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Boundary Solution Displayed on Web Site

After months of discussion, neighborhood e-mails, meetings, strategy, and worry by parents, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) officials put their last, best Andrew Chapel boundary solution on the FCPS Web site last week.

It will be presented to the School Board on Jan. 23, said Facilities Planning Services director Gary Chevalier. After public hearings on Feb. 10-11, the School Board is expected to vote on the plan on Feb. 27.

Option Four, as it is known to parents, was tweaked in four ways before FCPS made it public, Chevalier said.

* About 55 children who live in the Ridings subdivision at the southwest quadrant of Seneca and Beach Mill roads will remain at Forestville Elementary rather than moving to Great Falls Elementary, as originally proposed in Option Four, Chevalier said.

* A new subdivision of homes not yet built, the Engle Developers project on the south side of Route 7 at Bishops Gate Lane, will attend Andrew Chapel rather than Forestville.

* Middleton, a relatively small development that produces about 13 children who attend public schools, will be also be assigned to Andrew Chapel, ending a grueling 50-minute commute from the subdivision just west of Potomac Vegetable Farm through Tysons Corner to Westbriar Elementary in Vienna.

* What remains of the Forestville attendance area, for gifted/talented (GT) purposes, would stay at Forest Edge rather than come to Andrew Chapel. It’s good for Forestville in that it keeps about two classes per grade level.

Chevalier said the boundary proposal isn’t a perfect cure for overcrowding.

“We still have a few more kids than we have seats,” he said. “We are going to have to continue to seek ways to move new development at the fringe of the attendance area out of some of these schools.

“We need to keep our eye on Forestville Elementary and their enrollment. We are going to continue to watch that closely,” he said.

The decision to leave GT students from Forestville at Forest Edge will preserve a little room for Andrew Chapel to grow, Chevalier said.

“Andrew Chapel was going to be right at its capacity, without any margin,” he said. “This will leave a little bit of room.”

With four elementary schools — Spring Hill, Forestville, Great Falls, and now Andrew Chapel — feeding into Langley High School, FCPS has proposed a 16-classroom addition there to be completed by 2008. It would be funded from the sale of bonds.

Voters will be asked to approved a school bond referendum this fall.

Chevalier explained the rationale behind an estimate for 152 new students who will enter public schools in the Tysons Corner area from 1,356 residences created in a controversial rezoning approved Jan. 6 by West*Group.

“There has been an awful lot made about this,” Chevalier said. “The residential development criterion [effective on Jan. 7] included a formula for estimating the number of students from different types of residences.

“What we used [to estimate attendance from the West*Group rezoning] were the ratios that were adopted as part of that guideline,” said Chevalier.

“They were countywide, average ratios. They are the numbers agreed to and adopted by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in the Residential Development Criteria.

“[But] When you talk about a project as expensive as [West*Group’s],” Chevalier said, “it is reasonable to assume that we would get less than the countywide average.”

West*Group’s proposal, which would send as many as 93 students into what is likely to be Westbriar Elementary, if an administrative boundary change is executed for the new development, is the kind of new growth that could drive demand for a new school site at Tysons, Chevalier said.

It’s a doubling back of population that moved west into newer subdivisions in the 1980s, causing the former Lewinsville Elementary School to be converted to a retirement center and another in Pimmit Hills to be adapted as a high school for students 18 and older.

Now, with an age wave from baby boomers’ children filling local schools, “If we continue to see a conversion of land from commercial use to residential in the Tysons area, we would give consideration to looking for another school site,” he said.

But that is likely to taper off as the wave completes high school.

“You have two things that drive membership growth,” said Chevalier: “People moving into the county, and the difference in size of the class at the kindergarten level and the one you graduate at 12th grade. We have been growing just because of that.

“As the baby boomers age, the projections are that we are going to see this boom taper off, so that is what we have projected,” he said.

But not before they cause a bulge in the high school population at the end of this decade.

To prepare for that, FCPS included a permanent 16-classroom addition for Langley High School in its new Capital Improvement Plan for 2003-08. Its $6.7 million cost would be borne by a bond referendum, which voters will be asked to approve this fall.

“Langley has a few trailers, but it’s not really overcrowded,” said FCPS staff planner John Bertocci.

“As each class gets successively bigger, they are going to need the space. They know the site will tolerate it,” he said.

Although Marshall High School on Route 7 is about 200 underneath its capacity of 1,500, that room is expected to fill from the school’s existing attendance areas, Chevalier said.

“There is no consideration being given to moving kids from Langley into Marshall High School, in terms of existing areas already built,” he said.