Loudoun needs 21 new schools by 2019 to meet growth, Superintendent Hatrick says

By Caitlin Gibson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010

To keep pace with the addition of more than 3,000 students a year, Loudoun County will need to build 21 schools and fund a public schools budget of more than $1 billion by 2019, according to School Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III.

Hatrick's annual State of Education presentation to the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday looked ahead to 2019, the outside limit of the school system's planning projections. By then, he said, Loudoun will have the second- or third-largest school system in Virginia, with almost 92,000 students -- a population that will require 21 new schools to avoid overwhelming a crowded system.

But only eight schools have been approved for construction before the 2015-16 school year by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors -- and of those eight, only four have approved building sites, schools spokesman Wayde Byard said.

"You can see the pressure on our facilities that could create," Hatrick said. "In 2019, we could be at a deficit of 20,000 student seats."

The problem can't be solved by simply putting more children in each classroom or adding temporary fixes such as trailers to schools, Hatrick said.

Keeping pace with the influx of new students -- while maintaining the county's high educational standards -- will not be inexpensive, Hatrick said: The projected budget for the 2019-20 school year is $1.6 billion.

Loudoun resident Rick Webster, parent of a student at Broad Run High School, said he is most concerned about crowding. His daughter's geometry class, he said, is in a room so small there isn't space for a teacher's desk -- the teacher has a portable cart.

But many Loudoun residents aren't willing or able to afford tax increases year after year to fund the building of so many schools on such a tight timeline, supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) said.

"We only have so much debt capacity, and we only have the ability to absorb so much cost," York said. "They have to understand the realities. . . . We can't build every school that they continue to request on their schedule."

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