McLean families are no strangers to overcrowded schools.
The challenges have been concentrated in the McLean High School pyramid, where the home of the Highlanders and feeder school Kent Gardens Elementary have been over capacity for the past decade.
At 121% capacity, Kent Gardens is experiencing one of the biggest space deficits in the county, trailing only Wakefield Forest Elementary School (132%) and Oakton High School (125%), according to Fairfax County Public Schools’ proposed Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2023-2027.
Capacity Deficits Projected to Continue
Kent Gardens had 1,023 students to start this school year in a building designed for up to 896 students. The school’s profile indicates that enrollment has dipped to 1,019 students as of November.
There are currently 11 temporary classrooms on site, with the most recent addition of trailers coming during the 2019-2020 school year.
According to the CIP, Kent Gardens has been over capacity since at least 2012, when it had 906 students and was at 111% capacity. While enrollment is expected to decline over the next five years, the school will still be at 118% capacity with 1,003 students by the 2026-2027 school year.
McLean High School has had more students than program capacity since the 2011-2012 school year. The introduction of a 12-classroom modular earlier this year helped cut the capacity deficit from 118% last year to 107% this fall, though enrollment appears to have grown from 2,347 students in September to 2,366 students, as of November.
FCPS says it is monitoring the school’s capacity after implementing a phased boundary adjustment in September that moved an estimated 190 high school students and 78 middle school students to the Langley High School pyramid.
However, the CIP indicates that overcrowding will persist at least through 2026-2027, when 2,317 students are projected to be enrolled and the school will be at 105% or 121% capacity, depending on whether the modular is still in place.
What FCPS Is Doing
FCPS says it is analyzing five possible options for addressing overcrowding at Kent Gardens:
- Increase efficiency by reassigning instructional spaces within a school
- Possible program changes
- Repurpose existing school facilities not currently being used as schools or build a new school facility
- Capacity enhancement through either a modular or building addition
- Potential boundary adjustment with other schools identified as having a capacity surplus
According to a spokesperson, FCPS has revised its Dual Language Immersion Lottery to accept more students in Kent Gardens’ boundaries, starting with the 2022-2023 school year. The change will increase the school’s program capacity of 848 students, if not its design capacity.
With Tysons expected to double its population over the next few decades and downtown McLean gearing for extensive redevelopment, FCPS is preparing for the influx of families by building new elementary schools in Dunn Loring and Tysons, along with repurposing the Pimmit Hills Center.
The relief promised by those projects won’t come for a while, though. Construction on Dunn Loring Elementary School isn’t expected to finish until 2026, and FCPS isn’t planning to seek funding for the Tysons and Pimmit Hills schools until 2027.
It also remains to be seen who will benefit from the new schools, since they won’t be assigned pyramids until boundary studies can be conducted, which occurs towards the end of construction, according to FCPS.
The Langley and Marshall high school pyramids, which serve the McLean and Tysons areas, respectively, aren’t facing the same crowding as McLean, though Spring Hill Elementary School is projected to reach 101% capacity in 2026-2027.
Enrollment in FCPS overall is projected to decline from 176,212 students this year to 174,326 students in the 2026-2027 school year.
Photo via Google Maps
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