The Aug. 21 “Back to school = back to trailers” article brought to mind some insightful – and disturbing – comments made at the annual joint meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and School Board last Nov. 27.
During a discussion about the proposal to eliminate trailers, Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan, cited the use of trailers in Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties in questioning the “need to have a plan to completely eliminate trailers.” Lillie Jessie, the Occoquan District’s school board member, immediately responded.
In a chilling and memorable statement, Ms. Jessie first described problems during tornado drills as one aspect of her safety-related concerns “about children outside in trailers.”
She then said, “As a principal, I always knew that a parent would forgive me, maybe, for not teaching their children how to read. But they would never forgive me for not keeping their kids safe. We can all put our hands over our ears and close our eyes and hope nothing ever happens in a trailer. But everybody in this room knows that we’re not living in the same world we used to live in. So when we think about securing our kids, it’s very difficult to secure children in trailers. The windows are up here, you’ve got little ones in there that the moment someone knocks on the door they will open the door. I know this sounds like basic kind of information, but I would ask the board of supervisors to really consider [the elimination of trailers], because I don’t think we wait and I don’t think we compare ourselves to anyone else when it comes to safety.”
This exchange involving Supervisor Ruth Anderson and School Board member Lillie Jessie came just three weeks after a litany of trailer-related problems were outlined in a Prince William Times’ editorial, “Plan to eliminate classroom trailers deserves support and improvement.”
Although Ms. Anderson stated the number of trailers used in Fairfax and Arlington counties, she failed to reveal how many fewer are being used in fast-growing Loudoun County compared to here. That oversight – intentional or not – gives added credence to the concerns expressed by Ms. Jessie and in the Prince William Times editorial. Shocking facts include:
Prince William County had only 9 percent more students than Loudoun County last school year (90,203 vs. 82,485). Yet, we have almost four times more trailers than Loudoun (184 vs. 47)this school year.
Prince William shifted 29more trailers to 13 schools this year. Loudoun did not add any trailers.
Prince William is now using a total of 72 trailers at 27 of our 64 elementary schools. But Loudoun is using only 18 trailers at only 11 of its 58 elementary schools. None of the Loudoun elementary schools use more than two trailers, while 14 of ours use three or more trailers.
Prince William is now using a total of 50 trailers at nine of our 19 middle schools. But Loudoun is using only two trailers at only one of its 16 middle schools. Four of our middle schools use seven or more trailers each.
Prince William is now using a total of 61 trailers at five of our 12 high schools. But Loudoun is using only 24 trailers at only four of its 16 high schools. Two of our high schools use 20 or more trailers each.
It doesn’t have to be this way in Prince William County. Citizens are increasingly aware of the need for more schools and inside classrooms, more and better-paid teachers, less new home development and “new and improved” county leadership.
The writer is the founder and president of Citizens Alliance of Prince William (“Putting Children and Families First”) reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org