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Capacity Crisis Looming for Arlington Public Schools

by ARLnow.com | January 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm | 6,268 views | 163 Comments

By 2016, the vast majority of Arlington’s public schools will be over capacity, according to new projections presented to the school board last night.

The numbers, in the words of one Tuckahoe Elementary parent who spoke at last night’s meeting, are “truly frightening.”

By 2016, two of the county’s four high schools will be over-capacity, five of the six middle schools will be over-capacity, and 18 of the 22 elementary schools will be over capacity. Only two out of Arlington’s 38 K-12 schools will be under 97 percent capacity.

The most crowded school will be Tuckahoe, at a projected 144.6 percent capacity.

“We’re growing, and we’re growing even faster than we anticipated several years ago,” said Arlington Public Schools Facilities Planner Dr. Alison Denton, who noted that Arlington now has more than 2,000 students enrolled in kindergarten, an all-time record. “We don’t, at this point, see any signs of our enrollment increases slowing down.”

Denton added that the growth in enrollment is county-wide, although certain schools are seeing faster growth than others.

So far, there are no concrete plans in place to deal with the capacity crisis. School administrators suggested the board hold a work session next month to evaluate options, with the goal of presenting recommendations to the community by April.

“I agree that there needs to be a real sense of urgency,” said School Board Vice Chair Abby Raphael. “We need to start making some tough choices and putting them into motion.”

The building of new schools, however, may still be a ways off. Any permanent building project will likely have to wait for approval during school system’s Capital Improvement Plan process in 2012.

Among the strategies being discussed in the near term are increasing the use of relocatable (trailer) classrooms, increasing class sizes, changing admission policies, or finding additional space to utilize as schools or classrooms.

Today the board is being presented with a study that attempted to determine the absolute maximum amount of additional capacity that can be added system-wide through the use of relocatable classrooms. Relocatable use is limited by the size of each school campus. The study counted land currently in use as playfields as potential relocatable space.

“This is not an ideal plan, it’s a worst case scenario,” Denton said.

The school system projects enrollment will increase from some 21,000 students now to 26,700 students in 2016. That number would put Arlington Public Schools just below the peak enrollment record set in 1963. At that time, however, Arlington had 5 to 10 more schools than it currently has, according to administrators.

School Board Chair Libby Garvey suggested that the school system may need to seek outside assistance to help deal with its capacity challenges.

“We’re really going to need to dialogue with our friends on the county board,” Garvey said. “We can’t do things the way we’ve been doing them… because it’s not going to work anymore.”

Update at 1:15 p.m. — The board work session on capacity issues will take place on Feb. 15 at 5:00 p.m., according to school spokesman Frank Bellavia. It will take place in the school board room at 1426 North Quincy Street. The session is open to the public, although there will be no comment or question period.

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  • The Dope of South Arlington

    I thought immigration imposed no costs on localities.

    • Rover

      With all the tax money the immigrants contribute, you think they’d build another school. What about all the tax money from the continued high-rise development? Yeah, it’s going into the metro. Right.

      • mehoo

        There’s nothing in this story indicating that they lack the funds to build more schools if necessary.

        • Rover

          No, there isn’t. How come with the new renovations happening to so many schools they aren’t adding capacity? You would think the birth demographics would point them in the right design direction. Maybe the funds are diverted elsewhere? Mabye the immigrant population is increasing greater than expected?

          • mehoo

            Again, there’s no indication this is a funding problem, so “diversion” isn’t an issue. I don’t know why they didn’t anticipate this sooner. I don’t know if they could have. We just don’t know.

          • Lou

            The 2011 budget is about $12 million to the negative side. They’re not just sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars to go out and build schools. Come on.

          • Arlingtonthen

            A look at the annual birthrates at metro hospitals could have generally forecasted the preK/K population. So if the birth numbers were the below what the numbers are today, then some type of migration/immigration (legal or illegal) would be the reason.

          • mehoo

            I don’t think births in hospitals can tell you much in a transient area like ours, where people move in and out so much.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        Under the Revenue Sharing Agreement between the County Board & School Board, the schools get approximately half of the revenues (i.e, real estate tax; sales tax & BPOL from office buildings) generated by the high-rise development. Those new high rises have been the proverbial “cash cows” for County coffers.

        • Arlwhenever

          Actually not, because new development does not pay impact fees of tens of thousands of dollars for each residential unit, for example, to finance infrastructure, as is common elsewhere.

          We in the County have paid for what is here; new development gets a free ride. The developers should pay up front for transit/transportation, sewage/water treatment, schools and yes, even recreational infrastructure like the Artisphere. Then those high rises might be a cash cow. As is it isn’t so.

    • Westover

      Immagrant kids are just a tiny part of the problem, at least at the north end of the county. Young families are having more kids again, and have been for the last decade and a half.

      • The Dope of South Arlington

        The Hispanic birthrate is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population. About one in four babies born in 2008 had a Hispanic mother, reflecting higher birthrates among Hispanic immigrants and their offspring.

        • Westover

          Maybe Nationally, but not in Arlington County.

    • Burger

      Not to be difficult but most of the overcrowding is in North Arlington…not exactly a hot bed of immigrants living there.

      • Westover

        Exactly. Maybe they thought that the poor economy of the early 90′s would never improve enough for anyone under 50 to be able to buy in North Arlington again…. The County seriously blew this one. Our school problem is what outer Fairfax County had with roads the last decade. They work to get folks to move in but forgot some of the basic infrastructures needed to support them.

  • Lou

    You keep increasing residential development and school enrollment goes up. Who would have ever thought?

    • mehoo

      From the maps, it doesn’t look like there’s a neat correlation between development and an increase in kids. Most of the development is in the urban corridor, and probably most of that is condos for young adults with no kids.

      • Lou

        Just down the street from me, two older homes were torn down to make room for four McMansions. That’s happening all throughout the non-urban parts of the the county.

