Trailers Coming to Weems, Haydon Schools
Trailers are being added at local elementary schools to accommodate significant student growth year over year, especially at the elementary level.
The City Council held a public hearing Monday evening regarding a special use permit requested by Manassas City Public Schools to add modular classrooms (trailers) at both Haydon and Weems elementary schools—a move some think could have been avoided.
The city held a ceremony about six years ago when the last trailer was removed from the last school after having additions built to the two elementary schools, and building a new middle school (Mayfield).
So some are wondering why the school system is putting children back in trailers, and point to poor planning or the lack of a long-range plan.
According to the applicant for the permit, Director of Support Services for MCPS Dave Schauer, from about 2004 to 2008 the school system experienced a decrease in student population, which allowed them to get rid of all the trailers.
But for the last few years the school system has seen a steady growth in population by nearly 200 additional students per year and that growth is expected to continue.
As a result, Haydon will get two trailers for the upcoming school year and possibly two more for the future. Weems already has three trailers on site that are not being used as classrooms and will get two more this year.
"None of us want to go down this road, Schauer said. "We realize that hopefully it's a short-term solution."
"It's not just Manassas," Schauer said. "At one time Fairfax County Schools had 1,143 modular classrooms. They had 40 schools that had 10 or more on site. At one time they had one school that had 40 units and Prince William County Schools had 186 of these units."
"The bottom line is we've got more students coming into our school system and we don't have the classroom space to teach them, thus we do need the trailers," Councilwoman Sheryl Bass said."I know the school board and school district is looking at it as a temporary fix and we need to move sooner than later on long-term facilities."
Manassas Resident Dan Brown who spoke at the public hearing Monday said he is disappointed the city and planning commission did not work together on their goal to "develop a solution to the space and needs of the city's schools so that module units are removed and not used it the future."
He cited safety and sanitary reasons for not wanting to see young kids placed in a trailer.
"You are putting these kids in trailers that may be my son—I don't appreciate that," he said. "I proposed to the planning commission that they consider temporarily breaking down the library (at Haydon) and using part of the library as classroom space. I don't know what would prevent the school system from doing that."
School Board Vice Chair Art Bushnell said using the library or another part of the school for classroom space would negatively impact the education of "a bunch" of other students.
A teacher from Weems also spoke at the public hearing saying that she has taught in a trailer before and noticed no real difference except for when it is raining or cold outside and the students have to go back and forth to the main building.
Bushnell said the school board has hired a firm to do an updated facilities plan to look at capacities of all the schools and updated projections for student population in the future and make recommendations as far as new schools additions, among other things.
He said he believes the current student population numbers could be one third to one half of what they actually are. He said kindergarten and first grade classes are astoundingly larger than previous years.
The idea is for the school board and city council to get together once they have the facility study and make some long-term plans, Schauer said. He said the state of the economy over the last several years hindered the school board and the city's ability to go forward with many long-term goals, including possibly building a new school or adding on to existing buildings.
"The economy is a big factor and in some ways it still is but something has to give," Schauer said. "Because the students will be here in September."