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by ARLnow.com — June 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm 2,114 0

H-B Woodlawn and the Sratford School (via Google Maps)Arlington County is considering a local historic designation for the former Stratford Junior High School on Vacation Lane, causing some parents to worry that preservation efforts may mean more school overcrowding.

With the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program set to move from the Stratford building to a new building in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools is planning a $29.2 million renovation of Stratford that would allow it to house a new 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school. Both schools are set to open in 2019.

Tomorrow night, however, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board will hold the first of six public hearings on whether to recommend designating Stratford, which was built in 1950, a local historic district. It’s already on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of its role in the civil rights movement: in 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.

“A local historic designation will provide a framework for preserving and telling the important story of this building and site while allowing plans for a separate new school to be designed and built,” the group Preservation Arlington said in support of the designation. “Stratford Junior High School is an incredible part of Arlington’s history… as well as an excellent example of International Style school architecture.”

Parents worry that a historic designation could push back the opening of the new middle school beyond 2019.

The Jamestown Elementary PTA, which last year decried APS delaying a decision on a new middle school, says a middle school at Stratford is key to alleviating overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson middle schools. The PTA asked parents to make their voice heard at meetings this week.

“Right now the Arlington County Board is considering turning Stratford into a historical property, which would likely delay the opening of Stratford as a neighborhood middle school,” the PTA said in an email to parents. “That delay will impact all of the surrounding middle schools leaving the overcrowding issue as one that will remain for much longer.”

At a meeting at Williamsburg Middle School last night, parents were told that the school may need up to 28 relocatable classroom trailers by 2018. The trailers could ultimately hold the school’s entire 6th grade class, school administrators said.

Another APS meeting on middle school capacity issues will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Swanson Middle School. The historical review board will meet at the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

by ARLnow.com — May 22, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,222 0

Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally at the Pentagon (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin)

Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County government offices, courts, schools, and community centers will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Arlington’s public indoor pools will be open, trash and recycling will be collected and ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. [Arlington County]

Flags In at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, placed small American flags in front some 275,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The annual ceremony, known as “Flags In,” has been taking place before Memorial Day for more than 60 years. [U.S. Army]

Arlington Man Convicted of Sexual Abuse — Arlington resident Gary Hankins, a 45-year-old former licensed clinical social worker, has been convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old patient. The boy’s parents first contacted authorities after they discovered sexually suggestive texts from Hankins on his phone. [NBC Washington]

Candidates Bash Board’s Reevesland Vote — The Democratic candidates for County Board are criticizing the County Board’s vote this week to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. At a debate lacking one candidate — School Board Chair James Lander, who had a School Board meeting — candidates took turns bashing the decision, calling it “shameful,” “bad business” and “beneath Arlington.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]

APS to Discuss Swanson, Williamsburg Plans — Next month Arlington Public Schools will hold public forums to discuss “interim options” for addressing capacity issues at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools. “These interim solution options include the use of both on-site or off-site locations to house some portion of the school populations, the possibility of some interior redesign, the use of relocatables as part of the solution, and changes in scheduling,” APS said in a press release. [Arlington Public Schools]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

by Ethan Rothstein — May 5, 2015 at 2:55 pm 7,986 0

The N. Quincy Street property purchased by Arlington County The Arlington County Board signed a major deal to acquire land this afternoon, paying $30 million for 6 acres along N. Quincy Street, across from Washington-Lee High School.

The land was owned by Bill Buck, founder of Buck & Associates and Arlington real estate mainstay, who agreed to let the county pay for the land in stages: $1.2 million at the close of the sale, $1.8 million in 2016 and $27 million by November 20, 2017, after the county undergoes a revision to the Capital Improvements Program.

The County Board approved the purchase 5-0.

“This is a rare opportunity for the county to acquire a significant piece of property in North Arlington that is zoned for light industrial use, at a time when our community is struggling to find public land to accommodate our many facilities’ needs,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release.