        There are also pockets of development impacting areas outside of the R-B corridor, like the EFC plan. I wonder if Tuckahoe’s estimate is impacted by the potential increase in housing at EFC.

        Same thing goes for Columbia Pike. Are they forecasting these numbers based on units coming on-line along the Pike before 2016?

      • mehoo

        Well, sure, infill development is an increase in residential development – but come on, do you really think a few hundred extra McMansions countywide is busting the walls of the schools? Sure, there are other pockets of high density development, but I’ll bet those aren’t packed with children.

        I wonder if the school board report had any reasons listed.

    • mehoo

      Just remembered – one reason I’ve heard people suggest for the growth is that families are sticking around instead of moving to the outer suburbs when they have kids, or have alot of kids.

      • Arlwhenever

        Your point on sticking around is absolutely correct.

        There used to be what I called a two kid limit in my neighborhood. Then when families got their third kid they moved West, outside of the County. Now families stay, and push out the rear of their home if they need to. Also, it used to be that a lot of families moved out of Arlington when their kids reached school age. These proclivities changed a lot starting around 2003 or 2004.

        It is startling that its taken this long for the planners and politicians to catch on. Ms. Denton is a very nice person, but frankly she is a number cruncher who has no sensibility for picking up on critical demographic shifts. For my part, I told senior school system representatives about these changes in behavior about 5 years back, to no avail.

        More recently the student population growth trend has been exacerbated by Arlington County’s open arms policies toward illegal immigrants and parental reluctance in the post-financial meltdown environment to send their kids to private schools. Overcrowding is an issue that won’t go away.

        • Sal

          Please state your source on illegal immigration’s role in this forecast. Or did you kinda throw that in without any basis of fact?

          • Arlwhenever

            Illegal immigrant is one of four or five factors that I mentioned. My observation is based on reality. I have kids in the school system. I pay attention, I see what is going on and I can count.

          • Arlwhenever

            Sal, really, find someone else to argue with.

            I’ve been around the block. I’ve worked places where I’ve helped to hide illegal co-workers in the trash when the immigration enforcement crews show up. I love immigrants. I’ve actually gone to school board meetings to speak up on their behalf when their parents, fearing the authorities, have been unwilling to show.

            But the empirical reality is that Arlington County is more accepting of the illegals than many neighboring jurisdictions, so that is one of a range of factors that contributes to school overcrowding in Arlington. It just is. If this isn’t an issue, then the County Manager, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman were spending an awful lot of time trying to needlessly impress immigrants last year in the go around on safe communities.

        • Westover

          You saw this five years ago? Try fifteen years ago. The immigrants in Arlington, legal or otherwise, are getting out numbered again. They are but a blip in the county. It is us “Yuppies” that are the big contributors to the population increase, and have been since the mid-90′s.

          • The Dope of South Arlington

            If “Yuppies” are the big contributors to the population increase,why is 30% of t Arlington’s Public School system hispanic? Are one third of these yuppies Hispanic?

          • JP

            +10

          • Westover

            Yeah, but it was a higher percentage in the 90′s. Arlington, at least North Arlington is not what it was just 20 years ago.

          • Arlwhenever

            Check out the data here…

            http://www.apsva.us/15401081104241813/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=54557

            Look at the data in the 2010-11 spreadsheet, which gives the history by year going back to 1998. Hispanic student share did go down from 2000 througy 2006 but it has since picked up as other counties have clamped down on immigrants and Arlington has loosened up. In contrast, as one might expect from gentrification the black student population has gone done consistently.

          • ClarendonKing

            My wife is hispanic and a yuppie, just saying.

        • jan

          The school census should have made these demographic shifts obvious five years ago. In my area (22205) these years have seen an explosion of small children.

          • Sal

            So Arlwhenever–You’re asking to see green cards during morning drop off? If you have numbers to go with a statement like that, fine. Otherwise, you’re just riffing from a very obvious, all-too-familiar perspective.

        • Greg

          I think your last two factors are bogus. Looking at those maps, the worst overcrowding is in far-North Arlington. I’m not sure how many immigrant neighborhoods there are that far north. South Arlington isn’t in bad shape.

          More likely, families are moving to the Yorktown and W&L school districts because of their consistently high rankings. There was a recent study on this site that the percentage of white students is up in the County.

          Same with the private school thing. Private school just isn’t as popular in Arlington because we have great public schools. It isn’t because we don’t have the money to afford private school (if we don’t, who does?).

          • Arlwhenever

            If you go back a few years, the schools in the South were all undercapacity and to projected to remain under capacity. No more. There has been an acceleration in student populations southside.

          • Set the controls

            Arlwhenever: I know this is true at Campbell. 2007 kindergarten class was twice the previous enrollment and every kindergarten class since has exceeded the 2006-2007 class. So the balloon starts at third grade there. Despite the map, this year Campbell is at capacity.

        • mehoo

          I think illegal immigration really is a non-issue, because even if we swept the neighborhoods and rounded them up and sent them away in vans, legal residents would move in to take their place (though those replacements might have fewer kids.)

          • Arlwhenever

            You have a good point. And the fewer kids part most definitely holds.

          • JP

            I don’t know. A lot of the foreign-born legal residents I know (I am one an LPR) would rather live in DC than immediate Arlington.

      • Set the controls

        Yes, good point. Arlington parents know what has happened to assessments in Chantilly, Sterling and Prince William. If you’re saving for college you can’t afford for your main asset to depreciate that much.

  • Concerned Parent

    “So far, there are no concrete plans in place to deal with the capacity crisis.”

    This is a result of a long-term failure of leadership at APS. Enrollment has been increasing steadily for the past two decades, with only a slight pause in the mid-2000′s, while insufficient capacity has been added. Arlington needs to start building more classroom space ASAP. Use trailers to start, and fast-track new building projects.

