Floor plan

School board, supervisors talk about subway planning, school capacity

Loudoun County supervisors and school board members are considering a style of urban development that is still new to Loudoun and how to educate students in these areas.

Members of the Joint Board of Supervisors and School Board Committee received an update on Monday on county plans for areas of urban development, particularly around future subway access. Unlike other developments, zoning there will require minimum floor area ratios, the ratio of floor area to plot size. In other planning areas, this number is a ceiling rather than a minimum.

But in the new urban transportation hub location type created in the county’s 2019 comprehensive plan, it is hoped that developments will have minimum floor area ratios of 1.4 to 2, in other words, up to to twice as much square footage as there is property, something achievable only with multi-story buildings. It also leads to densely populated multi-family residential development, such as apartments.

And that means the county government will have to find the funding to educate them.

A location type representation of the urban transport hub at a floor area ratio of 2.0, permitted within 400 meters of metro stations.

The school system also worked to develop new measures to determine the number of schools needed based on the number of families in these areas likely to have school-aged children, and how to design these schools in the new vertical environment. Each year, the school system reviews how many students it has and from where, helping them calibrate how many students each type of housing can bring into the system. This may have several factors, said director of planning services Beverly Tate.

“Many of our newer townhouses are comparable in size to some of our older single-family homes, especially in East Loudoun,” she said.

Some sites for the future urban area have already been selected – the county has secured two elementary school sites in the urban policy area around Ashburn and Loudoun Gateway tube stations through development tender agreements, and another near Innovation Station metro stop. This stop is just across the county line in Fairfax, but urban development around it is expected to extend into Loudoun.

County staff members reported that already near Loudoun metro stations there are 13,743 approved residential units, of which 9,578 have yet to be built.

As these requests come in, they are referred to county agencies, including the school system. Typically, they reported, an elementary school class can accommodate 23 students, a middle school class has 19 students, and a high school class has a capacity of 21 students. Special education classrooms are much more resource intensive, capable of accommodating 9 or 10 students each.

And among residential units that have already been approved but are still under construction, across Loudoun, the school system estimates another 4,330 elementary students, 2,416 middle school students and 3,320 high school students. This equates to 4.5 primary schools, 1.7 middle schools and 1.6 high schools. More than half of this is in the Dulles North and Dulles South planning districts of the school system, encompassing east Loudoun south of the Dulles Greenway, through which the subway tracks pass.