, leaving a balance of $680.3 million unfunded.
Officials expect another referendum in fall 2013.
Along with the schools in the Oakton area, other new buildings in the plan include two possible elementary schools in the Richmond Highway Corridor and the eastern area of Fairfax County.
Some of the projects might come from cash flow beyond FY 2018, according to the report.
"Finding funds for new schools is going to cause delays in the schedule of many future renovation projects. Favorable construction pricing is helping mitigate these delays but they will occur if the school system does not receive additional capital funding from the Board of Supervisors," Superintendent Jack Dale wrote in the CIP draft.
Overcrowding In The Oakton Area
While Oakton and Waples Mill elementary schools are both at about 92 and 99 percent capacity, respectively, this year, they are expected to reach 110 percent capacity by the 2017-2018 school year.
Officials anticipate Oakton and Madison high schools, at 97 and 99 percent capacity currently, will reach 109 and 111 percent, respectively, at that time.
The percentages are calculated based on the building’s program capacity and the number of enrolled students; a school is considered overcrowded when the enrollment of the school is higher than its capacity.
Capacity is calculated differently depending on the school level, according to school documents:
Elementary schools are calculated based upon the number of core classrooms and self-contained special education rooms. FCPS middle schools are team taught, which limits the amount of students to the quantity of rooms required to support a team. High school capacity is far more complex than that in elementary and middle schools. The capacity of a high school is based upon the required core programs and the various elective options available. Modular additions continue to be counted towards capacity while trailer classrooms do not.
Sixty-three schools are slated for renovations over the next five years.
Thoreau Middle School is No. 6 on the list of proposed renovations for the 2014-18 plan. Oakton High School is ranked 30th; Waples Mill is ranked 59th. Some of the renovations, including at Thoreau and Oakton High, also include capacity enhancements that could help with overcrowding.
The total 5-year requirement for capacity enhancements is $10.6 million, all of which is funded, according to school documents.
Dan Storck (Mount Vernon) said the school board is considering several options to alleviate the projected overcrowding.
For instance, some of the overcrowding at Oakton Elementary could be relieved by a boundary adjustment that would send more schools to Flint Hill Elementary, according to the plan.
Storck told Patch discussions with the community could take place this fall.
"It's not a decision," Storck stressed, "it's a public meeting discussing what do to address overcrowding."
Growing County Membership
Between September 2011 and 2012, total FCPS membership grew by nearly 3,000 students; enrollment has grown by more than 17,000 since 2006, Dale wrote in the CIP report.
Dale noted the increase in enrollment is largely caused by the economic downturn and higher birth rates among some populations in Fairfax County. He predicted enrollment, particularly in the elementary schools, will continue to rise rapidly. By 2017-18, he predicted membership would reach 195,800 students.
"The current and anticipated increases continue to present a major challenge as the school system struggles to provide sufficient capacity in our schools," Dale said. "Despite the planned additional capacity intended to address projected capacity needs, uneven enrollment growth throughout the county will necessitate the continuation of small and large scale boundary adjustments to take advantage of available capacity whenever it is practicable to do so."
The School Board will hold a public hearing on the FY 2014-18 CIP at 6 p.m. Monday at Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church.
The Board has scheduled a work session Jan. 14 and will vote on the CIP at its business meeting Jan. 24.
To see the entire CIP report, click here.