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F.C. School Board Awarded $3 Million Bond for TJ Elementary Expansion

The Falls Church City School Board’s efforts to address overcapacity in its schools at the lowest cost possible to the City taxpayer received a significant endorsement from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the Virginia Department of Education (VDE) today, as the City won a no-interest bond to right-size and expand Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Elementary School. The Virginia Department of Education awarded Falls Church City Public Schools a $3 million Qualified School Construction Bond, or QSCB.  Part of the federal economic stimulus package, QSCB provides near zero interest construction loans to local school districts across the United States.  Falls Church was one of only 33 school divisions in Virginia to secure awards in the $229 million round.

“We are thrilled by and grateful for the state’s decision.  A year from now, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will hit capacity. Our City needed the tremendous financial opportunity and assistance afforded through a QSCB to meet growing student populations, create a 21st century learning community, and eliminate trailers. The state’s announcement comes at a critical time for the City and will save our taxpayers an estimated $1.3 million,” said School Board Chairman Joan Wodiska.  “The School Board’s application represented the culmination of many years of work and countless long hours of meetings to formulate a long-term vision and solution for school facilities.   Today’s announcement will help ensure that the City of Falls Church Public Schools will have adequate school facilities capable of providing a world-class education to every student.

By winning a QSCB, the School Board will save taxpayers approximately $1.3 million in interest charges compared to a similar project funded through traditional municipal bond efforts.  FCCPS’ winning application focuses on: Right-sizing the Thomas Jefferson cafeteria so it meets the needs of the City’s growing student population; adding 12 new classrooms to the current facility; removing trailers from the current TJ site; and providing wireless Internet at TJ, while also providing free Wi-Fi to low-income students to support learning outside of the school building.

“By working together – the School Board, City Council, Planning Commission, and the Long Range Financial Advisory Group – produced a decisive victory for City residents,” Chairman Wodiska said. “The School Board’s strong leadership to secure this QSCB award demonstrates our firm commitment to be effective stewards of both our children’s education and our City’s dollars.  I am proud of our work and deeply grateful for everyone’s contribution to produce this community victory.”

Pursuit of a QSCB was the Falls Church City School Board’s top priority this fall, as the Board and FCCPS staff worked tirelessly to assemble all plans and documents necessary for the application.  As part of the process, the School Board secured the endorsement of the City Council, the Planning Commission, and the Long Range Financial Planning Work Group for its plan to add classrooms to TJ, while expanding common areas to meet a growing student population.  Since the full amount requested ($5.95 million) was not awarded, the School Board, City Council and Planning Commission will need to discuss how the QSCB award of $3 million can be supplemented to achieve a project that addresses the capacity needs at TJ Elementary.

Detailed planning for the TJ expansion project will begin immediately.  School officials expect construction to be completed for the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

The TJ plans are part of a comprehensive long-term facilities effort led by the School Board.  The full FCCPS School Board Facilities plan can be found here.  Details on Falls Church’s winning QSCB application can be found here.  Details on the recent work of the School Board Facilities Advisory Work Group, now known as LEAPFROG or Long-range Education, Architecture, Planning, Finance, Research and Outreach Group – a collaborative effort of the School Board, City Council, and Planning Commission – can be found here.