    • Edgar99

      Not really. Plenty of space available at Hoffman Boston, which suggests Arlington’s strict pattern of racial segregation is the real issue here. Can’t have white North Arlington kids sharing a building with racially diverse South Arlingtonians. Its really about time the US Department of Education investigated. If someone would just file suit we could get the courts to take over the schools like they did in KC. Failing that, can’t we just pull the plug on Arlington, split the county between Fairfax and Alexandria, and go our merry ways?

  • Arlwhenever

    Trailer dee, trailer dum… (oops, learning cottages).

    The vanity cost exposed of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build three entirely new high schools instead of husbanding resources to maintain and expand existing buildings.

    Sadly, Arlington voters, politicians and political elite, are getting exactly what they asked for on this one.

    • Josh S

      Actually I believe the renovations at W&L and Yorktown do exactly that – update infrastructure nearing the end of its useful life and expand capacity. Nothing has yet happened at Wakefield so there are really only two “entirely new” high schools to talk about.
      Also, it doesn’t take much reflection to realize that if the money had been spent to build two (truly) entirely new grade schools, then parents would be in an uproar about the aging facilities at W&L and Yorktown. In other words, APS can’t win no matter what they do.

  • http://www.justnewlistings.com jay arlington condos

    Shared on facebook. Tough issue will be a divisive for sure.

    • http://www.justnewlistings.com jay arlington condos

      seems like popping the tops (adding a 2nd or 3rd story) to existing buildings would save money and save field space.

      • Westover

        That can’t just be done over the summer, and you can’t do such a project and keep kids under the workzone. Need to do like Kenmore and W&L did and build the new bigger school on the existing open grounds, then knock the old school down.

  • Bluemont John

    I think a lot of the increase in schoolkids has to do with older residents of SFH neighborhoods leaving the area or dying, to be replaced by young families.

    Not sure what the solutions are. Maybe tear down some “affordable” housing apartments and replace them with elementary schools and middle schools?

    The one thing that leaps out at me is on the HS boundary map (viewable via the “next” arrows if you click on the ES or MS map shown in the article). You have overcrowding at W-L and underpopulation at Wakefield. And there are two fingers of red (W-L) zone dipping down into the Wakefield zone. Those people will hate it, but those two peninsulas could be rolled into Wakefield.

    And I’ve never understood why kids in Rosslyn should go to Yorktown. What’s up with that?

    • Westover

      We are experianceing a baby boom right now, and it was easy to see it coming. The County shutting down Walter Reed School and others put us in this mess.

      • Lou

        Just some numbers off the most recent county demographic pamphlet. Between 2000 and 2008 households with children grew 26%. During the same period, non-family households grew only 10%.

        That’s a big, obvious, shift to households with kids. And those numbers get looked at every year.

        Who was minding the store at the school board while that was going on? Oh that’s right, next year’s county board chairperson.

      • parentof2

        I knew someone would comment about Reed school-can’t wait to kick out much needed programs there I’m sure.

        • Westover

          Would have been better to keep the school as is and create new facilities for the daycare and teen moms. In fact not sure why the teen mom school was placed in the part of the county with the fewest teen moms in the first place. Just forces longer trips on those kids and kids of the kids. Love the new library, but could have just built a new one on the old site.

    • John Fontain

      You are right on the money Bluemont.

      I live in Clarendon, and I have seem a tremendous change in the demographics of my (mostly SFH) neighborhood in the last 10 years.

      10 years ago, you’d see a few tykes here and there, but not a ton of them. But over the last 10 years, loads of young families have moved into the hood and starting having kids. On a sunny summer day, the neighborhood park will easily have 5 to 10 times as many kids now as it would have had 10 years ago. I’m part of this demo and personally think it is a great change for the neighborhood.

    • VinhAn Nguyen

      And I’ve never understood why kids in Rosslyn should go to Yorktown. What’s up with that?

      The occupants of the “luxury” condos and million-dollar townhouses that have replaced the affordable housing in Rosslyn don’t want their kids going to minority-rich W-L. And they have political pull.

      • JP

        Good point.

      • Bluemont John

        OK, that’s a wealthy area now, but there are plenty of super-pricey condos and SFHs in the W-L district as well. In fact, I’d bet that Lyon Village or the W-L section of 22207 and 20005 (Overlee, Larchmont, etc.) has a higher per capita income than that little pizza slice of Rosslyn that goes to Yorktown.

        My guess is that at some point (maybe when they first built Yorktown), W-L was way overcrowded but YHS in its natural boundaries still didn’t have enough kids. But rather than stretch the YHS boundary south a few blocks, they sliced off that morsel of Rosslyn for YHS. Which is a real head-scratcher.

        • Justin Russo

          The area containing the townhouses in Rosslyn known as Highgate was in the W-L district until 1994. After those townhouse were built, it switched to Yorktown. Coincidence?

      • SA Resident

        Both Yorktown and Williamsburg have an “island” in Rosslyn. That’s where the little diversity in those schools comes from. Without the island, they would be 99% affluent white. The School Board couldn’t let that stand, so instead they engineered diversity in those schools that was acceptable to the school communities – 15%.

        • Just the Facts

          It’s not true that Yorktown’s only “diversity” comes from Rosslyn. Hall’s Hill, a majority minority area just off Lee Hwy, is well within Yorktown’s borders.

      • Westover

        The boundries have changed ALOT over the last 50 years. When the island school zone of Rosslyn switched from W-L to Yorktown it was partly because there were very few kids in Rosslyn at the time. You need to look at fiftyyears of shifting districts to get a real feel for those strange islands and fingers on the maps. Some cases it was politically powerful parents getting themselves zoned where they thought the best school was, others it was just the board having to send the few kids in the area somewhere at the end of the process.

        • Set the controls

          All the more reason to leave the districts the way they are and tack trailers and permanent additions on to the existing schools as needed. I for one see nothing wrong with a trailer, if I were a student. Trailers can be a bit of an eyesore, but surely it’s not that bad. Compared to what would rear its head with county-wide redistricting, not to mention the problem would have to be revisited at the next census, if not before. I wish snob appeal and politics didn’t have to enter into it, but I know it will.

