The $196 million school building plan adopted by the Fairfax County School Board Jan. 23 calls for the construction of seven elementary schools and a 1,000-student intermediate school in the outlying regions of the county as well as additions and repairs in scores of other schools.
The plan now goes to the Board of Supervisors for consideration and final approval. It comes just 15 months after county voters approved a $75 million bond issue to finance construction of five other new elementary schools, as well as additional classrooms and the renovation of older schools in the area. The newest plan is for fiscal years 1987 through 1991 and, as in the previous school construction plan, would probably be put to the voters in the form of a referendum.
School Board Chairwoman Mary E. Collier said she would like to see the plan approved by supervisors in time for a November bond referendum.
"There are several schools in the western county area that have to open in 1988, or else we'll have a very large problem in terms of overcrowding ," Collier said. "The schools would be in a very, very rapidly growing area."
School officials have described the area targeted for the new schools as an outer county "crescent" that sweeps from north of Herndon southwest past Centreville, Clifton and Lorton into the Newington area in the south.
In the past several years, builders have enticed couples with elementary school-aged children to western and southern Fairfax with modestly priced housing located near sprawling new commercial and industrial centers. School officials said this recent migration to the outer suburbs, coupled with a reduction in class sizes, has put the squeeze on the area's already overcrowded elementary schools.
B. Ralph Bell, a senior planner in the school system's planning office, said that as long as developers continue to build subdivisions near new office parks, there will be a constant need for more schools to accommodate the population growth.
"I don't see the area stop growing by the year 2010 or 2020," Bell said. "I don't see the builder just stopping and pulling out after five years. The driving force there is the terrific expansion of office parks and other employment centers that require housing."
Bell said that in order to meet the projected enrollment in those rapidly growing areas, all seven new elementary schools should be open by 1991.
If a bond referendum is held this November, Bell said, it would probably include financing for half of the proposed construction projects, including the elementary schools, the gymnasiums and music rooms and the special education classroom additions. He estimated that such a bond package would be worth between $100 million and $150 million, with the remaining improvement projects funded by a second bond referendum in 1988.
Critics of the School Board's proposal said planners underestimated the area's growth when they closed elementary schools several years ago in some of the same neighborhoods that now call for new facilities.
Ironically, said Alton C. Hlavin, an assistant school superintendent, those schools were shut down because of student underenrollment. Now that the School Board requires smaller class sizes, he said, the school system finds itself in need of more classrooms and schools.
"We as facility planners had no knowledge the School Board would lower the pupil-teacher ratio," Hlavin said. "We did not create the growth. There is an economic boom there and we accommodate that . . . . Along with growth comes the responsibilities of growth, which is to provide a quality education program."
Board Chairwoman Collier said citizen feedback on the proposed $196 million building plan has been favorable.
"The needs are so desperate in terms of population growth," she said, "that everyone is saying 'hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.' " CAPTION: Chart, PROPOSED $196-MILLION FIVE-YEAR FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS; OTHER PROPOSED PROJECTS FOR FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOLS