The Prince William County Public Schools Division plans to build a 14th high school. The idea of another high school in and of itself generally would not raise any concerns to the average county resident; however, the proposed location raises a number of serious concerns. The School Division indicated that another school is needed to relieve student overcrowding in the Eastern Corridor. The School Division’s 2016 – 2025 Approved Capital Improvements Program (strategic plan) posted on their website indicates there is significant student population growth in the Eastern and Western corridors of Prince William County and none in the Mid-county. The School Division is proposing to build the 14th high school off the Prince William County Parkway between Hoadly and Coloriver River Roads with two entrances/exits on the Parkway.
This location is wrong for a number of significant reasons. Given that the School Divisions’ stated purpose for the school is to relieve overcrowding in the Eastern Corridor, why would the School Division propose locating the 14th high school miles away from the Eastern Corridor and place it in Mid-county instead of the Eastern Corridor? In doing so, the School Division is demonstrating a reluctance to invest in a state-of-the art high school in the Eastern Corridor where there is a perceived higher demographics of African American, Latino, and other minority residents.
There appears to be a troubling patternin the School District’s decisions for locating new high schools. The current School Division Superintendent, Steven Walts, arrived in 2005. Since his arrival, the School District has constructed two new high schools; Patriot High School in 2011 and Colgan High School in 2016. Patriot High School is in the Western Corridor and Colgan High, with its indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool is in Mid-county. The School Division is currently constructing the 13th high school in the Western Corridor near Jiffy Lube Live. If the 14th high school is located in Mid-county that would mean that the most recent four high schools would be in the Western and Mid-county. Why must the Eastern Corridor with a higher concentration of minority families settle for old and inferior high school facilities because the School Division continues to focus tax-payer revenue and resources on the wealthier and less-minority populated segments of the county? The Eastern Corridor deserves the same capital investment that the School Division is investing in wealthier and less minority populated segments of the county.
The proposed 14th high school location is also an ill-conceived idea because it would worsen already congested Parkway traffic with a 25 mile-per-hour school zone speed limit and possible additional traffic lights. The proposed location is environmentally sensitive with streams that run through it. Building a high school there would destroy the streams that help to provide well water to close to 1000 surrounding homes on well and septic systems, not to mention the extremely expensive cost to run infrastructure/utilities approximately one mile away from the closest attachable sources near Harris Teeter. Depriving Eastern Corridor families and students the same opportunities that the School Division affords to Western Corridor and Mid-county residents is a travesty of justice that raises the appearance of discrimination. Prince William County residents, specifically those residing in the Eastern Corridor, deserve better. How can the School Division construct state-of-the art high schools in the Western Corridor and Mid-county, one with an indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool and a $125,000 Steinway & Sons concert grand piano, and not give the Eastern Corridor a high school in their district to relieve overcrowding? It’s the Eastern Corridor’s turn for the 14th high school in their district.
By Delton Nichols