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R. Rogers 26 May 2010
MEETING WITH FAIRFAX SCHOOLS PLANNING OFFICIALS Key Points
• Reston schools are currently slightly below capacity. However, FCPS projections are that by 2015-16 many Reston area schools--particularly high schools- will be beyond capacity This estimate does not include approved or planned developments such as Fairways and Spectrum. School projections reach out about 6-10 years. Estimating the impact of new development is subject to many variables. Tysons re-development will mean one new elementary school in the intermediate term and an additional middle school or high school some years out. Complicating the Reston situation will be the absence of possible new school sites outside North Town Center or Baron Cameron park. FCPS is very conscious of the need to adapt to a more urban community and is thinking about how schools may fit into this context.
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On 10 May Dave Edwards, Tammi Petrine and Dick Rogers met with officials in from the Fairfax Schools Office of Facilities Planning Services: The FCPS officers attending were: Denise James Director Larry Bizette Demographer Mary Ann Tsai Planning Officer Ajay Rowat Coordinator Useful but dated handouts were provided on the Reston situation, which are available from the 2020 participants Current Conditions and Intermediate Outlook FCPS planning officer in general look out 6-10 years to make projections based on demographics, existing school populations, changing social and ethnic variables, the economy and actual new construction. Currently the school system is experiencing considerable unanticipated growth. In the past four years a total of 8,500 students were added. Much of this growth came in the past two years because of the economic downturn
and despite slower construction. Growth also reflects various social changes—the economic situation, changing ethnic and family structure and an increase in students from existing neighborhoods. Reston situation: In general, even without urbanization of the core transit station areas and the possible redevelopment of the village centers, FCPS expects continued student growth in the Reston area, particularly at the high school level. Data provided show that the Reston area system is currently operating (with some exceptions like Hunter Woods) slightly below capacity. However, the FCPS projections show that by 2015-16 half the elementary schools will be above capacity (Aldrin and Sunrise Valley in particular), and that there will be considerable over crowding at the middle schools and particularly at the high schools serving the Reston area (South Lakes, Langley and Herndon). Significantly, these projections do not include projects that have been approved but not yet built (i.e. Spectrum and Lake Anne) or not yet approved (i.e. Fairways). At the current time, the only school facility expansion in process in the Reston area involves Lake Anne, which will be completed in 2011-2012. Estimative methodology: FCPS has a well developed methodology for estimating school populations 6-10 years out. In part it is based on new births, existing school populations and estimated influx and outgo of students. Regarding new developments, FCPS uses a “yield” methodology. Based on county-wide data, it estimates how many students will come from different type of housing. The yield rate for high rise development, for example, is 7.8% per 1,000 units. The yield rate increases for low rise apartments, townhouses and single family houses. Publicly assisted housing provides a somewhat higher yield than similar private housing. Examples provided by FCPS included an estimate of students coming from the 1440 unit approved but not built Spectrum high rise development (126) and the 940 unit Fairways proposal (167). The latter has a higher “yield” because it includes some single family townhouses and low rise style apartments as well as the high rise component. (Comment: One issue is the relevance of these yield figures to Reston. These yields are based on county wide data and experience. County officers believe the yield figures are generally realistic. However, they note that a
new development initially yields somewhat less than estimated but over time will match the yield figure.) Sometimes projections can be thrown off by changes in development plans and housing types. For example, originally the McNair Farms area (west of Herndon–Monroe) was projected to be apartments and commercial. However, the developer changed his concept to include more town homes. This increased the student “yield” and resulted in the new McNair elementary school being considerably overcapacity (construction of a new school in the general area has alleviated this situation) The only long-term Fairfax County population estimation is done in the 30 year projections done by the water and sewer dept. of Public Works. Private vs public: FCPS does not have precise data on how many children go to alternative schooling (religious, private, home schooled etc). They estimate that 9 out of 10 children in FC go to public school. They have noted that when a new facility opens, there is a tendency for people using alterative educational facilities to return to the public system. They also see a tendency for people using alternative schools to turn to the public high schools for older children. They attribute this to the high quality of Fairfax high schools Established neighborhoods: One point strongly emphasized was that in looking at future school needs, we should not ignore possible changes in the existing established communities. In general, FCPS finds that as areas get older, more young people with children move in. In newer areas, in contrast, initially there may be fewer school age children. Tysons Experience FCPS officials were very involved in the Tysons development proposals. George Mason provided estimates of the expected number of new households. When clearer projections of new housing types began to emerge from the planning process they were able to make better estimates. As a result, the draft Tysons comprehensive plan calls for: • one new elementary school in the intermediate term. • An additional middle or high school (or capacity enhancement) 20-40 years out. Urban Schools Partly as a result of Tysons and changes elsewhere in Fairfax, FCPS is particularly conscious that new facilities will have to fit into a more urban environment. The days
of 10-12 acre school sites are over in the more urbanized areas. They are considering a variety of options: • Co-locating elementary schools in a bigger municipal building with library or social services. • Putting schools, particularly elementary level schools, as the lower floors of a commercial building. • Putting schools in a building used for community or recreational purposes after school hours. The discussion centered on K–3 in one location and 4–6 in another location. Outdoor space could be ground level or fenced roof top. However, FCPS would prefer to locate such schools adjacent to parkland, which could be used for student recreation. (Comment: The North Town Center area sounds like a perfect location for such a school.) They believe security issues in such environments can be dealt with by measures such as locked doors and limited access. FCPS still prefers junior and senior high schools on campus like sites due to needs for large outdoor spaces for sports. (Comment: Baron Cameron is only space still in the possession of the County Board of Supervisors that could be used for such a site.) Future FCPS officers think that potential school sites for addressing projected capacity deficits and growth should be considered as part of the planning process in Reston, particularly given the lack of available build able land in Reston. In addition, consideration should be given to the potential for capacity enhancements, potential boundary change and/or program changes. Developing new urban schools on sites with compatible land use (co-location), as noted above, may also become a viable option. To date, there is no firm information about the impact of Transit Oriented Development on Fairfax schools as it is so new. (Comment: Arlington planner Bob Brosnan, in response to a question on 15 May, said that the experience in Arlington with its TOD areas is that there has been minimal impact on the schools. Most residents appear to be singles, young married or older residents leaving private homes. Although some renovation of older facilities has been needed, no new school construction has been necessary. But Brosnan said this could change as family patterns change and the existing communities evolve.) FCPS notes a continuing tendency on the part of the county to approve development without considering the impact on public facilities. In part to alleviate this,
they are proposing a school facility advisory body to channel citizen input. 2020 Participants Comment Assume the construction of 15,000 new high rise units in Reston. Using the county methodology and a yield of 7.8% per 1,000 high rise units, this would yield 1,170 new students. Other factors could increase this “yield”: • The proportion of affordable and government supported housing units. • Follow through on Bob Simon’s Reston values: If new construction is more consistent with the value of providing accommodation for all types of families in what ever life stage, more townhouse and garden style apartments presumably would be included in the mix. As noted above, FCPS officers see more students coming from the established residential communities in Reston as generational change occurs.
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