Purchasing Public Schools

Purchasing Public Schools

City of Fairfax to buy county school property.

Fairfax County Public Schools is moving forward with the sale of its Eleven Oaks Center to the City of Fairfax after no citizens showed up to testify at last week's public hearing about the sale.

The school system expects to close the $4 million deal by the end of June. Officials still need approval from the Fairfax County School Board and Board of Supervisors before it is finalized.

The City of Fairfax will most likely sell the 6.2-acre property, located in the city at 10515 School St., to a developer, said Bob Sisson, Fairfax's city manager.

"The city has no current plans but intends to seek redevelopment of the site that is consistent with the neighborhood," wrote Sisson in an e-mail. No plans would be made without extensive public hearings, he added.

THE COUNTY PLANS to put the sale profits toward the relocation of building's programs. An alternative learning center, occupational therapy program, administrative offices and some school psychologists and counselors' offices are among those that will have to be moved out of Eleven Oaks, said Dean Tistadt, the school system's chief operating officer.

School bus parking will remain on the site, he added.

Eleven Oaks alternative learning center will be relocated to the Mountain View Alternative High School in Centreville. The administrators, approximately six people, will move to a site at W.T. Woodson High School, said Tistadt.

The school system will purchase home office licenses for the psychologists and counselors, who spend most of their time in schools and only occasionally need the space, said Tistadt.

Westfield High School will absorb the occupational therapy program. School officials plan to convert a storage area into a new facility for occupational therapy, said Tistadt.

"In the basement of the school there is an area that is very wheelchair accessible," he said.

ELEVEN OAKS’ SALE is part of the school system's larger effort to consolidate administrative functions onto a central campus in Falls Church. Currently, administrative functions are located throughout the county in both leased and school system-owned property.

In exchange for the transfer of 12 properties to the county, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors allowed the school system to purchase the Gatehouse Administrative Center I in 2006. The supervisors also increased the amount of bonding available for the school system's capital projects from $130 million to $155 million during in the six years following the land exchange, said Tistadt.

The supervisors did not approve the second phase of the school system's original proposal, the construction of Gatehouse Administrative Center II on an empty plot of land next to the first administrative center.

The school system would have to prove that it could save money by moving to one central location instead of being spread out in different properties across the county, said the supervisors.

THE FIRST GATEHOUSE building — where many of the schools' administrative offices have been moved over the last two years — has proved more cost effective and better for internal communication, said Tistadt.

"We can operate more effectively co-located rather than scattered in 17 different locations. It is very hard to work together when everyone is so scattered," he said.

Schools officials have started putting together a report by the end of 2007 that will convince the School Board and Board of Supervisors to provide funding for a second school administrative building, said Tistadt.

If a second administrative center is approved, the school system will transfer three additional properties to the county -- the Nancy Sprague Technology Center in Annandale, the Alan Leis Center in Falls Church and the Wilton Woods Center in Alexandria.

SOME SUPERVISORS seemed skeptical of the school system’s need for a second administrative site.

"We’ll take a look at their need and their case but they certainly don’t need it now. There is no timeline on this at all," said Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly (D-At-large) about the school system’s second administrative center.

Until the school system turns Wilton Woods — used by the schools computer operations — into a community building or recreation center, Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) said he is unlikely to approve another school system administrative building.

"Until that building is made available for community use, I’m not embracing the Taj II," said Kauffman.

SO FAR, the county had made very few changes to the 12 properties it acquired in 2006, said county spokesperson Merni Fitzgerald.

The old Burkholder Center, at 10700 Page Ave. in Fairfax, will be used for public safety offices and Belle Willard Center, at 10310 Layton Hall Drive in Fairfax, will be converted to a Health Department lab, said Fitzgerald.

The other properties — several of which are used by the park authority or for recreation purposes — will remain as they were.

"No plans, which means we're not planning to sell them, we're not planning any particular use for them, we just have not done any planning for them at all. They remain as they have been, except the ownership has changed," said Fitzgerald in an e-mail.