More than 100 supporters of Holy Family Academy, a small Catholic school in the Buckhall section of Prince William, made an emotional appeal to the Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday to reconsider the school's request to expand at its current site.
Last month, the supervisors defeated the school's appeal for a special-use permit, which would have allowed it to add additional facilities to the 11-acre property, plus extend its hours and increase the number of school special events. The special-use permit also would have allowed more students.
Fran Arnold, a parent of two children at Holy Family and a leading advocate for its expansion, said school supporters "were not aware of the vehement opposition toward us until after the public meeting," last month.
So they came back Tuesday, to the board's first meeting since the permit was denied, to try again.
But many neighborhood residents maintained their opposition to the school, which is less than four years old, saying that they didn't expect to share their neighborhood with an expansive school that would strain infrastructure. Many residents also said they moved to the area based on the expectation that the 175-student school would not expand, as reflected in county plans.
"Everyone has a different reason why they're opposed: size, lighting, water, traffic," said Michael Dove, who lives across the street from the school. Dove said that when he purchased his home in 1998, he reviewed the school's plans for construction.
"After a lot of heartache and thought, I decided I was okay with the school building," Dove said.
But he said that any additional facilities are not okay.
Many supervisors said they originally voted for the school with the understanding that it would not expand, and a move by supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R-Gainesville) to reconsider the item failed in a 4-4 tie. It needed a majority of votes to pass.
"We made a commitment to the people in that neighborhood," Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) said in voting against the measure.
Supervisor Loring B. "Ben" Thompson (R-Brentsville), who represents the Buckhall neighborhood, said, "I cannot support going back to review this case. It's a small elementary school, grades kindergarten through 6. That's what I voted for."
Additionally, Jenkins and Thompson said they were angry that the school had already expanded to include high school students, a circumstance that they suggested may constitute a violation of its original permit.
Despite their defeat, proponents of the school said they would continue their efforts to alleviate community concerns and look for other ways to expand.
"We will continue regardless of this," Arnold said. "This is our neighborhood, as well."