Kent Gardens Elementary School is still bursting at the seams, but at least the trailers accommodating the overflow of students will soon get an update.
Seven old, one-classroom trailers behind the McLean school (1717 Melbourne Drive) will be removed and replaced by a four-classroom trailer and one with two classrooms, principal Holly McGuigan and Fabio Zuluaga, an assistant superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools, recently told families.
Construction staging for one of the new trailers took place last week (April 1-9) over spring break, according to FCPS. The other will be delivered in June, when construction on both facilities is expected to start.
“These are replacements for the trailers behind the school that were at the end of their useful life,” an FCPS spokesperson said, noting that each classroom in a trailer has a capacity of 29 students.
One existing duplex trailer will remain. The school system hopes to finish the new trailers in time for the next year, which will begin Aug. 21, McGuigan and Zuluaga said in the letter shared by Dranesville District School Board Representative Elaine Tholen.
In addition, maintenance will be performed on all of the school’s bathrooms over the summer to ensure they’re working properly for the next school year.
The trailers being replaced were installed at Kent Gardens between 1997 and 2000, FCPS says. The area where they currently sit will be turned into an outdoor classroom space, though FCPS doesn’t anticipate that being ready for the fall.
“This will take planning and time over the next year or two,” the letter said.
Though it won’t provide any additional capacity, the trailer replacement is intended as a short-term improvement for Kent Gardens, which has been viewed as overcrowded for over a decade now.
Last renovated in 2005, Kent Gardens was at 121% capacity with 1,023 students for the 2022-2023 school year, according to the latest FCPS capital improvement program (CIP). As of February, though, enrollment had ticked up to 1,042 students, the school’s profile says.
The Fairfax County School Board amended the CIP in February to prioritize addressing the crowding situation at Kent Gardens. A community meeting to determine the scope of possible program or boundary changes will be held on April 26 at 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the McLean High School cafeteria.
According to FCPS, recommendations will be presented this fall, followed by a public hearing and school board vote. Any changes would get phased in starting with the 2024-2025 school year.
Capacity relief can’t come soon enough for Susan Taylor, who has a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader at Kent Gardens and is among many parents frustrated by what they see as inaction by FCPS.
Talking to FFXnow in February, she said she has emails going back a decade of parents complaining about the state of the trailers.
“My son is in an advanced math classroom in one of these new modular buildings they put out front with very thin walls on the other side of the music classroom,” she said. “So, when his class is doing testing, the music class has to be silenced. I mean, it’s absurd.”
Though FCPS says its renovation queue isn’t based on capacity, Taylor argues an addition or other permanent structure will be needed as the area’s population continues to grow.
“I understand that these decisions are difficult because things cost money, but you can’t keep kicking this can down the road,” Taylor said.
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