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New boundaries have been approved for McLean elementary schools to relieve crowding at Kent Gardens (via FCPS)

Kent Gardens Elementary School should finally get some substantial capacity relief, starting next school year.

The Fairfax County School Board approved tweaks to the boundaries of five elementary schools in McLean on Monday (Dec. 4) with the goal of alleviating crowded conditions at Kent Gardens (1717 Melbourne Drive), which was at 121% of its programming capacity, as of the 2022-2023 school year.

When it takes effect with the 2024-2025 school year, the approved plan will shift 190 students to Franklin Sherman Elementary School and 38 students to Haycock Elementary School, according to Fairfax County Public Schools. To avoid creating capacity issues at Franklin Sherman, 112 of its students have been reassigned to Chesterbrook Elementary School and another 40 to Churchill Road Elementary.

One of six scenarios suggested by FCPS staff, the adopted proposal also adjusted the boundaries for Advanced Academic Placement (AAP) centers at Churchill Road and Haycock.

In total, an estimated 380 elementary school students will be affected, but no impact is expected at the middle or high school levels.

“When boundary adjustments are necessary, it is vital that our school communities join us in the process,” School Board Chair and Dranesville representative Elaine Tholen said in a statement that thanked families, students and other community members who participated in the boundary study, which has been in the works since fall 2022.

“It is through a combination of your input and staff expertise that we are able to provide a solution that best meets the needs of our students,” she added.

Before the school board’s vote, Tholen acknowledged that the changes will have a “significant” impact on Franklin Sherman, but the “realities of the geography” made the chosen scenario the best option.

“It was hard to move students from the eastern side of the attendance area to Chesterbrook, since most of those students are walkers,” she explained. “Transportation [staff] specifically requested we not move any walkers due to the shortage of bus drivers.”

While community members generally recognized the boundary adjustment as necessary at a Nov. 30 public hearing, some raised concerns about moving students out of a familiar environment where they’ve established friends and separating siblings.

One speaker observed that Stoneleigh and Hallcrest Heights, the biggest multi-family and townhouse communities currently served by Kent Gardens, are being reassigned to Franklin Sherman. Read More

Fairfax County Public Schools recommends adjusting boundaries for McLean elementary schools to relieve crowding at Kent Gardens (via FCPS)

A proposal to ease overcrowding at Kent Gardens Elementary School will require adjustments at four other elementary schools in McLean, but local middle and high schools have been spared.

The Fairfax County School Board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. this Thursday (Nov. 30) to get community feedback on the recommended boundary changes, which will affect an estimated 380 students, according to Fairfax County Public Schools.

A presentation on the proposal was expected on Nov. 20, but the school board’s meeting that day got canceled. Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District on the board, confirmed that the public hearing and a final vote on Dec. 4 will proceed as scheduled.

As of October, there were 1,006 students enrolled in Kent Gardens (1717 Melbourne Drive) — a decline from the 1,023 students enrolled during the 2022-2023 school year, according to FCPS. However, the school remains well above capacity in terms of both its design (896 students) and its programming (848 students).

After years of complaints about overstuffed schools from the McLean community, the school board designated a boundary adjustment for Kent Gardens as a priority in the fiscal year 2024-2028 capital improvement plan adopted earlier this year.

Chosen out of five options presented to the community in September, the change recommended by FCPS staff would reassign 190 students from Kent Gardens to Franklin Sherman Elementary School, which is currently utilizing just 77% of its program capacity. Another 38 students would move to Haycock Elementary.

The proposal would also shift 112 Franklin Sherman students to Chesterbrook Elementary School and 40 students to Churchill Road Elementary.

Estimated capacity changes under the recommended McLean elementary school boundary adjustment (via FCPS)

On its webpage for the boundary adjustment, FCPS says this scenario “balances student population and capacity of schools in the area,” while considering potential development in McLean that could have a future impact on local elementary schools. Read More

Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean (via Google Maps)

Another boundary adjustment is in the works for schools in McLean.

Just two years after tweaking the McLean High School boundaries, Fairfax County Public Schools has proposed a study aimed at relieving crowding at Kent Gardens Elementary School (1717 Melbourne Drive), which is currently at 121% capacity — one of the highest rates in the system.

FCPS staff recommend that the study include the boundaries for Chesterbrook, Churchill Road, Franklin Sherman and Spring Hill elementary schools, as well as Kent Gardens, according to a presentation to the Fairfax County School Board last night (Monday).

