Local: Education

Fairfax may build two more elementary schools

Local,Education,Lisa Gartner
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  • Fairfax County Superintendent Jack Dale has proposed building two more elementary schools to alleviate overcrowding in areas where a Latino population boom could leave some schools as much as 171-percent over capacity by 2016.

    The two new schools - one in Groveton-Hybla Valley area, and the other in the Bailey's Crossroads area - would cost $29.8 million and are part of a larger, $848.5 million plan for school construction over the next five years.

    Most of the Capital Improvement Program, $715 million over five years, will be used to renovate 32 schools. And while the district proposes spending another $36.2 million to increase capacity at existing schools, Dale said school officials still must address uneven enrollment booms throughout the county.

    Fairfax County Public Schools enrollment increased by 14,000 students over the last five years, and the system is expected to add 11,000 more over the next five.

    A surge in Latino families with young children in the Groveton, Hybla Valley and Bailey's Crossroads has increased the need for new schools, said Larry Bizette, the district's demographer.

    "We're expecting more growth in years ahead because of increased birth rates now, with the [Hispanic] birth rate three times what it is for non-Hispanic whites," Bizette said.

    With 721 students, Groveton Elementary in Alexandria is at 121 percent of capacity and expected to hit 171 percent, with more than 1,000 students, by 2016.

    Hybla Valley Elementary and Bailey's Elementary are similarly overcrowded, and both Hispanic-majority schools are expected to reach 149 percent within five years. Bailey's enrollment already exceeds 1,200 students and could hit 1,559 in 2016.

    The increase doesn't just mean more desks jammed into classrooms. The county is using nearly 800 portable classrooms this year, a school-system record. About 55 percent are at elementary schools, said Kevin Sneed, the district's director of design and construction.

    At Groveton, outdoor basketball courts, monkey bars, and chin-up bars meant for the school's older students were ripped up to make room for classroom trailers.

    "The fourth through sixth grades have had nothing to do except play kickball or stare at themselves or get in trouble," said Walter Hamrin, vice president of Groveton's PTA and the parent of a second-grader.

    The school board has scheduled a public hearing on Dale's proposal for Jan. 9, and plans to vote on the proposal on Jan. 26.

    The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors allows the school system $155 million a year for capital improvement projects.

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