The School Board's ongoing initiative to increase the number of classrooms and the review of school-owned land in the Pohick community have received attention in the media recently. On behalf of the School Board, I would like to speak to the community about these issues.

For over 20 years, Fairfax County public schools have educated a large number of students in trailers. Despite the disciplined and focused attention the school system has placed on building and renovating schools, the growth in student population over those years and the growing number of programs essential to providing students with the best education possible have overwhelmed the funds available to build and repair schools. Currently, the projected capital needs of the school system over the next 10 years total $1.9 billion.

The School Board has always sought to use taxpayer dollars wisely. In recent years, the board has adopted a number of innovative programs -- such as installing modular classrooms -- to make optimum use of capital dollars. Last spring, the board began the next logical step in good fiscal and facility management by initiating a comprehensive review to determine the best possible use for a number of school properties and administrative sites.

This exercise has the potential, over time, to move large numbers of our students out of trailers and into comprehensive community schools. But the board's vision also includes consideration of the following community needs: parkland, playing fields for athletics, local teen centers, affordable housing and community schools that will bring county services close to the neighborhoods they serve. We hope that -- beyond building schools -- we can be about helping neighborhoods throughout our community.

Aside from the proposed sale of the Pohick site, there are no specific plans for any school-owned property. We are looking first to develop an overall plan so that what we do makes sense for the whole school system and for the community. As we develop that plan, we will work closely with our parents and staff members, the Board of Supervisors, the Park Authority, homeowners associations and local housing groups.

As this process unfolds, we will keep the community apprised of our actions and our intentions. We will post information on our Web site as it becomes available. We will hold public information meetings and public hearings at key points along the way. We will not act in haste. We know that we cannot move forward effectively without the public trust.

This initiative is first about classrooms, but our hope is that by using our collective wisdom, we can also make our communities better places in which to live, with increased access to playing fields and teen centers, better housing and more services for our citizens. We look forward to the community's participation in this important and far-reaching endeavor.

The Fairfax County School Board is considering selling 35.5 acres of school system-owned property in the Springfield area to raise about $12 million toward school construction and renovations. The so-called Pohick site, near Fairfax County Parkway and Huntsman Boulevard, would be sold to a housing developer. School Board Chairman Kathy L. Smith explains the board's view of the proposal.