Virginia school gets high-rise expansion

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WJLA) - A local elementary school is getting creative when it comes to its exploding enrollment. The solution? A high-rise expansion.

"I think it's a new adventure,” said Principal Marie Lemmon of Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences.

This fall, Bailey’s 3rd, 4th and 5th graders will move into a five-story office building on Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners. Younger students will stay put.

"Right now, we're at 1,356 students," explained Lemmon of the need for growth. "We're the largest elementary school in the state of Virginia."

Students have outgrown their current school, as the building is at 130-percent capacity.

"We were really hesitant when we moved into the neighborhood about the overcrowding," admitted April Ege, a mother of two.

Space is so tight inside, learning happens outside too. Nineteen trailers serve as classrooms in the school's backyard, and Principal Lemmon and many parents are thanking commercial real estate for relief.

"I think it's going to be a fabulous place for them to learn," said Ege.

Her daughter Amelia is in Kindergarten at Bailey’s. She and other moms and dads we spoke with say if you can’t build out, build up.

“I think it's a very unique idea in terms of building a school here in this area inside the beltway where space is very limited," said Jen Keefer, who has two kids attending Bailey’s.

The architectural brains behind the project says that lack of land is why more and more students in the suburbs are getting schooled like they live in the city.

"20, 30, 40 years ago we had green space, we had 10-acre sites, 40-acre sites,” explained project manager and Cooper Carry senior Associate Lauren Ford. “You kind of had your pick and you could really develop a pretty prototypical school with all the amenities and have a similar layout.”

Ford says the times are changing. “Now we're getting priced out [and] the parcels of land available are not exactly what we're used to seeing."

Bailey’s new layout has many excited about "making the grade" at new heights.

“It’s just going to be an example for other counties and other districts across the U.S. and across the state," said Ege.

Bailey’s Elementary School is even using its upcoming move as a tool for education. Kids are spending time with the architects and studying design -- they even made their own layouts showing what they want inside and where.

Schools saved some cash by not having to build a building from ground-up. They’re retrofitting one for $9.37 million. That’s money from the 2013 school bond referendum.