Considerations During the Selection Process
Become familiar on how the 2019 School Bond Referendum projects were selected.
How Were the Projects Selected?
Each year, the School Board and staff members work with the community to develop an updated five-year capital improvement program (CIP) for schools. To develop the CIP, the school system assesses changes in expected enrollments, academic programs, and facility conditions to determine priorities for new construction, renovations, and other capital facility projects. The School Board then evaluates the affordability of these school needs against other countywide requirements to determine how many of the highest priority school projects should be included in the bond proposal.
Several factors were considered in determining which schools to include in this year’s bond referendum, including:
- 2008 renovation queue status
- Overcrowding and/or growth experienced in the past several years
- Continued use of temporary classrooms
- Schools that serve Development Centers, which are areas where the majority of future development will be focused, as defined by the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan
Who Uses Our Schools?
Students and citizens use Fairfax County schools. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) works with the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services and with the Fairfax County Park Authority to ensure that school facilities and athletic fields are available to the public after school hours.
The following are examples of how school buildings are used.
During the school year, approximately 188,000 students use FCPS facilities daily for academic and extracurricular activities.
Most of the public meeting places available in the county are FCPS facilities. In many cases, these facilities are provided free of charge to organizations such as homeowners associations, 4H, scouting groups, county employee organizations, and cultural and civic groups. In addition:
- Over 437,000 events occurred in school facilities last year.
- 168 schools are used as polling places for general elections.
- 140 schools serve as sites for Fairfax County’s School Age Child Care (SACC) program.
- FCPS Office of Food and Nutrition Services prepares 90,750 senior citizen meals annually at 13 school sites.
- 108 religious and cultural organizations used FCPS facilities for regularly scheduled activities last year.
Neighborhood and Community Services
The Fairfax County Department of Community and Recreation Services is the largest “outside” user of FCPS facilities. The result is an outstanding recreation program at minimal cost to Fairfax County taxpayers. For example:
- Last year, more than 250,000 individuals participated in recreation activities, with the vast majority using FCPS facilities.
- Community groups used 245 school gymnasium courts during the past year for recreational basketball, volleyball, and other indoor activities.
- 559 school athletic fields, representing 68 percent of all the fields available in the county, were used in last year’s recreation program.
- 8 schools were used as teen centers during the school year.
More than 27,000 citizens attended classes, camps, and Rec-PAC programs run by the Park Authority in FCPS facilities last year.
Adult and Community Education
Enrollment in FCPS Office of Adult and Community Education classes totaled nearly 26,000 last year.
Why Add More Classrooms?
Due to increases to student enrollment more than 44 percent of schools are over capacity. Since the 2011-12 school year, student membership has grown by an average of over 1,300 students each year for a total growth of more than 9,000 students. These trends of growth are inconsistent across the county and continue to present a facilities capacity challenge.
Capital funds are included in the bond for the planning of one new elementary school in the northwestern part of the county near the Metro’s Silver Line and the renovations at Wakefield Forest, Louise Archer, Crossfield, Mosby Woods, and Bonnie Brae Elementary schools. The bond also includes capital funds for the construction of renovations at five elementary schools: Hybla Valley, Washington Mill, Braddock, Fox Mill, and Oak Hill Elementary schools; capacity enhancements at three high schools: West Potomac, Justice, and Madison high schools; and the construction of one new elementary school in the Fairfax/Oakton area. Construction funds are also included to relocate one modular addition. The projects contained in this referendum, whether new or renovations will increase the capacity of the school system by more than 4,400 seats upon their completion.
Why Renovate Our Schools?
The School Board is committed to protecting the community’s investment in schools and other buildings, which have a combined present value approaching $7.2 billion.
Not only do these facilities wear out over time, but they also become outdated, both technologically and instructionally. FCPS renovates its schools to ensure that students, countywide, have effective and efficient learning environments.
Construction funds for the renovation at Frost and Cooper Middle Schools are included in the bond. The bond also includes construction and/or planning funds for the renovations of ten elementary schools.
Fairfax County public schools are expected to be usable for 20 to 25 years from the date of construction. Today, the FCPS renovation cycle is 37 years and is projected to reach 44 years. Renovations undertaken at the end of that period extend the useful life of the school building another 20 years. Renovations also help to relieve crowding by providing additional classrooms and spaces for required small group and specialized instruction. Schools are renovated in a sequence determined by published rankings of priority need. These priorities are established by independent professional assessments of each school’s physical condition.
Examples of the other completed renovation improvements include: upgrading basic systems such as heating, air conditioning, lighting, and plumbing; remodeling libraries; upgrading science and technology laboratories; refurbishing general classrooms; upgrading wiring for multimedia devices; and providing upgraded furnishings and equipment, where appropriate.
Why Include Funding for Planning?
The 2019 school bond referendum includes planning money for the new Silver Line Elementary School and five elementary school renovations. Dedicating funds for project planning into one bond issue and actual construction money into a later bond issue allows timely implementation of the projects without committing the county’s bonding authority for construction costs earlier than necessary. Some projects need added time for land acquisition; other projects may require complicated construction designs or lengthy government approval procedures. With preplanning, such complicated projects can be completed earlier than they otherwise would have been, had planning and construction been authorized concurrently.
How Will Passage Affect the County's Bond Rating?
Of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties, Fairfax is among only 47 that have the highest credit rating possible for a local government from all three rating agencies:
- Aaa from Moody’s Investors Service.
- AAA from Standard & Poor’s.
- AAA rating from Fitch Investors Service.
Because of these ratings, Fairfax County’s bonds always sell at exceptionally low interest rates.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors controls all county bond sales within financial guidelines drawn to ensure that the coveted triple-A bond ratings are not jeopardized.