          • Westover

            They are not well insulated from noise or weather. Kids should not be forced to walk outside to every activity. Looks are the least of my concerns about them.

      • Josh S

        As if the boundaries were just drawn in the last ten years. Methinks it’s slightly more complicated than that….

  • Ray

    Illegal immigrants? Come on. At the schools where my kids go, immigration is not the issue. Affluent white families moving from DC with 3 or more kids is the issue. And my eyes are wide open.

    • Rover

      Hmmm.. take a ride over to Wakefield one afternoon and watch what comes out of the school when the last bell rings. It is overwhelming.

      • Sal

        Unless you’ve got numbers from a credible source, your argument is of little worth. Based on property values and rents alone, illegal immigration is hardly a major problem in Arlington, Virginia.

      • stevis

        Your diagnosis of the matter by sight (skin tones, I would presume?) and use of the word “what” is very telling.

        I implore you, for your own sake, to have a deep, introspective look at your attitudes towards other human beings.

      • DouroDouro

        So how do you know they’re illegal immigrants? I guess you ask each of them for their papers?

      • Josh S

        Watch “what” comes out of Wakefield?

        Wow.

        Just, wow.

  • TuesdaysChild

    The County Board is too busy with their pet projects to worry about these basic county service issues. More bike lanes and recycling bins!! How about the kids take classes in the Artisphere!

    • Sal

      Like, uh, the School Board runs the schools in Arlington. The County Board runs the other stuff.

      • TuesdaysChild

        The Board decides issues of bonds and building, and therefore can control how many schools there are.

        • Sal

          The County government only deals with moving funding to Schools. That’s why the School Board and not the County Board have the following advisory committees pertaining to this issue-

          Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital Programs
          Building Level Planning Committees

        • Arlwhenever

          Exactly right TC. Public Facilities Review Committee established by the County Board trumps all the APS processes for major building projects.

          • Sal

            The County only reviews projects initially put through by Schools. Blaming Artisphere for a schools shortage is a disconnect and you know that.

  • The Mothership

    Time to look at putting preschools somewhere besides elementary schools.

    • Lou

      Oddly enough, my preschool was not in an elementary school. But it was in the nearest high school (Yorktown).

      • mehoo

        So that’s why you’re so smart.

        • Lou

          12 years in Arlington public schools. Believe the hype.

    • Set the controls

      That’s a good point.

    • mehoo

      Where though? You still have to find rooms somewhere. Doesn’t solve the problem, just moves it.

  • Get Real

    “We’re growing, and we’re growing even faster than we anticipated several years ago,” said Arlington Public Schools Facilities Planner Dr. Alison Denton, who noted that Arlington now has more than 2,000 students enrolled in kindergarten, an all-time record.

    Do you really believe Dr. Alison Denton? Give me a break, if you (the county) didn’t see this coming you should be out of a job. From what I understand Arlington County has a mandate from the State of Virgina for higher density and growth. Why do you think they (the county) put the lot coverage rules in effect. To “preserve” the look of the neighborhood and make a stand against McMansions. NO! They did it so they could carve up lots and build more homes. Take a look around at all the lots that have been subdivided over the last “several” years. The county is encouraging higher density by limiting the size of the house you can build. The size and scope of this problem has been exaggerated by policy that our county officials have put in place. Get Real, tell the truth and take responsibility for your actions!

    • mehoo

      Right, anyone can predict the future.

      Her statement says we did predict fast growth. We just didn’t get the speed right. Lots of armchair demographers today.

      • Josh S

        +100

    • Bluemont John

      Wait a minute–I thought the lot coverage rules stipulate *maximum* lot coverage (footprint). I’m 100% against more density, but I don’t see how a lot-coverage cap encourages more density. A lot would have to be whopping huge in order to slice off enough for another home (except in the case of duplexes). I’ve only seen a very few SFHs razed and turned into duplexes–but the lot coverage looked about the same.

      In fact, I think/fear that a lot of the McMansions will someday be subdivided into multifamily. Hard to imagine now, but it happened over time to many of the mansions in DuPont and in other cities, like NYC.

      I used to live near a house whose owners expanded it to almost double its previous size. They then moved a bunch of relatives and a nanny in. So if there had been a more stringent lot-coverage limit, they wouldn’t have been able to increase the occupancy/density of their home.

      • Get Real

        When the lot coverage rules were put into effect a few years ago I thought the same thing (limiting the footprint, good). It wasn’t until recently that realized those same rules are adding to density. Have you seen how many lots have been subdivided over the last few years into SFHs. There have been plenty. For example, if you have just over a 1/4 acre lot (12,000 sf) in an R6 district you could possibly divide that lot into 2 6,000 sf lots and build 2 homes with a 2,580sf footprint (43% max footprint up to 2,772 sf max for R6). So put yourself in the builder’s shoes. You can build 1 home with a 2,772 sf footprint on the 12,000 sf lot or divide and build 2 homes at 2,580. Since he can only charge a few $$$s more for the 2,772 sf home he’s going to build 2 2,580 sf homes. Now, what if that builder was able to build a 3,500 or 4,000 sf home. Would he be able to charge enough to offset the potential profit from 2 homes and build just one? I’d argue yes. I do understand that a 3,500 or 4,000 footprint home is quite large but it would still be less coverage and less dense (assuming 1 family lives there)than building 2 homes. Which is worse?

        Check out this link http://franklymls.com/AR7492224 At 1 time this home was divided into 3 lots but as it stands it looks like one grand home on 1 lot. If you read the remarks it is being advertised as being able to re-subdivide into 3-4 lots. The old remarks even said up to 5 lots!!! The funny thing about this property is even if you wanted this to tear down and build 1 home the new home would need to be smaller than what currently exists since it no longer conforms to the “rules”. To put this in perspective 4 homes with 2,772 footprints would be a total of 11,008 sf of coverage plus 4 drivways, etc. Would we be better off with 1 5,000 footprint home w/ 1 driveway? Would a 5,000 footprint home on a 41k sf lot look out of place or too large?

