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Schools and Future Development Come Under Focus at PRC Workgroup Meeting

by Fatimah Waseem July 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm 10 Comments

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. to remove unclear information about the number of total available seats in the South Lakes Pyramid.)

Local citizen representatives pressed county and school officials on how the school system will mitigate the impact of planned and future development on Reston’s public schools Tuesday night.

The meeting, the third in a series on the county’s proposal to increase the community’s population density, highlighted a major obstacle in managing increased school enrollment: limited and uncertain funding to meet future needs.

Kevin Sneed, who oversees design and construction services for the school system, said new development is not expected to generate many students because of the style of new multi-family units.

Two residential buildings recently built in Tysons generated only 21 students, Sneed said. Student enrollment from new residential development in Reston is expected to increase in the next 20-25 years, he said. Meanwhile, the school system must balance the need for renovations at several schools. 

The site for a new high school in the area — especially along the Dulles Suburban Corridor where McNair, Coates and Hutchison Elementary Schools are served — is critical. However, the school system is constrained by lack of funding to purchase a new property. And current plans to mitigate the future impact of development on schools likely will not kick in until development actually takes place, Sneed said.  Development may go live years after it is approved by the county, he said.

Stu Gibson, a former school board member of 16 years, said building capacity only once the students impact the system is a “disturbing” strategy. Gibson said he was concerned that the county is planning for additional residences before the infrastructure is in place to handle additional growth — a mode of operation that he said goes against Reston’s comprehensive plan.

Instead of purchasing land, the county and the school system are relying on proffers from developers and negotiating with applicants to see if land for a new high school can be provided, according to Leslie Johnson, the county’s zoning administrator. So far, those negotiations have been unsuccessful. But talks are underway on the county-level to change the formula used to determine how much developers pay based on the expected impact of the development on area schools.

Others worried that viable land for a new school may be limited, especially when parking lots and aging office parks that could be the site for a future school are redeveloped into mixed-use projects.

Johnson said the county is closely evaluating the impact of each development proposal on fire services, schools, parks and other public infrastructure.

“We are keeping track of the cumulative impact, but, at some point, there will be a trigger for some type of development,” Johnson said.

When and how that trigger comes forward remains unclear.

File photo

  • Old Joke

    Focus group = light bulb

    • Greg

      And old, burned-out incandescent one?

  • Mike M

    “Stu Gibson, a former school board member of 16 years, said building capacity only once the students impact the system is a “disturbing” strategy. Gibson said he was concerned that the county is planning for additional residences before the infrastructure is in place to handle additional growth — a mode of operation that he said goes against Reston’s comprehensive plan.”

    Stu gotta clue!

  • Terry Maynard

    Contrary to county officials’ statements above, a table prepared by FCPS shows that it anticipates more than 3,000 new students just approved and planned Reston development. This includes a low-to-high estimate of students of 1,672-1,800 for elementary schools, 516-556 for Langston Hughes middle school, and 836-900 new students for South Lakes HS. It does not include proposals not at least in the mill at the time this table was prepared.

    The county gets to these estimates using a formulation of the number of students generated by each type of dwelling unit, e.g.–high-rise multi-family, by school level (e.g.–elementary). Overall, FCPS’ student generation rate is 0.087 students per high-rise multi-family DU–that is, about 1/10th of a student per high-rise multi-family unit. FCPS puts the potential number of new DUs in Reston at 56,294, leading to a potential student growth of 4,898 over the plan period. See re-zoning application RZ-FDP-2017-HM-018 for details.

    In short, County officials were lying to the Reston public about the number of new students and the need for new schools in our community under the current Reston master plan. Its view of the need for early action to acquire land for schools is extremely shortsighted to the point of negligence.

    • Stuart Gibson

      Terry, The report is not with that zoning application, but it is with others. According to the school system’s April 26, 2018 iteration (attached as Appendix 13 to RZ/FDP 2016-HM-007), approved and pending applications for development in the South Lakes pyramid will add 963-1,036 students to Sunrise Valley ES, 631-685 students to Lake Anne ES, and 320-424 students to Dogwood ES (a total of 1,914 – 2,145 students). There is most definitely not enough space in existing Reston schools to accommodate all those children. We plan to follow up with the county on this information. Thank you for pointing it out.

      • Terry Maynard

        Thanks for your correction.

  • EliteinReston

    I scrolled down looking quickly for one word: Amazon. It was not there.

    • 30yearsinreston

      Hope Amazon never happens
      The only ones who would benefit are developers while we would be stuck with the bill

      • Reston Realist

        i guess jobs don’t matter?

  • 30yearsinreston

    Next up: meals tax tedux

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