by Ariana Habibi
In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that there are not enough classrooms to accommodate all students at Stuart. This has led to some teachers not having a permanent classroom. Instead, they have to switch rooms throughout the day, moving between class changes like students.
While most teachers would be expected to be bothered by it, some are not. “I’ve moved classrooms every year, so I’ve gotten used to it,” said Chemistry teacher Aaron Bellamy. “It’s easy moving to different rooms if they’re in the same hallway.”
To allow teachers to have their own teaching space, adjustments have been made to create temporary classrooms out of lesser-used areas of the school. For instance, the meeting rooms in the library, as well as some technology classrooms, now act as makeshift classrooms for students.
As a result of these rooms being used, there is no longer space for various after school activities, including student and teacher book clubs, and the yoga club. Also, students completing multimedia projects do not have a place to record privately or film.
“The library is happy to accommodate anything the school needs, and classroom space is a priority,” said head librarian Lisa Gunther. “So while we’re sad that the space is gone, we know it’s for a really important reason.”
Over the past few years, Stuart’s population has been on a steady incline, which is the primary reason for the lack of available classroom space. The student body at the end of the 2014-15 school year was 1,925 students, whereas the building itself was designed for approximately 2,000. With yet another record-setting freshmen class size, Stuart is likely to have exceeded its intended occupancy with the 2015-16 school year.
Still, an increasing number of students believe that part of the issue stems from the inefficient use of current classroom space. This ineffectiveness is, in part, caused by the use of desks with attached chairs.
“These desks cause the room to be much more cramped, and since you can’t move your seat, arranging the desks is much harder,” said sophomore Alizé Dreyer. “Also, in some of my classes there is hardly enough space for all the students, so we run out of chairs.”
However, the performing arts department has not been as affected by the rise in student population.
“Not many people participate in choir. Besides, it’s a big room and we don’t have desks,” added Dreyer, a member of the J.E.B. Stuart choir.
Furthermore, the size of the Stuart auditorium is much smaller than those of other FCPS schools, and is not able to accommodate the near-2,000 students who are enrolled at Stuart. This is a trait noticed among prominent members of the performing arts community.
“I’ve seen the auditorium at Lake Braddock, and it was twice the size of ours,” said choir member and thespian Jessica Sharp. “And the one at George Mason is cozier, but it still has more seats.”
“With such a successful music and theatre department, Stuart deserves a renovated auditorium,” added sophomore Pasha McGuigan, a violist in the chamber orchestra. “We raised money for a turf field for the sports teams, so it should be possible to do the same thing but for the performing arts.”
Renovations, particularly expansion of the school building, would resolve the rising issue of overpopulation. Still, whether it be finances or time constraints, this will not be an easy process.
“In terms of expansion, it is tough because Stuart is landlocked. We may consider adding a third floor there,” said FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that any renovations to the school would most likely take effect after the current student body has graduated.
photo by Ariana Habibi