Arlington, VA

(Updated 12:45 p.m.) Tuckahoe Elementary parents are upset with a plan to place four new relocatable classrooms on the school’s playground blacktop.

Tuckahoe is one of the most overcrowded schools in a county school system plagued by a capacity crisis. Tuckahoe, designed to accommodate only 545 students, was projected to be at 130 percent capacity in 2012, with some 678 students. Enrollment is expected to balloon to nearly 150 percent capacity in 2017.

To temporarily help address the overcrowding, Arlington Public Schools is planning to add four new relocatable classrooms at Tuckahoe before the beginning of the next school year. That’s addition to the six mobile classrooms already in use at Tuckahoe.

Some parents are upset, however, about where the school system plans to place the trailers. The classrooms will be placed on a blacktop play area that students currently use during recess. With the blacktop no longer available, students will instead be led to a nearby county-owned tennis court during outdoor recreation time.

In a letter to parents, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says the blacktop was chosen after carefully considering five other locations on APS or county-owned property.

“APS staff believe that this option is the best because it retains the most site amenities for all stakeholders and because we believe this will be an option acceptable to the Tuckahoe community,” Murphy wrote.

Not all parents agree with Dr. Murphy. One group of concerned parents sent a mass email criticizing the decision:

Dear Tuckahoe Elementary School Parent,

Without consulting you, APS has decided to place 4 relocatable classrooms on the Tuckahoe playground blacktop and force the students to have recess and after school play time on the tennis courts down in the park.

This will dramatically change the character of the school, the amount and quality of outdoor recreation the children get, and their critical playground social development. Right now recess for the kids is something like 16 minutes long. How much time does it take to bring a class of kids to and from the tennis courts, and then how much time will be left for exercise and activity?

It will also eliminate the way that many parents get to know each other!

While the trailers may be needed to alleviate severe overcrowding, many of us believe it is imperative that APS find a placement solution that will preserve the blacktop play area that is so heavily used during school and by neighborhood families at other times. Other options exist.

Tuckahoe parents are being encouraged to attend a PTA meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday to make their voices heard.

Meanwhile, Arlington Public Schools continues to seek public input on more permanent plans to deal with the capacity crisis county-wide. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, a public forum will be held to discuss “next steps” in the APS capital planning process, which could result in the creation of new schools or major additions to existing schools. The forum is happening from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kenmore Auditorium (200 S. Carlin Springs Road).

The public is also being invited to observe a School Board work session on capacity issues. That’s taking place from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Washington-Lee Little Theater (1301 N. Stafford Street).

“The Board will be discussing the rankings of 60 possible options for additions and/or new schools to increase capacity,” officials said of the work session. “Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe the proceedings. The Board does not hear public comment at work sessions.”

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