When Sharon Bulova moved to the Kings Park West community in the 1970s, Fairfax County was building schools at the rate of about one classroom per day to accommodate young families such as hers, along with police and fire stations and other county services.
“The county was struggling to keep up with burgeoning growth,” she said.
Now, the Board of Supervisors chairwoman is leading a county that is struggling to maintain all of the buildings it constructed during that era.
“Now we’re trying to make sure we’re taking care of all those things we built so many years ago,” Bulova said, kicking off the first meeting of the Capital Facilities and Debt Management Working Group, a joint Board of Supervisors-School Board effort.
School Board members have been asking the county about possibly increasing the debt capacity for schools. Fairfax County Public Schools has been experiencing steady growth in recent years, creating a space crunch while school officials also are trying to fund building renovations at older schools.
However, Bulova notes, the county has limited debt capacity and also has its own needs to accommodate population growth and replace or renovate aging facilities.
“We can put our list of needs next to our available money, and they don’t match,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock), one of the working group members.
Starting with its next meeting in June, the working group will be taking an in-depth look at the county and school facility needs, the debt capacity and other related issues.
Several members of the group expressed interest in discussing opportunities for increased collaboration and sharing of facilities to meet county and school needs.
As an example, Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) cited a recent effort that allowed the Rose Hill Library to accommodate a school program.
McKay said he would like to hear ideas from school and county staff now about possible cooperation on projects already planned to go to construction in the near future.
He also said the group should look at possible legal impediments to sharing spaces, something that School Board member and fellow working group member Sandy Evans said thwarted a recent attempt at collaboration.
The working group plans to conduct five meetings between June and December and might continue its work into 2013.