(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) On Tuesday, five “relocatable classroom” trailers were placed on a field next to Washington-Lee High School and the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices. The trailers are part of a continuing effort to keep up with rising enrollment at county schools — an effort that may lead to new high school boundary changes.
The new trailers at Washington-Lee will be grouped together to form four classrooms, plus common spaces like bathrooms. They’re located in front of the W-L swimming pool, a short distance away from existing trailer classrooms at a nearby parking lot.
APS spent some $2.2 million to buy 20 additional relocatable classrooms this past fiscal year. The new FY 2014 budget, which is up for School Board approval Thursday night, is expected to include $1.9 million for 24 new trailers.
The trailers are necessary to deal with a burgeoning school population. Washington-Lee, which was renovated in 2009, is projected to be at 109.1 percent capacity next school year, with 2,023 students enrolled.
While new elementary schools and elementary school additions are on the way to relieve crowding, no such plans are in place at the high school level — only a vague commitment in the school system’s capital improvement plan to start adding permanent middle and high school capacity 5 years from now. In the meantime, that may portend high school boundary changes, since Arlington’s other high schools have some capacity to spare.
Yorktown High School, also recently renovated, was projected (as of Nov. 2012) to be at 97.5 percent capacity next school year, with 1,815 students. And the new Wakefield High School, expected to open in time for the new school year with space for more than 1,900 students, will only be at about 75 percent capacity with 1,460 students.
(The H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, a “choice” school without boundaries, is projected at 99.7 percent capacity with 389 high school students.)
Shifting students from Washington-Lee to Wakefield, should it come to pass, promises to be a contentious process, thanks in part to the big difference in regional school rankings (W-L ranked #10 and Wakefield ranked #62 according to the Washington Post “Challenge Index.) For now, however, APS says there’s no firm plan to change high school boundaries.
“The School Board has said that all boundaries need to be looked at in the coming years because projections continue to change,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “However there is no timetable as of yet.”
Shifting boundaries will not be a panacea, however. By the 2018-2019 school year, Wakefield is projected to be at 100 percent capacity, while Yorktown is projected to be at 122.4 percent of capacity and Washington-Lee at 137.9 percent capacity.
On Thursday, the Arlington School Board unanimously approved the conceptual design of the new elementary school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus in north Arlington.
The 93,578 square foot school will include 28 classrooms, a gymnasium, library, art room, media center, innovation lab, dining room and green roofs. It has a projected capacity of 630 students, to help address the capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools.
The school will cost about $35 million to build, with construction slated to start in January 2014 and wrap up in time for the start of the school year in the summer of 2015.
The Williamsburg elementary school is one of five elementary school building projects approved in the latest APS capital improvement plan. On Feb. 21, the School Board is expected to vote on the conceptual design for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School.
Some residents in nearby McLean have expressed concern about traffic impacts from the new school.
School Enrollment Surging – Enrollment in Arlington Public Schools is now projected to increase from 22,657 pre-K to 12th grade students today to 30,777 students by the 2023-24 school year. The projections suggest that enrollment will near 27,000 by the 2017-18 school year, breaking the previous record for APS enrollment. [Sun Gazette]
Ukrainian Mayor Presents Library With Sculpture – Viktor Anushkevychus, the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, Arlington’s sister city in Ukraine, presented Arlington Central Library with a metal sculpture of a tree yesterday. [Arlington Public Library]
Libby Garvey Looking for New Assistant — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is seeking a new aide in the County Board office, after her previous aide left for a new position in the county. “If you know of anyone who might be interested in the position, please encourage them to check out the announcement and apply,” she said in a recent email to supporters. The full-time job pays between $39,062 and $63,523, plus benefits. [Arlington County]
Model Bootcamp Coming to Pentagon City — A “bootcamp” for wanna-be models is coming to the Pentagon City mall on Saturday. From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will host a promotional event for “The Face,” a new modeling competition show on the Oxygen network. Participants will be put through a “casting session” that will include a short photo shoot; in the end, they’ll be emailed an animated GIF of photos from the shoot. [Oxygen]
Boundary and admission policy changes will be necessary to relieve pressure at overcrowded schools once two new elementary schools and three new elementary school additions come online between 2014 and 2017. (A 225 seat addition at Ashlawn Elementary is expected to be complete by fall 2014, and a new 600-seat elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus is expected to be ready by fall 2015.)
Based on past experience, APS can expect parent opposition to some boundary changes. Perhaps with that in mind, the school system will kick off the discussion about boundaries and admissions at a meeting next week.
