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Plans to move as many as 450 students from Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle school moved forward Monday, when county School Board members took a straw vote on a boundary study aimed at relieving crowding at those schools.

Both Fairfax and Lanier are city schools run by the county public school system. Boundary study plans call for shifts to student populations, which would remove some county resident students (but no city students) from their current attendance areas and move them to high and middle schools neighboring the city.

“Staff is recommending that there be six high schools and their feeder middle schools involved in the [boundary] study,” said FCPS’ Director of Facilities Planning Services Denise James. “We want to try to move about [150] students out of Lanier and about [300] out of Fairfax High School.”

Eleven schools are included in the scope of the Fairfax-Lanier boundary study, including:

Robinson Secondary, Woodson High, Frost Middle, Oakton High, Franklin Middle, Falls Church High, Jackson Middle, Chantilly High, Rocky Run Middle –all county schools- and Fairfax High and Lanier Middle in the city.

Only Woodson High and Robinson Secondary have capacity to absorb additional students, said James during Monday’s School Board work session.

”We’re not going to be able to really fully resolve the issue of crowding in Fairfax,” James said, adding that the 300 students who would be moved out of the school comprise only half of the 600 students Fairfax High is projected to be over capacity by in the next five years. “With respect to short term versus long term, I think we need to recognize that we do need to do something to relieve Fairfax [High School crowding]… At this point in time, we’re using the capacities that we have… So that’s why we’re going to try to mitigate it for now until we can find additional capacity to move additional students at some future point.”

While School Board members said they favored the scope of the boundary study, some questioned the solutions saying short-term fixes could lead to a domino of student boundary shifts.

“We need to be aggressive at relieving crowding at Fairfax,” School Board member Ted Velkoff (At-large) said.

Fellow School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) agreed, saying short-cuts or temporary fixes would lead to greater movements of students in the long run.

“The answer is: we need another high school,” she said. “I’d rather be aggressive on doing the right thing the first time than making the community endure relentless boundary changes… The problem is only going to get worse… We have a massive deficit of seats in the next five years, and we need to do the right thing now.”

Fellow School Board member Jane Strauss (Dranesville District), however, warned that adding a new high school to the mix could mean pushing back other capital improvement projects already in the county’s queue.

“Our challenge is as always that we have more needs than money,” Strauss said. “If the board chooses to build a new high school, that will push out of the cash flow... Many, many other schools are waiting for renovations and additions that also have needs.”

The School Board is set to formally vote on the scope of the Fairfax-Lanier boundary study Jan. 24 during its meeting at 7 p.m. at Jackson Middle School. Community discussions are scheduled in February for Oakton High, Woodson High and Lanier Middle schools.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com