Correction: Newsletter from School Board Member Karen Corbett Sanders

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Contact Karen:

Karen Corbett Sanders

Phone: 571-423-1086


Annie Meier
Executive Admin Assistant

As a lifelong resident of the community and an alumnus of the Fairfax County Public School System, it is an honor to represent Mount Vernon on the School Board.  I am committed to working with the students, families and educators in this community to ensure that each of our schools is a center of academic excellence.  I believe that together with the other county officials, we can ensure that Mount Vernon is a great place to live, work and educate our children.


There are lots of great things happening in our schools and I will be using a bi-weekly newsletter to keep the community up to date. Since taking office on January 1, there have been a number of School Board and School System actions that impact Mt. Vernon Schools.  These include:


The Budget

On February 4, the School Board adopted the FY 2017 Advertised Budget of $2.67 billion.  The budget represents an increase of 4.8 percent, or $121.4 million, from the FY 2016 Approved Budget.  The FY 2017 budget reflects the values that Fairfax County citizens place on ensuring we have strong schools with world class educators.  It includes a salary increase (step and one percent market scale adjustment) for all employees, an additional $40 million to enhance teacher salaries and make them more competitive, and funding to decrease class size in elementary schools.  I voted in support of this budget because I believe we need to begin to restore our investment in our schools.  Since 2008, our State and Federal policy makers have shifted the responsibility for funding our schools dramatically to the local level.  The State of Virginia places 10th for economics in the country and 41st for funding schools.  Shortfalls in the Federal budget include underfunding of Impact Aid and IDEA.   Further compounding the issue is the fact that the County is limited in the ways that it can raise funds.


On February 16, the County Executive presented his proposed budget.  Mr. Long’s recommendation includes a 3% increase in funding for our schools.  He proposes to increase funding for all other county services by close to 5%.  Based on the County Executive’s recommendation there would be a shortfall of $68 million.  The School Board and Board of Supervisors will be working over the next couple of months to address the shortfall.  If the budget gap is not narrowed significantly, FCPS will be forced to make some very painful decisions about the programs we will be able to offer.  It is essential that citizens weigh in with policy makers to ensure our funding partners at the local, state and federal level know how important it is to fully fund our schools.  The Board of Supervisors will be setting the ceiling for the property tax rate on March 1, 2016.  The County Executive has recommended a 4% increase which would allow for up to $23 million more to be allocated to the budget.


Adoption of the 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)

This year’s CIP reflects the community engagement process which took place in the Mt. Vernon and Lee districts in the spring of 2015. The FY 2017-21 CIP includes new schools, capacity enhancements, and renovations reflecting a five-year requirement of $777 million, or roughly $155 million per year, for new schools and additions, capacity enhancements, and renovations to address current and anticipated enrollment increases. The FY 2017-21 CIP reflects $310 million approved by county voters in the 2015 School Bond Referendum.  Among the funded projects which will impact students in the Mt. Vernon Magisterial District are a new elementary school in the Route 1 area to alleviate crowding in the Groveton-Hybla Valley area of the county, an expansion and renovation to Fort Belvoir, Bucknell, Belle View, Hollin Meadows, Mount Vernon Woods, Newington Forest, Stratford Landing and Woodlawn Elementary Schools and West Springfield High School.


Funding for capital improvement projects is currently limited by a $155 million yearly cap on school bond sales. Additional funding sources include $13.1 from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for infrastructure management, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense that will fund 80 percent of the cost of upgrades to the existing Fort Belvoir Elementary School and a construction of a new school on an adjacent site.


Details about the FY 2017-21 CIP are available online.


The Calendar

Since the beginning of the year, FCPS has cancelled school 8 days due to inclement weather.  Because of the number of snow days, the School System qualifies to allow  the  first day of school to be scheduled prior to labor day.  Although FCPS qualifies beginning in August 2016, the School Board took the decision not to implement a change this year.  This spring we will commence a public engagement process to determine whether we should undertake a pre-labor day start for the 2017-18 school year.


On February 18th, the School Board, after careful consideration of a request by the State Board of Elections via the County Board of Elections, decided to close school for teachers and students on primary day, March 1. The decision was based on a number of circumstances that had changed since the previous Board decision in October 2015 to delay opening schools on primary day by two hours.   These include higher than expected turnout for the election, which could exceed the turnout of a general election when schools are closed and the need to facilitate ingress and egress from the 167 schools (the majority of them elementary schools) in which polling takes place. The new locations would result in a less controllable environment for managing traffic within the buildings and externally and limited access to common areas such as cafeterias, gyms and libraries for students.  The loss of a day will not impact the end of the year calendar because of the built in inclement weather days in the FCPS calendar. SACC services will be provided on March 1.  Staff is working to make sure that evening concerts scheduled for March 1 can also proceed.


Opening an Office in the Mount Vernon Supervisors Office

Mount Vernon’s two elected officials are committed to working closely together.  I have had the pleasure of working with Supervisor Storck while he held the Mt. Vernon Seat on the School Board.  Supervisor Storck is in the process of renovating the Supervisor’s office.  When it is completed, I will have an office there and will be holding regular office hours.  In advance of the office opening, I am meeting with individual PTAs and am available at the Mount Vernon Council of Civic Associations Education Meeting and the South County Federation meetings every month.  I can also be reached by phone or email to set up an appointment.