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On the Docket: South Lakes High School’s Expansion Plans

by Karen Goff — October 7, 2015 at 3:00 pm 9 Comments

South Lakes High School addition/Credit: FCPS

Fairfax County Public Schools has proposed a new addition for South Lakes High School that will add 40,000 square feet to the school, but the school is in danger of outgrowing the added space as soon as it is built.

The proposed addition will bring SLHS’ capacity to 2,500 students. That capacity appears to be needed though as current enrollment is 2,446 in a school designed for about 2,100 students.

The addition comes less than 10 years after SLHS underwent a major renovation that increased capacity by about 1,000 students.

After a sometimes-contentious redistricting process in 2006, the school, which then had about 1,400 students, soon after had more than 2,000 students. Temporary classrooms have been added to the property in the last several years to handle overcrowding as school population, reflecting an overall trend in FCPS, has continued to grow annually.

If the trend holds, SLHS may be close to 2,900 in the next several years, FCPS officials said in the most recent FCPS Capital Improvement Plan.

The South Lakes addition, which will be paid for from a 2013 school bond, is on the Fairfax County Planning Commission agenda for Oct. 15. Residents may speak at the public hearing portion of the meeting, which begins at 8:15 p.m.

Here is what is planned for SLHS, according to a county planning staff report:

A two-story, 40,000-square foot addition at the southwest corner of the building along South Lakes Drive.

The construction of the addition would expand the school to 373,750 square feet.

The addition will have classroom space to enhance the capacity of the existing school from 2,126 students to 2,500 students.

Also planned: 128 new parking spaces, which would be located along Seahawk Drive in the proximity of the school’s entrance and within the existing eastern and western parking lots, for a total of 758 parking spaces.

FCPS will provide additional stormwater management through the installation of open joint pavement blocks and five filterras (filter systems).

The staff report, which recommends approval of the plan, says “the proposed expansion has received prior approval by a public bond referendum, is included in the county’s currently adopted Capital Improvement Program, and does not significantly impact on the character of the existing facility and its compatibility with the surrounding” area.

The modular classrooms currently located on the future site of the addition will go away. But a series of other modular units, which house special education classroom, on the flagpole side of the school will remain.

Among the development conditions: FCPS will upgrade the existing sidewalks that are less than five feet wide along South Lakes Drive and Ridge Heights Road to five feet in width (or
provide ADA passing areas).

South Lakes may still install more modular classrooms on the property if needed to accommodate future enrollment.

Rendering courtesy of Fairfax County.

  • Mike M

    Didn’t the school board just redistrict hundreds of kids into SLHS because it was “underutilized?”

    • Karen Goff

      Yes, it is explained in the story. It’s been about 8 years though.

      • Mike M

        Times flies. I didn’t recognize the redistricting was 2006. I was thinking it was 2011 or so. It’s all part of getting old.

  • Sheryl Cosing

    The county needs to allow an exit at the west end of the parking lot for a true circular traffic flow. The Entrance to the stadium side lot would be the existing entrance along the school from South Lakes Drive and the west end of the parking lot could be the designated Exit. This would greatly reduce the traffic flow and congestion in the morning and in afternoons at dismissal. The pick up/drop off lane now is very tight and there are many near misses between cars and pedestrians.

    • Melissa G

      Great idea, Sheryl!

  • AlliD

    What ever happened to building another HS somewhere along the silver line to take students from SLHS and HHS?

    • Terry Maynard

      From my discussions several years ago (during the Reston planning process) now with Pat Hynes and two FCPS planning staff, that is the long-term plan, but it won’t be acted on until the population grows significantly along the Silver Line. Obviously, the SL needs to be built west of Wiehle for that to happen. Probably not for another decade or more.

      As the comments above suggest, this proposed addition is “catch up” for the re-districting a decade ago.

  • Melissa G

    Glad to hear about this much-needed expansion! I believe the original plan was to bump out both sides, but this will certainly help. Any idea if they will be removing the modular classrooms from the lower parking lot (on the Hughes side)? And to add to the previous comment – this addition is more than “catch up” for the re-districting a decade ago – FCPS enrollment is up in general (185,490 in Sept 2015 vs. 163,593 in Sept 2006 when the redistricting process took place).

  • Jonathan Damm

    Is it just me, or are these modular classrooms an aesthetic blight and utilitarian fiasco? How is it possible to be planning a major renovation that leaves any of these eyesores? If we are going to renovate the building, let’s do it right and emiminate all the modular classrooms.

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