        There are numerous other examples just over the last 2-3years. I’m guessing we’vee added anywhere at least 20 or more new SFHs in the last 3 years in just 22207. If you go back 10yrs and search county wide my guess the # is in the 100s.

        • Bluemont John

          Interesting points. I’ll mull this over. Obviously you and I both would prefer that large lots with tasteful old houses be zoned for nothing more than the proportionately sized houses (one per lot) that have been on them for decades. But alas, that isn’t reality.

          For now it sounds like the choice is either 1. ugly, cheaply built McMansions that stretch from curb to back fence–OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much–and tower over everyone else, or 2. lot limits that mean sometimes a huge lot (and 12000 SF is huge!) gets subdivided into smaller lots.

          If those are the choices, I’ll hold my nose and pick the latter. At least more SFHs probably means more like-minded people who will oppose further tax increases, more condo towers, higher utility bills, etc. The Board keeps adding apartment residents to shore up the political base for stuff the Board likes (urbanization), so I figure that more SFH residents will hopefully help counteract that and keep what semblance of bucolic suburbia we can hold onto before we get fed up and move to Leesburg.

          • Get Real

            You’d really pick the latter? Yuck! Get rid of the ugly McMansion built to setbacks on all sides and give me the pretty new build (no cheap siding) with a footprint of <20% and lots of green.

          • Bluemont John

            GetReal, I think we’re saying the same thing. If it’s a 12K SF lot, I’d rather two homes with some setback on every side than one massive barn that damn near takes up the entire lot.

          • Get Real

            Bluemont John,

            Actually what I’d like to see is nicely done new homes no matter its size. Please no more cheaply built ugly homes in Arlington. Hire an architect, pay his/her fees and let’s build well proportioned homes with interesting architecture. Seriously, if we’re going to build $1+mm homes they should have something more to offer than square feet.

          • Westover

            When you are talking $400K plus just for the lot, I don’t see too many ugly houses going up as fill-ins here in the county. Got anywhere specific for me to take a look at?

          • Bluemont John

            Drive west on Wash Blvd, then turn your head to the right as you pass Ivanhoe. Almost nothing but McMansions. Or there are the new ones just off George Mason, behind the post office (Greenbrier Gauche Gulch or whatever they’re calling it). There are some colossal barns on N. Stuart, just east of W-L HS. Sure, it’s all subjective–but I know I’m not the only one who finds them hideous.

          • Bluemont John

            Oops–I mean driving east on Wash Blvd and N. Stuart west of W-L. Not sure what’s with my sense of direction today.

          • Westover

            OK, I know which you are talking about. Of course the size and design is subjective, personally I prefer them to some of the worn out split levels that a few of them replaced. But one thing for sure, they are NOT cheaply built. While they might not have the solid 18+ inch masonry walls of the Westover Colonials, they are very well engineered and built. The quality of the design can be debated, but don’t for a second think that they are not going to last.

          • Josh S

            I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that everyone who owns / lives in a SFH shares your opinions about development in Arlington.

            I imagine it’s human nature to resist change in one’s own neighborhood, but it’s undoubtedly better for the community as a whole (thinking rather broad-scale here) to have increased density in Arlington as opposed to paving over more open space in Loudon, etc.

    • Just the Facts

      “From what I understand” is code language for “I don’t have the data to back up what I’m about to say.” You allege that the Commonwealth of Virginia has somehow mandated that Arlington increase its density and population. I say show us the evidence. Otherwise, you’re just another wacky conspiracy theorist.

  • SamsontheCat

    There really isn’t too much redrawing that can be done (except maybe pulling some of W-L into Wakefield and Oakridge into Hoffman-Bostron Elementary). Trying to alleviate a red area by pulling students into a yellow area will only give you at best an orange area and put the yellow area on the verge of going to orange.

    What about with the BRAC? Won’t that free up some space? There must be some facility that can be repurposed. If they do build a new school go for a large combination MS/HS facility (probably in North Arlngton since that is where there appears to be a lot need in 2016). Don’t Balkanize Arlington’s schools more than they already are.

    • Arlwhenever

      There are a number of former schools run as community centers, including Fairlington, Lee and Lubber Run. Also, Wilson school is currently used as swing shift space. Also, the Children’s School (nee Walter Reed School) is run as a daycare facility for APS employees. Also, APS’s part of Langston Brown could be repurposed pretty simply. So, if there was political will (which there is not in the NIMBY, special interest dominated world of Arlington politics) then there is plenty of opportunity to repurpose space, for elementary schools at least.

      • Lou

        It would interesting to redo these maps by assuming you just rolled back 20+ years of school closures. There’s a lot of capacity just sitting out there waiting to be re-re-purposed.

        • GeorgeOrwell

          Yep.
          Let’s start with the powers-to-be closing McKinley School so the APS people would have subsidize day care.
          Cherrydale School (3700 Lee Hwy) which property is now leased to a for-profit nursing home.
          Clay School (7th/Highland) is now a public park and gay cruising junction.
          Underwood School (2400 Underwood) an under utilized park.
          Madison School (3600 N. Stafford) who knows what goes on in there
          Lee School (5700 Lee Hwy) now operated as an adult play center for artists.
          Wilson School (1600 Wilson) instead of tearing it down by neglect.
          Fairlington School (South 34/Stafford) ummm, who knows what is in there.
          Woodmont Elementary, (2400 N. Filmore) now a YMCA camp

          that’s a good start. Others?

          Yeah, we have plenty of buildings and schools LET”S USE THEM.

          • Westover

            I think you meant Walter Reed SChool, not McKinley.

          • GeorgeOrwell

            but of course.

