School Capacity Update To Be Held Tonight

by ARLnow.com February 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm 6,765 80 Comments

Arlington Public Schools will update interested residents on their school capacity planning process tonight.

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.

  • Go Tell A Dem

    Forget the schools, what we need is a world class (quarter of a of a billion dollar) trolly going up and down Columbia Pike.
    Its the Arlington Way-All aboard!!

    • Rick

      No no no, what we need to do is put the trolley in the budget, raising the budget, and automatically giving the schools more money. Way easier that way

      • Go Tell A Dem

        Yep, Way easier that way. Just get out the credit card and raise the budget.
        Why did’nt I think of that? Must be something pesky holding me back, like having to pay for the things I want as opposed to what I need?
        Seriously, schools versus trolly?
        Sometimes you have to make a choice..

        • South Arlington

          The schools get plenty already. Highest funding per student in the region. Use the money more efficiently and hold the school board responsible for their spending.

          The streetcar at least increases county revenues with new development and brings in more childless young professionals and couples in the new developments that won’t be a sag on the school system’s finances like families with kids.

  • John

    Arlington needs to reopen Stratford Junior High, build a new N Arlington middle school, or a couple k-8 schools. The elementary crowding will affect the middle and high schools, and Swanson and Williamsburg are not large enough to handle the population increase.

  • bluemonter

    I like the proposal to expand the existing school and county facilities. The big question becomes what do will you do about the overcrowing already occurring in the county High Schools. This issue will probably get worse in the next few years as many of the elementary school kids move onto middle school and then High School.

    P.S. I don’t know why fools such as Rick and Go Tell A Dem comment on the Pike Trolley in this forum. If you are not happy about the proposed Trolley go the Trolley forum and complain on that web site.

    • Rick

      Maybe I will!

      At least I’m aware of the budgeting process for the county. I’d like a little credit please.

      • Go Tell A Dem

        That’s right Rick, you got the credit card.

      • bluemonter

        Ok Rick credit given on knowing the county budget process.

        What are your thoughts on the school capacity issue at our (assuming you are county resident) public schools?

        • Rick

          See below. And yes I’m a resident. I’m also a product of the APS system.

    • Go Tell A Dem

      Because, Bluemont, there is only so much money to go around. Pick your priority.
      Schools versus trolly?

      • bluemonter

        Really Rick????

        You realize that the county is well capatilized, right.

        So what are yours thoughs on over crowding at our public shools in Arlington ( I again assume you live in the county). What would you suggest the county do?

        • Burger

          Rick is arguing the classic

          guns v. butter argument

          What makes sense – schools or Trolley.

          If the county waste a ton of money on the Trolley there will be less there for school projects.

          • Josh S

            Not necessarily.

        • Miriam

          I suggest they go up. Are you aware of the School Sustainability committee? They are the group to help APS make the right decision. Infact creating the committee was one of their best every decisions.

    • steve

      Because both school construction, the streetcar and any other capital projects are funded from bonds. As the County hovers near its borrowing limit you get to a tradeoff situation – do you build a new aquatic center in Long Bridge park, a school addition or a streetcar. It’s why the high school renovation projects were staggered.

      The borrowing limit is not a fixed number, but based on the County’s bond rating, projected tax revenue and interest rates.

  • Edgar


  • South Awwwlington

    Perhaps quit being a magnet community for renters and thereby their children.

    1/3 of Arlington’s school children receive free or subsidized lunches…

    • Josh S

      I guess everyone’s gotta have their pet issues…..

      Which means it’s time for….

      Don’t forget about the Artisphere!!

  • Rick

    The county may have to open up HB a little more to allow more students in, perhaps even a second lottery between 8th and 9th grade. The real long term solution would be a fourth general high school somewhere near route 50, since the current spread of high schools is way off. Two very close to eachother in the north, and the third more than 15 minutes away by car. Somewhere on the Kenmore lot might be nice but the county might have to gasp! widen Carlin Springs road to accomodate all the cars.

