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Northern Virginia school systems see higher enrollments

Tuesday - 9/4/2012, 10:41am  ET

Arlington Schools student blackboard (Courtesy of Arlington Co. Public Schools)
Arlington County's enrollment is projected to be 22,723. (Courtesy of Arlington County Public Schools)

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WASHINGTON - With school now in full swing in Virginia, several Northern Virginia school systems are growing.

In Fairfax County, the largest school system in the state and the 11th-largest in the nation, school officials estimate enrollment will be 181,510 students, an increase of 2 percent from last year.

"We've been dealing with student growth. We've had 15,000 new students over the past five years," Superintendent Jack D. Dale tells WTOP.

The school system will add an additional 3,592 students this year, and two new schools opened Tuesday: South County Middle School in Lorton and Mason Crest Elementary in Annandale.

Dale says six years ago enrollment was flat.

"We're probably going to have deal with building new schools and finding vacant land, which is going to be a real, real challenge for my successor," Dale says.

In Arlington County, the school system expects the largest enrollment since the early 1970s. Fall enrollment is estimated to be 22,723.

This year, more students will walk to school in Arlington as the school system enforces its walking zones of one mile for elementary schools and one and a half miles for secondary students. Hundreds of parents signed a petition to have the school board change the bus plans.

In his welcome back video, Arlington County Superintendent Pat Murphy said the school system has high expectations for students and will work to narrow the school system's achievement gap.

More portable classrooms will be used in Arlington. Last year, students attended classes in 83 portable classrooms.

"This year we're going to have approximately 103," Murphy says.

In Alexandria City Public Schools, enrollment this year is estimated to be about 3.3 percent higher, with more than 12,800 students attending classes.

The day after Labor Day is dubbed "Terrible Traffic Tuesday" as everybody headed back to school and work.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)