Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpFairfax County schools kicked off a new school year on Tuesday. Drivers are reminded to observe lowered speed limits in school zones, and never, ever, pass a stopped school bus with flashing red lights. Speeders and scofflaws in our school zones will be ticketed. Drivers should also be aware of children walking to school, or waiting for the school bus in their neighborhoods, and s-l-o-o-w down!

Tuesday also was the first day for the Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, the first vertical design school in the Fairfax County Public School system. The new school, at 6245 Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners, was converted from a 1980’s style vacant office building into a modern, light-filled, multi-level school in less than nine months, a remarkable achievement. The building looks the same on the outside, but the interior was completely redesigned and renovated for a capacity of nearly 800 third, fourth, and fifth graders. The original Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences on Knollwood Drive will house kindergarten, first, and second grade students. Both campuses will be overseen by current Bailey’s principal, Marie Lemmon. The magnet program and the Spanish immersion program will continue at both locations.

I was familiar with the former office building, but a tour of the new school revealed very little of the old, with the exception, perhaps, of the elevator lobby and its floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views of Seven Corners all the way to National Airport. The main entrance to the new school is from the rear parking lot, with a glassed-in vestibule that provides a transition on rainy days and keeps the interior lobby climate-controlled. A large interactive touch screen welcomes visitors, with information about both campuses. Students access their classroom levels via widened stairways. The third grade level color scheme has orange highlights; fourth and fifth grades have yellow and lime green. Curvy white tables for four or six fit together for larger work surfaces, and a variety of seats – including some “rocker” stools that accommodate bouncy kids – add pops of color. A special paint allows teachers and students to write on some walls, with washable markers, of course! The 200-seat full service cafeteria overlooks lushly treed neighborhoods to the northwest, and the library above has a similar view.

Physical Education is offered in four dedicated rooms, and plans for an outdoor playground and other outdoor amenities will be the subject of a Proffer Condition Amendment, anticipated to begin this fall, since the approval of the office use years ago mandated no changes to the outside of the structure. For now, the school will designate a portion of the large parking lot for outside play. Bailey’s Upper Elementary resolves a critical overcrowding issue at Bailey’s, and 19 trailers at the original campus will be removed. Total cost for the building and construction, funded by the 2013 School Bond Referendum approved by voters, is $19,990,000, including a purchase price of $9,370,000. Welcome to our newest school in Mason District!


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.