Joint Retreat: Exploring Opportunities for Further Collaboration
A joint retreat of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County School Board was held at the Junior Achievement Finance Park at Frost Middle School, 4099 Pickett Rd. on Saturday, Feb. 25.
You may also review the notes from each topic session and view related presentations by topic.
Facilitated by David Brazer, Associate Professor, George Mason University.
A joint presentation by Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin and Fairfax County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt addressed collaboration in planning facilities.
County Executive Griffin: One of the best examples of how staff is working together currently has to do with overpopulation at Bailey’s Elementary School, but there’s a scarcity of land available to build another elementary school in that area. The schools approached the county about the Woodrow Wilson Library, which needs renovation.
Can there be collaboration to meet all needs? Discussion is ongoing. There were concerns about collocating services that are important to the community where the children go to a particular school. The county often has a very different mission than schools, one concern is about security; if there are other uses in a school building while children are there, who has access and are the children protected?
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova: When the county is preparing their CIP (capital improvements program) and the schools are doing the same thing, how can we put the process together? We may be planning a police or fire station in an area where schools are looking for a place to put things and there may be opportunities for shared usage? How can we get the two stovepiped processes together?
Sup. Hyland: Communications. I didn’t know we had a need for an elementary school in the Richmond Highway corridor despite having had a community task force looking at that area for the past year. Could we avoid having to build a new school down there by using existing land? There’s a disconnect sometimes.
School Board Member Schultz: A presentation I’ve seen showed a shifting population and a public engagement process to get community input on how to move forward by bringing the community in; they used school facilities as community facilities.
FCPS Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt: The School Board asked staff to collaborate a few years ago. This is an area where opportunities exist. When we tried it at Graham Road we couldn’t make it work despite lots of time and effort expended. Right now, we haven’t negotiated successfully a shared facility meeting both safety/security needs and community access needs. We have a K-5 school at Bailey’s projected to have over 1,600 students over the next five years. When we saw the county library in that area was due to be renovated, we started discussing combining the library with school facilities so it would be a joint school/library facility. If we could demonstrate a success story it would launch us down the road to other opportunities.
School Board Chairman Strauss: A community group has been created to look at meeting school needs. Are there other code challenges or legal challenges that we need to address?
Sup. Gross: Planning and zoning need to look at the Bailey’s situation, is a comprehensive plan change needed? There’s only one opportunity to do it right, we don’t have a second chance.
School Board Member Evans: We have an opportunity here and I see the challenges to finally coordinate on a community school.
School Board Member McLaughlin: We don’t have to operate in a vacuum. Can staff find best practices with community schools around the country? Rather than recreate the wheel, let’s look at instances that have been successful.
Sup. Smyth: It’s the whole planning process and not just the CIP that has to be addressed. A joint planning process is needed.
Sup. Hudgins: I want to thank FCPS Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt. Can my early intent be satisfied? I think of it as community rather than land use planning. What does the comprehensive plan say about satisfying community needs while building facilities? We should avoid the barriers. How do we look across the community and see the needs and see how do we meet those needs? We meet them today but how do we better serve the families? We don’t have to have separate agendas under the statute. In a policy sense, how can we do this?
Sup. Gross: Are we nimble enough to address diversity issues?
Sup. Hudgins: In Tysons a school will be needed and we’re thinking about it in terms of structures. But we should think about how to serve the new community? Take a strategic approach. Is there a better or different process we could use?
School Board Chairman Strauss: What frustrates us all is that we don’t plan far enough out.
School Board Member Schultz: We need a collaborative 25-year plan. Anything we can do to establish a decade’s long plan is important.
School Board Member Hynes: Early childhood education is an area where interests combine. We need a preschool area, room in school buildings for parents to meet with the professionals.
School Board Member Evans: Over the 40 years I’ve been watching, I’ve watched the cycle of schools opening and closing. How can we plan in flexibility so we don’t have to repeat the cycle?
School Board Member Moon: I don’t know facility needs on the county’s side. So it is an opportunity for members of the Board of Supervisors to have briefings and input from schools.
Sup. Hudgins: Strategic planning is long term. We talk about long term needs of seniors and in health care and early childhood and after school needs, where do they fit in and what do we use to solve the problems? When we build facilities, from an economic level of building a building or serving a family, do we have flexibility? There is no “one stop shopping” for families. How can we redirect them? How can we more strategically look at this as we look forward on a green spot of land?
School Board Member Moon: Before school staff makes any recommendations, should they check in with county staff first?
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova: A process is needed to see if other needs can be served whenever a county facility is built.
- Collocating services.
- Divergent interests of the county and schools.
- Student security.
- Shared space for library and school – challenge to meet both community and school needs.
- Need a success story to serve as a model.
- Need to think community planning instead of facilities planning.
- Serve families well.
How to deliver services effectively.
- Need a strategic approach so it meets policy goals; what process would serve strategic planning across both boards?
- How do we factor in flexibility (e.g. closing and opening schools over time)?
- Need to look at Board of Supervisors and School Board CIPs together before budget time.
Joint Facilities Usage Facts Needed
- What have other communities done for collocation?
- Capital needs anticipated on both sides.
- What are the enrollment projections that drive facilities?
- Updated CIP priority list from the county.
Process for Planning Facilities
- Need an integrated planning process.
- Boards have requested joint planning in the past.
Space is at a premium.
- Example: South County – Lorton facility, land swap for middle school.
