Eleven years ago I attended the first meeting of the Prince William County School Board that I’d ever attended. My youngest child, who attended with me, was 5 months old. My oldest child, who stayed home, was 3. It seems strange, now, that I attended and sat through a several hours long school board meeting, with a 5 month old in tow, when my own children wouldn’t even be attending public school for another 2 years.
Overcrowding at Cedar Point Elementary is what compelled me to attend that meeting.
Despite opening 3 new elementary schools, Ellis in 2004 and Victory and Glenkirk in 2005, Cedar Point would remain overcapacity, generally with enrollment over 1100 students in a school built for 850, until the fall of 2011 when T Clay Wood opened less than 1 mile away.
It took PWCS from 2001 until the fall of 2011 to finally relieve overcrowding at Cedar Point. Victory, Glenkirk, and T Clay are currently overcapacity. It won’t be until next fall, in 2015, when the Devlin Rd Elementary school opens, that overcrowding at those schools will hopefully, finally, be relieved.
That’s 14 years.
Marsteller Middle School is where many of the kids who attend these schools go after they complete elementary school. The new Marsteller opened its doors in 2002, and was overcapacity the day it opened its doors. So many students registered in the summer that they didn’t have enough desks or chairs on the first day.
In the year before Gainesville Middle School opened its doors in the fall of 2007, Marsteller had over 1700 students enrolled, in a school built for 1200. Marsteller was still overcapacity after GVMS opened, and remains that way today despite Regan opening in the fall of 2012 and the K-8 opening this fall. Another middle school, the ‘West End” middle school, will open in the fall of
2018 2019, to relieve overcrowding at Marsteller and Gainesville.
Assuming the “west end” middle school won’t be overcrowded the day it opens its doors, it will have taken PWCS from 2002 to 2018 to relieve overcrowding at the middle school level in the Brentsville / Gainesville area.
That’s 16 years.
The children who attend Marsteller and Gainesville Middle Schools and the K-8 mostly go to Battlefield, Patriot, Brentsville, and Stonewall. Battlefield opened in the fall of 2004 and was overcapacity shortly thereafter. Prior to the opening of Patriot High School in the fall of 2011, Brentsville High School had so many “extra” students that they had one way hallways, used the auditorium to provide seating for lunch, and some kids had so many classes in trailers that they never set foot inside the building, except for lunch. It was overcrowding at Brentsville that opened our eyes to such things as bathroom trailers, which are trailers that have bathrooms in them, because there weren’t enough bathrooms in the building for all the students attending. Overcrowding at Glenkirk elementary was so bad that they had a bathroom trailer at an elementary school.
Battlefield was about 20% overcapacity last year and will be overcapacity this school year with rising enrollment in subsequent years. Stonewall will be overcapacity this year with rising enrollment in subsequent years. Brentsville is projected to go overcapacity next school year with rising enrollment in subsequent years. And Patriot, Patriot is nearly 800 students overcapacity this year, but it’s enrollment is expected to stabilize next year at between 700 and 800 students overcapacity.
Battlefield opened in the fall of 2004. The 13th high school is expected to provide relief to the western end high schools when it opens in the fall of 2019, though by many calculations it is already overcapacity.
That’s 15 years.
Children, god willing, get older every year. The day they’re born, you can predict, almost to the day, when they’ll graduate from high school. Most children spend 12 years in public K -12 school. My oldest was born in late 2000. He’s in 8th grade this year and will graduate before overcrowding is relieved in Brentsville area high schools. His entire school career will have been spent in schools that are overcrowded to the bursting point.
None of this overcrowding was a surprise. It was known and expected, and available in documents published by PWCS to anyone who cared to look.
For as long as I’ve been watching the BOCS and school board, we parents have been promised that relief would come when the next school opened. We’ve been told that the county HAD to accept new housing developments because the site for the new school was desperately needed. What we weren’t told, but figured out by looking at the numbers, was that all the houses that came with the new developments meant the desperately needed new schools would be overcapacity before they even opened their doors (see Ellis, Victory, Glenkirk, TClay, Gainesville Middle, Reagan Middle, the K-8, and Patriot). It meant that PWCS kept building schools, but couldn’t keep up with rising student enrollment.
Problems like this don’t happen by accident. They happen when our elected officials prefer to be blissfully ignorant of the impacts of proposed development and when voters don’t take a stand.
Fifteen years is more than a few elections; elections which presented voters with opportunities to change the way things are done in Prince William County.
The unanswered question is whether we’ll choose to do so.
On October 1 Brentsville District residents will be faced with a choice between two candidates to represent them on the BOCS as Wally Covington has been appointed to the judicial bench.
I support and endorse Jeanine Lawson for Brentsville District Supervisor.
In my opinion, Jeanine gets it. She has children in school now and has seen the effects of school overcrowding and large class sizes firsthand. She understands the effects unfettered development have on our already stressed school system. She’s not anti-development; she recognizes that development will and should happen, but she supports smarter development and appears willing to question and vet staff’s claims. She understands the financial burden our high property tax rates have on working families. She attended meetings of the Gainesville / Brentsville District budget committee and assisted in digging into the county and school division’s budgets.
Don’t take my word for it – check out Jeanine’s web site and that of her opponent, Scott Jacobs. Check out their campaign finance reports on vpap.com and see who is funding their campaigns (Jeanie’s and Scott’s).
Do your research, and then come to the GOP nominating meeting on October 1. I’ll be there, and I’ll be voting for Jeanine.