Despite the passage of a $39.7-million bond issue by Fairfax County voters, $29.5 million of which is earmarked for new school construction, the county will continue to use temporary structures to accommodate over-enrollments at county schools.
According to Alton Hlavin, director of Fairfax County's school construction and design, the School Board has issued a structures" are to be used whenever possible to expand existing schools. Also, new schools are to be built with extra sewer and water hookups which can later be used for relocatable additions.
This, according to Hlavin, should make things easier should there be future shifts in school populations. Instead of having to close schools, or under-utilize them, parts of the schools could be dismantled, moved and reasembled at locations where they are needed.
"It's a way to take care of the peaks (of enrollments) with a modular structure instead of building permanent." Hlavin says. "Yet it gives you flexibility that other relocatable structures don't."
Other kinds of movable structures, called Parcos, also are being used to absorb short-term enrollment overloads.The 24-by-33 foot one-room buildings are relatively cheap to buy and move, (they cost about $23 per square foot, assembled) but they will house only one classroom and cannot usually be connected to water and sewer services.
"They are good if you need more space for one or two years," said Hlavin."But modular additions have a clear advantage in terms of educational environment and esthetics."
Modular additions are being used at three elementary schools: Orange Hunt, 6820 Sydenstricker Rd., Springfield; Fairview, 5815 Ox Rd., Fairfax Station, and Hutchison, 13209 Parcher Ave., Herndon.
Modular additions do not look, as the word implies, like trailers. They are more like giant shoe boxes (60 by 12 by 10 feet) with their sides cut out. Lined up and bolted together, they form large rectangular structures, enclosed on either end by a five-sided module. Once the modules are assembled, the space inside can be divided in almost any way for hallways, classrooms, etc. They come with windows, fluorescent lights and heat pumps. And at Hutchison, the addition is faced with brick to match the rest of the school.
"They come closer to meeting our educational needs and are much more compatable to the program in the main school," said Ronald West, principal at Orange Hunt, which added a relocatable addition a year ago to accommodate 270 students. "Children (going to class in the addition) have more of a feeling of being part of the school."
The cost relocatables is about $41 per square foot, assembled.
"We could build a permanent, purely functional cement block school addition for about $35 per square foot," Hlavin said. "But if we ever got to the point where we didn't need it anymore, we couldn't move it."
The cost of moving modular structures and assembling them at a new location is estimated to be $13 per square foot.
"That brings you to about $54 per square foot, which is cheaper than building twice at $35 per square foot. So to make it economical, you've got to move them at least once," he explained.
Moving modules is something Fairfax County has never done. But Hlavin says several school districts in Florida, which have used relocatables for several years, have assured him it can be done.
He may get some first -hand experience within the next several years, if the school age population at Hutchison Elementary declines as school officials expect it will.
Hutchison, which opened three years ago to accomodate 660 students, quickly grew to more than 800 students. The additional students now are in a 10-classroom relocatable addition that was put up in five weeks late last summer.
"But I suspect that the population will be back down to around 600 within the next four to five years," said Charles L. Koryda, Hutchinson's principal. "Building around here is at a virtual standstill, and Clearview School when it is built will take part of our students."
When that occurs, Hlavin predicts that the cranes and flatbed trucks will move in, dismantle the no-longer-needed addition and take it where it is needed - perhaps to Rolling Valley West, which will be built to accomodate a 10-classroom modular addition.