    • Go Tell A Dem

      I agree with Rick. Build a new fourth high school but put it on Columbia Pike. Problem solved.
      Trolley for the students and they get a new school.

    • bluemonter

      I agree a fourth High School is necessary and I agree is should be somewhere along route 50 but the western edge of the county is well served by both W&L and Yorktown.

      I think a better location would be near 50 and Washington Blvd. County offices are already located in that area and there is land for a school. Having the location closer to DC will facilitate student access from both the Crystal City, Lyon Park, Rosslyn and other communities along route 50. This new school will be closer to thier home communities and at the same time alleviate the other schools over crowding.

      • Greg

        That’s not a bad idea.

      • bemused bystander

        Where near Wash. Blvd. and Arlington Blvd. is there land for a school? Assuming the county can’t annex Fort Myer …

        • Rick

          Maybe make TJ a middle-high school and throw a few new wings on it?

        • Burger

          That’s my question

          • Greg

            There’s that land at the end of Columbia Pike where the County intends to build a museum. Is that big enough for a school?

            Or is there space over by the new Long Bridge park where they County wants to build an aquatic center/gym?

        • bluemonter

          I think you have a few different opportunities along 27 and 50.

          The first spot you could put a school is on a current park called Buffer Homes Park.

          Second, you could swap land with Fort Myer/accessing some of the western ede of the Fort and in return give the Fort county land along Columbia Pike.

          There is also an old Naval Facility a bit further down the road on S. Courthouse Rd. That I believe the Feds’s are trying to sell.

          • South Arlington

            Did you research this at all?

            Butler Holmes is about one small city block big. It’s not even big enough for an elementary school let alone a high school.

            The Fort doesn’t have any land along Columbia Pike. The land that’s relatively close to Columbia Pike is utilized with buildings, structures and facilities like Henderson Hall. It’s not open space. Also, good luck getting the Army to “swap” land out of their base.

            The Navy facility just had a multi-multi million dollar renovation for the switch over from DISA to a Naval Support facility. It’s also not big enough for a high school. The area around 27 and 50 is pretty built out, and density will increase as this is all prime real estate close to transit and close to the city.

          • Bluemonter

            Look, I was just throwing out ideas. The basic premis is that the eastern part of the county is underserved. Just because it is build out does not mean that the school aged kids should not have a place they can go to school that is close to thier communities.

            Another idea is to take back Wilson High School on Wilson Blvd, in Rosslyn. That is located on a lot about the size of the Butler Homes Park except you have no possibility of horizontal expanson. You could alway’s build up.

            The facility adjacent to the Park also holds county offices and could be turned into a school.

          • South Arlington

            We are talking a high school here. You’re going to need a huge expanse of land for the facilities, parking, fields, etc. There aren’t that many expanses like that. Really, you’d need to do something like take Bluemont Park and convert it into a high school (which isn’t that bad an idea).

            I also think part of the problem is the age old north/south boundaries for high schools. Demographics are becoming more and more similar between parts of North and South Arlington as gentrification has set in. I’d wonder if it’s possible to rethink boundaries to alleviate some of the overcrowding.

    • s.arl

      H-B already has another lottery between 8 and 9. It is also at or over capacity already.

      Another high school is a good idea. I’d rather that than enlarging the ones we have.

    • Numbers Sense

      There already is a second lottery between 8th and 9th.

  • Fillmore

    It’s going to be many years before any of this new space actually opens up, so the kids who are currently crowded in elementary schools will by then be in middle school or high school. A new high school would be a very good idea. Too bad the school board decided to renovate the existing high schools without adding any significant extra capacity — that would have been much cheaper.

    • John

      High school capacity was lowered over time. W-L was once a 3,000 student school until the late 70s/early 80s when the population went down.

      The current high school buildings are designed for 1,500 students which can be expanded to about 1,800 without trailers.

