by Jill Palermo

InsideNova, 13 April 2014

“Faced with overcrowding and large class sizes, the Prince William County School Board is doing what it can to discourage new housing developments where classroom space is tight.

“For the second time in recent months, the school board voted earlier this month to register its disapproval of pending rezoning application that would add more new homes in an area where schools are overcapacity.

“This time, the rezoning request involves a development called ‘Cayden Ridge’ that would add as many as 191 homes to a 58-acre area near Signal Hill Road and Liberia Avenue. The area is zoned for Signal Hill Elementary, Parkside Middle and Osbourn Park High schools.

“Two of those schools – Parkside and Osbourn – are already overcrowded. According to school records, Parkside is at 108 percent capacity, while OPHS is at 113 percent.

“School board members also noted that the amount of ‘proffer’ money the county requests from developers remains far below what developers pay in surrounding counties – despite their repeated requests that supervisors reconsider the proffer policy.

“In Loudoun County, for example, developers are asked to pay more than $34,000 to schools for each house they sell. In Prince William County, the amount is $14,462.

“As a result, the school board members said, they simply cannot give their blessing to a development that would put more children in already crowded classrooms.

“School Board member Lillian Jessie (Occoquan) said she hoped the move would bring attention to the fact that new housing developments are at least partly to blame for school overcrowding and large class sizes.

” ‘The school class-size issue is a major issue,’ Jessie said. ‘We need to add additional schools and we need to stop building homes when we don’t have the school space to [accommodate] them.’

“Board Chairman Milt Johns (At-Large) noted that supervisors have pledged to study the proffer issue, something the school board asked of them a year ago, but have yet to make any changes. Prince William County’s proffers were last updated in 2006.

” ‘When you add continuous year over year growth and lagging proffers there are consequences in school overcrowding and classroom size,’ Johns said.

“Although the school board cannot block the rezoning – only the Prince William County Board of Supervisors can – the school division is consulted about the impact a rezoning would have on public schools.

“The rezoning application for Cayden Ridge seeks to reclassify about 58 acres from agricultural to ‘planned mixed residential.’ The application has yet to receive a hearing date before the Prince William County Planning Commission.

“As is the case with all rezoning applications, the final decision on Cayden Ridge rests with the board of supervisors.”

20 May 2013 PW School Board resolution urges PW Board of County Supervisors “to re-evaluate monetary proffer guidelines” and raise them to Loudoun County levels.   Click here for School Board Resolution.