Students in Loudoun County's public school system are settling in to the first week of the school year. While many are getting used to new surroundings, new teachers, and new courses, one thing is exactly the same as last year: overcrowded classrooms.
The county's population has been exploding for the past few decades, meaning that the Loudoun County public school district is growing faster than any other school district in Virginia.
For the past decade Loudoun has added 3,000 new students each year.
Wayde Byard, the public information officer for the district, said the growth has required a lot of construction.
"We've built 29 schools in the last decade -- which, considering that the average American school system is seven schools, is really pretty phenomenal," Byard says.
Even so, the district is struggling to keep up. Officials wanted to build 10 new buildings in the past four years, but only three were approved. School district leaders are hoping for better results this fall, when $170 million in county bonds are up for voter approval. The money would fund four new schools and renovation of another.
In the meantime, Freedom High School is busing half of its freshman class to a nearby middle school that has more space.
And Briar Woods High School principal Ed Starzenski is coping with an auditorium that is no longer big enough to hold all his students.
"When we do have assembly programs and we decide to have it there, we have to have two, and split it up somehow, because we can't fit all of the kids in the auditorium," he said. "This year we're not sure we're going to be able to fit all the kids in the main gym either."
He'll find out next week, when Briar Woods is scheduled to hold its first pep rally.
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