Dulles South Alliance - Loudoun County Schools, Transportation 2013 Update
Dulles South Alliance - Loudoun Growth, Transportation, Education
Today's Dulles South Alliance meeting was overstuffed with information concerning the Loudoun County Dulles South area and vicinities, focused on education and transporation topics for 2013. The central theme revolved around very significant, ongoing growth in population and the local jobs base, with enormous resultant and guaranteed pressures on Loudoun budgets for schools and road projects.
After welcoming remarks by Scott Plein (DSA President), Dr. Julie Leidig (NVCC Provost) opened the session with an overview of NOVA (Northern Virginia Community College), including news on planning for further expansion into Loudoun County. NOVA is the largest source of college education in the DC area, with over 78,000 enrollments annually, representing students from over 150 nationalities. In helping to close the gap between regional workforce and education needs, particularly in the healthcare support and IT industries, a second Loudoun campus is being strategized for the Brambleton area.
In other news, the "SySTEMic Solutions" program may offer a summer robotics camp in Loudoun this year, as well as at its Prince William campuses. Through SySTEMic Solutions, NOVA has created a collaborative arrangement among school divisions, higher education institutions, and employers to develop a sustainable workforce that by the year 2015 will have more than 3,000 students preparing for STEM careers.
Loudoun Supervisor Janet Clarke (Blue Ridge District) provided an overview of growth and density issues for that District, which extends East to the Dulles Airport through including Brambleton and Kirkpatrick Farms areas of the general Dulles region. The primary message was that of continued growth and pressure on County budgets, particularly for transportation and schools. The Dulles Landing project (Arcola and Rt. 50), coming online by the end of this year, is an example of critical retail outlets needed by the Dulles area population, along the Hal and Berni Hanson Regional Park (in planning stages only, with initial funding expected in the upcoming 2014 budget). This 254 acre park straddling Evergreen Mills Rd in the Arcola area would include disabled-access playgrounds, many soccer and baseball fields, and other significant parkland amenities. Additionally, the agreement between Loudoun and Fairfax City, owner of the Beaver Creek Reservoir in Loudoun, has now expired (evidently to the detriment of a nascent high school Crew club), and discussions are ahead to revitalize.
Jeff Morse, Dulles District School Board Member, provided an update on all local school building and capital improvement planning, including new schools coming online to relieve current overcrowding at Pinebrook and Liberty Elementary Schools, and projected overcrowding at the corresponding Middle and High Schools. Much dialogue remains by the School Board, to close the $50M+ gap between the School Supervisor's (Dr. Hatrick) recommended 2014 budget and guidance provided by the Board of Supervisors. Some relief may come in rebalancing and allocations associated with post-employment benefits and healthcare costs. New turf fields for many schools have specific cost-benefit gains, particularly if efforts to provide public/private funding succeed (with local Sports Booster organizations). The sole Charter School application received last year was rejected for weaknesses in academic, financial and governance models - though, according to Jeff, was a very good idea at its core and worthwhile to continue pursuing.
Other opportunities to enrich the quality and content of Loudoun academics include dual enrollment in high schools with NOVA, plus a strategy for a new Loudoun magnet school on a Sycolin Rd property, focused possibly on the Arts and additional STEM offerings as currently available at the Monroe Technology Center (a Virginia Governor's Career and Technology Academy). The School Board is also supporting about 60 local business-to-school relationships, where businesses support a school through donations in employee service, supplies or program assistance - including support for Lego League teams, plus academic contests and programs like that offered by the Oracle ThinkQuest Education Foundation and other companies. Note also that the Loudoun Department of Economic Development (DED) will shortly introduce a new "Intern Match" service, to attract Interns from Loudoun, the DC region and the rest of the country to positions with Loudoun-based businesses.
Bob Chase (President of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance) provided some stark reminders and strong advocacy (as the Virginia General Assembly begins its session tomorrow) for additional, regional and local investment in road infrastructure - absolutely critical to support the needs of our region and county, and imperative given the projected loss of state roads construction funds after 2018. "Investment" will likely include new local taxes, tolls and considerable participation and collaboration on the part of local political organizations and landowners to avoid significant gridlock and loss of business in the very near future.
Charles Yudd (Assistant County Administrator) provided further updates on local transportation progress, including progress on the Rt. 606 widening around the Airport and over the Horsepen Run Dam, Rt. 50 and the parallel, east-west collector roads. Scott Plein closed the meeting with an introduction to the next meeting in March, discussing the pending explosion in healthcare-related business and infrastructure requirements soon to come, driven mainly by the HCA Hospital and Emergency Center (HCA Virginia's StoneSpring Medical Campus) being now built on Rt. 50.