“We are thrilled that Bill Buck, whose family has played such an important role in the development of Arlington, has agreed to give us this purchase option. Over the next two years, we will be having a conversation with the community about the best uses for this site, using the criterion and process being developed by our Community Facilities Study effort.”

The N. Quincy Street property purchased by Arlington CountyIn the announcement, the county said it has no specific plans for the site yet, but all but 1.35 acres of it is zoned as light industrial. That zoning allows the county to decide which of its chief land priorities — school buildings, a new transportation storage facility and open space — it wishes to devote the new land to.

Currently, Nova MMA/Crossfit Arlington occupies the westernmost building on the land, where it moved in 11 months ago after it was forced to move from its first location in Courthouse. It had previously stood next to Wilson Tavern, where a Hyatt House hotel expects to open next year.

The Board can opt out of the purchase before November 2017. The first payment was funded through CIP 2014 bond money. The land will be rolled into the ongoing Community Facilities Study, after which time the county will involve Arlington Public Schools — which just announced a plan to put 71 new trailers at elementary and middle schools by 2020 — in discussions on the site.

“Although funding for this purchase is not in the current CIP, sometimes you have to act when opportunities arise,” Hynes said in the release. “For many years, community members have suggested that this property should be in the public realm. We are delighted that after complex negotiations, we are able today to achieve that goal.”

This is the biggest county land acquisition since it acquired 7.1 acres for Long Bridge Park in 2011, in an exchange for additional zoning from a developer. The 1.35-acres not zoned for industrial use are zoned for residential, which allows building streets, sidewalks, trails and recreational facilities.

by ARLnow.com — March 30, 2015 at 9:00 am 1,686 0

First bloom of the season (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Wounded Marine’s Golf Clubs Stolen — Retired Marine Lt. Col. Justin Constantine had a couple of his beloved, custom-made golf clubs stolen from Arlington’s Army Navy Country Club after accidentally leaving them at the driving range. Constantine was shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq in 2006. So far, one of the clubs has been returned while two remain missing. [Marine Corps Times]

Video: iPads in Use at APS — Arlington Public Schools has posted a new “#digitalAPS” video that shows iPads in use in a middle school science class. [Arlington Public Schools]

APS Community Engagement Juggling Act — Arlington Public Schools is planning a community engagement blitz as it seeks to keep up with rapidly rising school enrollment by building new schools. This comes in the wake of the County Board putting the brakes on a plan, unpopular with some residents, to build new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. APS is trying to juggle getting community consensus with the need to build new capacity quickly. [InsideNova]

Dremo’s Owner Dreams Up ‘BeerDisneyLand’ — The owner of the late, lamented Dr. Dremo’s in Rosslyn is proposing to build a two-acre “BeerDisneyLand” on D.C.’s Anacostia River waterfront near Navy Yard. [Hill Now]

Flickr pool by Kevin Wolf

by ARLnow.com — March 16, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,824 0

Apartment building in Pentagon City at sunset

County Board Mulls Temporary Space for Schools — Arlington County Board members say they’re considering a request by the School Board to consider providing temporary spaces that can ease the school capacity crunch. [InsideNova]

Parking Appeal Change Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a change to the appeals process for certain parking citations. Whereas previously only certain tickets issued by police officers were allowed to be appealed administratively, the Board on Saturday approved giving the County Manager the authority to set up a more streamlined administrative appeal process for a broader range of parking citations. [Arlington County]

New Bus Route Exceeds Expectations — The Metroway bus rapid transit route that runs from the Braddock Road Metro station to Crystal City is exceeding Metro’s early ridership projections. Already, the route is averaging 1,340 riders each weekday. [Alexandria Times]

Section of Bluemont Park Renamed — A forested, 6.6-acre section of Bluemont Park has been renamed Mary Carlin Woods, in honor of one of the property’s owners. Mary Carlin’s family owned the property from 1772 until her death in 1905. The new name will also make it easier for first responders to find the area in an emergency. [Arlington County]

RedRocks Adds Delivery, Opens Patio — Columbia Pike pizzeria RedRocks is now offering delivery service. For those who’d rather dine out, the restaurant has just opened its outdoor patio for the season. [Twitter]

by Ethan Rothstein — March 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm 2,435 0

Percentage of students by housing type(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) While new apartments and condos make up the vast majority of new housing units in Arlington, most of the growth in Arlington’s booming public school population over the past decade has actually come from single family home neighborhoods, county and school officials said Wednesday night.

