Falls Church’s Elementary PTA organization, representing the Thackrey Pre-School, Mt. Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, voted formally Tuesday night to join the fight to pass the $15.6 million school bond referendum on this November’s ballot in the City. The George Mason High School PTSA followed suit at a meeting at the high school last night.
Tuesday’s announcement marked an unusual step for the Elementary PTA organization to take such a strong stand on a ballot measure. Trish Horowitz, president of the Elementary PTA, was enthusiastic and excited by the development, as was Gabi Sandoz, president of the GMHS PTSA, anticipating that her organization would follow suit, as they did last night.
Hundreds of informational fliers entitled “7 Things You Need to Know About the Bond Referendum” were circulated Tuesday night at the annual Thomas Jefferson Ice Cream Social and Information Fair. Parents from all three elementary schools were there with their children, and the gym, the lunch room and the playgrounds outside were mobbed by one of the largest turnouts in history.
The bond referendum will be on the November 4 ballot for Falls Church citizens, who will also be voting for U.S. Senator, Congressman (8th District), and City Treasurer on the same ticket.
Local pundits concur that it will take a strong mobilization by the pro-school community to win passage of the referendum, due to general economic squeeze conditions on City residents and despite the outstanding reputation of the City’s school system that has contributed “value added” to the local housing stock.
According to the “7 Things” flier that will also be circulated at this Saturday’s Fall Festival and Taste of Falls Church in the parking lot behind City Hall, the bond referendum will fund needed classroom expansion, and modernization to comply with the American Disability Act (ADA) at the Mt. Daniel Elementary site. The cost will be $15.6 million.
The current building at Mr. Daniel is over capacity by over 100 students due to the recent years’ surge in enrollment. As a result, there is no longer room for a library or a music room there. Three classes are now being held in trailers and all current space is being fully utilized.
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School is also crowded. The school bond would allow FCCPS to move the second grade, now at Thomas Jefferson, back to Mt. Daniel, freeing up much needed space at Thomas Jefferson.
The new construction will add 65,820 square feet in brand new classrooms, a new gym, a separate new cafeteria, a new media center and new day care offices. The 65,820 new square feet will add to 21,316 existing square feet that was added to the site less than 10 years ago.
The new construction is expected to last over 50 years and although predictions of enrollment are difficult going into the future, it is expected that it will take at least 20 years for all 12 classrooms to fill up in every grade.
If the referendum fails, on the other hand, more trailers would be required with a life expectancy of 15 years, in the long run actually costing more than if the referendum passed. Also, physical education classes would need to be limited and with the current gym doubling as a cafeteria going forward children will need to eat lunch starting around 10:45 a.m. in order to manage the shared space.
Also, valuable outdoor space will be lost at both Mt. Daniel and Jefferson to trailers.
Built many years ago before safety features such as cameras, buzzer entrances and ADA compliance were the standard, the new construction will address all these issues and add sprinklers to a section of the building currently not covered. If the referendum does not pass, these matters will not get fixed.
If the referendum passes, construction would begin almost immediately and the new building would be ready for occupancy by October 2016.