Citing declining enrollment, Prince William Co. slated to delay new highschool opening


Citing declining enrollment developments, college leaders in Prince William County, Virginia, are slated to delay the opening of the division’s 14th highschool.


The Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center serves as the executive workplace facility for Prince William County Schools. (Courtesy Prince William County Public Schools)

Citing declining enrollment developments, public college leaders in Prince William County, Virginia, are slated to delay the opening of the division’s 14th highschool.

The new college, which is deliberate to be constructed within the Lake Ridge neighborhood, had already been delayed one 12 months whereas the county modified the constructing mannequin it deliberate to make use of for the development. That resolution, Chief Operating Officer Vernon Bock stated, was pushed by the need “to deliver the prototype to a extra trendy facility to raised meet the tutorial wants of at this time.”

But now, the college district is predicted to delay the opening one other two years, to 2029, due to migration patterns and declining birthrates which are having an impression on enrollment. It shall be constructed for about 1,400 or 1,500 college students, Bock stated — down from the greater than 2,500 college students it was initially anticipating to have on campus.

The change in planning got here after enrollment projections initially of this 12 months fell outdoors the usual 1% margin of error for the primary time in a number of years, Bock stated. That meant enrollment was considerably decrease than what the college division projected.

“Pausing that two years additionally offers us a possibility to verify our enrollment projections are literally taking part in out the best way we anticipate, and all of the specialists anticipate,” Bock stated. “We actually don’t have lots of knowledge post-pandemic to hold our hats on.”

University of Virginia researchers are projecting Northern Virginia to expertise its first inhabitants decline since 1970. Matthew Cartlidge, Prince William County Public Schools supervisor of planning, stated that’s partly as a result of individuals are transferring to Stafford and Fauquier counties, nearer to Richmond, or in some instances to Georgia or the Carolinas.

“Some of the explanations for that embody comparatively cheaper value of residing, after which moreover, throughout the pandemic and post-pandemic, there was a heightened embracement of telework, which allowed extra folks to be extra footloose, and never as sure to that commuter shed for the D.C. Metro,” Cartlidge stated.

Birthrates are additionally declining in Prince William County, as they’re in areas throughout the nation.

“When you have got home internet out-migration, declining birthrates and restricted or extra restricted residential growth, all of these components are contributing to inhabitants on the Ok-12 degree beginning to maybe stabilize, if not decline, within the subsequent 5 years as the info in our fashions are suggesting,” Cartlidge stated.

The University of Virginia analysis is projecting a Ok-12 lower of two,300 college students over the subsequent 5 years. The county is projecting a lower of about 1,950, Cartlidge stated.

The new highschool’s design might change ought to enrollment developments change, Bock stated, however it’s additionally being constructed “in order that we will add on to the constructing.”

Delaying the challenge has freed up funding within the college district’s Capital Improvement Plan. That funding shall be used to enhance college amenities which were highlighted as requiring upgrades, Bock stated.

If enrollment goes up and the brand new highschool needs to be larger, Bock stated the county “would have to try our initiatives within the CIP and probably reprioritize what’s in there.”

Currently, the division’s buying division is on the lookout for an architect who would design the brand new college. Once the architect has been chosen, the county would begin the neighborhood engagement course of.

Bock stated the college district is reviewing the statuses of a few of the faculties that may be affected as soon as the brand new highschool is constructed, however, “We’re not seeing an alarming development of overcrowded faculties on this space.”

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