- Tried combined use at Graham Road, but didn’t work out.
- Bring in Planning Commission and other stakeholders.
- Legal concerns.
- Need to sync with comprehensive plan.
- Need to consider multiple uses for each building we build.
A joint presentation by Pat Harrison, Deputy Fairfax County Executive for Human Services and Kim Dockery, Assistant Schools Superintendent for Special Servicesaddressed human services collaboration, including the Opportunity Neighborhoods program.
Kim Dockery, Assistant Schools Superintendent for Special Services: This year we are focusing both county and schools on increasing cooperation and we meet regularly. We worked on a grant together for Promised Neighborhoods but we didn’t get the grant. But we’d done so much work we started to work on something similar and we have named it “Opportunities Neighborhoods.” Capital One is partially funding these efforts.
Using evidence-based practices that are now being followed across the United States, we have teamed up with community partners, including nonprofits, community groups, businesses and residents to work toward creating “Opportunities Neighborhoods,” where positive results occur by increasing educational and developmental outcomes for children. Neighborhoods in the Mount Vernon and Lee Districts in southern Fairfax County are the first to be targeted for this program.
Deputy County Executive for Human Services Harrison: Annandale is another area as well as Herndon/Reston area where we can also use this model.
School Board Chairman Strauss: How do we keep facilitating conversations? How do we make sure we look for every possible opportunity?
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova: How do we know what each other is doing? On the staff level we are making good progress, how do the boards know in order to make the policy decisions easier?
Sup. Hyland: If we replicate this, most of the neighborhoods and children there actually live in the Lee District and are bused out of their neighborhoods and into the Mount Vernon District for school. It is a very different situation, some schools have over 50 percent of the children bused from their neighborhoods to the schools and this won’t be the same in other neighborhoods. Need better identification of what we mean by neighborhoods when you talk about Opportunity Neighborhoods.
Sup. McKay: The parents of these kids don’t go to “back to school” nights because they don’t have cars. So some of the schools came into the neighborhoods so the parents didn’t have to leave the neighborhoods to reach the schools.
Deputy County Executive for Human Services Harrison: One outcome sought was to identify policy decisions needed.
School Board Member Velkoff: What are the limiting factors to replicating this elsewhere? Facilities? Resources?
County Executive Griffin: Not every community needs this.
Deputy County Executive for Human Services Harrison: We are in the process now of planning and seeing whether we can integrate other neighborhoods’ goals into this model.
School Board Member Kaufax: Often there are active and involved parents but they don’t have the literacy needed for success. We should talk about how to bridge and use facilities and knowledge. Is an overreaching task force between the boards needed?
School Board Member McLaughlin: Right now, we are severely understaffed in social workers in the schools. We’re not being preventative, we need to be proactive.
School Board Member Schultz: More schools, not bigger schools? Meet community needs where they are.
School Board Member Hynes: The closer that county services are to the schools, the better. The kindergarten readiness gap is very real and it is daunting. We have Head Start but it has a 700 child waiting list. The county is doing more in this area and meeting kids where they already are.
Sup. Hudgins: Measurements of risks for children like income, ethnicity and race, aren’t always the best since in every neighborhood a child can be at risk.
School Board Member Reed: How can we maximize working together whether it is tutoring or computer access, to improve service delivery to students and adults?
Human Services Facts Needed
- What level of staff is required to take the first effort of Opportunity Neighborhoods in the Mount Vernon pyramid to scale?
- What are the factors that limit going to scale?
- What are other communities doing for integrated human services?
- What are we already doing with libraries and the Health Department?
- Simpler services are being focused on now, the more complex come later. What is the timeline?
Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny addressed county/school coordination on transportation.
Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) Director Tom Biesiadny: There are many ways that FCDOT and FCPS work together including resolving a variety of traffic operations challenges around schools, particularly related to circulation issues in drop off areas.
School Board Member Evans: We have looked at schools as a transportation problem and not looked at what’s best for student academics.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova: We have a trails map that tries to include everything, including VDOT and county and school trails.
School Board Member Storck: Lots of opportunity for synergies. Biggest concern is safety and security and transportation options for students to get to schools. If students can miss first-period class with a non-traditional schedule, it destroys paradigms and we need to have a policy discussion on whether or not the students should take public transit, which could allow us to increase services to others. Can we better use the school bus system?
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova: We have invested much funding in the BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment) area.
Sup. McKay: We have a long way to go in promoting walking but it’s an area where we can continue to improve. We have to promote walking at an early age. The former public safety education about safe walking should be brought back into the curriculum. We learned it isn’t easy for police to get safety information into students’ backpacks and into the home. We need to start a normal rotation of teaching safe walking to elementary school students.
School Board Chairman Strauss: The School Board has already discussed how we can add safety back into the school curriculum. Parents no longer like children walking on nice wooded paths; more preferable is the traditional gridded sidewalk where walkers can be observed.
School Board Member Schultz: Can we try to figure out what a community school looks like? Maybe it’s not far away, if kids are walking to school how do we solve the problem of traffic flow around the school?
Transportation Actions Needed
- Investigate Fairfax Connector usage by high school students.
- Keep educational interests of students first before transportation ideas – e.g., school starting times.
- Explore the existing trails information.
- Consider how putting more high school students on county transit might increase ridership and allow for more routes that would serve seniors, too.
- Explore how we can support walking and county transit from an early age.