Brief Overview of FCPS in Reston: Planning for Tomorrow

Prepared for The Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force By: The Residence, Urban Design and Livability Work Group Reston 2020 Committee Reston Citizens Association June 1, 2010
Residence, Urban Design & Livability Work Group Kathy Kaplan, Co-Chair Dick Rogers, Co-Chair Jennifer Byl John Carter Mike Corrigan Fred Costello Paul Darmory Bill Dingell Dave Edwards Joe Leighton Terry Maynard Stephanie Mirabello Bryan Moll Richard Newlon Bill Penniman Tammi Petrine Terri Phillips Holli Ploog Wendye Quaye Guy Rando Marion Stillson Rob Whitfield

Brief Overview of FCPS Schools in Reston
Current Conditions Per the planning office of FCPS, by the 2015-16 school year, about one half of the current elementary schools in the Reston area, Herndon and Hughes middle schools and Herndon and South Lakes high schools will all be over capacity. That is the estimate EXCLUSIVE of any approved new development not yet built as of now (June, ’10) as well as all of the development this task force is studying. The current demographics of the area are changing as existing neighborhoods throughout Reston are welcoming younger families as previous occupants, mostly older residents, die or move. Other factors spiking enrollments above those projected in the last 3 years include the down economic cycle, social changes in ethnic and family structure, as well as enrollment in public school of students who may have previously attended private schools. Also, generally schools with all day kindergartens experience larger enrollments which include 7 of the 10 elementary schools serving Reston children. FCPS also discussed a tendency of the county to approve additional development without first considering the impact on public facilities. To counter this frustrating pattern, they are proposing a school faculty advisory body to channel citizen input. This would seem especially appropriate in Reston where the pre-existence of good schools and other public facilities is a basic tenant of our planning principles and an expectation of our existing population. According to FCPS, planning for additional and non-traditional schools is paramount to a successful Revised Reston Master Plan as potential school sites for addressing the projected student enrollment deficits are scarce given the lack of available, affordable, buildable land in the Reston area for traditional school sites. Urban Schools Serving Reston TOD Areas To date, no firm information is available for projecting accurate enrollments in TOD areas per se as they are a relatively new phenomenon. FCPS has studied TOD’s in Atlanta, Pittsburg, San Francisco, Toronto and Arlington among others in an effort to get statistics on this type of development but none are available. Arlington’s experience is relatively new but so far additions to existing facilities has been sufficient to handle TOD enrollment as most of Arlington’s population appears to be singles, young married and older persons. But planners there admit that this could change as family patterns change and existing communities evolve.

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One point emphasized by FCPS planners is that as neighborhoods age, more school age children move in than were there when the area was new. They have seen this pattern repeatedly. Elementary Schools: FCPS is willing to consider alternatives to the traditional elementary school sites in newly urbanized neighborhoods provided that all safety, security and specific requirements are met. With non-traditional school sites, the probability is that grades K – 3 would be housed in one facility and grades 4 – 6 in another. High Rise Building: In the urban planning process, staff stated that locating a school on the first two floors of a specifically pre-planned school-friendly high rise is much easier than trying to retro-fit an existing structure. They suggested that co-locating a school in high-rise building next to a park area for recreational and PE use was ideal but that providing a large enough pre-planned outdoor area at street level would also work. Another possibility suggested is using fenced roof-top outdoor areas for some outdoor additional activities for elementary students. Municipal Building: Co-locating elementary schools in a larger municipal building that also houses social services, a library and/or county offices is another possibility for a non-traditional site. Recreational / Community Building: A third suggestion from FCPS planning staff was for a more traditional school set-up to share space with after-hours recreational and community use functions. It would appear from the task force work done so far that one site for a new elementary school could be the North Town Center area adjacent to any planned park. A school in this location could be part of the library-civic center being discussed by the Town Center sub-committee.

Secondary schools: The planning staff emphasized that their requirements for junior and senior high schools still require a campus setting due to all of the activities, sports, etc. attendant to older age educational requirements in Fairfax County. Currently, the only available county owned property suitable for an upper school campus located in Reston is the Baron Cameron site which should be held open for this probability. In the meantime, it should continue in its current use as playing fields and outdoor recreation capacities but not be considered for a large indoor rec. facility until an alternative upper school campus is identified and purchased.

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One interesting observation made by the planning staff re: high schools is that parents who have enrolled their children in private schools for the elementary grades tend to reenroll in FCPS for high school. Since this tendency has occurred during good economic times as well as bad, they attribute it to the excellent reputation of Fairfax schools. Projecting the Future Obviously this cannot be done until the TF establishes its recommendations to the Planning Commission and BOS as to what specific densities and residential housing styles are recommended. It is noteworthy that many developers seem to be thinking of small high-rise apartment units mostly suitable for families without children. However, this assumption goes in the face of the draft planning principle and Robert Simon’s existing values of a diverse demographic community. The student mix will change to the degree that town houses and low rise apartments are included in new residential development. Whatever the residential mix, at least some new schools will likely be necessary in Reston on all levels. In view of the scarcity of potential school sites, planning for their locations and features will be paramount as the TF considers what proffers to require of participating developers.

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