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School Board Candidates Open To Neighborhood Focus For Future Reed Elementary

Three Arlington School Board candidates looked to ease neighborhood fears about the future Reed Elementary School at a forum Monday night.

A presentation last month by Arlington Public Schools staff suggested the 725-seat elementary school offer the International Baccalaureate as a countywide choice program when it opens in 2021.

But neighbors have raised concerns about the traffic impact of students being bussed in, and neighborhood children having to be educated elsewhere.

And at a candidate forum hosted by the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association, incumbent James Lander and challengers Maura McMahon and Monique O’Grady all agreed the IB designation was just a suggestion and not set in stone. A fourth candidate, Mike Webb, was absent.

“There is no decision, there is no proposal, it’s a concept,” said Lander. “It’s a concept I don’t support, but it was a way to get the conversation started with the community.”

The school currently hosts The Children’s School, a nonprofit that provides education and child care for the children of APS parents, and the Integration Station, which helps students with disabilities integrate with those without disabilities.

But it is set to be the temporary location for the Stratford program while the Stratford School building is renovated.

The Stratford program will then relocate in 2019 with H-B Woodlawn to the redeveloping Wilson site in Rosslyn.

The Reed School site would then be revamped as an elementary school, with construction likely to begin that year once Wilson is open, Lander said.

And rather than be an IB choice program, the majority of those present appeared more supportive of Reed being a neighborhood school. O’Grady encouraged neighbors to make their voices heard on that point.

“I keep hearing from the community that a neighborhood school is important,” she said. “If that’s what you want, I suggest you come together and advocate for that.”

McMahon, meanwhile, said APS must be strategic to combat its growing enrollment and ensure the programs it already has are of a high standard. She cited previous conversations with parents about adding schools with immersion programs in world languages like French and Mandarin.

“My opinion is they would be great, but we have a lot of other things we need to focus on first, like do we have enough schools?” she said.

Transportation and traffic also weighed heavily on the discussions around Reed. Lander said he wanted to revisit adding an exit on the back of the site, a plan that has not been supported in the past. McMahon said discussions on bussing must also involve catering to low-income families who use public transportation to get to and from school.

And while several attendees said the community is often consulted too late in the planning process for such projects, O’Grady said getting involved early would be a good way to shape the future.

“I think it’s an exciting time for your community, and it’s the perfect time to step up and say, ‘This is what we want,'” she said.

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