          • alebt

            I can’t speak to anything on your list except the Fairlington facility which just went through a multi-year major renovation as a community center. There are no easy answers to this problem. Fairlington is a rich community resource for every age group except 10 to 16 year olds. To repurpose the building as a school (which you could do easily) would displace the Virginia Extension Service. I assume with BRAC closings you could find open office space for that fairly easily….but it is all going to cost a bundle of money to do it. And, remember why all the schools closed on your list….declining enrollment. We need to make choices which are more akin to “collar extenders” until the bubble can be proved to be the new normal for a 20 year and out period. Any one got a good crystal ball??

          • Westover

            Even if the boom does not last past the next ten years, we NEED some surge capacity which was eliminated with the closing of these schools.

      • Chief

        Another one is the hospice on 16th St., which used to be a neighborhood elementary school.

        • Chief

          Not that I’m suggesting it should be converted to an elementary school.

        • GeorgeOrwell

          It was Woodlawn Elementary
          then Woodlawn Alternative program which is half of what is now HB-Woodlawn.

    • Oldie

      All high school age kids living south of Rt. 50 went to Wakefield in my day. We had about 630 in my graduating class! REDISTRICT – it will not hurt anyone except the parents.

  • GeorgeOrwell

    part of our “urban village” walk-everywhere success is that many of the former twenty-somethings liked it here so much; they stayed and are having kids; but the county never planned for that.

    • CJR

      Yep, that’s me. Southwest expat lived in a group townhouse in my 20s, owned a condo in my 30s, and now live with wife and 2 kids in a SFH in my 40s – always 22201 – great schools and walkability – I’ve seen great changes in the area in the past 15 years and can’t see moving despite frustrations with the liberal board. But I see arlington’s Rosslyn – Ballston development based on good policies in the past (i.e. metro stops) and luck of our location to DC.

  • Dan

    “The most crowded school will be Tuckahoe, at a projected 144.6 percent capacity.”

    And they want to add how many housing units in the parking lot of the metro stop ???

  • mehoo

    Another issue is redistricting.

    APS tried to adjust boundaries all over the place a few years back just to relieve Tuckahoe and hit a wall of resistance. Now they could present redistricting as an alternative to building a bunch of expensive new schools, or at least part of the equation. Get ready to gin up the letter-writing campaigns, parents!

    • Chief

      Without a new school, redistricting doesn’t seem like much of a solution now (unlike a few years ago when it was thought that the overcrowding problem might be limited to three or four elementary schools in north Arlington).

      • mehoo

        It may not be much of a solution, other than evening out the overcrowding. My point was that APS may try to do it anyway.

    • Arlingtonthen

      Those toddlers won’t be able to do much in the Tuckahoe elementary school anyway because the new field lights at Bishop O’Connell will make them lose their sleep.

      • Burger

        Now that is funny.

  • Chief

    Based on my observations in my neighborhood, I’ll second the idea that the main source of growth is the generational turnover from empty nesters/retirees to young families. It’s definitely not coming from higher density condo and apartment developments, which have very few kids. Regarding immigration (legal or otherwise), I’m not seeing it, but admittedly that’s based on my observations in my part of Arlington (but which is among the parts with the fastest growth).

    It’s funny, though “everyone” saw this coming (including me) but I recall that when I first moved to this neighborhood five years ago, EVERY article in the Arlington Sun-Gazette about the schools included an editorial line about how some expense couldn’t be justified in light of declining enrollment. That seemed short-sighted to me at the time, but it’s worth noting that that mindset was present.

    • Burger

      The Sun-Gazette issue was cost per child. Something much different than what you are talking about – capital expentidures.

      Though I agree some of the change can be directly attributed to older people moving or dying and being replaced by younger families. My street is a perfect example, in the last 8 years, we have had 5 sets of empty nesters (another 1 this spring) move out and be replaced by either couples in their 30′s or families. I wouldn’t think our street is much different than others around.

      • Chief

        No, that may be the Sun-Gazette’s line now, but back then it was “declining enrollment.”

        • Chief

          I should say…the Sun-Gazette probably also discussed cost per child then (I don’t recall), but the comments about declining enrollment caught my attention because it was so obviously inconsistent with what was happening on my street.

    • Bringmetheyuppies

      In my neighborhood white folks are on the 5 year plan. They move in, have kids while upgrading their houses. And in 5 years they move elsewhere. Ashburn for the conservatives and north arl for the liberals. The local elem school is not an english as a first language school. Many of the cars dropping kids off have MD tags and if you ask the school folks about that they say they cannot check where a student lives and everything is fine. Obviously overcrowding is for different reasons in n and s arl.

      • Westover

        The only Maryland tags I see at McKinley are teachers, and the only other out of state tags are Military families. No one around me is planning on moving out to Ashburn, in fact we have folks giving up huge houses and lots out there for better schools and shorter commutes to live in our urban village.

  • Burger

    As an aside:

    How does a school district change “admission policies” I would guess that is directed to the APS employees that should have their kids going to school near where they live – that would open up at least one school.

    But otherwise, how does one forbid a child that lives in the country from attending a county school barring some form of punishment.

    • Chief

      No, several schools have admissions policies built on something other than a strictly neighborhood admission policy. There are some people that think changing admissions policies for those schools would divert kids from the most overcrowded schools to other schools that are below capacity. To me, it doesn’t really get at the problem, but I suppose it depends on the specific proposal.

      • Lou

        Yeah, I think Kenmore takes students from anywhere in the County. It’s new afterall, that was probably a condition on getting it built. A handful of elementary schools are open countywide as well.

    • Arlwhenever

      Not all students are in-county. Teacher and staff, for example, who live outside county are allowed to put their children in APS schools.

      • parentof2

        It is a lottery and they do not get to put their kids in their choice of schools.

        • local

          But taxpayers foot the bill for the teachers/staff kids to attend Arlington County schools and probably after school programs.

