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Glencarlyn Residents Fight Proposal for New School

by ARLnow.com April 10, 2012 at 11:40 am 4,090 68 Comments

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.

  • Typical Arlington Resident

    DON’T BUILD ANYTHING EVER

    • thelevyisdry

      Seriously. Enough discourse, let’s settle this cage match style. The “we need more schools” people need to be locked in a room with the “not in my neighborhood” people. Last person standing wins.

  • Arlington, Northside

    The proposal of adding a third school to that location made little sense to me. We need more neighborhood schools and fewer magnet schools in the county.

    • More neighborhood schools!

      +1 In fact, APS should add a neighborhood school to Arlington Traditional School in Bluemont.

      • Arlington, Northside

        Totally on the same page. There is no reason for having ATS in the first place, let alone at that location.

  • Tuttle

    Ok this shows I am out of the loop (and have no kids), but was the elementary school built at the same time the new Kenmore was built?

  • speonjosh

    Accept now that no solution will be without its detractors. The solution should be what is best for the county and the uproar from individual pockets has to be filtered through that.

    That said, if this truly is a proposal for a magnet school, not a neighborhood school, then it does seem to be a mistake. Of course, I can see where the APS folks are coming from – if they create a new neighborhood school it would require resetting boundaries at all nearby schools – a major, major headache. A magnet school requires none of that.

  • Runaway Train

    What about the large empty lot on S Four Mile Run Dr. that is already owned by the county? It is adjacent to Jennie Dean park.

  • VA is for Drinkers

    Cant they add it where Sams Deli is?

    • Tipster

      They want to but every time the architects go to look at the site, it’s closed.

  • Autoexec.bat

    Or an empty storefront in Ballston Mall. I heard there were a few of those. Plus, Alexandria is already doing this, sending its ne’er-do-wells to Landmark Mall, which is punishment in an of itself.

  • nom de guerre

    Donaldson Run

  • Wayne Kubicki

    I don’t know enough about what the “community process” has (or hasn’t) been at Glencarlyn.

    But I am greatly troubled by the civic association president’s suggestion that the County Board (who actually puts bonds on the ballot – not the School Board per se) should “…proceed with a bond referendum without tying it to site specific capital improvements.”

    If Arlington voters are going to be asked to take on even more bond indebtedness, I don’t think it’s too much to ask (before having to cast a vote) exactly what the money will be spent on – and where.

    • speonjosh

      Not to express an opinion one way or the other about your proposal, but I believe that unspecified bonds are floated all the time, aren’t they? (Unspecified beyond the “parks”, “schools”, etc designation…..)

      • John Fontain

        ^^Rhetological fallacy: Appeal to common practice.^^

        • speonjosh

          Like I said, I wasn’t commenting one way or the other on the merits of the proposal. However, WK indicated that he was “greatly troubled” by a suggestion to float a bond not tied to site specific capital improvements. If that is common practice, why would there be need to be greatly troubled?

          • John Fontain

            I was greatly troubled when everyone was paying 100x earnings for tech stocks in 1999. I was troubled when everyone was bidding on condos for investment purposes with no-limit escalation clause bids in 2006. According to your logic, as long as something is a common practice, there is no need to be greatly troubled by it.

          • drax

            Have you been greatly troubled every time a bond is not tied to specific improvements, John?

          • John Fontain

            You are adept at missing the point.

          • drax

            Nope, I think I got the point just fine.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        Bond language on the ballot in November are always very “general” in nature, but there are underlying documents (the CIPs for both the County & the Schools) that describe where the money is going (e.g., the last school bond in 2010 for Wakefield).

        The suggestion here from the Glencarlyn CA is that a bond be put on the ballot for existing school expansions and/or new school construction, without that underlying information. Personally, I have a problem with that.

        • speonjosh

          OK. That’s the additional information I was missing. I agree that there should be a fairly definite plan in place before buying the money. Money without strings attached is all too easy to fritter away on this and that…..

  • Wilburg

    The under used Madison Community Center…. which happens to be a mothballed elementary school….. and hey, its in the Donaldson Run area!

  • Wilburg

    Traffic at Kenmore / Glen Carlyn is horrible. Fix that and that would solve a big part of the problem.

    Leveraging existing infrastructure is a good idea and Arlington is very good at that. That is a great piece of property; it serves South Arlington very well and making sure South Arlington has good schools is a big win. They have a lot of land there, good fields, and it is next to Bluemont which can be used for field trips.

    As for NIMBY — oh please. whine whine whine

  • Mary-Austin

    What about using the old Woodmont School? A lot of the overcrowding is at N. Arlington schools. It is far enough away from the nearby schools that it could be a good neighborhood school.
    The old building could be renovated or torn down and rebuilt.

  • Sandy

    The concept plan image above says the new school would be upper elementary or lower middle. Is it possible a bait-and-switch is occurring where the county now wants a magnet school instead, and the neighbors prefer a neighborhood school?

