Prince William schools to secure land for new Woodbridge elementary school

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Prince William County Public Schools is moving forward with a plan to swap land with a Woodbridge church in order to build its new Woodbridge elementary school, but a nonprofit that works with the area’s homeless population is still searching for new space.

On Wednesday, the School Board will vote to approve two land transactions with Pathway Vineyard Church of Woodbridge: one to sell the old Ann Ludwig School property near Dale City to the church, and another to purchase the church’s current property at 1550 Prince William Parkway. The school division will pay $3.65 million for the 4.7 acres owned by the church, while Pathway Vineyard will pay $1.1 million for the roughly 4.8 acres at 14575 Potomac Branch Drive.

The division has budgeted about $40.6 million for the new school in its capital improvement program, with an opening year of 2024.

“That’s one school we desperately needed to build,” School Board Chair Babur Lateef told InsideNoVa.

Marumsco Hills Elementary in Woodbridge has, at times, used up to six portable classrooms, and the division has long wanted to address overcrowding in Woodbridge-area elementary schools. The 2019 opening of John Jenkins Elementary in Occoquan helped to alleviate some of the crowding, but more capacity is still needed in the division’s Eastern District.

Public meetings for the school boundaries will be held in Fall 2003, according to the division.

Lateef said the division had ideas for making the new elementary school its first net-zero emission school construction, a commitment in its most recent four-year strategic plan, but that the property doesn’t lend itself to that. Instead, he said, the division will most likely plan to make the replacement of Occoquan Elementary School – slated to be open in 2025 – the first net-zero school construction.

Pathway Vineyard Administrator Chioma Ezekwe told InsideNoVa that the church’s new property where Anne Ludwig Elementary once stood will suffice for the congregation itself, but that there won’t be enough office space for StreetLight Community Outreach Ministries, a charity that offers meals, shelter and more to the area’s homeless.

According to Ezekwe, the county first came to the church in 2021 saying it was considering using eminent domain to secure the land and ultimately pointed out the Anne Ludwig property to the church. She said the church community was attached to its building on Prince William Parkway, but was trying to make the best of the situation.

“It’s change. So not a lot of people are happy with change. But … we are people of faith and we look to God to help us with change,” Ezekwe said. “We’re really attached to this building and really attached to the community, but if God wants to change us and move us, we’re open to that as well. So that’s basically how we’re looking at it.”

StreetLight is still searching, though. The charity operates a 24-hour homeless shelter for the county in Dale City and also owns 27 permanent supportive housing units for people who are either medically fragile or disabled. Those properties will stay in place, said Executive Director Rose Powers. But the nonprofit is still looking for offices for its 10 employees and space for its weekly outreach dinner that feeds people every Wednesday night, as well as its twice-weekly food pantry.

So far, Powers said, StreetLight is getting some help in tracking down space from some other area nonprofits and received an allowance from the county to help with buildout costs and other expenses. But nothing has been secured just yet.

“I’m hopeful that we might have a new place … The real challenge is trying to find a spot. Commercially, most of the people we talked to didn’t even want to talk to us because we are a ministry and we serve people who are homeless, and a lot of people that we serve are unsheltered homeless as well,” Powers told InsideNoVa. “So that always intimidates the vast majority of mainstream society, even though most of the people we work with are very, very good-hearted … You’d be surprised how many people are really either medically fragile or disabled and they’re living out there in the woods.”

According to Powers, the church had always offered low rent that’s well below market. Now, even when the charity finds a new space, it will likely have to significantly adjust its budget. StreetLight is hoping to ultimately construct a complex of efficiency units with wrap-around services for some of the people it serves, but right now it needs to find a home for itself.

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