Nearly 14,000 students in Fairfax County schools--about the same number as are enrolled in the entire Roanoke County school system--are being educated in temporary trailers.
To provide those students with some relief, school officials are asking voters to approve a $297.2 million bond to build new schools and refurbish aging facilities in the 157,000-student system.
"For a school district that prides itself on excellence, this is unacceptable," said business executive Todd A. Stottlemyer, chairman of the Citizens for the 1999 School Bond Committee. "It's a very, very serious issue."
So far, no organized opposition to the bond package has surfaced.
The money would allow acceleration of several projects that would add room for about 5,300 students in classrooms inside school buildings. Projects approved in a 1997 bond referendum and already under construction will add 5,600 student seats.
The bond package would pay for construction of two elementary schools--one in Herndon that would open in 2001 and one in northeast Centreville, to open in 2002--and a middle school that would open in the southwestern part of the county in 2002. It also would provide money to begin planning for a new secondary school in the southern part of Fairfax.
Additions would be built at Bren Mar Park Elementary, Kent Gardens Elementary, Twain Middle and several special education facilities.
Several other schools would get money for renovations: Camelot, Fort Hunt, Orange Hunt, Hunters Woods, Kent Gardens and Lemon Road elementary schools, Holmes Middle School and Hayfield Secondary School.
The package also would fund planning for renovations at an additional 15 schools: Dogwood, Floris, Forest Edge, Greenbriar East, Greenbriar West, Groveton, Hutchison, Laurel Ridge, Riverside, Navy and Wolftrap elementary schools; Key and Glasgow middle schools; and Lake Braddock and South Lakes high schools.
The bonds also would pay for the completion of renovations at Annandale, Lee, Madison, McLean and Stuart high schools and for infrastructure improvements at various schools, including replacement of roofs, boilers and heating and air conditioning systems.
Although only about 30 percent of the county's residents have children in the school system, Stottlemyer said the system helps the entire county. An investment in county schools is an investment in the county's continued economic prosperity, he said.
"Good schools have a positive impact on property values," he said. "And in nearly every economic development survey that is done, a good public education system is the reason businesses cite for expanding or locating in a particular area. We have outstanding public schools, and that has been an impetus to the creation of jobs and our robust economy."
The selling of the bonds would not affect the county's AAA bond rating.