Longstanding tensions over improvements to Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna escalated to a proposal to deny Fairfax Schools continued use of trailers and fine the school system for violations as long as they’re still in use.
While the proposal wasn’t supported by the rest of the Council, its creator, Councilmember Pasha Majdi, expressed frustrations echoed by others.
“This is a bad joke and nobody’s laughing,” said Majdi. “I graduated from Louise Archer and went to class in trailers. My son starts elementary school [there] in nine months. My recommendation to the town is that we rename this provision from temporary trailers to generation trailers.”
One trailer was removed earlier this year as it began to deteriorate, according to the staff report. Students were relocated to two additional trailers, which are 17 and 19 years old and have a maximum lifespan of 25-30 years.
Staff from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) said the school’s renovation would be unlikely to be completed before 2023, and even that is reliant on construction money being approved in a referendum for 2021. An addition onto the school is planned for 2025.
“It’s an embarrassment that the school system can’t get their act together and move quicker on this,” said Councilmember Howard Springsteen. “It’s been 20 years we’ve been promising this… I give you guys an F for the ability to manage these projects.”
Springsteen said he didn’t have a lot of faith that the school system would be able to deliver that addition by 2025.
FCPS also faced criticism for coming to the Town Council for re-approval of the trailers four months after the approval had expired.
“You need to get here before the application expires,” said Councilmember Douglas Noble. “The clock was for August 22, not today. They need to be here with an application in July 2 two years from now.”
Despite these concerns, the Town Council didn’t go along with Majdi’s proposal to deny the trailers continued use renewal. Councilmember Tara Bloch said while she was frustrated by the trailer situation, pushing students out of the trailers and back into the already overcrowded school would hurt students.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of allowing continued use of the trailers.
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