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Votes

Two at a Time

Board approves building two high schools.

Following months of debate and voter approval on the latest bond referendum, the School Board gave the authorization Nov. 26 to bid construction of two schools in Brambleton and South Riding.

Four board members said the schools were not needed but were divided in which school to build first — High School 4 (HS-4) in South Riding to serve Dulles South or HS-2 in Brambleton to serve the Ashburn area.

“We don’t need two high schools. We only need one high school,” said Geary Higgins (Catoctin). “It doesn’t make sense to build two high schools for 1,142 students.”

The South Riding school is expected to open in 2005 with 694 students, while the Brambleton school’s population is expected to be 899 students that year. The schools will be constructed with a 1,600-student capacity with the design plan based on that of Heritage High School, which opened in Leesburg this year.

“In one word, boundaries. … We were offered two schools. If we don’t build two high schools together, we’ll face boundary changes two years in a row at the high-school level,” said Thomas Reed (At large). As a result, some students could be required to attend two to three high schools if the schools are opened one year after another, he said, adding, “Do we really want to bounce these kids all over the county?”

“I feel we could have two years between these two schools,” Andrews said, making the point that students would be required to switch schools a maximum of two times.

THE SCHOOL BOARD voted 7-2 in favor of building HS-2, with chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles) and Andrews voting against. Warren Geurin (Sterling) switched his vote from supporting building the Brambleton school first to favoring the South Riding school.

“I now feel that HS-2 is the better proposal,” Geurin said. "I think there is a provable need in South Riding [from] the growth down there .... not to imply there is not a need in Brambleton. If you added them together, you would have one school's worth of kids. My choice was to build in South Riding, and then maybe a year or two years later build in Brambleton. I stayed true to my position that we only need to open one school in 2005."

In a second vote, the School Board voted 6-3 in support of building HS-4, this time with Vogric, Geurin and Higgins voting against.

“I always thought the numbers justified it,” Andrews said, adding that the school would help relieve overcrowding at Stone Bridge.

The Ashburn community and the Stone Bridge cluster serving the community have experienced the most growth, Reed said, blaming the School Board for not equalizing the boundary lines to even out school populations. “To even contemplate the possibility of doing it [the boundary changes] twice is unbelievable,” he said.

Higgins asked for a re-vote on HS-2 after HS-4 got the favorable vote and was scolded by School Board members. “I think this is a bad move on your part,” said Frederick Flemming (Leesburg). Patrick Chorpenning's (Mercer) comment was: “This seems to be a bit of subversion and bad taste.”

The construction of the Brambleton and South Riding schools are included in the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for fiscal years 2003-08. The CIP was approved by the School Board in January and the Board of Supervisors in April.