Renovations are finally on the horizon for Sidney Lanier Middle School. At a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, the City Council approved an appropriation resolution that would fund the improvements for Lanier and the completion of the renovation project for Fairfax High School.
In November 2004, voters approved an $86.8 million school bond that would finance improvements for both Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle School. That December, $42 million went into the renovations at Fairfax High School, and the city issued and sold the remaining $44.8 million in November 2005.
Although the first phase of renovations at Fairfax is nearly finished, progress on Lanier has stalled. According to City of Fairfax School Board member Janice Miller, the project’s sole bidder was far too expensive, so the School Board resubmitted the bids in the hope of receiving a more competitive price. Now, she said, the project has eight potential contractors and bidding will open at the end of January.
"It is the intent of the City of Fairfax School Board to build the Lanier project as advertised in the bond process," said Miller. "There will be nothing that will be cut from the Lanier Middle School project."
Lanier’s renovations, which will cost $16.8 million, will expand the school’s capacity to 1,125 by adding a two-floor wing onto the back of the school, said Miller. Another highly visible change will move the school entrance from Bevan Drive to Jermantown Road.
The second half of Fairfax High School’s renovations cost $25.2 million and will replace the administrative and academic wings, said Miller.
IN A UNANIMOUS VOTE, the City Council also entered into an agreement with the Fairfax County School Board to purchase land the board owns at the Eleven Oaks School site off School Street. The city will buy a swath of land through the middle of the site, which Fairfax County Public Schools now uses as an administrative center. The city will use the land as a right-of-way to finish construction of George Mason Boulevard.
The Fairfax County School Board is undecided whether it will keep using the Eleven Oaks site, said public works director John Veneziano.
Councilmember Joan Cross said she wanted to know what would be happening with the building before anything went through. "I have a concern about this with the evacuation of that building … how that would affect what we’re doing here," she said.
In case the Fairfax County School Board decides to keep using the site, said Veneziano, the city must also provide noise abatement. Purchase of the perpetual easement will cost $420,000, including $60,000 for sound attenuation, but federal funds will pay for this, he said.
Before the meeting ended, Mayor Rob Lederer raised an idea based on action the City of Manassas recently took. In late December, City of Manassas officials approved a new zoning ordinance that strictly defined the term "family" and would limit the number of people that could live in one household. Lederer suggested that councilmembers and city staff look into the possibility of similar action in Fairfax. Such an ordinance, he said, could turn out to be "a tool in our toolbox to help residential communities."
In other business, the council also approved a $25,000 appropriation resolution to fund improvements to Ratcliffe Park. They also gave the go-ahead to city staff to begin improvements to Jermantown Road and Route 50 at Waples Mill Road. The improvements, which include road widening and the addition of a southbound lane on Jermantown Road between the Giant Supermarket site entrance and Route 50, will cost about $1.8 million, said Veneziano.