About 200 Manassas City residents attended a community outreach meeting Tuesday night sponsored by the Manassas City Council and the Manassas City School Board to talk about growth and what type of public facilities Manassas will need in the coming years.
The meeting, at Mayfield Intermediate School, is part of campaign to collect input on how the city and district should grow in the future. School board members were particularly interested in receiving comments on how the district should handle projected growth that will add about 500 students to the school system over the next decade.
“Citizens should be proud that the city and the school board are working together to seek their input on how the city should look in the future,” said school Board Chairman Scott Albrecht, who attended the meeting. “We recognize that we are at a crossroads and that our ability to borrow is limited. The school board recognizes that we have to prioritize.”
About midway through the evening, staffers broke the crowd down into smaller units to obtain specific feedback on where the emphasis on facility construction should be.
Lonnie and Nichole Williams, of Manassas, who have a child at Osbourn High School, said their recommendation would be a new high school. Osbourn is at capacity and won’t be able to add enough seats for an influx of 200 additional students over the next decade, school officials have said.
“It’s just too small and can’t accommodate all the students that are there now,” Nichole said. “The school needs more space and more technology, like digital white boards. We have a great staff and administration, but we need a better facility that we can promote.”
Osbourn’s facilities pale in comparison to those at newer high schools in the region, like those in Prince William County, Lonnie said. One solution offered by district consultants would be to finish the renovation of the second floor of the Joseph B. Johnson Learning Center, which is adjacent to the high school. The renovated space could house a cyber school or a thematic school, drawing students from across the district.
The high school graduation rate was another issue over which parents voiced concern. The high school showed a graduation rate of 83 percent last year, just below the state benchmark of 85 percent. However, last year’s rate is well above the 80 percent reported in the 2010-2011 school year. Because of the failing grade on graduation rates (among other things) Osbourn received state accreditation—but with a warning— which is short of full accreditation, school officials said.
“Why can’t the graduation rate be 100 percent,” said Michele Childs, a parent. “Why aren’t we able to graduate 100 percent of our students? I want to know why not. It should be something that we are doing.”
There are two more citizen engagement meetings scheduled; on Nov. 7, and on Dec. 4. Those will also be held at 6:30 p.m. at Mayfield. The city has posted on its website a proposed plan for future capital construction.