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McKinley Elementary Construction Delays Will Produce Big Capacity Crunch

McKinley Elementary School, in Arlington’s Madison Manor neighborhood, will open the next school year 131 percent over capacity due to construction delays, school officials told parents this week.

McKinley is in the midst of a $22 million expansion project that was approved in 2014. The expansion will add 241 seats to the school, which opened this school year with a capacity of 443 and an already-burgeoning enrollment just north of 600 students.

APS is adjusting school boundaries to move students from Glebe and Tuckahoe elementary schools, which are both also well over capacity, to McKinley this fall. The idea was to balance capacity utilization across the schools, taking advantage of McKinley’s expansion.

There’s only one problem: the expansion, which was to wrap up this summer, is now not expected to be completed until November or December. And APS is moving forward with its boundary adjustments regardless, bringing a projected student body of 712 to McKinley in the fall.

In a presentation to parents and the community, APS said its contractor encountered a number of unexpected problems, including the discovery of an underground spring, old building footings and undocumented utility lines.

Those problems are delaying the expected substantial completion of “Phase 3” of the expansion project — a three-story addition with a number of classrooms and other facilities — until late November.

To bridge the gap, over the summer APS will be re-installing a “six-plex” classroom trailer complex that it had removed over spring break, to allow for the installation of an underground storm water management system. APS was able to meet capacity needs without the trailers thanks to the completion of “Phase 2” — a one-story addition with four new classrooms — over the winter.

A few concerned parents have emailed ARLnow.com about the construction snafu, concerned about APS proceeding with the boundary changes. However, APS’ numbers show that capacity utilization will actually be slightly lower even without the Phase 3 addition.

McKinley was 136.6 percent over capacity when it opened last fall, according to APS. It is projected to be 131.1 percent over capacity when it opens this fall, thanks to a 100-student boost in capacity via the completed expansion work.

Once classes move into the three-story addition over winter break, the school will be 104 percent over capacity: a capacity of 684 for 712 students. That compares to the projected 112.4 percent capacity level at Glebe Elementary and 107.5 percent at Tuckahoe Elementary.

“APS believes that moving the students from Tuckahoe and Glebe to McKinley as planned this fall provides the best continuity of instruction and relieves crowding at both Tuckahoe and Glebe,” Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick told ARLnow.com.

Parents are also concerned about a lack of recreation space for students at McKinley. A new gymnasium won’t be ready until Phase 3 is completed and the fields around the school are now not expected to be restored post-construction until April 2017. This fall, physical education classes will take place in a trailer in the school’s parking lot.

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