At a meeting of the Arlington Community Facilities Study Committee, staff from Arlington Public Schools and the county Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development reviewed the housing trends that have fueled explosive school growth over the last decade. Despite the constant influx of millennials into newly-constructed apartments and condos in the county’s Metro corridors, single-family homes remain the driver of APS capacity issues.

Currently, every 100 apartments in a building with an elevator produces only about 8 students, according to APS. For condo buildings it’s even lower — 3 students for every 100 units.

However, in an interview today, APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said that might not always be the case.

“That’s what really worries us,” he said. “The county is encouraging developers to build larger units, and in places like Brooklyn and Queens, families living in high-rises is the norm … Our very low [student] generation rates could really increase. If they do, we could be in real trouble.”

The growing size of a single-family householdThat growth hasn’t happened yet, although Chadwick said APS watches those numbers “very closely” so the district is not surprised if the trends shift. Until then, staff, committee members and observers from the community all agreed that the cause of growth among students in the county requires further study.

According to U.S. Census data gathered by Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, the average size of single-family households has increased by 0.3 people among homeowners since 2000, and 0.6 people among home renters.

Several representatives of civic associations at last night’s meeting said they want the county to use data from single-family house teardowns that get rebuilt as substantially larger homes, as well as large additions. A parent in the Nottingham Elementary Parent Teacher Association said APS should adjust their projections based on the recent uptick in average household size among single-family homes.

What’s happening in my neighborhood is there’s a huge stock of houses that were built in the ’50s are being knocked down, they’re being replaced by new large homes, all bought by younger families with lots of school kids,” the parent said. “We really need to dig into growth, not looking backwards at what did happen… You cannot assume that looking backwards is going to tell us the future.”

County-wide, 100 single-family homes generate about 42 students, according to APS data. But, Chadwick said, some neighborhoods are as high as 60 or 70.

Community members at the Facilities Study meeting Wednesday, March 11“What worries us is that in some communities, the single family homes have capacity for more students to come in,” he said. “It’s hard to figure out where and when that’s going to happen.”

A staffer at the meeting, when asked about predictive models based on house tear-downs and additions, said the data Arlington has is unreliable for school projections.

The [demolition] permitting system was set up to collect fees, it wasn’t set up to project students,” the staffer said. “Unfortunately there’s limitations to that data … we’ve assembled it and that’s something we’re looking into with a similar question: can it be predictive given the constraints that we have?”

In the the current school year, 55 percent of students come from single-family homes, 22 percent come from garden apartments, 10 percent come from high-rise apartments and 13 percent come from condominiums, townhouses and duplexes combined. Those proportions have held over the last years, despite overall county population growth concentrated in the Metro corridors.

While single-family detached homes make up most of the land in Arlington County, those homes only make up 26 percent of the housing stock.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2015 at 10:00 am 3,034 0

The proposed Thomas Jefferson elementary school site, put on hold by the Arlington County Board
Two weeks ago, the Arlington County Board said “not now” to a planned elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Opponents of the plan cheered the County Board’s action, saying that plans to build on the TJ site would eliminate land that could later be used as parkland. Arlington Public Schools will now go back and conduct more studies and community engagement in order to figure out how to deal with its capacity crisis in south Arlington.

Supporters of the school plan said delaying the construction of urgently needed school capacity could result in 45 new trailer classrooms next to south Arlington schools by 2018.

While the “Save TJ Park” group that opposed APS’ proposed placement of the school was the most vocal during the lead up to the County Board vote, those who supported the school are now making their voices better heard.

In a letter to the Sun Gazette, Arlington resident Nathan Zee writes that the County Board decision shows that there is “an unquestionable divide” between north and south Arlington.

