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School Board Budgets for More Schools

Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick has proposed building an elementary school, a high school, and a $70.73 million advanced technology academy as well as buying three other parcels of land for future school construction during the 2006-2007 school year.

With enrollment projections at 50,740 students next fall, Hatrick presented a $223.74 million Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget to the School Board last Tuesday night.

School Board member J. Warren Guerrin (Sterling) said it was ÒimpressiveÓ that Loudoun would spend in excess of $70 million for the academy.

Hatrick said the state-of-the-art building would not necessarily look like a high school. It would replace the C.S. Monroe Technology Center where students are already taking courses such as computer animation, giving them a leg up when they enter college, he said. The school also prepares non-college-bound students for careers in automotive, hair dressing and other industries.

When Loudoun equipped the center 30 years ago, it was the most expensive program in the school system, Hatrick said. ÒYouÕve got programs at Monroe right now that are top in the nation. WeÕre not talking top in the state, but top in the nation. É WeÕve outgrown the building.Ó

HATRICK CITED land acquisition as one of the greatest challenges facing Loudoun County Public Schools. ÒWe have schools that wonÕt open, because of our inability to get land in a timely fashion,Ó he said. For example, the school district is having trouble finding land to build an elementary school in Leesburg.

Considering a two-year condemnation process, building and permit requirements, zoning amendments, wetlands, flood plains and other criteria, the School Board should start identifying land for school construction five years ahead of time, he said.

Loudoun County Public Schools has 47,361 students this year, more than double the number a decade ago. Another 22,347 students are expected in the next six years.

The proposed budget also includes plans to move a gas line for an elementary school in Moorefield Station. The construction and land acquisitions are slated for fiscal year 2007, which is July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007. The projects must pass muster first with the School Board, then the Board of Supervisors, and finally, the voters.

GEURIN ASKED Hatrick why funding for another set of renovations for four middle schools was not in the budget. Hatrick said it was an oversight, one that will be rectified.

Geurin said the CIP budget will be increased by $5.99 million once those costs are factored in. They will cover renovations at Blue Ridge, Simpson, Seneca Ridge and Sterling middle schools.

The elementary school would be built in South Riding Station, and the high school in Leesburg. The School Board has asked the county Supervisors for permission to build the academy on 45 acres of the 101.3 acre former Islamic Saudi Academy property in Ashburn, over which the Supervisors have jurisdiction. The board also would like 20 acres set aside for a new elementary school.

The School Board would buy one parcel of land for future school construction in Ashburn and two in the Dulles District.

The CIP calls for a total of $971.93 million in capital improvements through FY 2012. The School Board revises the six-year proposal every year.

HATRICK POINTED out that the fiscal year 2008 CIP budget includes a proposal for a new elementary school in Waterford after the old one is razed. It would be LoudounÕs first two-story elementary school, he said. ÒWe are limited in design, because of an acreage limit. There will probably be community reaction to it.Ó

School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) expressed a concern that the six-year CIP budget proposal failed to consider that land needs to be acquired five years in advance of construction. The board has scheduled CIP budget work sessions and a public hearing later this month.

Explaining the need for the new schools, Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services, presented an overview of the countyÕs rising population, noting that migration was a key factor in the situation. From 2000 to 2003, 10.6 percent of the increase was due to natural growth, and 89.4 percent was because of people moving to Loudoun. ÒAgain, this is quite telling,Ó he said.

While the School Board reviewed the budgetary proposal last Tuesday night, election officials were counting ballots to determine if voters would approve the CIP budget recommendations for FY 2006. When the ballots were tallied, voters supported $204,135,000 in funding for three new elementary schools in Ashburn, Arcola and Hamilton, a middle school in the Dulles District, and a high school in western Loudoun and renovations for Hillsboro, Rolling Ridge and Sugarland elementary schools.