Redistricting and High School #6

The School Board is working through two redistricting processes.  One is to provide relief to overcrowding at Colonial Forge High School and the other is to make some adjustments to the Falmouth Elementary School attendance zone.   The redistricting regarding Colonial Forge High School has garnered a significant amount of attention, as it has the potential to move a large number of students out of Colonial Forge and into North Stafford High School and Mountain View High School.

On Thursday, February 16, the School Board met in a work session to begin putting the parts together to come up with some options for the Colonial Forge redistricting.   In that session we developed seven options to adjust attendance zones and bring relief to Colonial Forge.   Staff will now develop maps and detailed information about the options that were developed.   The information will be shared with the public leading up to the next step in the process. As soon as the maps are available I, and I'm sure other members, will post them on Facebook and other outlets.  The next step will be a public hearing that will be held on March 1 at 7PM at Colonial Forge High School.   The public hearing will give the public an opportunity to address the school board regarding the redistricting plans.

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Redistricting is never a pleasant process for anyone involved.  From students, to parents, to teachers, to School Board members it is a process that effects everyone.   School communities are strong and students and parents build strong bonds with their schools.  Redistricting disrupts those bonds and causes stress throughout the community.

Stafford has gone through several growth spurts over the last two decades.  We appear to be on the midst of another growth spurt as real estate markets continue to recover and the job market in the DC Metro area remains strong.   This means strains on our schools are not going to have relief anytime soon.   The obvious answer to provide relief to our growing high school student population is build high school #6.

I believe the consensus on the School Board (don't want to speak for any of my fellow members, but I think it's a pretty safe bet to say we all agree on this) is high school #6 is needed well before when it is currently planned.   However we do have to rely on funding from the Board of Supervisors.   I certainly wouldn't speak for them, but I do believe there is growing consensus on the BoS that the high school must move up in priority, as well.

Why wasn't high school #6 built sooner?

High school 6 was planned and land was purchased in the mid-2000's to build the school.  However the recession hit the county and growth slowed significantly.   The school was shelved and other projects took over on the priority list.  With the more recent uptick in growth the priority of building the school is on the top of the list.

Funding a major capital project like building a new school is done through Capital Improvement Plan(CIP) that is managed by the county government.   The CIP identifies projects for both the county and school division that need to use debt to pay for them.   The current CIP does include high school #6, but it is woefully underfunded and doesn't anticipate starting the project until 2025 with a 2027 opening.   

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-Stafford County CIP (Stafford County FY2017 Budget page 370 - http://staffordcountyva.gov/DocumentCenter/View/9052

It is painfully obvious a new high school is needed within the next 5 to 7 years and the cost could be as high as $120 million.  That is no small venture.

The good news is the majority on both the Board of Supervisors and School Board want to work together to revamp how we approach the CIP.   We want to jointly prioritize projects and reschedule items to meet current needs.   Doing the revamping of the CIP and re-prioritizing is not going to be an overnight process.   We will be working together over the coming months to accomplish the things necessary to rightfully prioritize a new high school to open within 5 to 7 years.

The county must adopt a CIP each year with the adoption of its budget.  The CIP and Budget need to be adopted by the county in April of each year.  This year's adopted CIP may very well look like the current CIP, but know that the work will not stop there.   There will be significant work being done to revamp the CIP process and move projects around to get high school #6 moved up and funded. 

What can you do?

If you have a student in Stafford County Public Schools, you undoubtedly feel the pain or know others that feel the pain of crowded schools.  Stay informed, stay active!   Be in touch with your member of the Board of Supervisors and your member of the School Board to make your voice hear.

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Scott Hirons, Stafford County School Board - Falmouth District posted about Redistricting and High School #6 on Scott Hirons, Stafford County School Board - Falmouth District's Facebook page 2017-02-17 10:08:59 -0500
Redistricting and High School #6 - The School Board is working through two redistricting processes.
@scotthirons tweeted this page. 2017-02-17 10:08:53 -0500
Redistricting and High School #6 - The School Board is working through two redistricting processes. http://www.scotthirons.com/redistricting_and_high_school_6?recruiter_id=8702

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