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Private school seeks neighborhood support for expansion plans | Public Spaces

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Private school seeks neighborhood support for expansion plans
Private school seeks neighborhood support for expansion plans

The private Westminster School, at 3819 Gallows Rd., Annandale, is planning a major expansion—to include a new building for its preschool program and a new athletic field with synthetic turf—and is urging nearby residents to support its efforts.

At the annual meeting of the Broyhill Crest Community Association March 21, Head of School Ellis Glover urged people to disregard a flyer left at their doors asking them to urge the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to reject Westminster’s expansion proposal. The board will consider the matter at a public hearing March 29.

The flyer says Westminster wants “to destroy over two acres of forested land and put in an artificial turf field surrounded by a six-foot tall fence. They want to build a two-story, 25-foot tall, 18,000-square foot building to add a nursery school and substantially increase their enrollment.”

“Westminister says they don’t create traffic problems, but WE know different,” the flyer states. “Every morning, the traffic backs up down Gallows Road as cars and buses attempt to turn in and out of the school. Then every afternoon, an idling line of cars snakes down Gallows Road (to Columbia Pike at times), spewing emissions into our neighborhood. Finally, Westminster cars are always parked up and down Gallows Road (and on our side streets) with cars often blocking driveways, people jaywalking, and making dangerous U-turns on a regular basis.”

Glover distributed a letter at the meeting, which was held at Westminster, countering what he called “misinformation and deception” in the flyer. He says the flyer was written by a disgruntled Westminster parent who was asked to withdraw her children from the school and doesn’t even live around here; she lives in Stafford County. He wouldn’t say who she is or why she is angry, preferring to keep the matter confidential. “She could never forgive me and she’s been attacking us ever since,” Glover says.

Pending approval of the Board of Supervisors, development of the athletic field and the building to house the preschool, along with additional art and technology programs, is slated to start in January 2012. Both projects will take six to nine months to complete.

Westminster paid $1.2 million for the property—on Gallows Road close to the intersection with Annandale Road—where it plans to develop the field. The used to use the field at the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Lacey Center, which has been torn down. A new public elementary school is being constructed on that site.

Westminister’s preschool, the Griffin Academy, just opened last August. It is housed at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church on Columbia Pike.

Several people at the meeting expressed some concerns about additional traffic, but most of those in attendance seemed to be unopposed to the Westminster expansion. Glover sought to allay people’s worries about traffic by stating that arrivals and departures for the preschool will not occur at the same as that of the regular school. He also said enrollment is not expected to increase. “The economy hit us pretty hard,” he says, noting that enrollment had declined from about 300 to 250.

“Westminster School has been a well-respected and contributing member of the Annandale community and a good neighbor to Broyhill Crest residents for nearly 50 years,” his letter to residents, and the school “has a respectful, courteous relationship with the community.”

It should be noted, however, that very few, if any, local families can afford the tuition at Westminster, which is nearly $18,000 a year. A brochure about Westminster says it provides “a classical education for the 21st century.” Student admission is based on a qualifying exam, writing sample, teacher evaluation, and an interview with parents and child.