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The Purple Tide

The student news site of Chantilly High School (Chantilly, VA)

The Purple Tide

The student news site of Chantilly High School (Chantilly, VA)

The Purple Tide

FCPS understaffing, capacity deficit leads to a community gridlock

After-school+rush+hour%3A+Students+walk+to+their+buses+on+Sept.+20.+
Lizzie Sun
After-school rush hour: Students walk to their buses on Sept. 20.

As the 2023-2024 school year begins, Fairfax County Public Schools grapple with spacing deficits on top of another COVID-19 aftermath: district-wide staff shortages. 

Nine high schools in the FCPS including Chantilly High School surpass maximum building capacity. CHS itself holds a 119% capacity; 131% without the modulars, a deficit that has been occurring for at least 10 years.

Social studies teacher James MacKenzie can feel the 10-year capacity deficit. For the 2023-2024 school year, he moved from his classroom of seven years to the social studies workroom. MacKenzie believes it is due to the limited space and large student body.

“The Academy having all of those classes here increases our numbers every day,” MacKenzie said. “Chantilly’s space is finite, so there is quite a bit of movement. I had all my posters and flags on the wall, and having to take all that stuff down and restart again was a little bit difficult.”

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Many school spacing issues in FCPS have been resolved by the Capital Improvement Program, projects implemented by The Office of Chief of Facilities Services and Capital Programs to renovate and expand schools. Despite the availability of a viable option, CHS has yet to be scheduled for renovation due to projected smaller class sizes in the future.

“From a demographic standpoint, there was a marked decrease in the childbirth rate in the United States after the recession in 2008,” Parmentier said. “It’s anticipated, or at least projected, that our numbers will be decreasing over the next several years because there was such a decrease into 2010.”

According to the Washington Post, FCPS lost 896 teachers from resignations from 2022-2023, a 45% increase from average numbers between 2018 and 2022. The departure of staff members has resulted in various difficulties for the school district, including the recruitment of new staff.

“This year, FCPS Human Resources understaffed us by about 100 students, and it was much harder to fill openings,” Director of Students Services Amy Parmentier said. “I think because of post-COVID-19, many people unfortunately found that it was difficult for them to have a work-life balance when working in education.”

FCPS started the 2023-2024 year with 121 bus driver vacancies, resulting in many students not being able to have on-time bus rides. In efforts to increase recruitment, the district offers free training, starting checks of $2,000 and a lowered minimum age of 19 years old.

“When I was a freshman, it was crowded, but not to the current point,” junior Pelin Sayar said. “I think [FCPS] is trying, but I don’t think we have enough drivers.”

While staffing has posed challenges within the district, positive developments have occurred with regard to filling SS4’s counselor vacancy at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. Even with FCPS’ growing teacher resignations after COVID-19 burnouts, Indeed shows teachers in FCPS report a high level of happiness and satisfaction in their jobs.

“I would say I’m satisfied with my situation,” MacKenzie said. “It’s been kind of fine-tuning it to see what works. I was a little apprehensive at first, but when you get stuck in a room, it starts feeling like your place.”

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About the Contributor
Lizzie Sun, Assistant Online News Editor
Lizzie Sun is a sophomore in her first year with The Purple Tide. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry and other forms of creative writing. She loves cooking food for herself, reading all types of books and genres (historical, tragic, manga, manhwa, etc.) and listening to music.
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