  • Looking In

    I also remember when W-L high was at 2500 to 3000 students in the past. Now, despite all the remodeling we are at 1500 capacity?
    Sounds like the student body has grown over the generations.
    Better check those BMIs!

  • smithers.cm

    Come on out to the meeting tonight and give all your ideas!
    We’re already way over crowded at Tuckahoe, new schools won’t help until its too late.

  • Bender

    Forget about the schools. What we need are more office buildings and mixed use residential buildings.

    Or, maybe, more seriously, what we need is, instead of continually adding to all of this hyper-density that we do not have the infrastructure to support, instead of more office and residential buildings along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, they build a couple of schools instead?

    • OldTimer

      Why not house a school in bottom 3 floors of new office bldg. Great for work/study programs.

    • Josh S

      False dichotomy.

  • JimPB

    Wondering … if parents of children who were eligible for ARLcoPS were offered a financial benefit equal to the cost of ARLcoPS instruction (adjusted for grade level and special needs) for use toward the tuition at a non-ACPS school that would commit to enrolling all ALPS eligible youth who chose one of these schools (to the extant that space was available) OR for home instruction, this might significantly reduce the need for additional ARLcoPS classrooms and facilities — and that cost. For ARLCoPS eligible students who attend non-public schools, the financial benefit would include the average cost of classrooms and facilities and their operation.

    • Really?

      Jim PB, Seriously, You think the public school teachers union, sorry, I mean “education association” and their elected, political allies would allow that?

      • Josh S

        You don’t have to apologize. It’s a union. No one pretends it isn’t.

    • dk

      Speaking as the parent of children who are in APS, why would I want to do this?

      • Burger

        Because the local private schools are better than the public ones and might alleviate some of the overcrowding?

        • dk

          It’s not a slam dunk that the local private schools are better than the public ones. Are some of them? Probably yes. Are they looking to increase enrollment? No.

          There are also plenty of private schools in the area that are not better than Arlington Public Schools.

    • Josh S

      I can’t even read this. There must be some point you are trying to make by using the multiple abbreviations for APS?

    • Edgar

      Yes. I am already sending my kids to private schools. The tuition is a killer but completely worth it. Not sure that there are any non-ACPS schools large enough to enroll all of ARLcoPS students though.

  • Paco Wellington III

    Wait, isn’t there a school already built that could house students? Wakefield? But the School Board wants to tear it down.


    • Rick

      It’s getting rebuilt with more capacity

      • civil servant

        Not necessarily more capacity…more’s the shame.

  • thelevyisdry

    Can one of the long timers explain for me the large decline in enrollment during the 70s? Some great exodus to the burbs as PW county developments like Dale City built out?

    • SK

      I don’t know if there was a great exodus to the burbs. I do know that demographically, Generation X is quite small. There just weren’t that many kids in the late 70s. I remember when they wanted to close Barrett Elem because of low enrollment (1982 or so). There were fewer than 200 kids enrolled.

    • Really?

      For “thelevyisdry” :You might also consider the great influx of immigrants (legal, illegal or undocumented) as a major factor in the large increase in school pop. after the late 70s/early 80s.
      Its not PC to mention this however, so that’s just between you and me.

      • Burger

        Its too bad the facts do not support your argument. In reality, between 2000-2010 Arlington was the only county in Virginia that became more white ratio wise. So your argument lacks merit.

        • Really?

          Mr. Burger, The period to 2000 is “…after the late 70s/early80s ” by definition.

        • Really?

          Mr. Burger, Please get the “facts” from the Arlington Public Schools “Quick Facts” publication, ed. 2011. You will discover that the current school pop. is 46% white and and 54 % minority, including 27 % Hispanic.
          Remember, the subject is school age pop. over capacity.
          Get the facts from the source (the school system) not from your notion of political correctness.

          • Burger

            I stand by my facts. What is the comparison to 2000 – better, worse the same for school aged children…note, that most of the overcrowding issues started in North Arlington – not exactly the part of Arlington teeming with Hispanic children.

          • Burger

            I didn’t see the PC comment.