“The County Board’s direction to APS to keep working with the community until consensus is reached is nothing short of a total absolution of leadership and decision-making responsibility,” Zee writes. “There could always be more planning, but the time to act was now.”

In order to find out (unscientifically) how the community as a whole feels, we’re putting it to a poll: do you support the County Board’s decision?

by Ethan Rothstein — February 6, 2015 at 3:15 pm 2,133 0

The Arlington School Board at its Feb. 5, 2015 meetingThe Arlington School Board has vowed to work with the county government to find short-term fixes to South Arlington’s elementary school capacity crisis.

In response the Arlington County Board’s decision to say “not now” to APS’ plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, the School Board delivered a joint statement last night, agreeing to work with the county to find creative solutions to fit the hundreds of new students coming to the county every year.

“We appreciate the County Board’s commitment to partnering with the School Board to provide a minimum of 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington not later than the start of school in September 2018, using a combination of interim and permanent solutions,” the School Board’s statement reads. “This commitment increases the variety of options available. The County Board has offered to provide technical support to identify and evaluate County buildings and private commercial spaces that might help meet our capacity needs on an interim basis.”

The School Board took turns reading from parts of the statement at its meeting. The five members said they will start another community engagement process of their own, including directing Superintendent Patrick Murphy to work with County Manager Barbara Donnellan on identifying county- and privately-owned sites that could accommodate school uses.

Murphy is also charged with, according to the School Board’s statement, outlining “a process and timeline for considering solutions that enable us to meet our deadline of providing a minimum of 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington by the start of school in September 2018.” That includes spending the approved $50.25 million bond funds, approved in November for the purpose of a more South Arlington elementary school seat.

Murphy has been directed to return before the School Board by April 30 with a status report on his conversations with the county and community engagement. The Board did not set a deadline for a complete recommendation or when it would make a decision.

The School Board also asked Murphy and APS facilities staff to “update APS feasibility studies of APS properties, as appropriate.” One of the County Board’s criticisms of the schools’ recommendations was a lack of study of the broader impact of a new school.

“The School Board is optimistic that more options will serve our community better,” the School Board statement reads. “We are moving forward in collaboration with the County Board and will work to build community consensus around capacity solutions. Together with Dr. Murphy, APS staff, the community, and the County Board and its staff, we are confident that we will maintain our focus on student achievement as we meet our capacity challenges.”

School Board Chair James Lander said “blood, sweat and tears” went into the School Board’s statement, and the five-member panel met at a retreat on Saturday to finalize the language. It is meant to come from “one board and one voice,” he said. (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — January 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm 4,000 0

The proposed Thomas Jefferson elementary school site, put on hold by the Arlington County BoardIt’s back to the drawing board for school administrators trying to keep up with soaring elementary enrollment in South Arlington.

A County Board vote Tuesday night threatens to turn elementary schools south of Route 50 into virtual trailer parks — as Arlington Public Schools administrators scramble to come up with ideas, studies and public support for new school construction.

The County Board voted 4-1 to say “not now,” to the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on county-owned land next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Libby Garvey, a former School Board chair, cast the dissenting vote.

The School Board previously vowed to provide 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington by September 2018, but last night’s decision has put that goal in doubt. Those voting against the school said APS didn’t make enough of a case to the community that the TJ site was the best option.

“I don’t think the School Board organized the data and presented the data in a way that everyone in South Arlington can say ‘I see what they’re doing… this is the best they’re going to be able to do,'” County Board Chair Mary Hynes, also a former School Board hair, told ARLnow.com today. “The broader community does not understand that.”

Garvey, however, blasted the decision.

“South Arlington needs a new elementary school and they need it now,” she told ARLnow.com.

According to a press release, the School Board can re-submit their request to the county to build next to TJ, but only after it provides a full analysis of sites and potential additions in South Arlington, including “feasible non-construction strategies.” The analysis must include, Mary Hynes said, “tradeoffs with parking, green space and traffic implications.”

