Members of the Waterford community came out in large numbers to speak out against destruction of Waterford Elementary School at the public hearing on the schools superintendent’s recommended fiscal year 2007 through 2012 Capitol Improvements Program (CIP) and Capital Assets Replacements Program (CARP) at a School Board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Paul Siker, a resident of Waterford, said he moved to the area because of the community-based school.
Waterford Elementary School, built in 1965, is located on 10.6 acres of land, across the street from a national landmark, a Civil War cemetery. The school serves less than 200 students and was last renovated in 1999.
UNDER THE PROPOSED CIP, recommendations include the plan to raze the current Waterford Elementary School and construct a new 875-student elementary school on the site. The new school would open in fall 2009. Students would be transferred to the proposed ES-4, said to be build in fall 2007.
Siker said he hoped the board would "consider options other than simply taking down the school. Placing an 875-student school in Waterford would negatively impact the children."
Residents believe the proposed school would not only negatively impact the children, but cause traffic, water and septic problems.
Ed Lehmann, president of the Waterford Business Association, said he is concerned with two issues, water use and traffic. The country roads will not be able to withstand the traffic, he said.
Beth Erickson of Waterford Elementary School PTO stressed the importance of keeping the school in the heart of the community.
"We just want to make sure the change makes sense," Erickson said. "We are very pleased with renovations and an addition proposed, but the thought of transferring our student body to ES-4 is unthinkable."
Patty Hess, another Waterford community member agreed. "We were all shocked at the announcement about plans to destroy our school," Hess said. "The CIP does not address who we are as individuals and what makes us unique. This is not a one-size-fits-all plan for the county."
Hess said the elementary school reflects strong community bonds. "We know our neighbors by name," she said. Another resident said the teachers know all of the students by name.
"Schools should not be sized based on expediency," Siker said. "Big is not necessarily good."
In response, board member Mark Nuzzaco (Catoctin) said he has always been in communication with the community. "The recommendation is based on the analysis of growth in that party of the county," Nuzzaco said. "We are not of course intending to destroy the quality of education, but quite the opposite.… I am very much in favor of the notion of community-based schools.… We are just starting the process that will take one year to complete."
School Board Chairman John Andrews (Potomac) said the School Board has not had a chance to discuss the proposed CIP.
"This is a proposed plan presented to us by the superintendent," Andrews said. "Our very first meeting is tomorrow evening. We have not had a chance to discuss it."
BOARD MEMBERS spoke out about the $70 million academy that would replace Monroe Technology Center.
Thomas Reed (At Large) said the board has agreed unanimously on what to do with Ashburn land, currently owned by the Board of Supervisors. Several months ago, the School Board recommended the 100 acres of land be used for an elementary school and a vocational school. The Urban Land Institute made land recommendations to the Board of Supervisors Oct. 21. The institute recommended only part of the land, 40 acres, be used for educational purposes, to build a science and technology center.
"We know what we want to do with it. I hope we can proceed," Reed said.
Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) was critical of the Urban Land Institute’s recommendations for that land.
"Can you imagine a middle school, high school, an elementary school and a university presence on 40-acres of land, Ohneiser said about the Urban Land Institute’s recommendations for land use. They should give back the $115,000 [they were paid] because they did not earn it."
Walter Geurin said the new Advanced Technology Academy is a perfect match for the community’s needs.
Sugarland Run resident Susan Buckley urged the School Board to support funding for the four oldest middle schools in Loudoun County: Seneca Falls in Sterling, Blue Ridge in Purcellville, Sterling and Simpson in Leesburg.
"The renovations are very much needed," Buckley said. "Include funds in the amended CIP to allow renovations to go forward."
The School Board will meet Wednesday, Nov. 30 and Thursday, Dec. 1 to discuss the CIP. The School Board will adopt the CIP Jan. 10, and will present the adopted CIP to the Board of Supervisors in spring 2006.
THE SCHOOL BOARD also recognized Beth Walker, the first Loudoun County coach to be inducted into the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. Walker, a Park View High School technology resource teacher, coached the Patriot softball team for 27 years. The team won state championships in 1989, 1990 and 2002.
Douglass School Principal Jack Robinson was honored as the 2005 Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award winner for Loudoun County. Robinson said he wanted to express "how nice it is to be recognized for something you love doing."
Loudoun County Public Schools has earned a $999,440 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve teaching history in the district. The grant, part of the federal government’s Teaching American History Grant Program, will be used to educate 150 elementary and secondary teachers about Virginia history on a post-graduate degree level. They are expected to apply their knowledge to their classrooms and share their techniques with their colleagues. The teachers will work with George Mason University.
Superintendent Edgar Hatrick presented his proposed fiscal year 2007 Operating Budgets. He said 80 percent of the budget will be on instruction.
The planning and legislative services committee projected 3,379 new students will enroll in Loudoun County public schools. Hatrick said the increase in students will put a strain on utilities, supplies and gasoline, as well as the need for more teachers and employees. Those costs were factored into the proposed budget.
"Central to the budget request is determination to maintain a competitive employee package," Hatrick said. He recommended increasing starting salaries for teachers from $39,600 to $43,000, due to the high cost of living.
The high cost of living in Loudoun County is driving teachers out of the county, he said.
Hatrick also set aside money for installation of LCD projectors to replace television monitors in all Loudoun County classrooms, CAD software upgrades, "benchmark" testing software and disaster relief equipment.
Hatrick also made market adjustments in the budget.