School Population Pressures Require Attention Now
As Crozet well knows from projects such as improvements to Jarmans Gap Road and Crozet Avenue and the library replacement, the gestation of infrastructure projects is long, often very long. We now have two—the bridge needed over Lickinghole Creek to create that main road artery in east Crozet and additional school capacity—that do not yet have official standing on the county’s Capital Improvements Projects list.
The 2004 Master Plan foresaw a need for a third elementary school in Crozet and imagined it would be in east Crozet. In those days the county expected to be able to trade a rezoning to higher density for the donation of a school site, but that gambit did not happen. Developers did not ask for rezoning.
The school division’s procedure for predicting enrollment growth does not adequately capture housing construction that is in the pipeline. This problem has affected the county planning department’s ability to predict overall population growth as well. The county used a multiplier of 2.4 residents per unit as its guideline, but this figure appears low when compared to actual occupancy rates in Crozet’s new neighborhoods, which seem to average near 3 persons per household. The discrepancy, when applied to school capacity, produces a very different picture of the future than the county is now anticipating.
Now is the time to get earnest about where we’ll find seats for more students, including the prospect that it might mean a new school. Where could it go? Even the option of occupying the old Crozet elementary school as part of Crozet Elementary once the Field School moves to its new campus will require a renovation budget that would probably go in the millions.
School officials are understandably focused on capacity issues in the northern part of the county, where they think a new high school may be necessary, but growth pressures are plain in the western feeder pattern too, and those need to be addressed.