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Embrey Mill impact studied

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Thursday night, the community will get a peek at Embrey Mill’s model homes.

On Tuesday night, Stafford school officials got a peek of how that development could impact the teeming hallways in the county’s high schools. The School Board learned that the Embrey Mill neighborhood could add 1,440 students to the school division’s rosters by the time the last home is sold.

And several other new neighborhoods are planned throughout the county—which could bring more than 2,000 new Stafford students in the next 10 years.

Previous Superintendent Randy Bridges last year commissioned a land-use study from Operations Research/Education Laboratories, based in North Carolina. That research firm presented its initial findings Tuesday night.

“This is the first in many conversations that will happen in the course of this study,” School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Johnson said. “This is a difficult process But it is something that has to be done in the course of business to create good schools.”

The report showed that Stafford County is growing faster than the rest of the state, and that development of new homes is starting to increase.

There is no crystal ball when it comes to predicting how future homes impact school enrollment, and School Board members debated some of the statistics presented Tuesday night. An apartment building, for example, brings fewer students per dwelling unit than a single-family home.

And School Board member Holly Hazard, who used to sit on the county’s Planning Commission, pointed out that new homes often bring more students than established homes. She urged the researchers to take such fluctuations into account, saying that even the difference of half a student per home makes a big difference when talking about thousands of new homes.

Presenters from OR/Ed said that more than 2,000 Stafford students are expected in the next 10 years.

School Board member Patricia Healy—who has served on the board since 2000—said that while accommodating so many more students will be a challenge, it won’t be as difficult as keeping up with growth before the recession.

“Back in the day, we were adding 1,000 students a year to Stafford County Schools,” Healy said. “It’s a lot of students in the big picture but we’ve had to face significantly more. We were building a new school every one to two years.”

School Board member Meg Bohmke noted that the school system has planned for some growth, with expansions of three high schools planned for 2019. She said that the schedule might need to be bumped up to keep pace with the growth of student enrollment.

This look at county growth will most likely end in a redrawing of school attendance boundaries. The next planned step is a work session in November. Board members said that they would follow that with an advisory committee, so county residents could have a say in the process.


Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973