The Year in Review: Loudoun Digs in to Prepare for More Students

If there was ever a year for Loudoun County Public Schools to invest in a few “pardon our dust” signs, it was 2017.

The school system’s construction department has been busy juggling six building projects this year. Some of the projects are small, like classroom additions to expand six of the most crowded elementary schools. And others are huge projects that only come after years of planning, such as the Academies of Loudoun that will serve 2,500 students and sit on an expansive 119-acre campus.

Most of the projects are meant to provide more seats for the county’s growing number of students. This year, the division added 2,555 pupils to the rolls, and the schools are projected to grow by another 2,900 students next year, to total 84,187 countywide.

Brambleton Middle School

Construction cost: $49.3 million

Size: 2 stories, 184,593 square feet

Completion date: Summer 2017

Construction on Brambleton Middle School wrapped up in time to welcome its first group of sixth- through eighth graders in August.

The school has provided much needed relief to crowded middle schools in the Brambleton area, and its students come from four elementary schools: Creighton’s Corner, Sycolin Creek, Legacy, and Madison’s Trust.

Principal Renée Dawson said she visited every one of those schools earlier this year to make sure each of the incoming Brambleton Middle School students felt welcome. “I believe and know there is value in personal relationships, and I want our students to know that from the start,” she said.

The school’s design is a first for Loudoun County Public Schools. Middle schools in the county have followed a similar prototype design for several years, but the Construction Services Department mixed it up this time around. The building includes a glass-enclosed crosswalk that connects half of the building to the other, and includes benches where students can sit and journal or read. The new building design also includes a collaboration workroom where teachers from different subject areas can work together to plan lessons and student projects.

“You can tell the building was designed with learning in mind,” Dawson said. “They thought about how students would use every single space.”

Academies of Loudoun

Construction cost: $115.12 million

Size: 3 stories, 315,000 square feet

Completion date: Summer 2018

Large floor to ceiling windows are a key fixture in the Academies of Loudoun’s design. [Danielle Nadler/Loudoun Now]
            This is the biggie. It is the most expensive, and certainly the longest talked about (and dreamed about), school building the county has ever built.

The Academies of Loudoun is under construction on a forested property just off Sycolin Creek Road south of the Dulles Greenway. It will house three existing magnet programs: C.S. Monroe Technology Center, the Academy of Science, and the Academy of Engineering and Technology. It’s designed with enough space for C.S. Monroe and the Academy of Science to each double their enrollment. C.S. Monroe is now in a building along Children’s Center Road in Leesburg, and the Academy of Science is housed at Dominion High School. The new Academy of Engineering and Technology has operated for the past two years out of Tuscarora High School.

They will all come under one room in August 2018. The Academies has space to serve 2,500 students who attend classes there every other day.

“The Academies of Loudoun will bring students together to innovate, to explore, to research and collaborate as they solve real STEM problems,” Superintendent Eric Williams said of the project during a 2016 ground-breaking ceremony.

“This is special,” School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) added. “There’s nothing like this anywhere in the country.”

Tinell L. Priddy, a former assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, will serve as the first principal of the Academies of Loudoun.

Goshen Post Elementary

Construction cost: $28.31 million

Size: 2 stories, 105,757 square feet

Completion date: Summer 2018

Crews work on Goshen Post Elementary School. It is set to open in fall of 2018, on land adjacent to John Champe High School, and serve 940 students. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
            The School Board just this month redrew the attendance lines in the southern end of the county to plan for the opening of Goshen Post Elementary.

About 880 children will attend the new school in its first year, and many of those students were reassigned from nearby Buffalo Trail, Hutchison Farm, Liberty and Little River elementary schools.

The school is under construction on land adjacent to John Champe High School along Northstar Boulevard. With an anticipated program capacity of 897, the elementary school will include classrooms, a media center, cafeteria, multipurpose room and two unlit outdoor physical education fields.

Ann Hines, former principal of Rosa Lee Carter Elementary, has been named principal of Goshen Post Elementary.

Willard Middle School

Construction cost: $51.19 million

Size: 2 stories, 184,593 square feet

Completion date: Summer 2018

Considering Willard Middle School’s opening date is still eight months out, it’s grabbed a lot of headlines this year.

It was at the center of a School Board debate over how to accommodate the growing number of secondary students. In the southern end of the county, school construction has not kept pace with enrollment growth.

In an effort to use every available seat in that fast-growing corner of the county, the board has decided to open Willard as an intermediate school, meaning it will house grades eight and nine, while sixth and seventh graders attend Mercer Middle School, and 10th through 12th graders attend John Champe High School. It will serve as a typical middle school starting in the fall of 2020, when a new high school, HS-9, opens.

Willard Middle School is located off Braddock Road in Aldie. Jeff Rounsley, currently an assistant principal at John Champe High School, will serve as its first principal.

Six Classroom Additions

Construction cost: $3.1 million each

Completion date: Summer 2018

For years, county families have asked for universal full-day kindergarten. Loudoun is one of only three school districts in Virginia that does not offer all of its youngest students a full, six-hour school day.

Each year, school leaders have extended the full-day program to more and more kindergartners, but there’s still an obstacle standing in the way of universal full-day kindergarten: space.

In an effort to deliver the service to more Loudoun families, the school system is tacking three-classroom additions onto six elementary schools: Arcola, Creighton’s Corner, Legacy, Liberty, Pinebrook, and Rosa Lee Carter Elementary Schools.

Once those six schools have the space to double their kindergartners’ class time, that leaves just a couple of local public schools without space for a full-day program. But school leaders plan to build classroom additions at Dominion Trail and Steuart Weller elementary schools by 2021 to offer at least one full-day kindergarten classroom at every school in the county.

Independence High School

Construction cost: $122 million

Size: 2 stories, 282,064 square feet

Completion date: Summer 2019

Independence High School, co-located on a campus with Brambleton Middle School, will offer more welcomed relief to the packed Brambleton area schools.

It is expected to serve about 1,800 students, and include classrooms, a media center, cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, auxiliary gymnasium, and outdoor artificial turf fields.

The attendance lines for the future high school were drawn last year, along with the Brambleton Middle School boundary lines. The high school’s principal has not yet been named.

dnadler@loudounnow.com

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