WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

School Enrollment Up In Virginia, Straining Resources

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School resources in Virginia are strained to their limit, with more students and limited budgets.
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School resources in Virginia are strained to their limit, with more students and limited budgets.

School enrollment in Virginia is spiking, even as budgets are on hold or even in decline in many places. That could make for a difficult school year ahead.

Concerned parents and school officials are nervously awaiting the first day of school this year, because enrollment projections are through the roof. In the last four years, some local elementary schools have seen a 200 percent increase in the number of students.

"You can do a few more trailers. You can't raise class sizes too much more; I mean, we're already done quite a bit of that," says Virginia Board of Education member Rob Krupicka. "You know, there are limits to how much you can raise class size before you start diminishing the quality of education."

In Arlington, class sizes have been increased again this year, and school officials have added dozens of portable classrooms in recent years. County Board member Libby Garvey says that's a long-term trend she's witnessed during her years on the School Board, replacing traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms with a sea of trailers.

"They do use up green space. They're not wonderful," says Garvey. "But they're a good short-term fix and I think the kids do well. So it s a challenge but it s certainly one that we've been dealing with for some time.

In Alexandria, Superintendent Morton Sherman has already received funding for three new elementary schools. And he's asking city leaders for another $90 million to fund two additional new schools — that's five new elementary schools in Alexandria alone.

"I will be talking very publicly about the need for another elementary school on the east side near Potomac Yard and on the west side near the Landmark area," says Herman.

As the first day of school approaches, school divisions continue to adjust enrollment projections upward, an indication that the coming school year may be end up with the largest enrollment numbers ever.

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