County OKs site for new school

A new 650-student elementary school will be located on the same site as Stonewall Jackson High School near Manassas, despite the opposition of one member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors who said the site it too small.

L. Ben Thompson, Brentsville District, requested that the board review the planning commission’s Sept. 4 approval of the plan.

However, the board approved the joint site in a vote of 5-3.

“One of my concerns has been transportation,” Thompson said, citing few car spaces for parents lining up to pick up and drop off their children. He also said there might be a conflict at 14 parking spaces when buses are exiting and parents are entering to wait or park.

But the Board of County Supervisors sided with school representatives who said they have been hard pressed to find school sites on the western end of the county that don’t bring opposition. It would be difficult to find “sites that don’t cause arguments,” School Board member Lyle Beefelt, Brentsville District, said.

Last year, the school board was prohibited from locating a new elementary school in the rural crescent — a western area set aside for low density housing — because of opposition from residents.

However, there is a need, school officials said.

Elementary schools in the Stonewall Jackson area — Bristow Run, Cedar Point, Mullen and Loch Lomond are over or near capacity. Cedar Point’s capacity in 2004 is expected to be 790 students with projected enrollment of 1200.

Mullen Elementary which is is only supposed to have 647 students in 2004 is expected to have 939 students, said George Pincince, superintendent of facilities planning for the school board.

“By 2004, this area will have 679 students without seats,” Pincince said. “That means more trailers or other undesirable adjustments.”

The Stonewall Jackson site is a good deal, school officials said. The 11-acre parcel is free and will be swapped with Vulcan Land Quarry for land the school board owns.

“At a time when Gov. Warner has just announced state cuts, not accepting a free site is just wrong,” said Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, of Dumfries.

The main decision for School Board members Tuesday was if the plan to co-locate on the Stonewall Jackson site was consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. It is not, they conceded because that blueprint for county development requires that elementary schools be located on at least 20 acres of property. But board members approved the site, pointing out the requirement was put in place to keep developers from offering sites that were substandard. They noted other co-located schools occured before the acreage requirements were put in place.

Seven other county schools share a site with another school on less than 12 acres, Beefelt said, so it would be nothing new. Some are on as little as five acres.

There are other benefits to co-locating, area school superintendent Alison Nourse-Miller said. She is a former principal of Old Bridge Elementary in Lake Ridge.

Old Bridge Elementary shares a site with Woodbridge High, which has helped both schools. Nourse Miller said some programs at the high school require community service, and students choose to work with the nearby elementary.

Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins, also voted against the co-location plan, as did Gainesville Supervisor Ed Wilbourn.

Jenkins said if the board bends the comprehensive plan rules for one issue, it will have a hard time upholding others, such as those relating to the rural crescent and where to locate water tanks, both of which have been controversial.

The school board said it had the same concerns about traffic and safety as the board of supervisors and provisions had been made to insure safe conditions. The elementary would draw traffic during off-peak hours, before 8:30 a.m. and just after 3:40 p.m., they said, and the quarry’s close proximity has never posed a problem to the high school.

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