High Schools Feeling Surge in Growth, Too

High Schools Feeling Surge in Growth, Too

The jump in local school enrollment isn't confined to the elementary schools. And a look at attendance projections tells the story.

When Westfield High opened two years ago, it was supposed to relieve Centreville and Chantilly high schools. It did — for awhile. But with younger children growing up and moving on to higher grades, things are starting to get tight again — and Westfield, too, is feeling the pinch.

"The growth at Westfield — and at Centreville and Chantilly, too — is mainly from kids already in the pipeline," explained Gary Chevalier, director of the school system's Facilities Planning Services. "This is the baby boom pushing its way through the elementary and middle schools and making its way to the high schools."

And it's a situation shared countywide. "By 2008, we're talking about 16,000 more children in Fairfax County schools," said Chevalier. "Roughly half of that number is at the high-school level."

Centreville High has a building capacity of 2,125 and is projected to have just 1,971 students next fall. But by 2006, that figure zooms to 2,320. Chantilly, which can hold 2,275 student bodies, is anticipated to have 2,437 of them by September and 2,706 by the 2006 school year.

The enrollment projections for Westfield are even more amazing — considering that the school is only in its second year of existence. With a building capacity of 2,500, Westfield is expected to have 2,736 students show up for school in September. And by fall 2006, it will somehow have to find space for a whopping 3,186 students — nearly 700 over capacity.

Chevalier says the school system believes it can manage Centreville's 2006 growth with some trailers. But Chantilly and Westfield will require other measures — and soon. At Chantilly, principal Tammy Turner hopes to receive a four-classroom unit for next fall, and other relief plans are also in the works for both her school and Westfield.

In the current Capital Improvement Plan approved by the School Board, but not yet funded in a bond issue, the school system has identified a need for 24 additional classrooms for Westfield by the year 2006. The classrooms will be in two prefab wings of 12 classrooms each added onto the school and will cost an estimated $5 million total — about half of what it would cost to build permanent additions. And, said Chevalier, "You can do it in about half as much time."

The money for Westfield's first 12 classrooms will be spent in the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, which is the school year beginning in 2004. Money for the second 12 classrooms would come from the FY 2007 budget so the classrooms would materialize for the 2006 school year. Chantilly's 12-room addition would be earmarked in the FY 2005 budget for the 2004 school year.