By Danielle Nadler
Local school leaders agree that Loudoun County has two big priorities over the next six years: provide seats for the thousands of anticipated new students and expand the availability of full-day kindergarten.
Both of those pricey endeavors were at the top of the school superintendent’s Capital Improvement Program, presented to Loudoun’s School Board on Tuesday.
Superintendent Eric Williams’ priority list of the school district’s building needs for fiscal years 2017-2022 includes a request of $476.79 million to fund 18 projects. The projects to be funded in the first year, fiscal 2017, include $233 million for new schools and $16.32 million in kindergarten classroom additions. Plus, another $2.96 million to purchase classroom trailers to place on the campuses of overcrowded schools in the Dulles area.
To make a full-day kindergarten program a possibility in the southern end of the county, Williams is proposing the addition of three classrooms each at six Dulles area schools. That would allow close to 70 percent of Loudoun kindergartners to receive six-hour school day, the superintendent said.
Full-day kindergarten has been the political football of this election season in Loudoun, with dozens of candidates running for offices that have little say over school programs touting the need for it.
That’s put school leaders under increased pressure to come up with a clear path to provide a full school day to the county’s youngest students. Loudoun is one of three localities in Virginia that do not offer it to every kindergartener.
School Board member Thomas Reed (At Large) brought up the community push for it at the board meeting.
“This doesn’t include universal full-day kindergarten,” he said from the dais. “Where’s the rest of it?”
Williams stressed that he wants to extend a full day program countywide as much as the board members. But, he added, it’s too early to know what buildings will need classroom additions to make it a reality. Once neighborhoods in central Loudoun mature and enrollment numbers level out, more classroom space might open up in the Ashburn area.
“We want to have confidence that [classrooms] are built in areas where they’re needed,” he said. “We share common aims of wanting to move toward 100 percent full-day kindergarten. Even though we’re not there yet, I welcome continued interest in the topic.”
Williams’ plan also calls for the renovation of the Naval JROTC facility on the Loudoun County High School campus, and a study on how best to use the C.S. Monroe Technology Center and Douglass School buildings. C.S. Monroe’s programs will move into the Academies of Loudoun when it opens in 2018 and school leaders have talked about moving Douglass School, the county’s center for alternative education, into the current C.S. Monroe building. A program study will determine whether that is the best use of that space.
The first two years of Williams’ proposal is $285 million more than last year’s capital program. So School Board member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) said nobody should get their hopes up that county supervisors will hand over that much money.
“I would hate to give the public any hope that they’ll get funded,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. It’s not going to happen.”
The School Board will now vet the superintendent’s proposal before adopting it Dec. 8. It will then be sent over to the county Board of Supervisors as a funding request.
Snapshot of Superintendent’s Capital Priorities
- Dulles South elementary school (ES-28) design funding, $4.5 million, fall 2019 opening
- Dulles North elementary school (ES-31) construction funding, $36.4 million, fall 2018 opening
- Kindergarten classroom additions, $16.3 million, fall 2018 completion
- Dulles South middle school (MS-7), $60.8 million, fall 2019 opening
- Dulles South high school (HS-9) design funding, $12.5 million, fall 2020 opening
- Brambleton high school (HS-11), $118.8 million, fall 2019 opening
- Naval JROTC facility renewal, $3.1 million, 2018 completion
- S. Monroe Center/Douglass School program studies, $1.75 million
- 16 classroom trailers for Dulles south schools, $3 million, 2017 completion
Public hearings are planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, and Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Loudoun school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.
Contact Danielle Nadler at [email protected]