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DEVELOPING: APS Exploring New School on Wilson Blvd Property

Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)(Updated at 12:00 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is backing off a plan to sell its Wilson School property to a developer. Instead, the school system and the county are exploring the possibility of building a new 1,300-student secondary school on the property.

Located at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, the Wilson School was built in 1910 and preservationists have been calling for it to be restored rather than torn down. Under a plan approved by the School Board last summer, it was to be demolished to make way for a private mixed-use development with affordable housing, a new fire station and a 1.5 acre park.

Now, according to a press release (after the jump), that plan has been scrapped in favor of retaining the property and perhaps building a new secondary school at the site, to address the school system’s capacity crunch.

The Wilson Boulevard school is envisioned as a brand new secondary school, not a new location for the 624-student H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, currently located in Cherrydale, according to Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick.

From APS and Arlington County:

Officials from Arlington Public Schools (APS) and Arlington County today announced that APS has decided to retain its Wilson Boulevard property in western Rosslyn for possible redevelopment as a new secondary school.”Retaining the Wilson property will help APS address our critical shortage of seats for students in a timely manner” said School Board Chair Abby Raphael. “As we develop our 2015-24 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), we will explore options to construct a 1,300 seat secondary school on the site.” Raphael added, “This decision demonstrates the continued priority both boards place on using our limited public land to meet the school division’s future capital needs and to provide open space for the community.”

The “More Seats for More Students” Initiative

APS has experienced significant overcrowding for a number of years. Since 2006, APS enrollment has grown by more than 4,850 students, or 26%, reaching a current high of 23,717 students to date. School officials project that over the next decade, APS enrollment will surpass 30,000 students, a 63% increase since 2006.

In 2009, the School Board adopted the Progressive Planning Model (PPM) framework, a step-wise approach to developing additional capacity throughout the system. Since then, APS has been aggressive in maximizing the capacity of existing facilities and identifying creative solutions to respond to the ever-growing demand for space in schools through the APS “More Seats for More Students” capital improvement planning process. As part of its current CIP planning, APS will evaluate the Wilson location for a possible 1,300 seat, urban model secondary school with a large open space available to the community.

Information about the “More Seats for More Students” effort is available online at www.apsva.us/moreseats.

Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS)

The Wilson property is part of the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS). In addition to the Wilson property, the WRAPS area includes:

  • Fire Station #10
  • Rosslyn Highlands Park
  • 7-Eleven
  • 1555 Wilson Blvd. office building
  • 39-unit multifamily development known as Queens Court Apartments

Through WRAPS, the County, APS, developers and the community had planned to work on addressing community and redevelopment goals, including:

  • Achieving quality park, recreation and open spaces of at least 60,000 square feet;
  • Increasing affordable housing opportunities;
  • Replacing Fire Station #10;
  • Ensuring energy efficiency and sustainability; and
  • Achieving a mix of uses with appropriate heights and densities in the context of surrounding development.

The County Board will amend the charge to the WRAPS Working Group, to include a 1,300 seat secondary school within the planning area; the Board may also consider other changes as necessary.

“We are very excited to move forward on this planning process,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “We look forward to working with the community, the private property owners and the schools to maximize the use of the public lands while contributing to the creation of a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood.”

The WRAPS planning process has been on hold for many months. The decision to consider using the property for a potential future school sets the stage for a new WRAPS process. It will be conducted concurrently with the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update – Realize Rosslyn process. Analysis and recommendations from both studies will be coordinated to ensure that they are compatible.

To learn more, visit the WRAPS website.

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