Debate Widens on Who Goes to Andrew Chapel

Debate Widens on Who Goes to Andrew Chapel

Fairfax County Public Schools facilities planning director Gary Chevalier last week introduced a fourth plan to define the attendance area for the new elementary school scheduled to open at the Andrew Chapel site in Vienna in September, 2003.

Like the first three, it pleases some groups and displeases others.

One group of residents along Seneca Road and Beach Mill Roads in northwest Great Falls, whose children would be moved from Forestville Elementary to Great Falls Elementary (GFES) under the plan, are displeased.

Some parents say students from the south side of Route 7 who have Reston, Herndon and Vienna addresses should be moved instead, to Reston schools in the Herndon High School pyramid.

"Option 4 is removing Fairfax County Public Schools’ accessibility for a substantial group of people who are bordered by Loudoun County and the state of Maryland; namely the people who live in northwestern Great Falls who would be moving to GFES," said Mary Ann Clancey of Great Falls.

Another man in the crowd at McLean High School, where the third and final public boundary meeting was held last week, called out that the fourth scenario "reminds me what a bad choice the Andrew Chapel site is."

Great Falls Concerned Citizens Association founder Jeff Grieco, who attended the meeting, said school planners could have purchased a private home on Pensive Lane to make the Hickory Run site workable. The GFCCA lobbied hard for that choice for one year.

But Chevalier told the crowd that FCPS does not define school boundaries by ZIP codes.

THE IMPACT ON the school boundary process of a Tysons Corner rezoning application that is now in the pipeline also surfaced Monday, when a public hearing was scheduled before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

"It was interesting," said Julie Dallen, president of the Westbriar PTA. "We were in the process of meeting with [Hunter Mill Supervisor] Cathy Hudgins (D) when she was called in for a vote."

The vote was 9-2 in favor of deferring the public hearing and scheduled vote on West*Group’s rezoning from commercial to residential use for a 13-acre site at the northwest quadrant of the intersection of Westpark and Park Run Drives in Tysons Corner.

It has raised several issues about whether proffers from developers offset the impact on public infrastructure when they request a rezoning.

The new development would generate enrollment of 152 students in the public schools that serve the property, say FCPS facilities planners.

More than half of Westbriar’s attendance area lies in the Hunter Mill magisterial district; the other half is in Dranesville District.

The 13-acre site lies in the Providence District, which is represented by Gerald E. Connolly (D).

But if it is approved, children from the new 1,356-unit development will go to school either at Spring Hill Elementary in Dranesville District, where the land is presently assigned, or possibly be moved administratively to Westbriar Elementary in Hunter Mill District, where there is slightly more room, according to Dranesville District School Board representative Jane Strauss.

Westbriar presently has about 440 students, with a capacity of 398, Dallen said.

"I did check the number of active Great Falls children [at Westbriar]," she said. "It is 55, of 67 potential students."

The other 12 students may be attending private school or a magnet program, such as Japanese immersion at Great Falls or gifted and talented classes at one of two dedicated centers.

"The bottom line, we feel, is that the proffers [by Tysons Corner developer, West*Group] don’t support the major impacts, which are schools and transportation," Dallen said.

"At this point it is not a boundary issue. It is a taxpayer issue. Who is going to pay the construction costs for schools for these children?"

"No one has capacity for an additional 93 children" in elementary school. The total is estimated at 152, said Gary Chevalier, who directs facilities planning for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

Like many other parents, Dallen said, that number might be too conservative. "It is probably closer to 130 to 150" in elementary school alone, she said.

Chevalier said his staff derived the estimate from attendance figures at the Rotonda, another high-rise building at Tysons Corner.

"We would just like to see a fair decision and input from the community," Dallen said. "We are just concerned about the sheer number of children. None of the [school] renovation projects took into account a development of this size."

CLANCEY, OF GREAT FALLS, said her children won’t be affected, because her neighborhood will remain in the Great Falls Elementary attendance area under any of the scenarios.

