FCPS parents demand a more practical solution for overcrowding

Jan. 8 hearing on newly proposed Capital Improvement Program receives negative feedback


Public hearing on CIP proposal was held on Jan. 8 in Jackson Middle School.

Marina Qu and Haine Jung

McLean students can relate to the difficulties of passing in the crowded hallways between classes, trying to squeeze through the traffic while being pushed by others. As McLean’s and other FCPS schools’ student populations consistently rise, the FCPS School Board has proposed a 10-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that looks to relieve the student overcrowding issue and make other adjustments in FCPS.

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Fairfax County School Board held a public hearing at Luther Jackson Middle School to discuss the newly proposed CIP; however, not all of the feedback they received was positive.

McLean, West Potomac and many other high schools in FCPS have been experiencing overcrowding issues in the past few years, and they are now faced with the utmost sense of urgency due to its harmful effects on student safety.

The FCPS 10-year CIP proposes several solutions, including planning for a new Tysons Elementary school in 2027 and repurposing of the Pimmit Hills school a year later to reduce the overcrowding issue in elementary schools in the McLean Pyramid, where three out of five schools have exceeded their capacities.

While the CIP has specific plans to address elementary school overcrowding issues, most of the plans to resolve the high school overcrowding issue are written in broad terms.

The proposed plans of the program pertaining to McLean High School are re-assigning instructional spaces within the school, minor interior facility modifications to create additional instructional space, adding temporary classrooms, capacity enhancement through either a modular or building addition and potential boundary adjustment with schools having a capacity surplus. The proposed plans for many other high schools included similar features.

Susan Garrahan, a Fairfax County resident and a mother of a sophomore daughter at McLean High School, referred to the October issue of The Highlander when explaining overcrowding issues to the board and suggested the CIP be a more concrete solution to the problem after reviewing the newly proposed CIP.

“I see no concrete proposals in the draft 2020 to 2024 CIP. The current enrollment at McLean is 2,255 students; the program capacity is 1,983. This…shows that in the last two years of this five-year plan, McLean will be the most overcrowded high school in the county at 26 to 27 percent [over capacity],” Garrahan said.

McLean parent Suzan Garrahan spoke at the public hearing on CIP on Jan. 8. The CIP proposal focuses on solutions to the overcrowding issue in FCPS.

Garrahan suggested that potential boundary changes may be a possible solution to the overcrowding in McLean High School.

“McLean’s boundary is adjacent to Langley High School,” Garrahan said. “Langley’s renovation is complete; in the plan it suggests there’s a notable under capacity situation there, and yet I didn’t see McLean-Langley boundary adjustments on the study list on page 46 and that really surprised me.”

Similar to McLean, West Potomac High School is also experiencing the effects of overcrowding. West Potomac now has three separate buildings in order to accommodate a large student body. Kenyetta Williams, a parent of two children in FCPS, stressed on the security issues that FCPS is facing in regards to the overcrowding problem.

“Students often have to leave one building to attend classes in any of the other two buildings on the campus along with having classes in a trailer outside the school building,” Williams said. “West Potomac creates unnecessary and unacceptable safety and security risks for students.”

Matthew Dunne, a member of the West Potomac PTSA, stressed the monetary challenges that the CIP faces.

“The proposed budget is $15 million, which is simply not realistic to accomplish the desired objectives let alone to address the critical security issues,” Dunne said. “I respectfully request realistically that FCPS and the school board double, triple or even quadruple the budgets to ensure that the critical security issues and needs of the school are met.”

McLean High School will host a PTSA General Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Lecture Hall to discuss the CIP and overcrowding issues with Janie Strauss, Dranesville District School Board Member, and Kevin Sneed, Special Projects Administrator of Capital Projects and Planning.