Leesburg Council Approves Catoctin ES Expansion

Leesburg’s oldest elementary school is about to get some much needed extra space.

Loudoun County Public Schools received the necessary special exception approval Tuesday night for an expansion to Catoctin Elementary School.

The expansion will involve the construction of a one-story, 6,000-square-foot addition to the rear of the existing 76,800-square-foot school. The new space will accommodate three new classrooms, a resource room, an office, and storage space. It will also increase the school’s base capacity from 697 to 743 students. According to a staff report, the school had an enrollment of 658 students last September. Also included in the project are safety and security vestibule improvements at the entrance to the school. Schools staff hopes to begin construction in the spring, and have it wrapped up by fall 2021.

Several area residents spoke in support of the project during a Tuesday night public hearing. Kirsten Shabanowitz, a parent and former PTA president at the school, said teachers have been using every square inch of space in the building, but students were missing out on some important educational opportunities.

“We have no extra closets to store chairs or additional materials. There are no extra rooms to convert to makerspaces, STEAM labs or teacher lounges as other schools do. The students cannot share in these educational experiences due to an extreme lack of space. This is a step in the right direction acknowledging the disproportionate learning environment at Catoctin,” she said.

Nearby Valley View Avenue neighbors also thanked the school’s staff members for their work in addressing concerns about stormwater runoff impacts from the school, with more work to come as the project enters site plan review.

Mayor Kelly Burk, whose now adult sons attended Catoctin Elementary, said the school “desperately needs to be expanded.” She also thanked schools staff for their diligence in working with neighbors of the school.

The motion to approve the special exception passed by a 5-0-1 vote, with Councilman Ron Campbell absent.

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