I am writing regarding the options for expanding elementary school facilities, should the Fairfax County Planning Commission deny the application to expand Mt. Daniel.
I and others have raised that the uncertainty around the ability to expand Mt. Daniel required developing a “Plan B.” However, the Administration and School Board have provided little information so far on this topic. When the issue last came before the Fairfax County Planning Commission, there was an ambiguous reference that there would be consideration of other alternatives to the proposed expansion, but it is unclear what those options are. I see no evidence yet that the objections raised are being overcome, and that opposition to the proposal is lessening. To the contrary, it seems to me that opposition may be hardening.
I understand that this is a difficult situation. There is an issued bond, approved by the voters, on which we are paying interest, but construction cannot start because Fairfax County has not approved it. That said, we seem to be taking little action to develop alternatives. Some better options may have passed us by or become more expensive: we have already completed work on a Thomas Jefferson expansion that might have been larger, but was not. And the City and Schools have sent out a Request for Proposals to expand MEH and GM without any mention yet of the possible need to add another grade as an “add alternate.”
It’s time to move forward. So, while I think it is important to continue to address the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s concerns, and those of the local residents, in order to obtain approval of a Mt. Daniel expansion if possible, it is also important that we start work on a Plan B. Perhaps it is not too late to get proposals (as part of the “detailed” RFP process) for adding a grade to MEH/GM as a part of future construction, so we have one more option (even though that is a poor option). And other options should be explored, including expanding TJ again, or moving Mt. Daniel to a location inside the City. Finally, the Board might consider discussing the matter with the public, at least briefly, at a forum such as the upcoming visioning event.
While I understand some of these discussions may be in closed session to preserve the schools’ bargaining position, I’d urge you to share as much as possible with the public. Thank you very much for your consideration.
Very truly yours,
cc: Superintendent Toni Jones
Clerk Hunter Kimble
Deputy Clerk Marty Gadell