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Dranesville ES renovation approved despite questions about its scope

A rendering of the Dranesville Elementary School renovation (courtesy FCPS)

The renovation and expansion of Dranesville Elementary School is slated to begin next year — despite some lingering concerns.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday (Oct. 4) to approve a nearly 44,000-square-foot addition to the school at 1515 Powells Tavern Place in Herndon.

But the vote came as some commissioners questioned the need for the scope of the expansion.

Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder, whose district includes the Herndon area, said the school’s current enrollment of around 588 students may not justify the intensity of the expansion, which would boost capacity to around 1,000 students.

“Is the school system aware of some big influx of students that will be coming to this elementary school?” Ulfelder asked, adding he was unsure why Fairfax County Public Schools was pursuing the project now when other schools have more dire capacity needs.

The school currently has the capacity to accommodate 756 students, according to the land use representative for FCPS, John McGranahan. He noted that the planned capacity boost would likely accommodate long-term enrollment.

Dranesville Elementary is about two miles north of the Town of Herndon, which anticipates significant population growth in the next 10 to 15 years.

“This is a full renovation, and the capacity enhancement, it is in the queue to be renovated,” said McGranahan, who is an attorney with Hunton Andrews Kurth.

The renovation will include modern amenities, a cafeteria, an expansion of the main corridor, new classrooms, a new library, a larger gym, a security vestibule and a relocation of the main office. The school first opened its doors to students in 1988.

“Most of the time, the school system gets criticized for buildng too little,” McGranahan added.

The renovations and additions were funded in a 2023 school board referendum and approved in the capital improvement program for 2023-2027. Construction is expected to begin next year and wrap up in 2026.

Funds to plan and design the expanded school were provided by a 2021 school bond, but the 2023 school board referendum that would fund construction needs to be approved by voters on Nov. 8.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said Dranesville Elementary has long been slated for renovations, based largely on decisions made by the Fairfax County School Board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

“The school board and the Board of Supervisors have already acted,” Cortina said.

The project was identified in the school system’s renovation queue in 2009. It ranked 53 out of 63 projects in the queue.