Elementary School May Open Year Earlier

Elementary School May Open Year Earlier

Growth in the Ashburn area pushes the need for earlier opening of Brambleton area elementary school.

Fall 2006 is too late to open the proposed Ashburn area elementary school, concludes School Board member Robert DuPree after looking at enrollment projections for the next two years.

“The enrollment numbers are far worse than anticipated,” said DuPree (Dulles) at the Oct. 14 School Board meeting. He requested forwarding the opening of a new elementary school, which will be built on a proffered site in the Brambleton development, to fall 2005. The School Board voted in favor of his request and received the support of the Board of Supervisors’ Finance and Government Services Committee at the committee’s Oct. 20 meeting.

The Ashburn area school, which is temporarily named ES-7, is scheduled to open a year later as outlined in the School Board-adopted Fiscal Year 2004-08 Capital Improvements Program, a planning document for future school building and improvement projects.

Arcola Elementary School, which is on Goshen Road in Aldie, and Mill Run Elementary School, on Waxpool Road in Ashburn, are expected to double their program capacity by 2005 with enrollments of 515 students at Arcola, slated for 376 students, and 1,817 students at Mill Run, slated for 783 students. The “overcrowding” at the two schools will not be addressed by the opening of Belmont Station in fall 2004 in the Belmont Green subdivision, DuPree said.

THE SCHOOL, along with a school in the Belmont Country Club development scheduled to open in fall 2005, is not able to meet projected growth in the Ashburn area. Elementary schools located south of the Dulles Greenway are anticipated to increase in enrollments beyond their program capacity. Several developments, including Loudoun Valley Estates, Broadlands and Brambleton, along with the area near Loudoun County Parkway and Ryan Road, are developing faster than projected, said Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services.

“Most people who are moving here are coming with children. We know the housing market is very strong in Loudoun. We’re anticipating another record-breaking year,” Adamo said.

As a result, several elementary schools in the Ashburn area are expected to exceed their combined program capacity in the 2004-05 school year, including Ashburn, Belmont Station, Cedar Lane, Dominion Trail, Hillside, Mill Run, Sanders Corner and Seldens Landing elementary schools.

“None of us could have anticipated mortgage rates being this low for this long,” said School Board member John Andrews (Broad Run). “Sometimes [there are] economic times none of us, federal, state and local, can anticipate, and we have to adjust our plan.”

“If we don’t do something, classroom sizes will be affected,” said School Board chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles).

Adamo and his staff estimated school enrollment to be 40,250 students for the 2003-04 school year. The enrollment from the state-required Sept. 30 count is at 40,751 students, an increase of 1.24 percent, or 501 students, from last year’s projections. Eighty percent of the additional students, or 403 students, are at the elementary school-age level and half are in the Stone Bridge High School cluster that is experiencing the most growth, Adamo said.

“We see that elementary enrollment coming in. … Anyway you slice and dice it, we need the extra space,” said Superintendent Edgar Hatrick.

The enrollment next year is projected to be 44,715 students and in 2005, 49,059 students, a 9.7 percent growth rate for both years.

“We can’t afford to wait to take this to the November 2004 ballot,” DuPree said. He presented the School Board with a resolution asking the Board of Supervisors to approve funding the $15.565 million school project a year earlier through the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) and to provide $439,000 of the funding immediately to allow staff to begin developing plans for the bid award in spring 2004. The School Board voted 8-0-1 in favor of the resolution, with Frederick Flemming (Leesburg) absent from the vote.

On Monday, the Finance and Government Services Committee supported the resolution with a 3-0 vote. The committee approved a friendly amendment to the resolution to provide the immediate funds from Loudoun’s share of the VPSA bonds recently returned from the state. The committee forwarded the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

“Just in time quite often is not in time. The system can’t afford a hiccup. For us, the hiccups have quite a few ramifications,” said James Burton (I-Mercer) at the committee meeting that Public Schools staff attended. “I think we should get ahead of schedule.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the School Board:

* Heard a report on the $2 million the Board of Supervisors appropriated to the Public Schools FY-04 operating budget last summer. The funds became available after the courts dropped a lawsuit on the refinancing of the County Government Center.

At the June 24 meeting, the School Board authorized Hatrick to place $1.04 million in a holding account and to provide $956,600 in budget restorations. The restorations include 10 teacher positions for grades K-8, a maintenance worker position, a school psychologist position, the tuition reimbursement program and expansion of the parent liaison program.

After the school year started, Hatrick used the holding account funds and another $425,000 in savings to hire 24 additional elementary and secondary classroom teachers to accommodate the unanticipated increase in student enrollment.

“It takes until Sept. 30 to find out the enrollment. We had a sense the enrollment [numbers] would exceed the projections,” Hatrick said.

* Heard a report on a proposed Advanced Placement psychology class, a social science elective, for the 2004-05 school year.

“We want a non-exclusive program. Any student who wants to work hard, we want to encourage them to take accelerated courses,” said Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent of instruction, adding that the course may attract students who may not normally take advanced social science courses.

* Awarded a $32.98 million contract to P.J. Dick, Inc. of Herndon to construct Briar Woods High School in Brambleton.