Even as the projected rate of school enrollment growth begins to dip in Loudoun County, officials said Tuesday that they must build 23 schools during the next six years, including two in western Loudoun.
The unveiling of the school district's $663 million capital improvements program does not include eight schools that have received financing--including those that were on the Nov. 2 ballot--and are in the planning stages or under construction.
But the five-year CIP, which is updated annually, has eight new additions to the list of schools that officials hope to build. They include an elementary school and a high school in western Loudoun and a high school in the Leesburg area, as well as three elementary schools and two high schools that officials haven't decided where to locate.
The capital improvements program may be revised by the School Board before it is sent to the Board of Supervisors for approval. The 129-page document, which is available to the public, details the cost and general location of each project and in what fiscal year it will need to be funded.
The CIP was released a month after school officials announced that enrollment will climb to nearly 48,000 students by the 2005-2006 school year. The student population grows at about 9 percent a year, though that is expected to decline to 8 percent in about five years.
School officials stressed that even though the growth rate will slip, the number of students entering Virginia's fastest-growing school district is still rising.
"Our growth, basically, will continue," said Sam Adamo, the district's director of planning and legislative services.
On the November 2000 ballot, school officials hope to include a $112 million referendum that would pay for three elementary schools--in Leesburg, South Riding and Forest Ridge--a middle school in Lansdowne and a high school in Seneca Ridge. They also hope to put on the ballot the $5.6 million addition to the North Street administrative offices in Leesburg that failed to win voter approval Nov. 2 and $3.6 million to buy land for future schools.
Other capital improvements proposed for the next five years include an addition to Lovettsville Elementary School and replacement of a water main and sprinkler system at Broad Run High School. An estimated $30 million of the capital improvements program is allocated for projects other than new school construction, including $17 million to buy land for new schools.
The addition of two western Loudoun campuses signifies the westward movement of residential development and, eventually, student population growth. For years, Loudoun's growth was concentrated in the eastern reaches of the county, where much of the new school construction has centered.
But enrollment is beginning to swell at Emerick Elementary School in Purcellville and other elementary schools in the west. Loudoun Valley High School, also in Purcellville, will reach capacity next year, according to the capital improvements plan.
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III said Tuesday night that enrollment surges in western Loudoun schools are inevitable because of development in the area. "It's slower, it's more subtle in western Loudoun," Hatrick said, "but it's there."
Proposals to build the two new schools were applauded by parents in the western reaches of the county.
"That's just tremendous long-range planning, and I'm really glad that they're doing this," said Paul Burkard, a parent activist and member of the group Parents Love a Neighborhood School. PLANS has been urging school officials to recognize the rising enrollment in western Loudoun schools.
"The reality is there is growth in the student numbers throughout the county and in western Loudoun also," Burkard said.
The newly elected Board of Supervisors, which begins its tenure in January, is expected to try to clamp down on residential development, but any "slow-growth" policies would have no immediate impact on the school populations, Adamo said. His enrollment projections are based on development that is ready for construction or has already been built, he said.