Lawson, Candland, Trenum Recommend Land Swap for 13th High School

| August 4, 2015 | 0 Comments | Education
Supervisor Pete Candland (Gainesville) and Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville) present a map highlighting the land swap at a press conference Tuesday.

Supervisor Pete Candland (Gainesville) and Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville) present a map highlighting the land swap at a press conference Tuesday.

Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R), Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland (R) and Brentsville School Board member Gil Trenum are recommending the county-owned site of the proposed Rollins Ford Park in Nokesville be the site for the 13th Prince William County high school.

The proposed Rollins Ford Park, intended to be multi-use athletic fields, is located on the west side of Rollins Ford Road just south of Broad Run Creek. While Lawson said the swap is not set in stone at this time, the two boards would have to act quickly for the school to open on schedule.

As Bristow Beat reported yesterday, Rollins Ford Park could be a site of the new high school contingent upon a land swap with the county. However, the land swap is not dependent upon a proffer offered by Brookfield Homes, nor the approval of any new development; rather, the land swap involves land proffered by Avendale, a community already undergoing development. That Avendale land was designated to be a middle school and elementary site for Prince William County Schools. The county, however, still holds possession of the parcel.

Rather than erecting a school on the 60-acres along new Vint Hill Road adjacent to the Grizzli’s field, and near Route 28, that land could be used instead for the multi-use athletic fields.

Lawson, Candland and Trenum agree that s the 69-acre Rollins Ford site is a more appropriate location for the school proposed to alleviate overcrowding at Patriot and Battlefield high schools and possibly Stonewall Jackson High School. Trenum said a new location would have to be found for the other two schools.

Lawson commented on the land swap:

When I was elected on Dec. 23, I made it a priority to start working with Mr. Trenum to identify a high school site for the 13th high school. We all know that western Prince William County continues to grow, and the need for the high school site becomes more and more crucial….I really wanted to locate a high school site that was not necessary dependent on residential proffers for new residential development, and so I’m really excited today to announce what we believe will be is going to be strong possibility..of what may be the next high school site for Prince William County’s 13th high school.

Site along Rollins Ford Road where the new high school may be built.

Site along Rollins Ford Road where the new high school may be built.

As the School Board is not in session the board has not had a chance to discuss the proposal. However, the individual members have been informed. And at the direction of the Board of County Supervisors, County Executive Melissa Peacor sent a letter to Superintendent Steven L. Walts alerting him of the proposed land swap.

The next step is for the two boards to discuss the matter together.

Trenum said he could not confirm at this time which communities would be included in the redistricting, but said the School Board would focus on alleviating overcrowding at western Prince William high schools.

Trenum thanked the supervisors for meeting with him and for “thinking differently” about school site.

“The ideas put forth in the letter represent an opportunity for public discussion. Is it not a done deal, but this is an opportunity for the School Board and the Board of County Supervisors to work together in dealing with an issue that affects our community in an open and transparent process,” he said.

Trenum said he liked the idea of the of the supervisors moving away from being overly dependent upon new residential community proffers.

Candland agreed, saying, “I think this is an exciting opportunity; one of the things that I ran on, and I know one of the things Supervisor Lawson ran on, was this idea that working with the School Board..I think this is continuing that partnership to look for additional opportunities for school sites.”

Candland said the goal is to find a great location for the school but also one that offers “the least impact to the citizens of Prince William County.”

To stay on schedule for the 2020 opening of the 13th high school, the two boards would need to act swiftly. Associate Superintendent of Finance and Support Services David Cline said the School Board would need to make a decision in the next 6-8 weeks. If they do not, the opening date would likely need to be pushed back another year.

The Rollins Ford Road site is located at the very north edge of the Rural Crescent. Under county land use policy, schools are allowed to be built within the Rural Crescent.

Trenum said the School Board usually builds high schools on 90-acres plots, but he is confident they can make the site work on a smaller plot even if changes to the school design are necessary.

Meanwhile, the plan for the six athletic fields at Rollins Ford were already placed on hold. Lawson said she did not ask for funding of the fields in the current budget cycle due to uncertainty over the Warrenton-Wheeler-Gainesville High Voltage Transmission Power Lines. Dominion Power’s preferred route was located near the proposed Rollins Ford Park. However, the State Corporation Commission did not approve that location.

The supervisors stressed that the proposed swap is an idea that at this time that has not yet made it onto the comprehensive plan; it will require the approval of the two boards. Additionally, Lawson and Candland hope to hold public informational meetings.

Lawson said she plans to be transparent and include the community in this decision. Candland and Trenum both commended her for working on the issue in an inclusive manner.

To make the swap a reality, there may be a cost the school division would have to pay to the county, but that cost has yet to be determined.

Lawson believes this option is better than relying on new development for a school site. Additionally, she said she is opposed to the Strathmore development as proposed by Brookfield Homes.

Trenum told Bristow Beat the School Board would need to find new sites for the “Vint Hill” middle school and element schools. He said he never thought the Vint Hill location was ideal for those schools anyway.

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