  • SoMuchForSubtlety

    The plan makes sense to me. It piggybacks on exisitng shared facilities. Efficient.

    • drax

      And no land to buy.

    • WileE

      That’s immediately what I thought, that using an existing school space with enough grounds to support another school seems like a no-brainer. While I’m no fan of using up existing green space, the fields at Kenmore seem underutilized during the day. But I’ll second the notion that traffic in that area might be pushed past its breaking point with another 600 students arriving/departing each day.

  • Bender

    Placing yet another school on the border with Fairfax County, rather than placing it much further within Arlington County, of course makes no sense.

    But the County will do whatever the hell it wants. If you agree, great, but if you object, to hell with you — that is the real “Arlington Way.”

    As for the people crying NIMBY here — are you volunteering to have a school, with a large influx of people and traffic, come be built next to your house?

    • Thes

      When you say”the County” will do whatever the hell “it” wants, to whom are you referring? Do you mean the Superintendent of Schools? The County Manger? There are 5 (well, currently 4) school board members, one or two elected every year, and 5 county board members, also elected one or two every year. Or is “it” the electorate, who selects so many of these individuals?

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Except that assumes an electorate that makes informed, critical decisions rather than following party leadership and voting the party line with out question.

        • Thes

          Who constitutes the party leadership then, and what is their position on the school capacity issue? (That is not a rhetorical question.)

        • drax

          The electorate can make a decision any damn way it pleases. That’s democracy. It’s easy to say they’re all dolts when they don’t vote your way, but easy sucks.

    • drax

      “If you agree, great, but if you object, to hell with you”

      What else do you expect, to get your way every time you want?

    • speonjosh

      Why does it make no sense? If Arlington was a large place and its population center was far away, it would possibly make no sense. But Arlington is tiny and with a fairly uniform population density. There are plenty of people within 2-3 miles of this location.

      I’m not sure that the influx of people and traffic associated with an elementary school can really be characterized as “large.” Especially in this particular location, where traffic and people are already plentiful, would there be that much of a noticeable difference? And if it is a magnet school, then wouldn’t a large portion of the students be arriving via bus every day? Meaning not that many additional vehicles to and from the property every day?

      • Arlington, Northside

        The county is small enough that if we built neighborhood schools a little deeper into the county instead of all these magnet schools, we could have most elementary kids walk to school. This would help fight obesity and pollution, while adding more community involvement. A win-win.

      • Bender

        It makes absolutely no sense to place a school where THE CHILDREN WHO LIVE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE SCHOOL CANNOT GO TO THAT SCHOOL because they live in a different county.

        It should be centrally located, not placed on the extreme edge of the border.

        • drax

          Well, actually, it makes perfect sense. Watch:

          The children who live across the street cannot go to that school, because they live in a different county.

          See?

      • Suburban Not Urban

        You’re ignoring that when you have a small geo area like AC, that many, many parents do drop off’s meaning magnet schools generate a lot more than average traffic.

        • Arlington, Northside

          Exactly, the magnet schools create traffic, they don’t alleviate it. The traffic is increased in longer less efficient bus runs, and more parents driving across the county to drop off/pick up kids. That is before we even consider the articial elitism that they create.

      • SoArl

        I drive up Carlin Springs every morning – the traffic is horrible right before the school day starts. I can’t imagine what would happen if another school was put near there. There are already three in a very small area – Campbell, Carlin Springs and Kenmore. And, a lot of parents drop their kids off at school so, yes, it would be a noticable difference.

  • yequalsy

    Fixing the overcrowding problem is going to require a multimodal approach that includes building new schools, expanding existing schools, re-purposing former schools, and changing boundaries. This seems like a perfectly reasonable idea to study as part of that multimodal approach. A magnet school will reduce pressure on other neighborhood schools while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. To say it’s not central is misleading. It’s exactly central from a north-south perspective and it lies on a major east-west artery. The big problem though is traffic. You can’t just slap another school there, especially a magnet school, without taking a pretty serious look at the traffic on Carlin Springs.

    • nom de guerre

      It may be central in one context but it is located on the western boundary of Arlington and Fairfax. The properties located across the street from Carlin Springs Elementary are located in Fairfax. If my memory serves me correctly, the School Board had to take into account input from Fairfax residents and had to make some concessions regarding traffic, parking and where school busses were to enter the property-off of Carlin Springs Rd. as opposed to S. 5th Road/Glen Carlin Rd.

  • Jack

    NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY

    • speonjosh

      NIMBY, meet FREDTERP. FREDTERP, NIMBY.

      • dirty biker

        +1

    • speonjosh

      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.
      All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.

  • db

    I want to know what the purpose of costly additions to the 2 existing schools is if they don’t add any capacity.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Where od you get that the proposed additions add no capacity?

  • Joe

    This is the first step to moving ATS. One way or another, ATS will have to add students–without Libby anymore they’re not powerful enough to stop that. Note that in the present plan ATS is slated for a 12-room addition, heightening capacity to 765 students.

