14 More Schools

14 More Schools

Schools' fast-paced building: ‘Familiar process.’

Facing a Capital Improvements Program (CIP) with 14 new schools in five years is a “familiar process” for Superintendent Edgar Hatrick and the School Board.

New schools are planned for and funded, land is acquired and construction proceeds on time, so “our schools do not look like trailer parks,” Hatrick said at the Nov. 12 School Board meeting, explaining that trailers are used as needed during school renovations or before new schools are built. This year, the school district has in use 33 trailers and another 30 cottages, which are permanently moored to the ground.

Hatrick’s recommended CIP for fiscal years 2004-08 proposes building nine elementary, two middle and three high schools and renovating two existing schools, along with other capital projects, at an estimated cost of $498.7 million. Projects proposed for FY04 are expected to cost $109.5 million for two elementary schools in Belmont Country Club and the Leesburg area, renovations at a middle school and at Loudoun County High School, ball field lighting and heating and air-conditioning system installations.

The projects for FY04-08 address a growing student population from 37,532 students this year to a projected 54,728 students in the 2007-08 school year. Next year, more than 2,700 students are expected to attend Loudoun schools, pushing the population up 7.2 percent to 40,250 students. The average growth rate from 2004 to 2008 is estimated at 3,400 new students a year.

“Our pace is so quick, this becomes sort of old hat to us,” Hatrick said, adding that despite the downturn in the national economy, “Loudoun is still growing anyway.”

LOUDOUN’S POPULATION more than doubled from 86,100 people in 1990 to 186,200 people in 2001, growth that is projected to slow in pace to 304,200 people in 2010, according to information provided by the public schools. In 2001, the county added more than 16,000 new residents from a population of 169,600 residents in 2000.

“We’re still looking at a county that is still growing and not slowing down,” said Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services.

The number of building permits the county issued peaked in 2000 at 6,100, dropping to 4,700 permits in 2001. By the end of 2002, the permits are expected to increase again to 5,000, Adamo said.

To accommodate the growth, the public schools system builds new schools on a continual basis, opening five new schools this year, followed by another five schools next year. The district has become the fastest growing school system in the state. “Some school systems enjoy that for one or two years,” Hatrick said. “Here in Loudoun County, this kind of change occurs year after year.”

School Board member Thomas Reed (At large) marveled at a 9.8 percent growth rate in the county’s population from 2000 to 2001.

“That is the most ever into Loudoun County. That was also the biggest percentage increase,” Reed said.

THE CIP also includes land purchases for four schools in FY04 but does not give an estimated cost.

“The purchase of land is becoming more and more difficult,” Hatrick said, adding that the purchases need to be started early, so that schools can be built as they are needed.

The School Board plans to discuss the CIP in works sessions scheduled on Nov. 18 and Nov. 19. A public hearing on the CIP and the Capital Assets Replacement Program (CARP) is scheduled for Nov. 26. The board is expected to adopt the CIP and CARP on Jan. 14.