"I am interested as a matter of public policy," she said. "I believe in maximum utilization of schools and their infrastructure, rather than spending money on construction or trailers. There are better uses for that money."

"It is absolutely amazing that Armstrong and Aldrin [elementary schools in Reston] are not undergoing any sort of administrative boundary change," said Mary Ann Clancey. "The infrastructure of those schools is better able to handle overcrowding. They are on public sewer, number one, and number two, they are larger in square footage. And, the acreage is larger.

She said acreage used for septic drain fields should be discounted when the size of elementaries in Great Falls is assessed because "you can’t park on it, you can’t build on it, and you can’t put any construction or trailers on it."

Great Falls has no public sewer service north of Georgetown Pike, and both of its elementary schools are served by septic systems.

Clancey said the fourth plan has too large an impact on Great Falls Elementary and that the boundary process did not address the concentric groupings that are listed in FCPS’ capital improvements program (CIP).

"Option 4 puts together a decent school, but Great Falls Elementary is left overcrowded, Forestville is left a bit less overcrowded, and where do you go from there?" Clancey said.

"We have addressed the basic overcrowding, but Fairfax County Public Schools should examine which facilities have the infrastructure to handle those 100 students."

Great Falls PTA president Lynn Kemmerer said that is why the PTA has asked Janet Strauss to look again at the proposed solution.

Previously, the parent-teacher organizations at all three of the elementaries involved in the boundary process had not spoken out.

"We are still not taking a position on boundaries," Kemmerer said. "We are taking a position on overcrowding.

"The [Great Falls] PTA board decided we needed to let people know there won’t be much change in our overcrowding, but we are going to have huge disturbance of our student population.

"They were going to move one-third of our school population, and they were not easing our overcrowding," Kemmerer said.

"We will still be overcrowded by 70 on their charts, but they don’t include kids currently ... in Japanese Immersion [magnet program] who will still come to Great Falls.

"I counted 30 in the school directory," Kemmerer said. "Add those back to their 70, and you get 100, which is four classrooms in trailers. We only have six in trailers now," Kemmerer said.

In 1993, when boundaries were adjusted for the opening of

Aldrin Elementary in Reston, GFES was overcrowded by about 100 students then, too.

Students from Carper’s Farm, Colvin Run and Colvin Glen subdivisions south of Route 7 in Vienna were moved from GFES to Forestville School. Now, nine years later, they are being moved again, to Andrew Chapel.

"If option 4 is what they are going forward from, we would like to see a balance in the overcrowding numbers between GFES and Forestville," said Kemmerer.

"[Forestville’s population] goes from 14 trailers down to two. That has a huge positive effect on their school by reducing a good amount of overcrowding.

"We want what overcrowding is left after this boundary change [to be] balanced," she said.

Another unhappy group of parents lives on Harriman Street in Great Falls. In the fourth boundary scenario, it forms the east-west boundary between Andrew Chapel (AC) and Great Falls Elementary’s attendance areas.

"The Harriman people would rather see Scenario 1," said Kemmerer, "where you don’t have double disruption by moving Forestville [students] to GFES, and GFES [students] to Andrew Chapel."

She said GFES parents are less concerned about the imposition into the boundary process of a Nov. 4 proposal for the rezoning at Tysons Corner that would add an estimated 152 children into Spring Hill Elementary and the Langley pyramid.

"We are certainly concerned for the east end of our pyramid, but you can’t fight every battle. We are watching it closely but are not actively involved," said Kemmerer.

Parents at Middleton, a subdivision south of Route 7 just east of the Potomac Vegetable Farm, still want to be assigned to the new school at Andrew Chapel. Strauss told them their situation would be evaluated when the other issues are resolved.

The FCPS proposal for new boundaries will go forward Jan. 13 for discussion at a planning session of the School Board. No more parent meetings are scheduled.