This year, Justice High School in Lake Barcroft has nearly 200 more students than it was designed to handle — an overcrowding issue that has driven plans to expand the school.
The Fairfax County School Board is seeking to add two buildings to the nearly 21-acre site at 3301 Peace Valley Lane. The county’s planning commission will decide whether to recommend approval of the project after a public hearing tonight (Wednesday).
A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Aug. 2.
Built in 1959, the current school has 2,182 students, exceeding the design capacity of 1,994 students, school officials say. While efforts are underway to utilize other options to find space, the school board is seeking a long-term solution that would accommodate up to 2,500 students.
Overall, a three-story classroom building addition is proposed, along with a one-story expansion of the cafeteria.
Located in the northern part of the property, the roughly 45,000-square-foot classroom building will have new classrooms, science labs and special education spaces. The first and second stories will connect to the existing school building.
The latest parking plan departs significantly from initial plans to use part of a public park across the street for parking, which were not received well by community members who sought to protect green space.
FCPS has explored other alternatives for parking on the site, including a waiver from the county’s planning commission to reduce the number of parking spaces.
Construction of the addition will require the removal of 81 parking spaces from the school’s rear parking lot, but 20 parking spaces will be added back. As a result, the number of parking spaces will decrease from 329 spaces to 323 spaces in the immediate area. Bicycle racks will be added near the new building as well.
FCPS also plans to provide 37 on-street parking spaces on one side of Peace Valley Lane, bringing the overall number of parking spaces to 355. Those spots would be limited to one side of the road.
Currently, the school system is determining options for temporary parking if the construction project is approved.
The project is currently in the permitting phase, according to FCPS. It will be funded by a 2019 school bond referendum.
Fairfax County Public Schools won’t be back in session for the fall until Aug. 22, but Britepaths is getting a head start on helping students prepare for that day.
The Fairfax-based nonprofit is asking community members to donate money or backpacks for its annual Collect for Kids Back to School program, a month-long campaign that launched on July 1.
The organization’s goal is to collect 700 new backpacks and enough money to purchase supplies for 2,500 students, primarily in the Fairfax and Justice high school pyramids, according to a news release.
“Working families in our community who were already dealing with the effects of the prolonged pandemic have been further stretched by the higher costs of food, gas, rent and other necessities,” Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel said in a statement. “When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the thought of having to find funds for school supplies on top of everything else is extremely stressful.”
According to the county’s most recent demographic report, more than 13% of families have a household income of under $50,000, including 4.2% who earn under $25,000 annually. About 31% of FCPS students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, as of Oct. 31, 2022.
Now in its 38th year of existence, Britepaths provides food, financial assistance, workforce development and other services for Fairfax County residents in need.
For its back to school drive, the nonprofit has partnered with several local businesses that will serve as donation sites for backpacks through Aug. 1:
- Alya Salon & Spa (139 Park Street, Vienna)
- Twins Ace Hardware — Fairfax (10310-B Main St, Fairfax)
- University Mall Theatres (10659-A Braddock Road, Fairfax)
- Sugar Mama’s Ice Cream (11208 Lee Highway, Fairfax)
- Cinema Arts Theatre (9650-14 Main Street, Fairfax)
- Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce (10304 Eaton Place, Suite 100, Fairfax)
All backpack sizes will be accepted, but large ones are most needed, per the news release.
In addition, from July 11 to 31, Twins Ace Hardware, a sponsor of the program, will offer customers at its Fairfax City store the option to donate the change from their purchases to the campaign.
Schools that will benefit from the donations include:
- Fairfax High School Pyramid: Daniels Run Elementary, Eagle View Elementary, Providence Elementary, Willow Springs Elementary, Katherine Johnson Middle School, Fairfax High School, and Fairfax Adult High School
- Justice High School Pyramid: Bailey’s Upper Elementary, Glen Forest Elementary, and Justice High School
- Fairfax Villa Elementary School
“We are grateful to all who are donating this summer to help ease that stress for families and allow children who might otherwise go without be able to start off the new school year unashamed and with all the supplies they need,” Whetzel said.