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Haycock Elementary School parents say renovation plans are inadequate

By Gregg MacDonald | Fairfax County Times,

Nearly 200 parents and community members attended a meeting at Haycock Elementary School on Oct. 23 to voice their disapproval with what they said are inadequate plans to renovate the school.

At the core of the issue are crowding and a desire to keep more green space at the Falls Church school.

Built in 1954, Haycock has had only two minor renovations in 57 years, the last in 1990, according to the school system.

Haycock has 962 students, about 65 percent more than its core capacity of 579. In 2009, modular buildings were added to accommodate the overflow. The school uses 22 outdoor classrooms, which have no plumbing, hallways or connection to the main school building. The school no longer accepts new students because of crowding.

“The school is completely closed right now,” Fairfax County School Board member Jane K. Strauss (Dranesville), who attended the Oct. 23 meeting, said. “No new students are coming in. They are being diverted to Churchill Road Elementary.”

Parents say a plan to renovate the school by adding two additions onto the existing 10-acre property by August 2015 is woefully inadequate because it is projected to allow the school to accommodate only 877 students. That is fewer than the school’s current enrollment and coincidently is the exact number of students projected by the school system to be attending the school in 2016, leaving no room for future growth.

Parents and community members say the additions would usurp some of the school’s already lacking green space.

“It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound,” parent and PTA member Jon Burns said.

A county bond offering of $12.5 million already has been planned for the project, and the current renovation is scheduled to put out construction bids next year and begin construction by March 2014, according to the school system.

A grass-roots group, Build for Haycock’s Future, partnered with the Haycock Elementary School PTA to create a petition to halt the current plan and instead give significant consideration to alternatives, including land purchase and re-zoning, that they say will better meet the community’s needs. Nearly 700 people have signed the petition.

“Although this situation is untenable, the currently planned renovation is not the answer,” said Melanie Coates, who has children at the school. “It is not well thought out and lacks basic components to meet Haycock’s needs now and into the future.”

Many people at the Oct. 23 meeting held up blue signs with the group’s name on it and grilled Strauss about her perceived lack of planning for more than a decade as the school became more crowded. Strauss has been on the School Board intermittently since 1991.

“Why aren’t we looking at purchasing some adjoining properties?” asked Mike Stark, who has two children at the school. “Why hasn’t re-zoning been an option from the very beginning?”

Strauss said that some adjacent land owned by the Federal Aviation Administration has been considered but “is not for sale in the foreseeable future.” Likewise, neighboring land owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority also is not for sale, she said.

“The community is seeking answers,” Stephanie Luongo of Build for Haycock’s Future said. “But the community should not be the one doing all the work. We need leadership on this issue, and we feel that we are not getting it.”

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