    After ATS parents go nuts at that idea, the School Board will come back with an offer of a brand new school just down Carlin Springs Road from the current ATS location. Note from there ATS parents can jump on Route 50 to head into K Street or out to Tysons.

    So ATS winds up with a new school where enrollment is capped at 600, for an increase of only 135 from present capacity of 465 (rather than a 300 pupil increase). Set aside say 15 of the 135 slots for Glencarlyn kids on top of what they get already, and distribute the remaining 120 around the rest of the County.

    Doing that, you’ve now freed up a 765-student renovated school on North George Mason Drive–exactly where it needs to be to relieve the crowding in the Northwest Quadrant (Tuckahoe, McKinley, Ashlawn, Glebe). You also get to quietly throw a bone to the many out there who bemoan the “special favors” that ATS gets.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Rt. 50 leads to Tysons? Is this a special time-space portal lane? Is it HOV, or can anyone use it? 😉

      You make a good suggestion about returning the former Stonewall Jackson School, current ATS(although a name change will surely take place in our PC times), to use as a neighborhood school, it is very much needed.

    • One Percent

      The problem you’re forgetting, and is what’s driving the whole magnet school issue, is that nobody wants boundary changes. Adding a new neighborhood school would mean rippling boundary changes throughout the entire county affecting thousands of students. Whether or not this is a good idea is debatable. However, the backlash that the School Board fears so much is not.

      • Arlington, Northside

        The School Board needs to “grow a pair” and do the right thing. This is the state of great Founding Fathers! George Washington owned half this county! The Board needs to show them that they have the gumption to do what is right!!!

        • Pomeroy Watson

          x = +1

      • Bandersnatch

        I attended an APS info session last night at a community mtg and the planner was VERY clear- the boundaries WILL be redrawn as part of this process, and probably again by 2017.

        • Arlington, Northside

          They said the same thing at last weeks meeting, but they did not seem too confident when they said it. And made a point to ignore questions about where they might make the changes.

          • Bandersnatch

            She was gauge about the where but clar as day that is was going to happen, probably all over the county.

    • More neighborhood schools!

      +1000. Bluemont is in dire need of a neighborhood school!

  • TakebackReedSchool

    Obviously every neighborhood is going to say not in my backyard. So what the county should focus on are the facts. What schools have the largest overcrowding? Tuckahoe and McKinley. Where are they projecting an increase in attendance? Northwest quadrant. Of the school board options which is the most cost effective to build? Reed School projected cost is $30M vs. $40M (Carlin Spring). In my opinion the county should focus on the facts because no matter what option we go with someone is not going to be happy with construction in their back yard. So build an elementary school that is the most cost effective and really addresses the present day overcrowding and the projected overcrowding. Reed should be a neighborhood school that children can walk to.
    Unfortunately, the board won’t do what they should because they don’t want to move their (subsided by Arlington Tax payers) faculty preschool out of Reed and to an underutilized space like Hoffman Boston.

    • Shef

      I agree. Reed is (was) such a perfect environment for a neighborhood elementary school. With the Westover village center right there the kids always felt like a part of the neighborhood activity. Having the separate library really extended the scholastic campus into more parts of the surrounding neighborhood.

      All the renovations and “improvements” they have made to that entire property has actually subtracted vibrancy from the area.

      • Arlington, Northside

        While I appriciate the nicer new library, I would have prefered keeping the old one and having had Reed remodeled into the modern elementary school that the neighborhood needs and that my kids could have walked too.

      • TakebackReedSchool

        I miss the old library. I really do not understand the “improvements” they made on that site? Such as the random side walk up one side when there is a perfectly good one on the perimeter. I hope the Reed option is not totally off the table we just need to get the parents that support Reed school to reach out to the board. It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.

  • Guy Who Gives Random Shout-Outs

    Shout Out for Glebe – Jamie Borg rocks!

  • Village Genius

    The boundary lines do not have to change. Similar to an overlay area code for telephones, a new school could concurrently cover 3-4 other boundary areas and then let the parents decide where to send the child. Alternatively, the new schools could be county-wide magnet schools, with again letting the parents decide where to send the child.

    Also, the “overcrowding” is self-imposed by amazingly low class room sizes averaging about 20 students per room. Minimally increasing class size would greatly ease the so-called “overcrowding.” Some classes could grow to 30-35 student with extra teachers or teachers’ aides tossed in without having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new schools.

  • Archerrules

    Build it in my neighborhood. Schools are good. If you can’t accept that than you are just selfish and not concerned about the neighborhood. What civic association doesn’t want another school? Seriously GC. Grow up.

    • Sam

      Maybe one that already has two schools nearby and isn’t thrilled about another one being built when they have no assurances that their community can actually use the school? I normally roll my eyes at NIMBYisms but I can certainly see why they may have some frustration.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Let’s see, you have traffic issues, noise issues, storm runoff issues, etc. for the immediate neighborhood. Others have issues because boundry changes split up siblings, or keep them from the opportunity for a favorite teacher, or add the distance to the school.

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