I’ve lived in Prince William County for most of my adult life. For some reason this county always seems to make really stupid planning decisions. Like over building in one part of the county without having the services like fire and rescue and schools to support the populations moving in. And we never seem to learn from our mistakes. Take the west end of the county in the Bristow / Nokesville / Gainesville area.
Bristow was point zero in the rapid development that’s been going on in Prince William for the past 10 years. With a VRE stop just a few miles away and easily accessible, and property values that are generally 10’s of thousands of dollars lower than in Fairfax and Loudon, growing families just starting out with young children flocked to the area.
The net effect – extremely overcrowded schools. The four most overcrowded Elementary Schools, the 1st and 2nd most overcrowded Middle Schools, and the 1st and 2nd most overcrowded High Schools all fall within 10 – 15 miles of one another in this area of the county. Several developments in the area aren’t complete, like Morris Farms and New Bristow Village, and several others have already been approved but haven’t started construction yet (like Mayfield Trace). And the county wants to add 300 – 500 more houses to the mix with a brand new development called Avendale.
Glenkirk Elementary was built for 780 students and currently has about 1,130 students enrolled. Glenkirk only opened a few years ago.
Just a few miles from Glenkirk is Bristow Run Elementary. Bristow Run was built for 780 students, currently has about 1,100 students enrolled, and has never been at or near capacity since the day it opened more than 10 years ago.
Just a couple of miles from Bristow Run is Cedar Point Elementary. Cedar Point was build for 780 students, currently has about 1,100 students enrolled, and has never been at or near capacity since the day it opened 9 years ago. The trailers and overcrowding at Cedar Point are so severe that recess is rationed.
Just a few miles down the road from Cedar Point is Nokesville Elementary. Nokesville Elementary has capacity for 342 students and about 460 enrolled. One full grade attends school in a building that isn’t connected with the main school because of overcrowding.
Each of these elementary schools is at more than 140% capacity. Right around the corner from Cedar Point, about 3 miles away, is Victory Elementary with enrollment of over 115% capacity.
Marsteller Middle School was built for 1200 students, has about 1,400 enrolled, and has never been at or near capacity since it opened its doors. When Marsteller first opened there were so many more students than anticipated that the county hadn’t bought enough textbooks for all of the children.
Brentsville High School has capacity for 1,110 students, has about 1,600 enrolled, and recently had to rent a port-a-potty trailer because there weren’t enough bathrooms for the number of students attending the school.
These schools have been overcrowded since the day they opened. Several – Bristow Run, Cedar Point, and Brentsville – have been severely overcrowded for years. These schools aren’t facing declining or even stabilizing enrollment. Oh no – enrollment at each of these schools continues to increase and is expected to increase each year. Worse yet, the “bubble” won’t hit Middle School for another 2 – 4 years.
Clearly, planning isn’t our counties strong suit.
The county does have one new elementary school and one new high school planned and currently under construction in the area. Those schools, based on estimates from the school district, will likely open at or above capacity with the overcrowding at Glenkirk, Bristow Run, Cedar Point, Nokesville, Brentsville HS and Battlefield HS significantly reduced but not dropping below capacity. A new middle school will open further west and will hopefully alleviate the overcrowding at Marsteller.
If you think “Whew, problem solved, finally“, you’ve forgotten that we live in Prince William County where long term planning just isn’t our strong suit. Remember the “bubble” of much higher enrollment coming from the Elementary Schools won’t hit the middle schools for another 2 – 4 years and is 5 – 7 years away from hitting the high schools. And that’s from Elementary Schools with rising enrollment.
Even with these new schools, with no new housing developments built, the area will need another middle school and another high school by 2014 or 2015, and may need another elementary school. And that’s assuming that no new housing developments are built.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Morris Farms, a large community of students feeding into Glenkirk Elementary isn’t complete. New Bristow Village, which is on the Nokesville side of Vint Hill and 28 and has children who are bussed 10 miles away to Ellis Elementary when both Cedar Point and Nokesville are less than 3 miles away, isn’t complete. Two new developments, Mayfield Trace and a 40 home infill development, have been approved within and near Braemar and will have students who attend either Bristow Run, Cedar Point, or the new elementary school currently under construction.
These new already approved housing “units” alone would be enough to justify building another elementary, middle, and high school in the same 10 – 15 mile area. Schools which are not planned and for which there is no money to build. How does the county respond? By considering adding another 300 – 500 home development to the mix.
Avendale is a proposed 300 – 500 home development on the South Western side of the intersection of Route 28 and Vint Hill Roads – across Vint Hill Road from the Harris Teeter Shopping Center. That area is supposed to be part of the rural crescent with restricted development. The developer, Brookfield Homes, has offered to shift Vint Hill Road about 1 mile further South along 28 and widen it to a 4 lane divided highway from the shift to 28. VDOT approved the widening and shift of Vint Hill Road about 7 years ago, before Sudley Manor Drive was complete and 28 had been widened.
At that time Vint Hill did carry a high volume of traffic from residents trying to avoid backups on Devlin and Balls Ford Roads. But once Sudley Manor Drive was completed that volume decreased significantly, as has to volume along that section of Linton Hall Road.
The light at Vint Hill and 28 rarely has more than 10 cars at it, even during rush hour, and backups are few and far between. The lights on Route 28 are poorly timed and can cause backups on 28, but that appears to be due to the fact that they were originally timed to pull traffic volume off of Linton Hall Road and onto 28 – traffic which, for the most part, has decreased significantly because it’s shifted to using Sudley Manor Drive.
So the county is considering approving a new 300 – 500 home development in a region which is supposed to be protected from development, where the schools are overcrowded and getting more overcrowded by the day, so that the developer will widen and shift a road that doesn’t need to be widened and shifted.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Contact the Board of County Supervisors (here). Let them know that you think authorizing Avendale is a very poor decision.