by: Theo Lebryk
In the months leading up until the first day of school, controversy surrounded the plan to open a second Bailey’s elementary school. Formerly an office building, the new school caused some parents to question how having class in a five story building would affect their kid’s learning experience. These concerns were for the most part silenced when the first students spewed into the building to find a school equipped with the features of their former school and more.
For two years Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Bailey’s community had been entertaining various sites to allay the severe overcrowding that had plagued Bailey’s. However, plans such as expanding into Woodrow Wilson Library or J.E.B. Stuart Park proved to be unfeasible. Instead, FCPS decided on a more avant-garde solution in purchasing a vacant office building on Route 7 for $9.37 million.
During the spring, the School finalized plans to send grades 3-5 to the new school, which the School Board voted unanimously to name Bailey’s Upper, and began the process of redesigning the interior of the building.
In a five month project, the entire inside of the school was redone to turn the office complex into a school. The results surprised even Principal Marie Lemmon. “This is so above and beyond and unexpected. The kids are going to be over the moon,” said Lemmon to WJLA in August. “I think they did a really nice job making it bright and colorful and inviting,” said 5th grade teacher Laura Bailey.
Inside, the school contains a cafeteria, theatre, science lab, library, multiple fitness rooms, and colored platforms stairs where students can come out to work or give performances. The school features small quarks like whiteboard walls, “ergonomic seating” for fidgety children and cushions to read on throughout the school.
“I hear it’s really nice,” said senior Diego Dejesus. “I haven’t been inside it, but I’ve seen pictures of it; there are reading areas where you can sit there and chill.”
Bailey’s Upper has placed a focus on technology based learning. All 5th grade students are set to receive personal iPads.
To compensate for the lack of a full length gym, there are two traditional fitness rooms, a dance studio and interactive fitness room. The curriculum will focus more on personal fitness; the interactive fitness room will have stationary bikes, row machines, Xbox connect, Wii fit, and iPads with fitness apps. Said P.E. teacher Maggie Endler, “almost all the equipment we’ll have for the interactive room they’ll never have seen before, as have me and [P.E teacher] Jake [Boltersdorf].”
However, while the interior design has drawn praise, the exterior is still somewhat lacking. For one, there currently is no playground. Recess is held on the blacktop below the school with a chess set as the only real playing equipment. “There’s a huge learning curve in teaching in a new building and with what new games to teach at recess,” said Bailey. The school is currently in the planning process for building a playground and hopes to have construction finished by next fall. Bailey’s could add a gym outside the school, but that has yet to be decided.
The location of the school also is less than ideal. Traffic almost always an issue at Seven Corners where the school is located. To enter the school, buses have to make a sharp turn onto the service road parallel to Route 7.
For the most part, though, Bailey’s Upper has been viewed as a huge success. Superintendent Karen Garza called the school “one of the best elementary schools in the county.” According to Garza, vertically designed schools could be in the near future for more FCPS students.