Nearly 200 parents and community members attended a meeting at Haycock Elementary School on Tuesday evening, voicing their disapproval with what they say are inadequate plans to renovate the school that have already been set in motion by Fairfax County Public Schools.
At the core of the issue are overcrowding and a desire to keep more green space at the school.
Built in 1954, Haycock has had only two minor renovations in 57 years, the last of which occurred more than 20 years ago in 1990, according to FCPS.
The school currently has a student population of 962, roughly 65 percent over its core capacity of 579 students. In 2008, FCPS raised Haycock’s core capacity limit to 620 students, although no additional space was added to the building. In 2009, modular buildings were added to accommodate the overflow. The school currently utilizes 22 of these outdoor classrooms that contain no plumbing, hallways or connection to the main school building.
The crowding has caused the school to no longer accept new students.
“The school is completely closed right now,” said FCPS board member Janie Strauss, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. “No new students are coming in. They are being diverted to Churchill Road Elementary.”
A current plan to renovate the school by adding two additions onto the existing 10-acre property by August of 2015 is being called woefully inadequate by parents because it is projected to allow the school to accommodate only 877 students, fewer than the school’s current student population and coincidently the exact number of students projected by FCPS to be attending the school in 2016, leaving no room for future growth. Parents and community members also contend that the additions would usurp some of the school’s already lacking green space.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” said parent and PTA member Jon Burns.
The current renovation plan is scheduled to put out construction bids next year and begin construction by March 2014.
A grassroots group calling itself “Build for Haycock’s Future” has created a petition intended to pause the process, and instead give significant consideration to viable alternatives, including land purchase and re-zoning, that they say will better meet the community’s needs.
Nearly 700 community members have so far signed the petition.
“Although this situation is untenable, the currently planned renovation is not the answer,” said Melanie Coates, who has children at the school. “It is not well thought out and lacks basic components to meet Haycock’s needs now and into the future.”
Many at Tuesday night’s meeting held up blue signs with the group’s name on it, grilling school board member Janie Strauss about her perceived lack of planning for more than a decade as the school became more and more overcrowded. Strauss has been on the school board intermittently since 1991.
“Why aren’t we looking at purchasing some adjoining properties?” asked Mike Stark, who has two children at the school. “Why hasn’t rezoning been an option from the very beginning?”
Strauss replied that some adjacent land owned by the Federal Aviation Administration has been considered but “is not for sale in the foreseeable future.” Likewise, neighboring land owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority is also not for sale, she said.
“The community is seeking answers,” said Stephanie Luongo of Build for Haycock’s Future. “But the community should not be the one doing all the work. We need leadership on this issue and we feel that we are not getting it.”