The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously last night to submit a $146 million bond package to the county voters in November after adding $6.1 million for a potentially controversial plan to air-condition some county schools.
The bond package requires approval of the County Board of Supervisors, and Board Chairman John F. Herrity already has indicated he may oppose proposals to air-condition the county's older high schools.
At the suggestion of Laura McDowall, who heads the board's facilities committee, the board voted to add funds to air-condition three of the county's older high schools: Annandale, Lee and McLean. The proposed bond package already included $5 million in other school air conditioning.
The issue of air conditioning older schools has created controversy in the past. County voters rejected a school bond proposal several years ago on the issue, and School Board member Joy Korologos warned that the extra funds for air conditioning could jeopardize the bond package's chances.
But McDowall said most of the two dozen speakers at a public hearing on the bond package Tuesday night favored the air conditioning. School officials say the record bond package is needed to meet demands of the county's increasing population and recently established special programs that require more classrooms. Despite the size of the request, School Board members expressed optimism it would pass on Nov. 4.
"We have a very saleable package," said McDowall. "I feel very optimistic about a successful referendum." Board Chairman Mary E. Collier called the package a good balance between the needs of the fast-growing western parts of the county and of the more established neighborhoods.
The bond package would build seven new 36-room elementary schools and provide for additions at eight elementary schools and three special education centers. It also would renovate 17 schools to varying degrees.