The School Board must also have “as close to final estimate” of what funding it needs from the county on top of the $50.25 million approved in the 2014 bond referendum. Initial estimates peg an underground parking deck at $7 million, money not included in the bond question.

The School Board has already approved an alternative plan for South Arlington elementary schools: building additions onto Randolph and Barcroft elementary schools. But School Board member Abby Raphael told ARLnow.com that it’s far from certain that the Board will move forward with those plans.

“In light of what the County Board’s decision is, the School Board is going to have to consider what our next steps are,” Raphael said.

Yorktown High School classroom trailersIf no permanent seats are built by 2018, elementary schools south of Route 50 will be over capacity by 894 students, according to APS projections. If no alternative, temporary solutions are found, that would mean 45 more relocatable classrooms would have to be installed at South Arlington elementary schools, more than double the 38 currently in use.

In APS’ presentation for the County Board last night, schools staff laid out the realities of South Arlington’s enrollment growth. Based on current projections, the area needs either two new elementary schools, one new school and three additions on existing schools, or six additions by 2024. APS projects that 1,384 additional students will need elementary school seats in South Arlington in the next 10 years.

“I thought the schools did a spectacular job in their presentation and clearly addressed the concerns that had been expressed,” by opponents, Garvey said today. “I was extremely disappointed… We’re building a new school in North Arlington and now we’re telling South Arlington ‘oh well, never mind.'”

Raphael said the County Board’s decision was “frustrating” and felt the School Board had done more than enough to inform the community and justify its decision.

“I’m not sure that the County Board and maybe some of the community have a full appreciation of the work we’ve been doing since 2011,” Raphael said. “There’s extensive documentation on all the feasibility studies we’ve done. I don’t know what else the county is expecting us to do for that.”

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — December 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm 3,585 0

Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board voted last night to move the H-B Woodlawn program from its home on Vacation Lane to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.

The Wilson School, which preservationists launched a petition to save last year, will be torn down and replaced with an estimated 775-seat facility house H-B Woodlawn, the Stratford program, and other, smaller programs that had been housed in the Stratford building.

The demolition and new facility will cost an estimated $80.2 million and be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

As part of the School Board’s goal of building 1,300 new middle school seats by 2019, it will be constructing a $29.2 million renovation of the Stratford building and convert it into a neighborhood middle school with 1,000-seat capacity.

Arlington Public Schools staff will also determine which sites to recommend spending up to $16.6 million on renovating or building additions for 300 more middle school seats. Where those seats will be, according to APS staff, will be decided “no later than the next” Capital Improvement Plan process.

The plan the School Board approved is similar to the one endorsed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month. They elected the plan over building a neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site and building a middle school at the Reed/Westover building.

School Board Chair James Lander and Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said they opposed building a neighborhood school in Rosslyn two months ago.

“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez said at the time. Lander said the site is “not one that would be my first option.”

School Board member Abby Raphael, who said at that same meeting that she would be open to seeing a neighborhood school at the Wilson site, voted against the motion.

“I myself believe that a 1,300-seat, or even 1,000-seat, neighborhood school at the Wilson School was the best option for us,” Raphael said. “We have students in that area, it is a growing neighborhood, many students would have been able to walk to that school, it would have been one project, and it would have been cost effective.”

During a community meeting on the middle school capacity options in October, parents expressed support for using the Wilson School as a facility.

“I don’t know what should go in there, but I think that [the Wilson School] needs to be considered,” Ponappa Paleyanda, who lives near the site in the North Highlands neighborhood, said at the time. “It’s urban, and we live in an urban setting. It would give kids the ability to be put in settings they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in school.”

The motion carried 3-1, with Lander, Violand-Sanchez and Nancy Van Doren voting in support.

“I think the vast majority of this, we have a consensus on, and I think we should all take a breath and realize we’ve done really, really well here,” Van Doren said, emphasizing the lengthy community process and a final decision that appears to bring “1,300 secondary school seats, within budget, on time, by 2019.”

