The Fairfax County School Board should conduct a massive boundary study and consider abolishing all current school boundaries to help alleviate crowding issues in the coming years, according to a new report from a citizens committee.
The facilities planning advisory council (FPAC) offered a series of frank suggestions Wednesday to the school board as the administration considers $866 million in construction and renovations.
The FPAC members, school board appointees, offered a counterpoint to the administration’s proposed capital improvement program, which calls for new school buildings across the county to address a surge in student enrollment. By 2018, projections show that Fairfax County’s enrollment could reach 199,000 students. The school system has grown since 2006 by about 20,000 students, and enrollment this year is expected to reach 184,500.
But the administration’s proposal doesn’t go far enough, FPAC members said. Without further boundary changes, about 45,000 students, or about one in four of the total enrollment, will attend schools that are at least 15 percent over capacity, they said.
The solution FPAC members suggested at a meeting Wednesday included a broad examination of the boundaries, which the council viewed as archaic.
In some neighborhoods, students ride buses past schools that are closer to their homes but technically beyond their school boundaries. FPAC members said that practice doesn’t make sense.
“FPAC recognizes that it is somewhat easier and less disruptive of the local community to build seats than to move children, but in the current situation, it is the right thing to do,” the report said. “There are multiple instances where overcrowded schools share boundaries with schools that have excess capacity, and where moving students or a program to a less-crowded school could relieve overcrowding.”
The FPAC report also said that the school system should move away from its dependence on trailers. The portable classrooms are frequently pitched as a short-term solution to crowding issues but, in many cases, end up being more permanent than temporary.
The school system has about 1,000 trailers in use around the county. More than 27,000 Fairfax students attend classes in the portable buildings, the equivalent of about the entire enrollment of Arlington public schools.