Reston, VA

The Fairfax County School Board’s proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Fairfax County Public Schools will not include any major adjustments or immediate big-ticket spending.

Released on Dec. 17, the proposed CIP – which sets short-term priorities for school renovations, capacity enhancements, and other infrastructure projects – remains largely the same as last year’s plan, as the uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic made FCPS officials wary of making any significant new commitments.

A virtual public hearing is planned for 7 p.m. today.

FCPS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Transportation Services Jeff Platenberg said described the current times as “daunting.”

“We don’t want to do anything that’ll impact our facilities or our staffing, especially with the inoculation coming, the vaccines, and then, next year, [we want to] put ourselves in a position to get back to whatever the new normal might be.”

The ongoing renovation at Langstone Hughes Middle School, which was fully funded by voter-approved bonds in 2015 and 2017, is expected to be completed in $FY2022. Once completed, the school, which first opened in 1980, will include modern amenities and an addition of 53,900 square feet. The project is expected to cost roughly $52 million.

The CIP includes $39 million for a school to manage additional growth expected to be brought on by phase two of the Silver Line. A location has not yet been determined, but the project is fully funded for planning-related costs.

Roughly $42 million is proposed for Herndon Elementary School, 52 million for Hughes Elementary School, and 106 million for the ongoing renovation of and Herndon High School, which will be completed this year.

Because students have mostly been learning virtually, FCPS staff were unable to include data on the capacity utilization of individual facilities for this school year in the CIP. Fluctuating attendance also precluded staff from making five-year projections for future student enrollment.

According to a presentation that Platenberg gave to the school board on Tuesday (Jan. 5), FCPS shed 8,338 students between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. The losses predominately came at the elementary school level, which saw a drop in membership of 7,729 students.

Because FCPS is not adding any new projects with the proposed CIP, the school system will be able to focus on the many needs that it has already identified, Platenberg says.

Overall, the proposed CIP carries a five-year requirement of $1.1 billion. While only $314.8 million of that is currently covered, Platenberg says the unfunded commitment should be addressed by future bond referendums.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the CIP on Feb. 4.

Images via FCPS

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