Arlington, VA

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.

Dear Board Members:

We are writing this letter on behalf of the Jamestown Elementary School PTA concerning the delivery last week of relocatable classrooms to our school. While we understood that some remedial measures may be inevitable given the overcrowding issues facing our schools, we are asking that installation of these structures be halted immediately and that final installation be delayed until June 5 to allow the school and neighborhood communities to discuss with the County the location of these structures.

Despite whatever misgivings individuals may have about the desirability of relocatables (and there are many), we understand that it is necessary for the County to take measures to relieve the short-­‐term overcrowding of our school. In fact, many parents from our school community have contributed constructively to the County dialogue about overcrowding. Interestingly, when it came time to plan and take action on our school, neither the Jamestown families nor the surrounding neighborhood was consulted at all about where the relocatables would be installed. While the timing of the delivery of the relocatables may have been out of the hands of the County, surely the County could have had the decency to discuss installation preparations and site studies with the school and neighborhood communities. This lack of communication on the County’s part is disrespectful, rude, and flies in the face of the Arlington tradition of “respectful dialogue” between the County and its citizens that is so often heralded by County Board Chairman Mary Hines.

The current placement of the relocatables – in the heart of the school’s heavily used front playground and practically abutting the playground’s ball pit – is less than ideal for a number of reasons, including:

  • The relocatables take up valuable green space used daily by the school, neighborhood children, and County sports teams for physical activity, play, and soccer and baseball games;
  • Placed in a high traffic area, the relocatables will not foster focused learning for students when other children are playing around the structures at recess or during PE classes;
  • The relocatables – hardly pleasing to look at – are 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 have expressed concern about safety and the potential liability associated with placing the relocatables in the middle of the playground.

If there were no other options available for placement of the relocatables, we could gripe about the lack of communication and the matter would be closed. But there is a far more palatable option for the school and neighborhood community that may only be marginally more expensive, create a better learning environment for our students, preserve valuable school green space, ensure child safety, and have far less community impact. We would like the chance to explore this option with you. Halting installation now could prevent County resources from being wasted should a better alternative ultimately be decided upon.

We respectfully ask for the opportunity to discuss this with you before we are faced with a fait accompli. We are available to discuss this matter with you between May 23rd and May 30th. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Jamestown PTA Executive Board

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