The meeting will be held at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Room 101 of the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street). At the meeting, the School Board will “review the current boundary policy, discuss the scope of the boundary changes to be considered, and give direction to staff to ensure communication with and feedback from the community.”
The School Board is expected to take action on new school boundaries in late February 2013, according to a “proposed boundary framework” presentation from earlier this summer. Planning for new middle school boundaries is expected to start during the 2014-2015 school year.
In addition to planning for boundary changes, the school system is also starting its design process for the Ashlawn addition and the new school at Williamsburg.
Arlington Public Schools (APS) has agreed to move several relocatable classroom trailers at Jamestown Elementary School. The move comes about a month after residents and parents started loudly complaining about the placement of the trailers.
The relocatable classrooms were originally placed near N. Delaware Street, adjacent to a playground. Several members of the Jamestown PTA wrote a strongly-worded letter to the School Board in response, saying the trailers took up “valuable green space” in a “high traffic area,” were “in direct line of sight of over a dozen homes in the neighborhood,” and “sully the atmosphere of the heart of the Jamestown community.”
Parents also complained about a lack of notice before the trailers were placed on school grounds. Last night parents were notified that, in response to their concerns, the trailers would be moved closer to 38th Street N.
“It’s in the same area, it has just been set back farther,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. No word yet on whether the decision will fully assuage the PTA members’ concerns.
In a letter to Jamestown principal Kenwyn Schaffner, APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said the decision was made in response to feedback from the community and from school staff.
Dear Ms. Schaffner:
In response to your request for additional classroom space to meet the rising enrollment at Jamestown Elementary School, and the subsequent pleas from your community that the placement of the modular units be reviewed, and based on feedback I have received from you and the Facilities & Operations staff, I have accepted the recommendation that the units be placed on the Option B location. That is, the units will be moved from their current site to closer to the gym and 38th Street North.
I appreciate your efforts to manage the crowding conditions and to ensure that student learning is at the forefront of our efforts. I also appreciate your response to community concerns and the suggestions you have put forward.
Please extend to your community my wishes for a positive end to the school year and a restful summer break.
Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
Update at 7:45 p.m. — Arlington School Board Chair Abby Raphael has responded, in writing, to the PTA letter.
The Jamestown Elementary School PTA has fired off an angry letter to county officials after new relocatable classroom trailers were placed in a field near the school’s playground.
The PTA says the community was not consulted about the placement of the trailers, and that the loss of green space will be detrimental to the school.
“This lack of communication on the County’s part is disrespectful, rude, and flies in the face of the Arlington tradition of ‘respectful dialogue,’” the Jamestown PTA said in a letter addressed to the Arlington County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy and the Arlington County Board.
The incident is similar to another recent controversy, in which parents at Tuckahoe Elementary School protested the placement of classroom trailers on the school’s playground blacktop. The temporary trailers have become increasingly necessary as Arlington Public Schools deals with a capacity crisis.
The PTA is requesting a meeting with the school board “before we are faced with a fait accompli.” See the complete PTA letter, after the jump.
Residents of Glencarlyn already have two schools in their neighborhood — Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School — but they say a proposal to add a third school to the existing campus, part of the plan to address the capacity crisis at Arlington Public Schools, goes too far.
In a letter sent to the Arlington School Board yesterday, the Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association asks the board to consider alternative sites for the proposed 600 students capacity magnet elementary school. The association cites concerns about “traffic, safety, parking and loss of [an] important recreational area” as reasons why the school shouldn’t be built or, at the very least, should be built in a way that minimizes negative impacts.
Along with the letter to the school board, Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association president Peter Olivere sent a letter to the editors of ARLnow.com, the Arlington Mercury and the Sun Gazette.
The Glencarlyn community is very concerned about the process and potential adverse consequences of the Arlington Public School’s (APS) Capacity Planning Process. The process appears to be driven by the APS’s desire to identify specific construction projects prior to placing a bond referendum before the public in November 2012. At the beginning of the Capacity Planning Process, the School Board committed to including the effect on Neighborhood Resources as a criteria for site selection. To date, the process has effectively excluded the affected neighborhoods from participation. The result is that APS has failed to incorporate the impact on neighborhoods in any meaningful way.
The School Board needs to recognize that the construction of new schools will have a significantly larger community impact than the replacement or expansion of an existing building. Given APS’s experience with late and costly modifications to approved capital improvement plans and past criticism of its ability to address legitimate concerns raised by affected communities, Glencarlyn believes the not including neighborhood input prior to deciding locations will undermine public support and confidence in APS’s ability to address future capacity needs.
