Fairfax County supervisors will vote Monday on whether to allow a Saudi-funded preparatory school to expand one of its campuses, a land-use question that has reignited a debate over the school's curriculum.
The construction, which would accommodate 200 more students, has been approved by county staff and the Planning Commission, and it's unlikely that opponents will be able to derail the expansion at this late stage.
Still, Monday's hearing is expected to draw community members upset with the prospect of additional traffic on Popes Head Road near Fairfax, where the 34-acre campus sits, and from those who accuse the school of teaching hatred.
It's the latest eruption of a controversy over the school's curriculum that began with a 2007 report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that suggested the school's curriculum promoted violence and intolerance of non-Muslims.
"I don't think this has anything to do with religion," said Jim Lafferty, who heads an organization of opponents to the school. "I think it has to do with a group of people with a very radical ideology who are trying to teach innocent kids that same radical ideology. We don't think that should be permitted."
School officials say the books have been revised repeatedly to remove questionable passages.
Kate Chenard, the school's curriculum specialist, said Lafferty's comments were "preposterous."
"I don't know what their agenda is," she said. "I have no idea what they're doing or why. It's so far from a possible reality."
To counter opponents' claims that the academy fosters radicalism, she pointed to the school's partnership with Fort Belvoir, where contingents of soldiers have come to the school to train in Arabic.
The school has proposed a raft of transportation improvements to better manage the traffic coming in and out of the campus, including possible off-site upgrades on Route 123, said Lynne Strobel, a land-use lawyer representing the Islamic Saudi Academy.