FCPS Proposed Six-Year Capital Improvement Plan

Climate change, gerrymandering, and inequitable funding discussed.

The newly elected Fairfax County School Board heard public testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2025-29 Capital Improvement Program Thursday evening, Jan. 18. Ryan L. McElveen, school board member at-large, and Robyn A. Lady, Dranesville District representative, served as meeting managers. McElveen said if anyone wishes to provide additional feedback to the board before they vote on the CIP, which is scheduled for Feb. 8, to do so by sending comments to communityparticipation@fcps.edu

The school board heard from eight of the ten registered speakers, each having two minutes.

Samad Quraishi, a member of the 2025 class at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, testified as a student representative of the Voters Initiative. Quraishi urged the board to prioritize sustainability and infrastructure renovations in the CIP and continue collaboration with students. "Climate change cannot be underscored enough, and as the impact on the next generation of students grows, it's imperative that FCPS fund programs like this one."

Robin Olsen, team lead of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, acknowledged that the CIP for FY 2025-29 includes the central components that are making progress on the Joint Environmental Task Force, or "JET," such as energy-saving performance contracting, the expansion of Get2Green, an FCPS environmental stewardship program, and the launch of an electric school bus fleet. Olsen pressed the school board for a more coordinated plan among the various school system elements to meet the JET mandates outlined in the CIP. “Budget targets for carbon reduction are substantial and require a change in the way FCPS does business,” Olsen said.

Robert "Bob" Jordan spoke for the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. Jordan emphasized to school board members the importance of addressing funding limitations for energy efficiency upgrades to meet climate goals. He said the CIP only applies to new school construction and renovations, greatly limiting progress toward meeting energy mandates.

For instance, “many electrical energy and management goals for HVAC systems in FCPS are past their useful lives. … They can and should be replaced with much more energy-efficient systems. These upgrades will generate substantial savings in energy costs,” Jordan said.

Jordan proposed several funding solutions to meet the energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates by 2040. They include "aggressive use of the Inflation Reduction Act Tax Credits, rebates of up to 40 percent of the eligible cost for global energy projects, and contracts with energy efficiency companies that can receive substantial tax deductions and pass the savings on to FCPS." He proposed that FACS meet with school board members to discuss this in greater detail.

Melissa Morrison, a parent with a student at Herndon Middle School and a PTA board member, spoke out about gerrymandering, overcrowding, and inequitable funding in the county schools. She said affluent homeowners and developers requested students be bused to Cooper Middle School and Langley High School rather than attend Herndon Middle School. Cooper and Langley are in McLean. According to Morrison, the result is lopsided demographics at Herndon Middle School, with economically disadvantaged students accounting for 55 percent and English learners accounting for 32 percent. “Thirty-six percent and 62 percent, respectively, above the next closest middle school." Morrison testified that the boundaries have not been redrawn “in over two to three decades.”

Morrison questioned why Armstrong Elementary School in Reston should receive a $40 million renovation when it is projected to be at 44 percent capacity and meet or exceed its academic metrics. 

"It's a case of the haves and have-nots in the CIP, and boundary lines are where FCPS needs to start treating all schools more equitably.”

David Conover, representing the Great Falls Citizen Association, said that the county is responsible for providing a proposed CIP in a more timely manner in the future. Conover requested “more transparency in the development of the renovation queue to gain a better understanding of how facilities are selected for renovation and the range and relative importance of the criteria driving those renovation decisions.”

According to Jo Doumbia, vice chair of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, the CIP needs to specify what schools identified in the report will undergo either modifications of buildings or renovations. They should specifically indicate energy efficiency and all clean energy standards.

Patty Karchner said she is the parent of a twice-exceptional student. Twice-exceptional students are intellectually gifted individuals who have learning disabilities. Some may be over sensitive to stimuli. She discussed the importance of supporting sensory-friendly design in county schools at all levels during construction and renovation. According to Karchner, FCPS currently needs a consistent method of providing alternative environments to the cafeteria.

“The cafeteria, holy moly … Have you been in the cafeteria recently? It is loud — the noises. There are smells, there are commotions, and it should be a fun break for students, but it is overwhelming for some of our students.” 

Karchner said there are county schools with students eating in libraries. “There are kids eating in the hallways, outdoor courtyards, and classrooms if they can find a teacher who will let them in the classroom or in the main office. … We need a plan to sort this out.”

What is Fairfax County Public Schools Capital Improvement Program (CIP)? In her “Superintendent’s Weekly Reflections,” dated Jan. 22, 2024, by Dr. Michell Reid, she said that on Thursday evening at Luther Jackson Middle School, there was a public hearing for the Capital Improvement Plan. “Funded through taxpayer-approved bond referendums, the CIP is how we strategically build and renovate facilities across our 199 schools and centers. Through this work, our students can learn and grow in safe, healthy, up-to-date buildings.”

Visit FCPS Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to learn more.

Michelle Reid, Ed.D., superintendent Fairfax County Public Schools visits with students.