(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) The Arlington County Board approved the next step in building a new elementary school in South Arlington by commissioning a working group to study land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
The working group, the members of which have not yet been announced, will first meet in September and take five months to study the feasibility of building an elementary school adjacent to the middle school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road.
The site is the preferred choice of Arlington’s School Board, which will ask county taxpayers for upwards of $50 million for the school as part of its $106 million referendum package on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“Our County is desirable and growing, and more students are entering our school system,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We need to work together to find creative ways to meet this challenge. This working group will bring together community members, Schools, and County staff for a robust consideration of whether to use a portion of the Thomas Jefferson site for a new elementary school.”
The working group — to be comprised of members from surrounding civic associations and members of schools and county staff, advisory boards and commissions — is charged with returning to the County Board with a recommendation in January 2015. Its goals from the County Board include:
- Retaining the current wooded eastern end of “TJ Park” as is (area along the western portion of S. Irving Street and stretching west along Arlington Blvd.); maintain a cohesive park; ensure no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming.
- Considering the neighborhood impacts of traffic and parking and ensure safety of existing pedestrian walkways and bikeways.
- Ensuring that the community center would remain available for use.
- Ensuring the building massing is compatible with adjacent neighborhood.
The plan has given rise to a new group opposing building the school on parkland, the Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park. The group dressed in green and showed up a few dozen strong at the County Board’s Saturday meeting. The Board approved the working group in its meeting yesterday, but on Saturday, the group’s leader, Jim Presswood, spoke during the public comment period.
“TJ Park is Arlington’s central park and a wonderful resource that needs to be conserved,” he said. “We’re committed to enhancing our park and we’re hoping to be around for a while.”