Loudoun School System Considers Fast-tracking New Schools, Classroom Additions

Loudoun’s School Board got a look this week at just how many new schools and classroom additions will need to be built over the next six years to keep up with enrollment growth, especially in the southern end of the county.

Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent of Support Services, presented his recommended Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2020 through 2025 during Tuesday’s School Board meeting. The CIP serves as a road map for the school system’s planned capital projects. The School Board is scheduled to adopt the program in December and it will be sent over to the county Board of Supervisors as a formal funding request.

In all, the six-year outlook calls for $833.95 million to fund three elementary schools, a new middle school, a new high school, several classroom additions, a student welcome and adult education center, and inclusive playgrounds at a few elementary schools yet to be determined.

Several projects were accelerated from the division’s previously adopted capital plans to try to create more classroom space in the county’s fastest growing areas. Lewis and his team are suggesting moving funding forward—and thus construction and the opening dates forward—of three schools in the Dulles North planning area, which is the area north and east of Dulles Airport. That includes moving up a middle school (MS-14) by one year, to be funded in fiscal year 2021; an elementary school (ES-34) by two years, to be funded in fiscal year 2024; and a high school (HS-14) by two years, to be funded in fiscal year 2025.

Lewis and his team are also recommending that the three-classroom additions that were initially slated for Steuart Weller and Dominion Trail elementary schools in fiscal year 2020 instead go to Catoctin and Hutchison Farm elementary schools.

Among the new projects recommended are a classroom addition at Briar Woods High School (funded in fiscal year 2021), improved stage access at 12 elementary schools (also funded in 2021), improvements to Loudoun County High School parking lot (2021), a school bus washing station (2021), classroom additions at Farmwell Station and Eagle Ridge middle schools (funded in 2022), additional parking at Academies of Loudoun (funded in 2024), high school practice field improvements (funded in 2024), and inclusive playgrounds (funded in 2025).

To free up funding in the earlier years, Lewis is recommending that an elementary school planned for the Leesburg area, called ES-24, be pushed back two years, to be funded in fiscal year 2026, and the cost to remove the modular classroom at Briar Woods High School be pushed back two years to fiscal year 2024.

Lewis also gave the board a glimpse of what’s to come in the out years, from 2026 to 2050. While the locations of all the schools are not identified, Lewis said the county will likely need seven more elementary schools, two more middle schools, and one more high school during those years.

See the full recommended Capital Improvement Program here.

School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) told Lewis moving MS-14, a Dulles North middle school, up by just one year to be funded in 2021 and open in 2024 is not fast enough. “Considering the exponential growth we’ve seen in the elementary schools in that area, I have a hard time fathoming that the middle schools are not going to be impacted in the next two years,” he said.

Lewis said he generally agrees. “We’re recommending additions at the other middle schools in that area to help with that pressure, but moving it forward is difficult when you don’t have a site to put it on.”

The School Board will hold two public hearings and work sessions on the capital program ahead of a final decision in December. The public hearings are at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 and Thursday, Nov. 19, at the school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

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