          • Westover

            I assume that we do the same in Arlington as Fairfax does and charge the families a minimal amount for the kids of teachers to attend our schools.

    • SamsontheCat

      Probably a crazy idea, but what about not tying the school districts to the county government like in some other places (not VA). Give the districts (for example the Wakefield School District or the Yorktown School District each with their seperate feeder elementary schools and middle schools) more autonomy to collect school taxes seperately and let their lines cross county lines so that students from just over the boundry in Fairfax County or Alexandria might be in the same district as a kid from Arlington. It could give more flexibility to the schools since it seems kind of silly if an Arlington school is overflowing with students and has to build a new facility if a school across the line could absorb some of that.

      • Westover

        On the southern and western edges of the county, Arlington Schools are far superior. On the North end, the McLean(Fairfax County) and Falls Church City Schools are of equal quality but in the same crowded conditions due to the current baby boom. The solutions you suggest are good when the quality is bad, our quality remains superior, even in the south end of the county, it is a space issue that we have. Hopefully it won’t degrade the quality of instruction. But even with the high quality instruction, some kids just won’t do as well with out a better student/teacher ratio.

  • Sgt. Hartman

    Hey, how ’bout a few charter schools?

    • Sgt. Hartman

      www dot virginiacharterschools dot org

  • Suburban Not Urban

    You would think that this article would be more complete – with a discussion of recent capital layouts by the school system.

  • Chief

    Although there’s a limit to how much capacity can be added through relocatables (I don’t mean to be jargonistic, but “trailer” doesn’t seem to be an adequate term for those buildings), I think they’re a pretty good option right up to that limit. Small increases in class sizes would be acceptable to me.

    Long term putting a school with a county-wide admission policy (either a new one or ATS) on the Wilson school site might make sense.

    I don’t know how to address the high schools, though may have more flexibility to address a numbers problem through scheduling.

    • Westover

      You would think that using the trailers since the 70′s, the local school systems would have realized they are not a very good learning environment as homeroom classrooms, and that they are not a long term solution.

  • Tuckahoe Parent

    And in its infinite wisdom, Arl County is considering redeveloping the EFC Metro area with lots of residences. Whether or not you agree with the redevelopment, where are the kids that come from the new housing going to go? Right now, it’s Tuckahoe and there won’t be any room for them whether it will be 5 or 50.

    The County Board needs to put the EFC redevelopment on hold until there is a plan on where to put the new kids. Maybe the developers can contribute to a school in whole or part. If that’s not a good or acceptable idea, fine. Just figure out another way to put the new kids somewhere else besides trailers number 19 and 20 at Tuckahoe in 2015.

    • Lou

      They should put a school on the Metro lot.

      • SamsontheCat

        They should put a school in the Metro. Just set aside some of the tunnel space. The Morlock Acadamy of Subteranean Learning.

    • Dan

      +1

  • othersideoftheriver

    How about multi-track / year round schools like in Wake County, NC? http://www.wcpss.net/faqs/departments/year_round_schools.html

  • OX4

    Anybody who’s played SimCity could have seen this one coming.

  • Bluemont John

    Some good ideas here–namely, reopening closed schools and retro-converting ones that were turned into community centers.

    And saying no to more residential units until the infrastructure (schools/roads, Metro) can meet the demand. But that means saying no to developers, and with this county board, I won’t hold my breath.

    • Joan

      You got that right. And imagine if they were Republican! My goodness, we’d look like Manhattan.

  • Thomas Carlyle

    Would love to see some comparisons of the square-foot-of-school-building-per-student ratio now versus 20 and 40 years ago. I bet a lot more kids were accommodated in smaller facilities a generation ago. Just like families of four or five that used to live in 1,200 square foot houses now think 2,000 square foot houses are barely adequate. Also the ratio of classroom space to total school building size has almost certainly gone down in the new construction.

  • Edgar99

    So we are spending $100+ million to refurbish Yorktown High School and not adding any space for additional students despite projected overcrowding. Standing ovation to APS and the Board! Geniuses such as yourself could only have graduated from APS.

    A voucher program offering parents of kids in overcrowded schools an amount equal to about half of what the county spends per head to move to private education would save us taxpayers an enormous amount.

    • local

      +100! Great idea

    • jan

      Is it too late to modify the plan?

  • Catholic School Mom

    It’s great that Arlington has so many wonderful small school options. There is a cost to many of these, but many (Catholic grade schools included) have lots of financial aid and have wonderful support from their communities. Small class size, great test scores and wonderful high schools to roll into — make the investment in education worth it. Private isn’t for eveyone, but when the alternative is a local school that is 10-40% over enrolled, it’s a geat option for many.

  • ctbeachbm

    APS spent about a million two years ago for a “consultant” to suggest to the board that computer labs, teachers lounges, and other underutilized spaces be converted to classroom use. APS has already exhausted all the use-able space in school buildings and relocatable classrooms are all that’s left.
    As the article says, trailers are “worst case scenario.” Adding students to a school via trailer doesn’t consider the strain those students put on the shared spaces in the school. Gyms, cafeterias, hallways, etc end up chaotic with traffic similar to Rt. 66 at rush hour!

    • Westover

      Good points on the shared spaces getting clobbered. Taking away the teachers lounges would just be bad leadership/management. The teachers need a place to get away and vent sometimes. The “specials” classrooms, art rooms, music rooms, computer labs, etc. are the things that should be in the trailers, not the homeroom classrooms. Calling trailers the “worst case scenario” is a bit misleading since they have been depending on them for so long.

    • local

      I think there were some good recommendations on this debate: 1. Move PreKs to the community centers; 2. vouchers for private schools. And, I don’t feel responsible for subsidizing afterschool care for ArlCo. teachers children.

  • JimPB

    Add the Madison Center above Chain Bridge to the list of former school buildings that could be restored to use for ArlCo public schools.

