Monday, September 25, 2006

high schools and The Sprawl

blake high school aerial
Loudoun County, Virginia - or The Sprawl, as I like to call it - is a magical place. It is the wealthiest county in the country, a land of manicured new towns and discreet poverty. They're even shooting for their own World Trade Center, which should put Montgomery County to shame.

But when land in Loudoun is so heavily contested - either for development or preservation - why do they demand so much for their schools? According to the Post, which today profiles the guy who goes trolling the county for potential school sites, Loudoun County designs high schools for sites of 75 acres or more. That's nothing short of ridiculous, even in The Sprawl.

The School Building Association standard for school sites is 10, 20 and 30 acres for elementary, middle and high schools, respectively. Despite a few exceptions, such as my alma mater Blake High School (pictured), which sits on 90 acres, Montgomery County schools are on fairly small sites. Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School has only 16 acres - and there's still room for parking and athletic facilities.

Loudoun County wouldn't have nearly as hard a time dealing with the pressures of their rapid growth if they were more creative with placing the infrastructure (i.e., schools). Their requirements for new high schools would put them far away from the neighborhoods where students live. A good school is part of a community - and, as a graduate of Blake, which sits on a formerly rural road lined with estate homes and megachurches, I can tell you first hand.

Seriously. Cutting school was very, very difficult. I mean . . . where did we have to go?


FuturePurpleRider said...

Sprawl schools are in MoCo too. Take a look at the recently renovated Bethesda Elementary School if you want to see a suburban sea of asphalt in an urban location.

How come civic groups that insist that new buildings must be compatible with their environment never complain when something is built in a suburban style that's incompatible with its urban surroundings?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Is it possible Loudon's 75-acre (instead of 50-acre) schools are also holding more 50% more students? Without mentioning how many studeents per school they have, is it fair to criticize their acreage?

I do know some counties have high schools that hold 1,200 students, other counties' hold 3,000.