Glencarlyn is requesting the School Board to refrain from selecting new school sites until additional alternatives have been considered and outreach efforts with the affected communities have resulted in plans to mitigate major concerns. For the Glencarlyn community the major concerns are traffic, safety, parking and loss of important recreational area. We believe there is adequate precedent for the Board to proceed with a bond referendum without tying it to site specific capital improvements.
The Arlington Montessori Action Committee (AMAC), a six year old group of parents and educators, has launched a campaign to convince Arlington Public Schools to build a brand new school devoted to Montessori education.
As part of its ongoing capacity planning process, APS has been narrowing down its options for keeping up with rising enrollment at schools countywide. The options for adding capacity include building new schools and making additions to existing schools.
Montessori advocates have seized upon an APS proposal to build a new PreK-8 countywide magnet school between Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School. AMAC says the school would be ideal for a central Montessori “choice” program, hosting between 600 and 750 Montessori students either from PreK-5 or PreK-8. Currently, there are almost 600 PreK-8 students in 31 Montessori classrooms at schools across Arlington, with hundreds more on waiting lists, according to AMAC.
By drawing Montessori students away from already-crowded schools, the new Montessori choice school could efficiently help mitigate the school system’s looming capacity crisis, AMAC says. The group created a PowerPoint presentation to make their case.
In addition to helping relieve the capacity crunch, advocates say Montessori programs have educational benefits. AMAC cites the county-wide Montessori program at Drew Model Elementary as proof that a Montessori education can “[close] the achievement gap for minority students.”
The public meeting is being held from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road). School officials are expected to discuss the dozens of building options they’re considering in an effort to address the school system’s capacity crisis.
Officials have proposed adding 7,000 seats to the school system over the next 10 years to address the growth of Arlington’s K-12 student population. According to APS projections presented to parents on Feb. 8, school enrollment is expected to continue to grow from 21,519 in 2011 to approximately 30,000 in 2021 (excluding alternative education programs).
Systemwide, APS says their current student capacity is 22,953, and they’ve “pretty much exhausted all our avenues” for adding additional capacity in existing school buildings. In the near-term, capacity will be added through relocatable (trailer) classrooms. To keep up with the burgeoning student body, APS wants to add 3,000 elementary school seats, 2,500 middle school seats and 1,500 high school seats.
The school system has created a list of 60 options for building new schools or making additions to existing schools. The list includes several options for each of 18 sites around the county. Among the likely options are a new 25-classroom “Lubber Run Elementary School” (above) near Barrett Elementary, an eight classroom addition to Ashlawn Elementary, and an elementary school addition to the Reed School in Westover.
Though additions are being considered, school officials say they’re not interested in creating an elementary school with more than 800 seats or a middle school with more than 1,300 seats.
In the coming months APS will be analyzing the options, gathering community input, and refining an “option set” that groups multiple options into a coherent Capital Improvement Plan. Option sets are expected to be discussed at a School Board work session in mid-March.
One of the top issues in the race for Arlington County Board is education and the capacity crisis at our public schools. With that in mind, what kind of education did each of the six candidates receive, and what experience, if any, do they have in the field of education? Per several reader requests, we looked into the educational background of each candidate.
Terron Sims (D) graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, according to his campaign website. Sims has served on the Arlington Public Schools Strategic Plan Steering Committee and on the Committee on the Elimination of the Achievement Gap.
Kim Klingler (D) graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science degree, according to her campaign manager. She majored in Health Services Administration and minored in Business Administration. Her campaign website says she has previously volunteered at a local elementary school.
Libby Garvey (D) graduated cum laude from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, with a major in Politics and a minor in Economics, according to her campaign website. Garvey helped run Mount Holyoke’s Washington internship program in the early 1980s and has served on the Arlington County School Board since 1996.
Peter Fallon (D) graduated from George Washington University with Bachelor of Accountancy degree. He has served on Arlington County’s Marymount University Task Force and was appointed by the School Board to serve on the Yorktown High School building level planning committee.
Audrey Clement (G) received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to receive a Ph.D. in Political Science from Temple University, where she also worked as a teaching assistant. Clement says she spent some of her time as a Congressional Fellow working on special education issues.
