FCPS plan to turn Oakton parkland into school draws flak

Fairfax County Public Schools officials are planning to build a new elementary school on the site of Blake Lane Park in Oakton in order to relieve overcrowding in surrounding schools.

School overcrowding in the Oakton area is leading Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) officials to consider turning Blake Lane Park into a new school site. But some neighbors want to preserve the park’s open space and have the school built elsewhere.

According to the opponents’ Website, www.saveblakelanepark.org, a new school would affect neighborhood traffic negatively, eliminate an existing off-leash dog park (founded in 2000) and, they predict, cause nearby home values to decline by up to 10 percent.

FCPS officials will hold a public meeting Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at Mosby Woods Elementary School, 9819 Five Oaks Road in Fairfax, to review plans for the Blake Lane school.

FCPS officials included a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area as one of three new elementary schools in the school system’s 2020-24 Capital Improvement Program. The school would cost about $35 million and be built in time for the opening of the 2022-23 school year.

The proposed school is intended to address overcrowding issues within the Oakton High School pyramid, said FCPS spokesman John Torre.

One school within that pyramid, Waples Mill Elementary, sends 200 of its students to the South Lakes High School pyramid to receive advanced academic services. There are not enough seats within the existing Oakton High pyramid’s elementary schools to support the Waples Mill students’ return, Torre said.   

Lack of space in the Oakton High pyramid also causes about 235 Fairfax County students to attend Providence Elementary School in the City of Fairfax, but city officials are beginning to push back.

“Fairfax city had mentioned, and it’s no surprise, that they would like to have them return back to a Fairfax County Public Schools facility,” Jeffrey Platenberg, assistant superintendent for the Department of Facilities and Transportation Services, told the School Board at its Dec. 20 meeting.

Blake Lane Park is located at 10033 Blake Lane, where the road intersects with Bushman Drive. FCPS owned the parcel until 2005, when it was transferred to the county government. Since then, the Board of Supervisors has retained the property as a potential school site, Torre said.

If a school were built there, officials would have to adjust the boundaries of surrounding schools so students could be assigned to the new school, he said. Boundary adjustments tend to be contentious processes.

Opponents are calling upon FCPS officials to study environmental impacts of the potential Blake Lane school and consider building the school elsewhere, such as on county-owned property near Towers Park south of the Vienna Metro station.

The school system also should examine options for adding capacity at existing schools instead of building the new facility, opponents said.

Platenberg told the School Board expanding capacity is a possible option, albeit one “fraught with a lot of other issues.”

 “The short answer is yes, but we look at it from the most cost-effective, efficient way to do it,” he said.

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