The Prince William County school division is again considering an existing park as a possible home for a new elementary school.
The school division caused a stir in early 2016 when it proposed building a new elementary school on existing parkland adjacent to the Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center in Lake Ridge.
Following an outcry from local residents, the school division shifted the school site to privately owned land in the same area along Prince William Parkway.
That school is now under construction and will become the county’s 61st elementary school when it opens in fall 2019.
The ever-growing school division remains in need of several school sites, however, and is now considering two parcels in the area of Rosemount Lewis Neighborhood Park, located near the intersection of Crestwood Drive and Ashton Avenue in the Manassas area of Prince William County. The park is set back in the trees amid a neighborhood of older townhomes behind Manassas Mall.
The school division recently posted a notice to its website about a Thursday, July 19, meeting about the proposed school site, which will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at Stonewall Jackson High School, 8820 Rixlew Lane.
New school planned to serve 924 students
The park had been suggested as a school site as early as 2010, when the school division needed more classroom space in the Sudley Road corridor.
But at that time, plans to use the park for a new school were shelved when it was decided to build additions onto Sinclair, Sudley, West Gate, Loch Lomond and Mullen elementary schools instead, said Maureen Hannan, the school division’s supervisor of land acquisition and capital improvement planning.
Now, however, at least two of those schools are already overcapacity and more classroom space is needed, which prompted the school division to once again consider using Rosemount Lewis park, Hannan said.
The meeting is a chance to discuss the idea publicly and give the community a chance to weigh in, Hannan said.
“We’re kind of gauging the reaction from the community before we move forward with it,” Hannan said.
The school is primarily needed to relieve overcrowding at Mullen Elementary, which was about 50 students overcapacity last September, and Ellis Elementary, which was 84 students overcapacity last year. Both schools are estimated to be even more overcrowded in 10 years, Hannan said.
The school division is considering a 924-student school to be built on two adjacent parcels, one 22 acres, the other 5 acres.
Park features playground, tennis courts but no parking
The idea is to make the site more usable to the community by adding not only the new elementary school but also new playgrounds and playing fields that would be available to area residents on nights and weekends and to the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation for youth sports.
The park is now accessible only by a two-rut gravel road, which is cordoned off with a metal gate.
There is no parking other than street parking at the end of the Crestwood Drive cul-de-sac, a side road that dead ends between two neighborhoods of older townhomes. Crestwood Drive was choked with parked cars on a recent Sunday afternoon, allowing area residents to access the park only by foot.
Daymon Wright was leaving the park with his two sons Sunday, July 8, and said he hadn’t heard of the proposal to use the park as a school site.
Wright was carrying baseball gear and said he and his sons use the park’s fields and playground. The park also has tennis courts, he said.
“This wouldn’t be a bad site for a school and it would save [the county] a lot of money,” Wright said, adding that area residents would likely appreciate a new school for their children.
“Still, I’d hate to see all the trees go,” he added.
Park proffered in 1985
Rosemount Lewis park was originally part of the “Rosemount Farm.” The land was proffered to the county in 1985 and named the Rosemount Lewis Regional Park in 1989 after a member of Lewis family.
The Lewises worked the farm, and a descendant petitioned the county to include the family’s name in that of the new park, according to information shared by Supervisor Jeanine Lawson’s office.
Lawson represents the Brentsville District, which includes the park. The county would have to transfer ownership of the parkland to the school division for the new school to move forward.
Lawson (R) said the idea to build a new school on the park site was brought to her attention several months ago. She said she supports the idea in part because the park seems underutilized in its current state.
“I quickly concluded that they need a school site over there, and the park has just been sitting there, really underutilized,” Lawson said. “This is a great and easy fix for the school system at little to no cost.”
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org