Del. Albo on SCMS

RE:  Update on the need for a school boundary change and the construction of our long awaited South County Middle School

Dear Constituent,

I have recently been out in the South County community knocking on doors, and to my surprise, I have learned that many of your neighbors believe that another school boundary study is underway and do not know that this boundary study will not be needed because we have figured out a way to build our long awaited South County Middle School.

I am proud to say that bipartisanship actually does occur in government, and when it does, it works!  Let me tell you the story.

CONSTRUCTION OF OUR SOUTH COUNTY MIDDLE SCHOOL

In 2005, South County Secondary School (“SCSS”) opened its doors to grades 7-11, excluding a senior class the first year.  From the very beginning, the school was close to capacity at 2,500 students.   And at the end of the 2007-2008 school year, there were 2,906 total students.   That’s 406 more than capacityIt quickly became obvious that something had to be done.  There were two choices that could be made.  (1) Another boundary study could be done, switching many neighborhoods to Hayfield and Lake Braddock (both good schools but far away), or (2) a middle school could be built (which was the plan all along).

A group of neighborhood parents decided that the best choice was to build the much needed middle school. They formed the “South County Middle School Solutions Group, and began a 4½ year trek to making this school a reality.  Not so much as a Delegate, but rather as a parent, I joined the group 4½ years ago to do what I could as a private citizen to make sure our children could attend a quality neighborhood school with the proper number of students.

As a concerned parent, I recently sat until 1:00 a.m. at a School Board meeting wearing my “South County Middle School NOW” t-shirt.  I personally witnessed compelling testimony by South County parents who precisely and persuasively explained why we must have a middle school in our area.  Quite frankly, the parents accomplished what we never thought was possible – a School Board vote in favor of building our South County Middle School.

The final vote occurred on January 22, 2009 with a vote of 8-4.  At that meeting, the School Board voted to approve construction of the South County Middle School, and it is now on Fairfax County’s Capital Improvement Plan.  The new school is scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2012! This is truly an achievement worth celebrating.  Many people have worked hard for this and should be extremely proud of this success!

None of this would have been possible without all of the hard work and dedication of our leaders and neighbors.  First and foremost are the aforementioned parents who were members of the South County Middle School Solutions Group, led by local “super-mom,” Christine Morin.  This group did the heavy lifting by executing demographic analyses, public and private meetings with county elected officials, letters to the editor, and 4½ years of bi-monthly planning meetings.

In addition to the work of the parent group, our elected County leaders really “delivered” for us.  Republican Pat Herrity and Democrat Gerry Hyland of the Board of Supervisors worked hand in hand to deliver $10 million in county funds for your school. Democrat Dan Storck and Republican Liz Bradsher of the School Board led the charge in the School Board meetings and secured the vote along with help from the South County Middle School Solutions Group and other dedicated community members.

And the bi-partisanship didn’t just exist at the County level.  Even George Barker (our state senator who is a democrat) and I (republican in the House of Delegates) worked together to deliver state funds and budget language, which encouraged the immediate construction of the school. As your delegate, I wrote a bill that directed $1.74 million in state funds to the construction of the middle school and required that the money be used by 2011 – thus, accelerating the need to build the middle school.   I passed it out of the House, and our democratic Senator George Barker got it through the Senate.   While we are members of different political parties, all of us worked together for the greater good and our bipartisan efforts enabled us to help fund the greatly needed middle school.

NEWS ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE SOUTH COUNTY MIDDLE SCHOOL

Since your South County Middle School was moved to the construction schedule, a couple of major developments have occurred in the design and placement of the school.  First, like we did with the South County Secondary School, we were able to save millions in design costs by simply using the architectural plans from an existing school. Consequently, our middle school will look a lot like Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, VA.

Furthermore, to avoid delay in construction due to possible environmental complications caused by the adjacent stream and wetlands, the original site for the school (on Silverbrook, just West of the existing SCSS) was traded with the Park Authority (across Laurel Crest from the golf course and West of the existing SCSS). The land on Silverbrook originally slated for the school will be used by the County to build much needed youth sports fields.

The capacity of the new school will be around 1,200 students, lifting a large burden off of the overcrowded South County Secondary School, and returning it to its original purpose as a 9th – 12th grade with the proper number of students in the building.

Finally, at the last meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the 2009 School Bond Referendum was approved.  This bond will have to be approved by the voters in November’s election. But assuming it is approved, dirt will turn soon after.

I’d like to say “Congratulations!” to the South County community in working together to make our South County Middle School a reality.  When republicans, democrats, independents, along with parents and  ‘empty nesters’ all work together, government really works!

Kind regards,

DAVID B. ALBO

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