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McLean Citizens Association warns FCPS student enrollment estimates might miss the mark

Students at McLean High School (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 6:25 p.m. on 11/6/2022) Fairfax County Public Schools might be underestimating future overcrowding in the Tysons area, a new report from the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) says.

FCPS typically forecasts enrollment over the next five years in its annual Capital Improvement Program (CIP). A breakdown of that report alongside analysis of the county’s proffers — developer contributions required to offset the impact of new projects on local infrastructure — suggests higher future population counts in the Tysons area than what FCPS is predicting.

Jim Beggs, chairman of MCA’s Education and Youth Committee, presented the findings at a meeting of the MCA on Wednesday (Nov. 2), starting at the 23:53 mark.

“FCPS staff does projections every year for five years,” Beggs said. “Their projections focused on trends in migration in and out of the county, transfers within our area, and birth rate trends in our area.”

FCPS develops its own density projections to estimate what is going to happen in the schools, but Beggs said the specifics of development around Tysons might get lost in the mix as staff analyzes density countywide.

Part of the county’s proffer analysis includes estimates of a development’s impact on public schools, and Beggs said those numbers don’t always line up with the school system’s projections.

“The Tysons Corner area, we think, is a different animal,” Beggs said. “There’s a tremendous amount of development going on, and we think this analysis should be supplemented by a look at what is going on and how is the development activity looking like it’s going to impact our schools. If we look at that projection, how does it compare to the FCPS staff CIP projection?”

Beggs said comparing the two reports showed seven schools where the impact in the proffers is significantly higher than what FCPS is predicting:

Spring Hill Elementary School

  • FCPS projection: 101% capacity in five years
  • Proffers data: 136-147% capacity
  • Disparity between the two reports: 35-46%

Marshall High School

  • FCPS projection: 92% capacity in five years, if the modular units at the school are included
  • Proffers data: 109-115% capacity
  • Disparity: 17-23%

Kilmer Middle School

  • FCPS projection: 89% capacity in five years with modular units included
  • Proffers data: 110-116% capacity
  • Disparity: 21-27%

Westbriar Elementary School

  • FCPS projection: 83% capacity in five years
  • Proffers data: 109-134% capacity
  • Disparity: 26-51%

Westgate Elementary School

  • FCPS projection: 85% capacity in five years
  • Proffers data: 134-148% capacity
  • Disparity: 50-64%

McLean High School

  • FCPS projection: 105% capacity in five years
  • Proffers data: 123-124% capacity
  • Disparity: 17-19%

Longfellow Middle School

  • FCPS projection: 92% capacity in five years
  • Proffers data: 108-111% capacity
  • Disparity: 16-19%

Beggs said those figures from the proffers data backs up existing concerns in the community about overcrowding in McLean High School.

All of these schools are impacted by new residential development on going in the Tysons area, Beggs said, adding that he mostly wants FCPS to just double check the math on the student population projections for the area.

“I’m saying, ‘We’d like you to take a look at these four or five schools that are heading to trouble,” Beggs said. “You’re looking at 198 [schools]. We’re asking you to focus on four or five in our area. In general, capacity issues can be solved by border adjustments, capital renovation, or putting a modular in. At the end of the day, we’re recommending staff go back and take a second look.”

Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District, including McLean, on the Fairfax County School Board says she has seen MCA’s report and has scheduled a meeting with FCPS staff to review the data.

“As always, I appreciate the work of MCA,” she said.

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