Upcoming School Bond Impacts Fairfax Schools

Upcoming School Bond Impacts Fairfax Schools

Three Fairfax area schools are slated to receive funding from the upcoming school bond referendum.

For years, the W.T. Woodson High School community has lobbied for renovations to take place on their 40-year-old building. With the upcoming school bond referendum earmarking $67.9 million for Woodson's renovation, parents and administrators anticipate the day when students won't have classes in storage closets converted into classrooms.

"Traditionally, this area has always supported bond referenda," said Arlene Pripeton, Woodson's PTSA president. "We anticipate that we'll continue to have really good support from residents in our area."

Although the General Assembly races have predominated Election Day discussion, county voters will also have the opportunity to vote on a $291 million school bond referendum on Nov. 4.

If the referendum passes, Fairfax's Woodson High School will receive a $67.9 million renovation, with construction expected to start in fall 2006. Mosby Woods Elementary in Fairfax will gain a $2.1 million, 10-room modular addition. Luther Jackson Middle in Falls Church will receive a 10-room $4.65 million addition.

These additions are included in the $290.61 million referendum in which 21 percent, or $61.45 million, will go towards new construction, 66 percent or $190.96 million will go toward the renovation of two middle schools and two high schools, and roughly 13 percent or $36.75 million will go toward infrastructure management.

"Not only the parent, but all of us are excited about getting the new classrooms," said Jackson Middle principal Carol C. Robinson.

At Woodson, many believe the renovation has been long overdue, but welcome the inclusion of Woodson on the list of schools to receive bond funding.

"Our science labs are state-of-the-art 1962," said Woodson principal Robert Elliott. "This will give us some new science labs which we really need."

Ellen Oppenheim, a Woodson parent, agreed. Oppenheim is president of Renew, an organization whose original purpose was lobbying to expedite the school's renovation.

"We've fought long and hard," said Oppenheim, who had also served as a Braddock district representative during Fairfax County Public Schools' last school bond in 2001. "It's wonderful, wonderful for the school."

While not receiving a major renovation, another Fairfax area school, Luther Jackson Middle in Falls Church, is expected to receive a $4.65 million, 10-room addition made from brick or cinder block.

"As far as I know, these rooms are slated to be used as classrooms. By adding these rooms, we will be able to eliminate at least 10 of the 13 trailers that we are using now for classrooms. We also have four teachers who travel between rooms in order to have their classes," said Robinson. Jackson Middle's last major renovation was 10 years ago, when it added new and expanded classrooms, another gym, a weight room and extra storage space.

"It is always beneficial to have everyone under the same roof," Robinson said.

At Mosby Woods Elementary in Fairfax, the school is expected to receive a $2.1 million, 10-room modular addition. The modular classrooms or "modulars" differ from classroom trailers in their size and amenities, according to Fairfax County Public Schools news liaison Mary Shaw. While trailers house single classrooms with no support for bathrooms or water, modulars are pre-fabricated wings that offer conventional-sized classrooms, heat, air conditioning, wiring for computers, and water and bathroom space. Modulars are usually attached to the school by covered walkways, have a life span of 20 to 25 years, and can be moved if enrollment fluctuates throughout the county, Shaw added.

"The 10-room addition will be used for the overall school," said Mosby Woods principal Laura Shibles in an e-mail. Mosby Woods' last major construction was an addition completed six years ago that currently serves two grade levels and holds the school library and art room. "This year, we added a third grade Gifted and Talented (G/T) Center and will add a grade every year until we have a G/T Center for grades three to six. The addition would not necessarily be for the center though, but to offset the impact of additional classroom space."

"The school community was supportive to Mosby Woods getting a G/T Center," Shibles said. "A modular was part of the discussion with the community when [the G/T Center] was being looked at prior to the final vote of the School Board."