by Dan Roem, Gainesville Times

24-30 April 2013

“To hear Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland (R) discuss the potential Stone Haven development project in Bristow, officials from Prince William County are fixing something they are in the process of breaking.

“In this case, he’s referring to overcrowding in local schools.

” ‘We’re solving a little bit of a problem but we’re actually solving a problem we’re creating,’ said Candland during a conference call on April 15.

“Last month, the Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 to initiate a Comprehensive Plan amendment that allows homes, rather than just businesses, to be built at Stone Haven.

“The initiation merely begins the process – supervisors could still nix the proposal before it is finalized.

“While no offer is officially on the table to develop the 864-acre property, the prospect of more than 900 homes coming to the area means that Stonewall Jackson High School could become overcrowded unless a new high school is built in the area.

“However, a site for the 13th high school in the county may be in store at Stone Haven.

“Dave Beavers, who is the supervisor of planning and financial services for the county’s school system, said during a phone interview last week that more homes coming into western Prince William County means more potential overcrowding at local schools.

” ‘The easy answer is, we look at the projected enrollments at Patriot and Battlefield and even Stonewall Jackson and we look out in the long term and we see, even in the short term, that there’s going to be an overcrowding situation and we’re going to need seats in those areas,’ said Beavers. ‘We’re looking to a find a site that will be close to all three of those school’s attendance areas.’

“Stone Haven is located east of Patriot, south of Battlefield and west of Stonewall Jackson.

“In other words, it fits the description offered by Beavers as a potential site where a new high school could help lower future attendance numbers at other schools.

“Beavers explained that those who crunch numbers regarding the school system’s capital improvements projects are analyzing what would be the impact of more than 900 homes coming into the area where Stone Haven is located.

” ‘If a land developer is aggressively moving into that area, that could affect our enrollment timing-wise when we see additional students,’ said Beavers.

“According to a document authored by county officials revised on Nov. 16, 2012, the school staff has ‘discussed with the Hunter Trust, owners of the Stone Haven property, the potential inclusion of a high school site within the Stone Have property. This would be provided (Prince William County schools) as a proffer that would be a part of some undetermined rezoning for the property.’

“Additionally, staffers of the school system ‘have identified at least one other potential site that could be purchased outside of any rezoning case,’ the report states.

” ‘High schools generally require approximately 80 acres to accommodate all the needs of the school and associated fields and other uses. The purchase of 80 acres would likely cost the school division several million dollars.’

“Currently, Stonewall Jackson High is still under capacity, though just by a hair.

“When the 2011-2012 school year ended last June, Stonewall tallied 2,259 enrolled students, according to figures provided by the county school system.

“With a capacity for 2,409 students, that meant Stonewall last year operated at just under 93.8 percent capacity.

“Future school projection figures released by the county Planning Office show that by the 2016-2017 school year, Stonewall Jackson will have 2,581 students, which is above its capacity of 2,409.

“The 13th high school is not due to open until September 2019.

“That is three years after the 12th high school, located south of Hoadly Road in Woodbridge along Route 234, opens in 2016.

“By the 2021-2022 school year, county planners project 3,247 students (134.8 percent capacity) would attend Stonewall Jackson if no other school is there to alleviate its projected student growth.

“Meanwhile, Piney Branch Elementary School (152.3 percent) and Gainesville Middle School (150.7 percent) would be well over capacity by then too.

“When Patriot High School in Nokesville opened in September of 2011, some Stonewall Jackson students transferred there.

“Even though Candland voted against the Stone Haven change to the Comprehensive Plan because the project is ‘too large,’ he said last week that he is hopeful the area ‘would be the site of the new western end high school, which obviously would significantly relieve the pressure.’

“His aide Reece Collins wrote in a follow-up e-mail, ‘Supervisor Candland is hoping that there is a component in the Stone Haven project that addresses school overcrowding issues.  That could include property for a 13th high school or other mitigation measures.’ “