FCPS Board Approves $777 Million Capital Improvement Plan

South Lakes High SchoolThe Fairfax County School Board voted on Thursday to approve the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) FY 2017-21 Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

Among the improvements planned for that time frame: new schools, capacity enhancements and renovations at a five-year cost of $777 million, or roughly $155 million per year.

Included in this CIP are plans for four new elementary schools and one high school to relieve overcrowding in existing FCPS schools.

See the full CIP on FCPS’ website.

Funds approved in the 2015 School Bond Referendum and previous referenda will address approximately $429 million of the five-year requirement, leaving a balance of $347 million that still needs to be funded.

“This CIP addresses some of our critical needs and will help relieve crowding in some of our existing schools,” said FCPS School Board Chair Pat Hynes. “We are particularly challenged by growth in certain areas of the county and higher growth rates among middle and high school students, requiring us to examine a variety of solutions, including temporary classrooms, modular additions, and boundary adjustments. Any boundary adjustments would be discussed and decided with considerable input from the community.”

This is a separate issue from FCPS’ 2017 planned $2.7 billion budget. The school system is seeking a 4.8-percent increase over 2016 from county and state funding in order to keep programs intact, provide salary increases and keep class sizes from rising above 30 students at the elementary level, said Garza. That budget will be voted on by the school board in May.

South Lakes High School’s 40,000-square-foot expansion is among the funded projects.

Funding for capital improvement projects is currently limited by a $155 million yearly cap on school bond sales. Additional funding sources include $13.1 from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for infrastructure management, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense that will fund 80 percent of the cost of upgrades to the existing Fort Belvoir Elementary School and a construction of a new school on an adjacent site, said FCPS.

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said last month that enrollment in the schools system is flattening after several years of rapid growth. That has changed some of the plans for the CIP.

Garza says in the CIP that while FCPS grew by more than 2,400 students annually the last several years, the system saw contracted growth in 2015. She says growth is expected to slow considerably between now and 20121.

“[The contracted growth] was due to a decrease in the birth-to-kindergarten yield ratio, which compares the number of kindergarten students enrolled to the number of births in Fairfax County five years ago,” Garza says in the report. “It was also caused by a rapidly declining in-migration of new students. These indicators have led to a five-year forecast that continues to project overall enrollment growth at a moderated rate. The five-year CIP horizon forecasts approximately 189,000 students by school year 2020-21.”

That number is only about 3,000 more than the current FCPS enrollment. She says the county “may have seen peak enrollment” in elementary grades. A year ago, Garza predicted the system could have more than 198,000 students by 2020.

However, different parts of the county are growing — or slowing — at different rates, she said.

Some details from the 2017-21 CIP, which is available on FCPS’ website:

Future Western HS: FCPS will monitor high school enrollments at schools such as Chantilly HS, Centreville HS, Herndon HS, Oakton HS, South Lakes HS, and Westfield HS. Based on potential site acquisition location, construct a new high school to alleviate capacity concerns. Reassign students from overcrowded high schools to high schools where surplus capacity is available.

The site, which has not been identified yet, would be in the “western end of the Silver Line Metro vicinity. This solution will involve multiple boundary adjustments to the schools in the western portion of the county such as Chantilly, Centreville, Herndon, Oakton, South Lakes, and Westfield High schools,” the report says.

Reston’s Sunrise Valley and Terraset elementary schools are nearing the end of their capacity enhancement/renovation projects. Those projects are expected to be finished during the 2016-17 school year.

Sunrise Valley will have a capacity of 750 students; Terraset will have capacity for 800 students.

South Lakes High School’s 40,000 square-foot expansion has already been funded and is expected to begin soon. The school will have space for 2,700 students when it is finished.

Herndon High is in line for a $105 million renovation, part of which is already funded. That would increase the capacity from 2,092 to 2,500 students.

However, the growth projections (and the plans for a new high school nearby) show Herndon may not need to add capacity, the CIP says. The report says it will “monitor student enrollment. Capacity deficit [will be] accommodated with temporary facilities or interior architectural modifications.”

Langston Hughes Middle School is recommended to receive renovation and capacity enhancement during the 10-year CIP cycle

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