Melissa Bondi (D) studied Physics at the University of Rochester but did not complete her degree. She attended the university from September 1989 to December 1991, according to records at the National Student Clearninghouse. She has worked on local campaigns for Arlington County School Board, according to her campaign website, and has been endorsed by School Board member James Lander.
The Arlington County School Board is scrambling to decide on permanent solutions to the school system’s current capacity crisis.
Facing a burgeoning school population that has grown by 15 percent since 2006 and is projected to balloon another 20+ percent by 2017, school leaders are examining numerous options for new buildings, additions and renovations. Sixteen options for buildings or additions on Arlington Public Schools property were presented at a public meeting last week, and more options are on the way.
At a joint work session last Wednesday, County Board and school board members signed an agreement that will open up county-owned properties for possible school use. In the coming months, the school system is expected to add proposals for building on or renovating county-owned properties to the existing 16 conceptual plans for school properties — although only a handful of plans will necessarily be acted upon.
Among the school properties where feasibility studies have been conducted are: Abingdon, Arlington Traditional, Ashlawn, Carlin Springs, Drew, Glebe, Hoffman-Boston, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Oakridge, Taylor, Jefferson, Kenmore, Williamsburg, Reed. Proposals for those sites include adding on to existing school buildings, renovating buildings for classroom use, or adding entire separate, new schools onto the properties.
Among the county properties expected to be studied for possible school use are community centers like the Madison Community Center, among others.
Arlington Public Schools officials say they expect to add about 25 “relocatable” trailer classrooms per year “for the foreseeable future” in order to meet growing demand at schools across the county. The school system has just about run out of other options for packing more students in — by converting computer labs to classrooms and other creative “repurposing” techniques — without adding more bricks-and-mortar or further increasing class sizes.
“We’ve pretty much exhausted all our avenues of repurposing space,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “We’re going to be adding relocatables every year to alleviate some of that overcrowding, but those are just temporary solutions.”
Temporary solutions aren’t enough, administrators say, because the school system’s enrollment growth appears to be permanent. The recent growth in enrollment and the growth in the county’s birth rate point to a sustained rise in the student population that must be met with a permanent capacity increase, they say. By 2017, school enrollment is expected to surpass 26,000 students — nearly 3,500 seats over current capacity.
“This is not a bubble,” said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy.”This is a realization… we need to go ahead and do it.”
Arlington Public Schools will be hosting a public meeting next week about the school system’s looming capacity crisis.
The forum will be held next Wednesday night at the Washington-Lee High School auditorium, not far from where several new trailer classrooms were installed over the summer. School officials will discuss the steps they’re taking to address the burgeoning student population, which is expected to reach 3,400 seats overcapacity by 2016.
Among the possible solutions to be discussed are “building opportunities” on existing Arlington Public School sites. The APS press release is below.
Arlington parents and the community are invited to a presentation about facility planning and steps taken to address the space needs due to increasing enrollment. The meeting will be held on Wed, Oct. 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Washington-Lee High School auditorium (1301 N. Stafford St.)
At the meeting, the community will hear about the current process to address the increases in enrollment and which APS sites may be reviewed for potential building opportunities. APS officials will outline the next steps and talk about opportunities for further dialogue between school communities, staff and the School Board.
The event is open to the community. Simultaneous translation services will be provided.
APS is facing increased enrollment for the foreseeable future. By 2013, there will be over 800 more students than available seats. By 2016, APS faces an even greater shortage of 3,400 seats. As the division continues to exceed capacity limits, APS has been using a variety of solutions to create additional teaching space including adding relocatable classrooms at a number of schools until more permanent solutions can be implemented.
Over the course of the summer, the School Board worked with staff and Decision Lens to build a criteria-based model for evaluating potential capacity-building options. Planning for the 2012 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and future CIPs provides an opportunity for APS to look at where to build additional, permanent capacity for students.
Five large relocatable classroom trailers received a police escort up Washington Boulevard this morning, en route to Washington-Lee High School.
The trailers are being installed in a parking lot behind the Arlington Public Schools administration building. They will be used as classrooms for Washington-Lee students, starting this fall.
Crews removed trees from the parking lot yesterday in preparation for the arrival of the classrooms. School spokesman Frank Bellavia said he the trees will be replanted elsewhere, with the assistance of the Arlington County arborist.
Washington-Lee’s current building, which first opened in 2008, has a capacity of 1,854 students. Enrollment was projected to reach 1,913 in 2011, with the student population burgeoning to 2,585 by 2016.
Hat tips to J.P. and @reidjoshua
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.”
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.