Fairfax County School Board delays review of renovations process

The Fairfax County School Board decided Monday to postpone a review of the district’s criteria for school renovations.

The board opted to delay the review of the so-called renovations queue until November, after the new superintendent, Karen Garza, begins her tenure.

Board members and school administrators said many school buildings are badly in need of renovation, but that the district lacked the funding to begin the projects. There are 63 schools due for renovation in the current queue.

“We have a facilities crisis,” said board member Patty Reed (Providence).

Jeffrey Platenberg, the assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation, and Kevin Sneed, the director of design and construction services, said that the board may want to revise the criteria for renovations to address the school system’s continued growth.

Enrollment is projected to reach 184,500 next year, up from 181,000 this year. Many school buildings are operating above capacity because of the surge in student population over the past decade, Platenberg said.

To deal with the crowding, the school system has deployed about 900 trailers around the county. More than 21,000 students —about 11 percent of the student population —attend classes in trailers.

At a Monday work session, the school board discussed revamping the queue to add new schools and revise the rankings for some schools on the list. Board members also talked about adding a building’s capacity status to the criteria used for ranking them for renovation.

In January, the school board approved a new Capital Improvement Program that includes funding for three new elementary schools and a new high school, plus funding for renovations.

At a meeting earlier this month, the school board asked the county Board of Supervisors to approve a $25 million increase in the bond limit to expedite projects. School board member Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) said that the current cap of $155 million per bond doesn’t buy as much as it used to.

“We have an enormous amount of need,” Platenberg said.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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