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School Board Keeps Up with Growth

The Three Bs of Education

School Board member Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge) summed up 2006 in three words.

"Budgets, boundaries and buildings," she said. "Those are our three greatest challenges and all three areas were dealt with extensively this year."

The School Board was faced with a challenge January 2006. It had to cut the proposed budget by $24 million dollars.

School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) said one of the greatest accomplishments of 2006, in his opinion was managing to reconcile the budget reductions the Board of Supervisors presented to the School Board "without seriously damaging educational programs."

The School Board reduced the budget by just over $24 million dollars by eliminating all newly requested positions, postponing several new initiatives and reducing proposed salary increases by 2 percent.

"It was not our finest hour, but it was an accomplishment," he said.

THE SCHOOL BOARD was able to hang on to a few initiatives, including a Mandarin Chinese program and the implementation of full-day kindergarten at another Loudoun County public school.

Full-day kindergarten is offered to "at-risk children," said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Sharon Ackerman.

Students eligible to enroll in the program must be enrolled in one of three programs, the federally funded Head Start program, which assists 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families; the locally-funded Starting Towards Excellence in Preschool (STEP) program, designed to offer services to 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families who are not eligible for Head Start; or the special-education early childhood classes.

Last year, seven Loudoun County public schools offered a full-day kindergarten program. Cool Spring, Countryside, Frances Hazel Reid, Legacy, Newton-Lee and Sugarland elementary schools have one full-day kindergarten class. Sully Elementary School has two classes.

Loudoun County Public Schools added Mountain View Elementary to the list, this year, to serve students in the western part of Loudoun.

Three high schools offered Mandarin, the official Chinese language, to students this year thanks to the efforts of School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run). Former Loudoun Valley High School special-education teacher and native speaker Tom Wang taught the beginner's class at Broad Run, Harmony and Loudoun Valley high schools. In total, 75 students will participated in the program.

EVEN THOUGH Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick didn't open any new schools for the 2005-2006 school year, the number of students increased by approximately 3,000.

Now, Godfrey said, the School Board is playing catch up.

Loudoun County Public Schools will open three elementary schools, Creighton's Corner, Rosa Lee Carter and Sycolin Creek elementary schools and Stone Hill Middle School in 2007.

"This has required many meetings with the public and lots of time studying boundary scenarios," Godfrey said.

In an effort to keep up with growth, the superintendent and School Board have been busy putting together the capital improvements program, capital asset replacement program and operating budgets for fiscal year 2008.

THE SCHOOL BOARD asked voters to approve five school bond issues in November.

Residents approved all five bond, including the purchase of two new elementary schools, a new high school, the purchase of land of future schools and renovations to the county's four oldest middle schools.

School Board members advocated for all five issues saying that the bonds were necessary in order to keep up with growth.

The first school bond issue on the ballot asked residents to fund a $19,750,000 elementary school in the Dulles South area, ES-18.

Sam Adamo, director of the Department of Legislative Services, predicted countywide enrollment to be almost 54,000 students by fall 2007. The voters also approved a new elementary school in the Ashburn Area, ES-19.

Residents also voted in favor of a new high school in the Leesburg area, HS-5. The 1,600-student school will alleviate Loudoun County High School and Heritage High School.

The third issue on the ballot asked voters to approve the second phase of renovations to the county's four oldest middle schools, Blue Ridge, Seneca Ridge, Simpson and Sterling middle schools. The $12,440,000 project passed, with more than 71 percent of the county's population voting for it. All precincts were in favor of the ongoing project.

The school bond issues were lumped together in one question for many years, but in 2004, the Board of Supervisors voted to separate the bond questions into individual items on the ballot sheet.

Now, each county project and school bond project has been listed separately.

School projects that fail at the ballot box are funded either through cash or through securing money from the state.