    And perhaps Bishop O’Connell (BOC), which has enrollment challenges and serves less than 200 ArlCo. youth, would consider selling. Such a sale could be a win-win.

    A win for the County in obtaining virtually ready to use school space and grtounds right across the street from Tuckahoe, whose enrollment for 2016 is projected as 144% over capacity, and in an area of ArlCo that is generally experiencing a big turn over from older empty nesters to families with multiple children (all U.S. citizens). (In less than a decade, my little North Arlington community of 40 homes has gone from just a couple of little kids to three score as new U.S. citizen families have moved in.)

    A win for BOC and Catholic schools in the area by enabling consolidation with substantial sale money for strengthen continuing schools.

    • Edgar99

      Bishop O’Connell has an enrollment of 1,218 students. It also has selective admissions which accounts for why Arlington only has 200 students there.

      • Westover

        O’Connell is on the edge of the county. There are a lot of McLean, Vienna and Falls Church kids there who have a pretty short trip to school. O’Connell is a good school and offers a lot, but when you compare it to the great north Arlington County High Schools, you don’t get that much additional value for the price. The kids that do go there contribute to our neighborhoods in community service. It is my opinion that it would be a mistake to try to drive them out of the county.

        • Bishop OConnell parent

          I disagree with the comparison of Bishop O’Connell not as good a value for the price versus the “Great North Arlington schools” – I am glad to have paid to send my children to a school that teaches values and community service in addition to excellant academics. Worth every dollar….

          • Westover

            The Arlington County Public Schools push values and community service just as much as O’Connell. You do get a bit more out of O’Connell than from the public schools in terms of academics, but mostly that comes from the better teacher/student ratio. The kids taking AP classes at Yorktown or W-L though will be just as challanged. I am not saying you don’t get your value out of O’Connell, but the Arlington County Schools really are sogood that there is not that much added value. Also, if you value the religious aspect, that is an added value that the Public Schools obviously can’t legally compete with. Did not mean to devalue O’Connell in any way, just meant to point out the near equal value that the Arlington Schools also provide and why parents don’t see a NEED to HAVE to send there kids there as they might have in the past, or might from other areas.

        • Leslie

          I don’t think anyone’s trying to drive O’Connell out of the neighborhood. If they decide that it’s not worth it to continue to try to run a school here, that’s another story, as the demand isn’t here, the cost of maintaining an aging facility is huge, and that nice plot of land they are sitting on is worth a lot. Perhaps it would be the ideal place for an Arlington expansion school! As far as community service, most of the O’Connell kids do any community service in their own communities, which for most are far outside Arlington.

      • neighbor

        No, O’Connell has to work hard to keep that enrollment in four digits. They are indeed hurting for students. It’s difficult for them to attract students in this area. They compete with excellent Arlington schools and endorse far right-wing politics that are alienating to most Arlingtonians.

    • Josh S

      (By making sure to point out “US citizen families” you just encourage the bigots…they’re just plain old “families” … non-citizens can’t vote, can’t hold certain kinds of jobs and face deportation for things like violating the law. I’d say that’s punishment enough for having the temerity to move to the United States (following in the footsteps of every other non-Native American family in the country) …. things like public education, like hospital care, are just provided to people. As in – the public.)

    • neighbor

      Why do you call it BOH? The nickname for O’Connell (Denis J O’Connell High School) is DJO, and has been for 60 years or so.

    • Marvin

      The turnover spin isn’t true. The Arlington Forest area at least is 40% of the community over age 54 that number has increased.
      1990 2000
      Under 5 years old220 9.40% 167 6.60%
      5-17 years old 191 8.20% 269 10.60%
      18-24 years old 229 9.80% 123 4.80%
      25-34 years old 484 20.80% 502 19.70%
      35-44 years old 428 18.40% 454 17.80%
      45-54 years old 263 11.30% 410 16.10%
      55-64 years old 141 6.10% 285 11.20%
      65-74 years old 178 7.60% 159 6.20%
      75-84 years old 182 7.80% 125 4.90%
      85 years and older14 0.60% 54 2.10%

      1990 2000
      Married Couples with Children 228 25.5% 221 18.3%
      Married Couples without Children 270 30.2% 312 25.8%
      Female Single Parent Households 15 1.7% 28 2.3%
      Other Family Households 92 10.3% 61 5.0%
      Non-Family Households 290 32.4% 587 48.6%

      http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/CPHD/planning/data_maps/census/civic/CensusCivicArlforest.aspx

  • Marvin

    If a school isn’t at 100% capicity, 5% of the capicity is reserved for transfers. The exception to the 5% rule is all Countywide schools and special program schools. You can’t transfer to a school that is over capacity. All but a few schools are over capacity, based upon projections. I am negatively effected because my school Barrett has a rating of 6 out of 10, 50% hispanic and a new housing complex the Meridian at Ballston Station has just been built with 230 units where 100 are reserved for low income county subsidized applicants, most likely hispanic. My local school has degenerated by the Arlington County social agenda to harbour illegal hispanic aliens. That is screwed up. To boot your child must pass a proficiency exam in spanish. It is the only language offered. If your child doesn’t meet the spanish language proficiency requirement the 3 day science 2 day spanish becomes 2 day science 3 day spanish. My son is bilingual in German and English but I have to fight to reinforce German while she gets exposed to Spanish at school. Why not make the spanish requirement voluntary or at least provide another language to teach. Spanish?

  • Marvin

    The new plan is to create a “choice” school ( now we have 9 categories of schools) on the plat of the Lubber Run Recreation Center. The idea is to bus the overflow from the “at-capacity” schools in the North (as parents would rather have their kids in Northside schools) to the “Choice” school. Unfortunately, they would build a community center smack in the middle of the school so some pervert can lift weights right near you kids while they are at school.

    http://www.apsva.us/cms/lib2/VA01000586/Centricity/Domain/110/Community%20Update%20Feb%2015%20FINAL.pdf

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