Funding OK’d to Build School, Avoid ‘Bat Season’

Looks like a much-needed Dulles South middle school and a threatened bat species can exist in harmony.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an advance of $3 million to begin construction on a Dulles South middle school ahead of the mating and migration season for the northern long-eared bat. The money would act as a four-month loan from the county to the school system.

The county’s School Board requested the advanced funding because a mix of federal and state guidelines prohibit clearing construction sites of trees during the bats’ most sensitive months, April-September.

That means design work for the middle school known as MS-7 needs to start within the next few weeks to have the school open on time. In fact, the advanced funding will allow the school to open one year earlier in the fall of 2018, according to school officials.

Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent of Support Services, told supervisors at their meeting Tuesday to expect another request for advanced funding because of the regulations designed to protect the bats. That request would be for about $6.5 million for the preliminary work for the elementary school known as ES-28 and high school known as HS-11. The goal, he said, is to keep the elementary school on target for a fall 2018 opening and the high school for a fall 2019 opening.

Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said that her vote was not necessarily about the bats, but about pushing forward one of the county’s most needed schools. Most of the middle schools in the southern end of the county are operating well above their building capacities.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the long-eared bats, and the truth is, that’s kind of interesting and kind of fun, but this school in Dulles South, this school is very overcrowded,” she said. “This is being done to alleviate the crowding situation in the school.”

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