Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Arlington’s progressive vision for its public schools has been longstanding and led to remarkable successes. When schools were segregated and Virginia was known for underinvesting in public schools, Arlingtonians organized to make sure that students could attend high-quality, well-constructed and integrated schools. As a result, Arlington became an education leader in the state and the nation.
Today, we continue to invest heavily in education, to have diverse schools and school offerings, and to see students achieve remarkable results.
With our success, and likely because of that success, we now face a dramatic increase in the number of students attending our schools. Families are moving to Arlington because of the reputation of our schools. Families are remaining in Arlington even as they grow because of the positive experiences provided by our schools.
In my time as a School Board member and now as Chair, I have seen the importance of the County Board’s continued investment in our schools and promotion of policies that make it possible for our schools to thrive.
The most recent example is the County Board’s July 19th approval of a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan. That plan would provide for a 2014 school bond that would deliver over $100 million toward construction and renovation of schools that are vitally needed to respond to dramatic school enrollment growth.
I am particularly pleased that the County CIP was the result of healthy collaboration between the County Board and the School Board.
When I was first elected to the School Board in January 2010, our student population was 20,200 and our operating budget was $438.6 million. Just five years later, our student population for the 2014-2015 school year has grown to over 24,000 with an approved operating budget of $539.4 million.
This student enrollment growth of approximately 800 students per year is the equivalent of one elementary school each year. Fortunately, the County Board has used County revenue growth in ways that ensure that the schools can meet instructional needs and address the facility needs of the rapidly increasing student population.
Like our student population, few things have remained constant during my School Board tenure. Colleagues have rotated on/off of the Board and we will soon have two new colleagues. Throughout this transition the County Board has been a steadfast partner.
The County Board’s unwavering support for high-quality public school educations has helped meet steadily increasing operating and capital demands, thereby allowing APS to remain one of the best school systems in the country. As Abby Raphael, my predecessor as Chair, noted recently: “The School Board appreciates the tremendous support that the County Board and the Arlington community provide to our students and our schools. Without this support, APS could not be as successful as it is.”
I am grateful that the County Board’s July 19 action will ensure the school community’s top priority projects for elementary and middle school facilities can move forward as soon as possible.
It was just a month before, on June 16, that the School Board adopted its own CIP for 2014-2015. The FY 2014 bond request — that the County Board fully funded — includes four vital capital projects:
- $28.75 million addition and renovation at Abington Elementary School, one of our oldest school facilities projected to be at 107 percent utilization for the Fall;
- $50.25 million dollars to plan and construct a new elementary school in South Arlington;
- $4 million for planning and design of a sixth middle school that will be located in North Arlington; and
- $5 million to reconfigure Washington-Lee to provide classroom space for 300 additional students and reduce the need for more trailers on the N. Quincy Street side.
Beginning this week, APS will engage parents and community members in an ambitious but deliberate and transparent process to determine the locations and sizes of a new elementary school and new middle school.
I look forward to collaborating with the County Board as it evaluates through a public process between now and January 2015 whether the School Board’s preferred new elementary site — somewhere on the Thomas Jefferson site — can be achieved while respecting other key community values including parkland and recreational space. The middle school decision should be made by January 2015, following staff and community work.
The schedule, dates and locations for both processes will be posted on the APS website. I encourage the community to participate in both processes and I welcome your input and feedback.
James Lander is the Chair of the Arlington County School Board. The views in this column are his individual views.
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Arlington and its neighbors have become more segregated in the last 10 years while fair housing legislation at the state level faces significant roadblocks. Arlington’s fair housing enforcement, education, and commitment to equity practices in housing policy and programs are beginning to show signs of improvement but much more needs to be done.
Join the NAACP Arlington Branch, HOME of Virginia, and Equal Rights Center for the 2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference on April 15th to discuss the threats and opportunities to advancing fair housing policy across the state and within Arlington.
The half-day, in-person event will feature speakers from fair housing advocacy organizations and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and focus on fair housing policy trends in Virginia and Arlington County. The conference aims to advance the understanding of issues and policies related to equity and affirmatively further fair housing among local officials, advocates, and members of the public.
2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, April 5th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
Private School Fair
Congressional School to Host MONA Private School Fair Thursday, April 27 at 6:30 PM
Congressional School in Falls Church, VA is delighted to host the MONA (Mothers of North Arlington) at an upcoming Private School Fair. Private schools from around
WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
Shop local vendors, arts & crafts, new and used items, food vendors/trucks, and