By Mary Ann Barton and Jason Spencer
The Fairfax County School Board this month approved an $866 million capital spending plan for the next five years that includes new schools, capacity enhancements, renovations and infrastructure management.
The board also directed administrators to look for ways to fast-track renovations at Fairfax County's five legacy high schools — Langley, West Springfield, Herndon, Oakton, and Falls Church — and to report back in July. These schools were built in the 1960s and have not yet received complete renovations.
"We felt it was important to explore options that could enable us to speed up the renovations at those schools," School Board Chairman Ilryong Moon said in a statement.
Hunter Mill District School Board member Pat Hynes and Sully District Board member Kathy Smith unsuccessfully opposed that action.
About half of the school system's 2015-19 Capital Improvement Program is funded with bonds that already have been approved at the polls. Voters will be asked to approve more bonds to fully implement the spending plan.
"As school membership continues to grow, we face a critical shortage of available classrooms and facilities," Moon stated.
The school system enrolls about 3,000 new students each year and forecasts continued enrollment growth over the next five years.
To meet the demand over the past five years, Fairfax County Public Schools added 130 classrooms annually. Looking ahead, though, growth is on track to outpace the school system's ability to keep up: Only 74 classrooms are slated to be added each year, Moon stated.
The 2015-19 Capital Improvement Program includes $250 million voters approved in November that will be used to build two new elementary schools and expand another, plus pay for renovations and capacity enhancements at nine elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.
The money, too, will be used to plan the construction of one high school addition, plan renovations to eight elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools, and to fund numerous infrastructure projects.
The Capital Improvement Program also anticipates the need for three more elementary schools — one in the Fairfax-Oakton area, another in the northwest part of the county and a third in Fort Belvoir that would be jointly funded with the Department of Defense.
Funding for capital projects is limited by a $155 million annual cap on school bond sales thanks to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Limited funding means keeping up with a growing student population will delay the scheduling of many future renovation projects, according to a news release from the school system.
Details about the 2015-19 Capital Improvement Program are available online.
School Board members agreed to schedule a work session by the end of April to discuss policy issues associated capital projects before developing the 2016-20 Capital Improvement Program.