The School Board’s decision will be disappointing to preservationists, who have argued that the 104-year-old Wilson School is historic in nature and should be preserved.

by Peter Rousselot — December 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,022 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotIn a Nov. 13 column, I urged Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County government to collaborate in thinking way outside the box in selecting sites for new school facilities.

Today, I urge them to be similarly creative and flexible in designing those new facilities.

Our neighbor, Fairfax County, has provided an example of such creativity and flexibility with the September opening of a new elementary school in vacant office space at Bailey’s crossroads. “As we continue to be a fast-growing school system and property becomes harder to come by, we will have to think differently” about school design, said Superintendent Karen Garza. “Vertical buildings will be part of our plan throughout the county.”

With roughly one-tenth the land area of Fairfax, Arlington must place even greater emphasis on vertical facilities. There are many obstacles to overcome, but we must come together as a community to overcome them.

Arlington need not re-invent the wheel on this issue. For example, several years ago, the state of Maryland prepared a study on vertical public school design. In a 14-page report, the Maryland study team summarized:

  • its methodology
  • the problems and issues it encountered, and
  • a series of possible solutions

The Maryland study team included public and private sector representatives from across the state. Many other localities in the U.S. (e.g., Los Angeles) and all over the world are planning vertical schools. Via AECOM:

Vertical schools are already being successfully designed and delivered…, including the Hampden Gurney primary school in London. … [T]his school [is] to be constructed over 6 levels on a space-restricted site. Incorporating a playground on the roof with play decks on intermediate floors, schools like this are set to inform the design process for similar schools in Australia.

So what’s driving the growth of these schools as opposed to more conventionally designed ones? … Population growth is seeing young families settle in high-density areas, attracted by associated lifestyle benefits that also make the “traditional” school design model harder to achieve.

Sound familiar?

Vertical schools are just one example of the kind of flexibility and creativity Arlington needs in order to address the design issues presented by the school capacity crisis. A whole host of other issues need to be on the table, for example: how existing space within current school facilities could be re-designed in order to be more effectively utilized.

Since incremental funds to address the school capacity crisis deserve the highest priority in our County budget, a portion of our community resources should be devoted to innovative school facility design.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm 2,512 0

APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy gives his FY 2015 budget briefingThe H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.

Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.

If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school — by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.

The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.

Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3″ option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.

The "SWE3" middle school expansion option, which Superintendent Patrick Murphy is recommending to the School BoardThe other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.

Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.

The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm 2,365 0

Randolph Elementary School (photo via Arlington Public Schools(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Although a final decision has not been made on where more elementary school seats will go in South Arlington, the options have now been narrowed to two.

First, a plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a project which has come under criticism for its reduction of the green space next to the TJ Community Center.

Second, a plan for building $54 million of expansions onto Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. The Arlington School Board approved the expansion plan at its meeting last night as the alternative to the TJ plan. Whichever option is built is expected to open by September 2018.

The Board will vote in January on which option it will move forward with. Arlington voters approved $50.25 million toward the new elementary school seat plan on Tuesday as part of the $106 million school bond package.

Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said last night that there could be measures APS takes to bring the two expansions closer to the $50.25 million budget.

Two parents spoke out last night against the plan to expand Barcroft and Randolph, telling the School Board they should focus expansion efforts on schools that don’t lag far behind the rest of the school system in state testing. School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez echoed those parents’ concerns, and was the lone vote against the alternative plan.

“When we look at adding more seats, we keep on talking about seats. We’re not talking many times about students,” she said. “We’re not talking about instructional programs and options we have before us. The part of the county where Barcroft sits and Randolph sits, we have serious instruction issues when we have low achievement of Latino, African-American, students with disabilities, low-income students not perfomrming as they should. We have a problem.”

The other School Board members countered with the fact that APS capacity issues will affect every building in the school system, and performance issues can be addressed during expansion. School Board member Abby Raphael suggested that concerns about the schools’ performance are being overblown.

