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November 28, 2018

Schools project slightly more students in decade

Photo/Fauquier County Public Schools
C. Hunter Ritchie Elementary School will exceed 95 percent capacity by 2022-23, according to the report.
Before we have a serious conversation about elementary redistricting, a decision needs to be made about middle schools.
— Superintendent David Jeck
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Fauquier public school enrollment will increase slightly over the next decade, according to the latest projections. 

The number of students in Fauquier’s 19 schools will increase 5 percent by 2028, Prashant Shrestha, assistant superintendent for business and planning, told school board members recently.

Mr. Shrestha’s annual report projects total enrollment of 11,722 in a decade — an increase of 569 from this semester.

> Report embedded below

Each year, Mr. Shrestha analyzes births, home construction, demographics, migration and other factors to update the enrollment projections to help administrators and the school board plan.

“The reality is we are facing changes in our environment in elementary schools,” Mr. Shrestha said. “If you look at birth rates . . . in 2020, 2021, 2022, there is a spike in births coming our way.”

Two elementary schools — Greenville and C. Hunter Richie, both near New Baltimore — will continue to grow and will exceed 95 percent capacity by 2022-23, the report indicates.

Grace Miller Elementary in Bealeton will exceed 95 percent capacity a year later.

Even with the increased enrollment, by 2028 Fauquier’s elementary schools would have the capacity for another 1,159 students.

“It’s fair to say we are facing redistricting . . . at Miller, Pierce, Greenville and Ritchie; it’s eminent,” Mr. Shrestha said. “That conversation likely will start sooner rather than later.”

Operating at 101 percent capacity this year, M.M. Pierce Elementary in Remington has the least available space of any county school. But, over the next decade, enrollment there should decrease, according to the report.

“Overall, however, elementary school capacity is not expected to exceed total program capacity during the 10-year period,” Mr. Shrestha wrote in the report.

Middle and high school enrollment also will increase slightly increase over the next decade.

But, Mr. Shrestha wrote: “None of the middle schools are projected to exceed their program capacity” and high schools “reflect sufficient capacity . . . for the projection period.”

“It is possible that changes in economic growth and other social factors may cause a shift in the enrollment trend; however, insufficient data is currently available to make such determinations,” he wrote. “The current approved subdivisions in the county have the potential to increase enrollment.”

But, Fauquier’s population continues to age rapidly, as the county Comprehensive Plan notes:

“The aging of the Baby Boomers, coupled with a decline in the fertility rate, is leading Fauquier County into unchartered territory. By 2025, for the first time in the County’s history, the population aged 65 and over will outnumber the school aged population. This shift in age distribution is likely to have effects on the County’s economy, housing, community facilities, and the built environment in general as more funds will be required to meet the needs of the booming older population.”

This fall, Fauquier’s 19 public schools have 49 more students than a year ago.

“Before we have a serious conversation about elementary redistricting, a decision needs to be made about middle schools,” Superintendent David Jeck said.

Board member Brian Gorg (Center District) suggested double-checking the accuracy of past 10-year enrollment projections.

“The model isn’t always predictable,” Mr. Gorg said. “At some point we have to maintain the community of schools as they are, at capacity, or we have to redistrict.”

Fauquier’s schools operate at 81.2 percent of capacity this fall, according to the report.

Contact Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-878-6007.

10 year enrollment projects for Fauquier County Public Schools by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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