Parents opposed to the construction of what would be Northern Virginia's first public charter school say they fear that school board approval of the venture would end up diverting already-dwindling education funds away from their kids' schools.
Many of those parents plan to speak out Tuesday against the proposed Fairfax Leadership Academy at a countywide hearing, their first chance to voice their concerns directly to the Fairfax County School Board that will decide the academy's fate.
Parents are chiefly concerned that the academy would be only a mile from Falls Church High School, close enough to pull at-risk students out of a school that already has excess capacity.
The Fairfax Leadership Academy, which would focus on at-risk students would have a longer school day -- eight hours instead of six and a half -- and a longer school year -- 206 days instead of 183 -- than traditional public schools. Other than that, the academy would function similarly to the high schools, said Lynn Petrazzuolo, president-elect of the Falls Church High School Parent, Teacher and Student Association.
"By building this school in this location, you'll simply be duplicating the services of the school just down the road," Petrazzuolo said. "It would just siphon off the limited resources our schools already have. They're just ramming this school down the throats of a community who doesn't need or want it."
The proposed academy, designed by public schools officials and backed by state lawmakers, would accommodate students in danger of dropping out. But the academy has been at the center of a debate since it was proposed in January.
State officials unanimously approved the academy, but local school officials have the final say in whether it opens. A committee of Fairfax school officials has recommended against the academy.
An opposition group known as Uproar - United Parents for Renovating Our Academic Resource - is also challenging the proposed charter school, gathering 600 signatures on an online petition. The group said at-risk students "is the not the demographic that needs extra support in our community" because existing schools already offer services to those students.
The opening of Fairfax Leadership Academy, Uproar member Joan Daly said, would likely endanger Falls Church High.
"They like to say they're not competing with us, but there's just no way around it," said Daly, the mother of a Falls Church High junior.
The public hearing will begin at 6 p.m. at Luther Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church. The School Board won't vote on the proposal until Oct. 25.
Calls to officials trying to establish the academy were not returned Monday.