“Barcroft is a wonderful school. Students are achieving, there’s a wonderful staff. Of course we can do more,” she said. “Because of our growing enrollment, our elementary schools are going to reach 725 students, and we’re running out of land. Ideally, we’d love to have a number of very small elementary schools, but we just simply don’t have the land and the money to achieve that.”

The School Board’s “preferred plan” remains building a new elementary school next to TJ, but that plan is opposed by community group Friends of TJ Park. The group says the new school would reduce crucial parkland, including the community garden. TJ Middle School students spoke up at a School Board meeting last month to advocate for keeping the garden.

Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park at Arlington County Board's meeting 07/1914“I am so proud to work in the TJ Garden and seeing it every morning reminds me of how important it is to our community and school in Arlington,” seventh-grader Lucy Robinson said. “If the TJ garden were separated from the school, fewer people would go there and be involved. The TJ community would be hurt by this. Please leave our garden in its current location.”

The TJ plan would add 725 seats with the new school, while the two expansions would add a total of about 500 seats, according to APS estimates. The disparity may make the decision clearer after APS released its new set of student growth projections last night.

APS Director of Facilities Planning Lionel White told the School Board that APS figures to grow by 19 percent, or 4,957 students, in the next five years. According to the district’s projection model, APS will hit 30,000 students in 2020. Because of this growth, APS is considering refining elementary school boundaries for next fall.

“This year we had our highest kindergarten class on record, 2,196,” White told the Board. “Next year we’re anticipating [more than] 2,200.”

Many of the students affected by the school district’s boundary changes will be attending the new elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School. Last night the School Board approved the school’s name: Discovery Elementary School.

“When you go into successful schools, they use language like ‘discovery’ and ‘creativity’ to spark inspiration in the children,” School Board Chair James Lander said. “The fact that Discovery is the recommended name really pleases me.”

Photo (top) via Arlington Public Schools

by Ethan Rothstein — November 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm 2,716 0

Reed/Westover building (photo via Google Maps)(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.

The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.

A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.

The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.

Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.

Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.

A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.

According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”

In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.

The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — October 10, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,443 0

Eerie sky over the Clarendon Metro station (Photo courtesy @ClarendonScene)

County Government Open on Columbus Day — Even though it’s a federal holiday, Arlington County government offices will be open for Columbus Day on Monday. Courts, DMV offices, the Sheriff’s Office and other state-related offices will be closed. Arlington Public Schools will be closed for a teacher work day. [Arlington County]

Antique Plane Fly-Over — About 30 World War II-era planes will be flying over the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery around 12:30 p.m. today 11:55 a.m. Saturday. [WTOP]

Higher Charges for DCA Passengers? — Reagan National Airport is expected to have its traffic increase by another two million passengers next year, while overtaking both Dulles and BWI in passengers by the end of this year. To help keep up with the growth, and perhaps encourage use of the recently-upgraded Dulles International Airport instead, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering an increase of the passenger fee at DCA from $4.50 to $8.50. [WTOP]

Metrorail Ridership Continues to Slide — Ridership on Metrorail is continuing its five-year-slide. Ridership has slipped from a high of 225 million annual trips in 2009 to just over 200 million annual trips now. A shrinking federal workforce, increased telecommuting and increased bike and bus commuting are said to be the main drivers of the decrease. [Washington City Paper]

Office Buildings as Schools — Converting older office buildings into schools is increasingly being eyed as a two-fold solution to office vacancies and a school capacity crunch in Northern Virginia. In Falls Church, a five-story office building was converted into an elementary school — although a full gymnasium has yet to be built. [Washington Post]

‘Historic’ Garage Move Considered — Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will meet on Wednesday and consider a proposal to move a “historic garage” from county property onto the now privately-owned Fraber House site in Cherrydale. Preservationists might not be thrilled about the move, which would also require the removal of an oak tree. “Historic preservation advocates had wanted the county to draw the historic district line around the garage so that this wouldn’t have to happen… oh well,” one tipster told ARLnow.com. [PDF]

Photo courtesy @ClarendonScene

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