Leesburg Residents Raise Concerns About Monroe Property Plans

Residents who live near C.S. Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg got a chance to voice their concerns about the future plans for the school site during a meeting Wednesday.

The programs that have operated out of the building on Children’s Center Road were, in August, relocated to the Academies of Loudoun and renamed Monroe Advanced Technology Academy. Now, plans are to demolish the vacant building and replace it with a two-story building to house the school system’s alternative education programs that now operate out of Douglass School on East Market Street.

Sara Howard-O’Brien, the school system’s Land Management Supervisor, led a community meeting Wednesday at Loudoun County High School on the plans for the Monroe property.

The plans call for a 91,000-square-foot, two-story building to house about 550 students at build out. About 275 students currently attend Douglass School. Howard-O’Brien said the programs’ enrollment won’t double overnight, but school leaders want to plan for the county’s future growth. Already, Douglass has a wait list of 20 people.

Douglass School Principal Marianne Turner explained to the couple of dozen people gathered just exactly alternative education programs are. She said they provide smaller classroom sizes, tutoring, counseling and additional support for students who need it.

Turner said that, contrary to popular belief, 90 to 95 percent of the students who attend Douglass School enroll voluntarily. “The two biggest reasons I’ve seen in my three years at Douglass is because of anxiety and credit recovery.”

She added, “And students who are placed at Douglass, whatever they did to be placed at Douglass, they did at their home school. By the time they get to Douglass, for the most part, they’re happy to have a warm welcoming place to be.”

Under the plan, the building would also house a substance use education program—a three-day course typically assigned to students who have been caught using alcohol or drugs—and a daytime and evening adult education program for 75 to 100 students.

Parking was the one concern repeatedly brought up by the small group of residents at the meeting. As is, the neighborhoods in the area have raised complaints about students from Loudoun County High School and C.S. Monroe Technology Center parking on their streets.

Howard-O’Brien said the campus will have 400 parking spaces, which should be plenty to accommodate students and staff members who want to drive.

Four people told her the problem is not usually a lack of parking spaces, but students not willing to pay the $200-per-year parking fee. “If a permit is required, regardless of how beautiful that parking lot is, they’re going to park in our neighborhood. I implore you to look into this permitting issue,” said a woman who lives across the street from the property.

School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said she will take this concern to the full board to not require a parking fee at the Monroe property.

Other residents complained about students running stop signs, littering their streets with trash, and parking in front of fire hydrants. “There’s a huge safety issue that you need to be aware of,” another resident said.

Turner said she will plan to educate the students on the responsibilities of driving to the campus.

The school system’s plans for the new building must get a special exception approval from the Leesburg Town Council, Howard-O’Brien explained, because the property is zoned for residential use. The Monroe building was constructed in the 1970s when schools were allowed in the area by right, meaning without special council approval.

The school system filed the special exception application in mid-August. Howard-O’Brien said she expects it will be several months by the time the town reviews the application and the school system responds to any concerns or comments. The goal is to begin construction by spring of 2020, with the building ready to welcome students by the fall of 2021.

A name for the new building is also in the works. The School Board has voted last month to appoint a naming committee, who will research various names and make a recommendation to the board within the next few months.

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