Each week, the Lasso Editorial Board will comment on an issue that is relevant to the students at George Mason High School. We strive to present a student-oriented opinion about topics big and small that matter to all of Mustang Nation.
One thing was clear after the first week of school: FCCPS is overcrowded and there are no clear plans for how to fix it.
At George Mason, it now takes me a full passing period of speedwalking and elbowing my way through the hoard of underclassmen to get from class to class, when last year it took me maybe 2-3 minutes to pull of the same commute.
Every day, dozens of students spend 40 minutes after the last bell waiting for their buses to arrive, and for some, another 20 until they arrive at their stop, totalling a full hour after school had ended before they arrived home.
These problems are only a few of consequences that are a result of a steady increase in student enrollment and a refusal of FCCPS to evolve its facilities to deal with that increase. Enrollment at GMHS has increased by nearly 20% in the past ten years. The increase is even greater — 37% — across the district.
At Mason, the enrollment impact is severe. Many classrooms are filled to the brim, often with 20-30 students. For a school district that preaches small class sizes, they are becoming harder to find. The hallways are packed with students and students in the cafeteria are finding it difficult to find chairs.
At the current rate of growth, there is not enough space to accommodate all the students in FCCPS.
It appears that Mason continues to downsize. The infamous six trailers have been removed (or, at least their inhabitants have been removed; the trailers themselves remain as an eyesore visible from the street). Those teachers and students have been moved inside the main GM building, mostly in smaller TLC classrooms, which only exacerbates the crowding of the hallways.
Relief is not around the corner. A new high school is still years away from being built, according to GM principal Mr. Matthew Hills. And at Mt. Daniel Elementary, expansion plans have gone nowhere.
FCCPS enrollment data projects that by the 2020-2021 school year, there will be 840 students at Mason. That’s another 59 students milling around the hallways, filling up classrooms, and riding the already sparse bus system. Two years after that, another 100 or so students will join Mason.
Will we even have a new building by then? As optimists, we would like to believe so, but the lack of proactivity by the school board and city council on this matter leads us to believe otherwise.
Plans to start construction on the new building were discussed this time last fall, including proposals for mixed use property, but all have since been discarded and no further progress appears to have been made.
A year later, we are no closer to a new building; all the while, new students continue to enroll at FCCPS.
It is concerning to us that enrollment is rapidly increasing yet Falls Church’s leadership lacks a plan for how to accommodate the growth and still maintain the quality of education FCCPS promotes.