Citing Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) figures that predict a drop in student enrollment between now and the school year that ends in June 2027, the McLean Citizens Association on March 5 sent a letter urging the county’s School Board not to spend $37 million in capital funds on a new elementary school in the Dunn Loring area.
The letter, sent by MCA president Robert Jackson to School Board Chairman Stella Pekarsky, came just before the School Board’s March 10 public hearing to award an architectural-and engineering-services contract for the facility, located at the intersection of Gallows and Idylwood roads.
Jackson quoted the School Board’s guiding principles for facilities planning, which state that the school system should “construct new schools only where surplus capacity or existing school inventory are not available in order to maximize limited capital monies.
There is precedent for scrapping planned schools, MCA’s letter stated. The county’s 2019 school-bond referendum included funding to use parkland on Blake Lane in Oakton for a new elementary school. School officials abandoned that plan after residents in that area cited updated enrollment projections showing a reduced need for a school there.
According to the school system’s guidelines, moneys for that project would have been allocated among 23 schools in the renovation queue that still were waiting for construction to begin, or for new construction in locations with persistent capacity deficits, MCA’s letter read.
Instead, the School Board endorsed the building of new school in Dunn Loring, where surrounding schools all are operating at less than full capacity and likely will field fewer students over the next five years, MCA leaders said.
According to MCA’s letter, which cites school-system data, Freedom Hill Elementary School has a capacity of 672 students, but an enrollment of 487 now and an expected decline to 430 by the 2026-27 school year.
Likewise, Shrevewood Elementary has a capacity of 683 students, a current enrollment of 674 and a projected reduction to 625 within five years.
Stenwood Elementary’s enrollment of 526 is lower than its capacity of 561 and likely will dip to 515 by the 2026-2027 school year, the letter read.
Overall, those three surrounding schools are operating at 88 percent of their capacity of 1,687 students and likely will see a collective dip to 1,570 students (82 percent of capacity) within five years, MCA leaders said.
Jackson’s letter asked Pekarsky to reconsider the Dunn Loring project promptly.
“The FCPS School Board should adhere to analytical rigor in establishing the queue for capital projects and should not allow projects to ‘jump the queue’ when there are more pressing renovation or construction needs elsewhere,” Jackson’s letter concluded.