No High School in Hamilton

The Loudoun County School Board, as reported by your paper Oct. 31 ["Board Hits Resistance Finding Site for School," Loudoun Extra] recently voted to initiate a process to seize property east of Hamilton to build a high school.

For those who have followed this board's maneuvers regarding the selection of a school site for the new western Loudoun high school, the drastic measure is no surprise. In fact, I'm confident that most of us who live in the Hamilton area are surprised it took this board that long to take such unilateral action.

There are many reasons why locating a high school in or near Hamilton is absurd and reckless. First and foremost, putting a new school in the Hamilton area does not solve the one prevailing reason the board wants to build a new high school. Currently, much of the growth west of Leesburg is coming from areas west of Purcellville. The board has repeatedly used the argument that the growth in the west must be addressed with a new high school.

The problem with the board's continued misguided desire to put a school in Hamilton is that the growth that must be addressed is in the areas of Lovettsville, Round Hill and other outlying areas, which in fact have lobbied the board for a school in their localities. Putting a school in Hamilton will only result in those students being bused past Loudoun Valley High School to the new school. The proposed high school would be the third within a 10-mile radius. (Loudoun County and Loudoun Valley being the other two.)

Further, building a high school east of Hamilton will crush the town. The workweek population of Hamilton will nearly triple if the board has its way. To place the burden of the traffic, infrastructure requirements and the inevitable change in small-town culture on Hamilton is beyond the pale.

Hamilton is the site of one elementary school and one middle school already. The addition of the high school will surely destroy the small-town nature so cherished by residents with the inundation of traffic and noise.

The School Board intends to commission a traffic study on the effect of the proposed school on the town. However, the outcomes of any study commissioned by this board would be highly suspect given its predisposition on the matter and the fact that any study would be paid for by the board. As Mayor Keith Reasoner of Hamilton noted, a study would be a nickel short and a day late.

At a Hamilton town meeting a few months back, several members of the School Board were present (John A. Andrews II, Thomas E. "Tom" Reed and Priscilla B. Godfrey). Each was steadfast in their opinion that a school must be located in or near Hamilton. These School Board members cited the lack of other suitable sites as part of their argument's basis.

Reed even went so far as to essentially say that he recalled a similar uproar in the Ashburn Village area some time back. He indicated that the people of Ashburn Village feared the town being destroyed by a new high school and went on further to say that Ashburn Village wasn't destroyed by a new high school but rather by the eminent progress of development.

Taking Reed's advice, I suppose that the residents of any small town should just give up hope now of maintaining a sensible town environment, since in his opinion such environments are doomed anyway through the course of development. Andrews and Godfrey strongly voiced their opinions as well.

Though Andrews did not vote in the recent board action, his influence on the board's decisions is obvious and still causes concern given his own development interests of properties across Old Colonial Highway from the proposed site.

More rational minds need to prevail in this matter. It is far more than just a decision about where a school should be built. The matter further illustrates how the developer-influenced and -controlled bodies of the county government have the wrecking ball of development strictly focused on the targets of rural Loudoun County.

Ray Patterson Jr.