It could also examine the boundaries for the Advanced Academic Programs at Haycock and Churchill Road, along with the potential need for a “split feeder” for affected middle school and high schools.

“We have a beloved school that is overcrowded, and as a community, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” Dranesville District School Board Representative Elaine Tholen said, thanking the McLean community for its involvement. “People are coming to the table and giving us input on what makes sense.”

The recommendation was shaped by community feedback from a scoping meeting held on April 26 and a subsequent online survey. The meeting had about 75 attendees, and the survey drew 171 responses, according to FCPS.

More than 100 comments advocated for the inclusion of Chesterbrook and Franklin Sherman, though Haycock, Spring Hill, Lemon Road, Timber Lane and Westgate elementary schools all got mentions.

Current capacity rates for elementary schools in the McLean area (via FCPS)

FCPS isn’t recommending Haycock, Lemon Road and Westgate for the study, said Charles Fanshaw, interim assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation services.

“Adding students may require capacity relief. Additionally, Haycock Elementary School is currently approaching a capacity deficit,” Fanshaw said. “If these three schools were to be added to the scope, schools adjacent to these school boundaries would need to be considered as well.”

Community members also suggested that any boundary changes should be phased in for current Kent Gardens students and urged FCPS staff to consider future population growth and the walking distance to different schools.

Some proposed adding a French immersion program at another school, since the program’s popularity at Kent Gardens has been cited as a factor in the overcrowding. FCPS says it would take at least three years of planning to establish a new program, according to a webpage for the capacity issues. Read More

Fairfax County Public Schools is planning to remove seven trailers at Kent Gardens Elementary School and replace them with two new facilities (via FCPS)

Kent Gardens Elementary School is still bursting at the seams, but at least the trailers accommodating the overflow of students will soon get an update.

Seven old, one-classroom trailers behind the McLean school (1717 Melbourne Drive) will be removed and replaced by a four-classroom trailer and one with two classrooms, principal Holly McGuigan and Fabio Zuluaga, an assistant superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools, recently told families.

Construction staging for one of the new trailers took place last week (April 1-9) over spring break, according to FCPS. The other will be delivered in June, when construction on both facilities is expected to start.

“These are replacements for the trailers behind the school that were at the end of their useful life,” an FCPS spokesperson said, noting that each classroom in a trailer has a capacity of 29 students.

One existing duplex trailer will remain. The school system hopes to finish the new trailers in time for the next year, which will begin Aug. 21, McGuigan and Zuluaga said in the letter shared by Dranesville District School Board Representative Elaine Tholen.

In addition, maintenance will be performed on all of the school’s bathrooms over the summer to ensure they’re working properly for the next school year.

The trailers being replaced were installed at Kent Gardens between 1997 and 2000, FCPS says. The area where they currently sit will be turned into an outdoor classroom space, though FCPS doesn’t anticipate that being ready for the fall.

“This will take planning and time over the next year or two,” the letter said.

Though it won’t provide any additional capacity, the trailer replacement is intended as a short-term improvement for Kent Gardens, which has been viewed as overcrowded for over a decade now.

Last renovated in 2005, Kent Gardens was at 121% capacity with 1,023 students for the 2022-2023 school year, according to the latest FCPS capital improvement program (CIP). As of February, though, enrollment had ticked up to 1,042 students, the school’s profile says.

The Fairfax County School Board amended the CIP in February to prioritize addressing the crowding situation at Kent Gardens. A community meeting to determine the scope of possible program or boundary changes will be held on April 26 at 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the McLean High School cafeteria.

According to FCPS, recommendations will be presented this fall, followed by a public hearing and school board vote. Any changes would get phased in starting with the 2024-2025 school year.

Capacity relief can’t come soon enough for Susan Taylor, who has a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader at Kent Gardens and is among many parents frustrated by what they see as inaction by FCPS.

Talking to FFXnow in February, she said she has emails going back a decade of parents complaining about the state of the trailers.

“My son is in an advanced math classroom in one of these new modular buildings they put out front with very thin walls on the other side of the music classroom,” she said. “So, when his class is doing testing, the music class has to be silenced. I mean, it’s absurd.”

Though FCPS says its renovation queue isn’t based on capacity, Taylor argues an addition or other permanent structure will be needed as the area’s population continues to grow.

“I understand that these decisions are difficult because things cost money, but you can’t keep kicking this can down the road,” Taylor said.

Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean (via Google Maps)

The Fairfax County School Board amended its new capital projects plan last week to prioritize finding solutions to overcrowding at McLean’s Kent Gardens Elementary School,

The Fairfax County Public Schools Fiscal Years 2024-2028 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) was approved unanimously last Thursday (Feb. 9) late in a five-and-a-half-hour meeting mostly spent debating new calendars for the next three school years.

“I understand that the CIP is not perfect, but there’s lots of data and information and a spending plan that we need to move forward on to continue our construction and enrollment projection work efficiently,” Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen said.

According to the CIP, which outlines the school system’s short-term capacity needs and renovation plans, Kent Gardens is currently at 121% capacity with 1,023 students. The only school with a higher capacity utilization — Wakefield Forest Elementary School — is in the midst of an expansion.

FCPS has made tweaks over the years to reduce the capacity deficit, adding temporary classrooms, rearranging the interior layout to be more efficient, and reducing the ratio of out-of-boundary students allowed in the school’s popular French immersion program from 40% to 25%.

However, staff have “exhausted ways to modify the building” and a more significant programming or boundary change is needed, said Tholen, whose district includes McLean.

The amendment, which she called “long overdue,” designates Kent Gardens as a priority for boundary or capacity adjustments, directing staff to review and identify options. The CIP previously only recommended that the school be monitored.

“I want to thank Principal [Holly] McGuigan and the Kent Garden Elementary School students, parents and community members for speaking to us over the last year on this topic,” Tholen said. “I do agree with them that dealing with the overcrowding should’ve happened long before this and I will not make any excuses for the delay.”

At-large board member Abrar Omeish noted that FCPS paused consideration of boundary adjustments in 2018 so the school board could update its policy, though no changes have been adopted even after a consultant presented a final report on Dec. 14, 2021.

“I’m excited to see when that will be coming forward, but…in the meantime, [at] Kent Gardens, the problem there has only grown, and we haven’t been able to address it, so this is an opportunity to do that,” Omeish said.

FCPS has since resumed evaluating boundary changes, implementing adjustments in the McLean and Justice high school pyramids in 2021 that are now being phased in.

The CIP also lists the Marshall High School pyramid as a priority for a boundary review in anticipation of the planned Dunn Loring Elementary School, though a potential scoping isn’t expected until 2026.

With the prioritization of Kent Gardens approved, FCPS will present an analysis and recommendations to the community sometime this year, Tholen said. The review will take into account public input that has already been shared, including at a community meeting on the capacity challenges in October.

“Community input will be sought on these options before a final decision is made,” Tholen said.

Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean (via Google Maps)

Efforts to alleviate crowding issues at Kent Gardens Elementary School are starting to pick up steam, but Fairfax County Public Schools is still working to identify and pursue specific solutions.

With 1,023 students, the McLean school is at 121% of its building capacity, per a proposed capital improvement program (CIP) for fiscal years 2024-2028. That makes it one of the most crowded schools in FCPS, second only to Wakefield Forest Elementary School and tied with Centreville High School.

Wakefield Forest in Annandale is at 135% capacity, but construction is underway on a renovation, which will reduce its capacity utilization to 80%. Centreville High is in line for an expansion as part of the FCPS renovation queue, which was last updated in 2009.

Kent Gardens, however, has yet to join the queue, despite overcrowding complaints persisting in the McLean High School pyramid for a decade now.

That may change after FCPS staff hosted a community meeting on Oct. 7 to discuss the challenges facing the elementary school and gather feedback on potential solutions.

“The upcoming CIP will highlight Kent Gardens as a priority site for a full scoping of options by staff and community engagement to determine the best way forward,” said Elaine Tholen, who represents McLean as the school board’s Dranesville District member. “Staff is also investigating short term improvements that can be done at the Kent Gardens site as longer term solutions are implemented over the next several years.”

Short-term options could include building maintenance or improvements to the on-site trailers, Tholen told FFXnow. Temporary classrooms were added in the 2019-2020 school year and this current year “to accommodate short-term capacity deficit,” according to the CIP.

In addition to a renovation, long-term solutions could include programming or boundary changes, which would be phased in over multiple years, Tholen said.

The school board approved a boundary adjustment in 2021 that shifted some McLean High students to Langley High School, though Kent Gardens wasn’t affected.

According to FCPS, the capacity issues stem from a combination of population growth in McLean — which could continue if development progresses as the county hopes — and high demand for its programs.

“The capacity challenges at Kent Gardens ES are complex as the school not only serves a growing community within its boundaries, but also incorporates students outside the boundary for the popular French Immersion program,” an FCPS spokesperson said by email. Read More


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