            Go look at the 1st chart 2000 2010
            Percentage of Whites in Arl 60% 64%
            Hispanics 18.6% 15.1%

            Every other jurisdiction in Virginia went the other way. Smaller percentage of white residents, more minorities.

            I know arguing against facts is tough.

          • Really?

            Mr. Burger, Last time: Its the school pop. that is at issue on this thread. Look at the school census. Overwelmingly white? Do even you see a trending white in those school pop. figures?

    • dk

      Two words: Baby bust.


      Sharply declining fertility rates beginning in the mid-60s resulted in many fewer school children in the 1970s nationwide.

    • OldTimer

      Booze and cigarettes… and salt peter.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      The number of children/family is much lower these days – but the number of families per sqft is much higher – IE it’s the density baby – so every time the board changes the zoning like it did in EFC, like it did in Crystal City, like it will in Rosslyn and avoids Zoning with “Form based Codes” IE anything the board wants – it exaggerates the problem . But people just keep voting for the stiffs that get put up by their party and the developers know who to grease when things are that simple.

      • Really?

        Suburban Not Urban: You nailed it buddy.
        100% correct.
        Go to the head of the Class!

  • SarcasticJane

    Wait till some people find out the superintendent’s plan! The largest elementary schools: Oakridge, Taylor, Tuckahoe, will not be on the build plan. They will expand other schools and CHANGE BOUNDARIES! Pink Slip a’ comin for Dr. M!

    • s.arl

      The truth is though, boundary changes would help.

  • dirty biker

    Is there a follow-up summary of the discussion somewhere?

  • Homeowner

    One of the primary reasons redistricting didn’t work last time was the failure to allow for full family grandfathering. Parents are very invested in their schools and that’s part of why our schools are so strong. If they would have grandfathered in children already attending or with siblings already attending, than over time the new boundaries would have had their intended effect and few would have cared. Instead, they punted and the problem is worse.

    • Burger

      Do you realize how ridiculuously complex that is.

      You would have buses going all over the place. Stopping at the same spot to pick up difference kids at different time.

      grandfathering is great on a individual basis but county wise would be a logistically nightmare.

      • C

        Grandfather the families without the obligation to provide transportation. Families could drive students to either a regular school bus stop or to the school itself. Parents would then have to decide if remaining at the now “out of bounds” school would be worth it.

        • steve


  • drax

    So who went to the meeting? Was it standing room only? That would be ironic.

    • Guest

      My husband went — he said only about 35-40 people in attendance. Sad — all the bitching and moaning from the overcrowded schools, but they couldn’t get bodies there.

  • Numbers Sense

    Other school systems do not invest the amount of time and energy Arlington does in collecting community input. They draw the boundary. Then the bus arrives at the stop to pick up the kids and the kids go to the school they have been assigned. We could cut down a lot of expenditures but just getting on with it.

  • sue

    We spend DOUBLE the national average per student and more than Fairfax, DC and Montgomery counties and we get overcrowded classrooms and trailers that take up the sports field so kids play on a patch of blacktop.

    This is ludicrous. Did these people have their heads in the sand? The influx of families and young children has been obvious for a decade now. We are a RICH county. Look at all the cranes and new construction.

    School Board- quit pussyfooting around!

    • southarlington

      The School Board just need to make decisons and not care what the parents/ care givers think…the other surrounding counties do it …also start checking where the kids really live I see so many Maryland license plates around my school …..

  • Village Genius

    Maybe it’s time to address the childhood obesity problem. Solve that issue and it’s a win-win: better health and less capacity problems.

    • sue

      wrong county/state. these are ‘whole foods’ children. all organic/natural. check the playgrounds- no fat kids.

      • Really?

        Sue, No fat kids? Your neighborhood must look a lot different than mine, but then the bar for what is a fat kid these days is pretty high compared to when I was a kid in the ’50s.

        • No, Really Really

          Has the ability to understand comedy died here in this land where all kids are above the 90th percentile?


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