Before finally adjourning at 12:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Fairfax Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone its final vote on whether or not to approve the Falls Church City Schools’ petition for the expansion and renovation of its 7.3-acre Mt. Daniel Elementary School until next Thursday, July 28. The vote, in response to the motion by Dranesville (where the school is located) commissioner John Uhfelder, came following two hours of pro and con testimony before the commission.
Falls Church Mayor David Tarter led the delegation of City of Falls Church petitioners who spoke in favor of approving the expansion, in accord with the recommendation of the county staff, that included School Board chair Justin Castillo and Mt. Daniel principal Erin Kelly, Mt. Daniel teacher Ann Beckman and a contingent of parents of Mt. Daniel students. In the audience at the Fairfax County Government Center supporting the Mt. Daniel petition were Falls Church School Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones, School Board vice chair John Lawrence, School Board members Michael Ankuma, Erin Gill and Lawrence Webb, City Manager Wyatt Shields and City Council member Letty Hardi.
A key turning point seemed to occur when City of Falls Church parent and Planning Commissioner Andy Rankin engaged comments by Fairfax Planning Commissioner Earl Flanagan. Flanagan confronted Rankin on the idea that, given Mt. Daniel is located in Fairfax County, that county residents are being asked to sacrifice for the Falls Church school. Rankin said it is about the students, and all the students, in or out of the country, “are citizens of Virginia.”
Castillo reinforced that by stressing the nature of public education, that it is a mandate of all jurisdictions, and asking that the planners treat the Mt. Daniel petition the same as if it were for a Fairfax County school.