PWCS projects that it will open the 13th high school in the fall of 2019 to relieve overcrowding in western end high schools. Battlefield high school opened in the fall of 2004 and Patriot high school opened in the fall of 2010. PWCS knew that both Battlefield and Patriot would be overcapacity before they opened, yet their “plan” for relieving that overcrowding was to wait 9 – 14 years until the 13th high school opened in the fall of 2019.
Based on the enrollment projections provided by PWCS, the 13th high school is overcapacity, 5 years before it opens.
The 14th high school, which is planned to open in the fall of 2021 somewhere near the McCoart building in the mid-county area, won’t provide much, if any, relief in the western end of the county. Perhaps the 15th high school will finally provide the much needed relief in this area. Of course, the 15th high school isn’t on the CIP, which stretches out to 2024, so relief for this area, assuming the 15th is built here, won’t happen after today’s kindergarten students have graduated from high school.
That’s the thing about children; God willing, every year they get older. Once they start school, you can predict, almost to the day, when they’ll graduate. Cedar Point elementary was overcapacity the day it opened. It remained overcapacity for 10 years, during which time it saw enrollment hit 1200, in a school built for 800. At one point, we were thrilled when enrollment dropped to 1000.
Those kids who were at Cedar Point when it was at 1200 and 1100 and 1000 moved on to Marsteller middle school. Marsteller was built for 1200 students, was overcapacity the day it opened, and at one point had 1700 students attending. It currently has 1471 students attending now and expects a decrease to about 1400 next year when the K – 8 opens. It will remain at around 1400 for the next 4 years, until 2018 when a middle school is supposed to open.
Those kids are now moving on to Patriot high school. Patriot high school was overcapacity before it opened in the fall of 2010. It was built for 2053 students and currently has 2614 attending, with rising enrollment. Unlike nearly every other school in the county, Patriot doesn’t accept transfers; it hasn’t accepted transfers since 2011, because of overcrowding.
When a school is overcapacity the first thing we do is increase class sizes to the state’s legal limit. People across the county have been shocked with 32 kids in high school classes and 28 in elementary classes, but that’s been the norm at schools like Cedar Point, T Clay, Victory, Glenkirk, Marsteller, Patriot, and Battlefield since the day those schools opened, in some cases for more than a decade. According to the Va Dept. of Ed, Patriot high school currently has the highest number of students per teacher of any high school in the county, and PWC has the highest number of students per teacher in the state. I guess that means Patriot high school has the highest number of students per teacher in the state.
The cafeterias at our schools can only feed so many children at one time. State law says they can’t serve lunch before 10 am. So when a school gets as large and overcapacity as our schools are, they have to shorten lunch from 25 minutes to 20 minutes, and that 20 minutes includes the time needed to get through the lunch line. Sometimes they have to add a brown bag line in the auditorium, like they did at Brentsville before Patriot opened.
That’s what we’ve told these kids.
Wait until 2019 when the 13th high school opens for overcrowding to be relieved.
We’ve been telling these kids to wait their entire academic careers. By the time the 13th high school opens in the fall of 2019, those children, who went through Cedar Point when it was at 1200 and Marsteller when it was at 1700 and Patriot when it was at 2800, will have graduated.
The 13th is already overcapacity. Are we now telling those kids to wait until 2025, or later, by which time their children might be entering school?
We can pat ourselves on the back all we want when we open new schools, but we are celebrating failure. These children have known nothing but overcrowded schools and jammed hallways since the day they entered kindergarten.
We have failed them.
Our children, my children, deserve better.
PWCS opened an addition at Potomac High School to provide space for students they expected with the Harbor Station / Potomac Shores development began selling. That addition opened in the fall of 2013, Harbor Station / Potomac Shores will begin delivering houses in the next few weeks.
PWCS can plan for growth in the eastern end of the county, so that students moving into Potomac Shores will never know overcrowding, but they can’t provide the space needed for students already enrolled and in our school system on the western end of the county?
A few weeks ago the PWC School Board voted to build the less expensive Battlefield / Freedom design for the 13th high school. This design is projected to cost about $15 – $18 million less than the Patriot design. The higher costing Patriot design was already included in the CIP, which means using the less expensive design will reduce projected CIP costs.
Why can’t that savings be used to build an addition onto Battlefield or Patriot? If we can build an addition without increasing the CIP, and we need an addition to provide space for students currently enrolled in our schools, then shouldn’t we build it?
Or are we content with planned failure?