School board passes capital improvement project budget

Loudoun County School Board Chair Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Vice Chair Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) review documents presented to the school board during its meeting at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building in Ashburn on Tuesday, Jan. 11.

The Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday night passed its proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget for fiscal 2023-2028, a spending plan that includes nearly $350 million in funding for new construction projects and more than $14.4 million for school security improvements during that time frame.

The board unanimously — with the exception of an absent Denise Corbo (At-Large) — approved an amended version of the proposed CIP budget, which will allocate funding for the construction of three new schools as well as a new student welcome center at Sterling Middle School.

The spending plan also allocates funds for the Valley Service Center, school bus replacement and acquisition, land acquisition and additions and improvements to Park View and William Obediah Robey high schools in Sterling.

Board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) on Tuesday proposed an amendment that would scrap more than $34 million for a proposed field house and indoor track facility in his district.

Serotkin also moved to add $9.1 million to a proposed new high school in the Blue Ridge District, which he said would increase its square footage and allow the new school to host additional regional and state level tournaments in volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading and other sports.

“The estimated changes would increase the facility by approximately 31,000 square feet and add 1,200 gymnasium seats to a total of a 3,000-seat capacity,” he said.

When asked by board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) about his rationale for the proposed changes, Serotkin said he and other board members questioned the need for a new, $33 million standalone indoor track and field facility when there were existing facilities at high schools nearby.

“I had asked [LCPS] staff to come up with a less costly alternative that would meet the same needs that would allow us to host regional athletic competitions that we don’t have the space for now,” he said. “Leveraging the future [high school in Blue Ridge] which is scheduled to open in roughly 2028 on the same site seemed to be much more reasonable.”

Serotkin said that while he didn’t think the proposed additions to the new high school in his district would accommodate everything a new standalone field house would, it would allow school officials to implement other priorities within the new school.

Serotkin’s amendment passed 7-1, with Chair Jeff Morse (Dulles) opposed and Corbo absent.

Board member Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run) proposed a motion to make several changes to a timetable of capital facility renewals and alterations. His motion aimed to expedite additions to Eagle Ridge Middle School from fiscal 2028-2029 to fiscal 2025-2026 and delay proposed new high school press boxes for baseball and softball from fiscal 2025 through fiscal 2029.

“I do have great concerns with the capacity of Eagle Ridge” to accommodate a growing student population over the next several years, Hoyler said. Based on student enrollment data from the past few years, the “Dulles North planning district is one of the only two that has seen growth during COVID — the other one being Dulles South. It’s not unreasonable to expect that this growth would continue” into the next several years.

Morse spoke in opposition to Hoyler’s motion, however.

“As I’m looking at the projections … because this is not a new project [or] a new school, the timeframe for the construction is a little bit more flexible,” he said. “And so we can actually track the numbers” on student enrollment into next year.

Morse added, “At this point, I don’t think there’s enough indication that accelerating the project is going to provide us a benefit that is going to be needed in that time frame. I would prefer to wait one more year and see whether [Hoyler’s] fears are justified.”

The proposed amendment to accelerate additions onto Eagle Ridge Middle School and delay press boxes and turf fields at division high schools failed 2-5-1, with oppositions from board members Morse, John Beatty (Catoctin), Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) and Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn), an abstention from Corbo, and support from Hoyler and Marshall.

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