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Amid Concerns, School Board Says New H-B Woodlawn Building is Inclusive of Students with Disabilities

As plans for a new building for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program move forward, members of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) say the design is not inclusive enough for students with disabilities.

In emails sent to the Arlington School Board, ASEAC and other groups expressed concern about a separate entrance intended for disabled students in the Stratford Program.

“The current design still appears to envision Stratford students entering the school through a separate door on the ground level of the building’s northwestern corner, next to the Stratford offices, with the main entrance being at the center of the building one level up, next to the H-B Woodlawn offices,” said a Jan. 14 email from a coalition of individuals and groups, including the Arlington Inclusion Task Force.

“Designing a building that has a separate entrance for students with significant disabilities reinforces the idea that students with disabilities are inferior, second-class citizens to be kept out of sight and out of mind,” the email continued. “Separate entrances emphasize difference, encourage isolation, and erect barriers, rather than fostering connections and providing opportunities for engagement. Separate entrances are an affront to Arlington’s inclusive values.”

The School Board responded in another email that all three entrances to the building will be accessible to all students.

The new facility, which will replace and demolish the Wilson School property in Rosslyn, has an estimated cost of around $100 million and is expected to be complete in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

ASEAC also criticized what it said was a lack of communication with community members during the design process.

“Feedback from parents, the Inclusion Task Force, and this committee appears to have had little, if any, impact on the final design. Concerns were raised and provided in writing to the School Board and APS staff in October 2015, allowing reasonable opportunity for these concerns to be accommodated,” ASEAC members wrote.

Universal Design principles, as defined by the Disability Act of 2005, were not applied to the new building and should not fall on the responsibility of parents to uphold, ASEAC said. Members called for the school to consider making the best of inclusive spaces such as the cafeteria, library and other common spaces.

In a letter, School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen said Universal Design was included throughout the design process and feedback from parents, administrators and faculty were considered throughout as well.

“We wish to confirm that design and operation of the new school on the Wilson will comply with the principles of Universal Design and inclusion and that students in the Stratford, ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will not be segregated from one another,” the School Board responded.

The full response to ASEAC, after the jump.

Thank you for writing to the School Board to share your concerns about the building design at the Wilson site.  We value your feedback on this matter and we have carefully reviewed your message.

We wish to confirm that design and operation of the new school on the Wilson will comply with the principles of Universal Design and inclusion and that students in the Stratford, ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will not be segregated from one another. Universal Design and inclusion have been addressed throughout the design process by APS staff and the architecture/engineering design team, with ongoing input from program parents, administrators and teachers.

  • All three entrances into the building from adjacent streets will be accessible and may serve all students to provide staff with multiple choices on how to manage arrival and dismissal.
  • All students will share the same library, cafeteria and clinic.
  • The main and auxiliary gymnasiums will be shared by all students; the two gymnasiums are needed to provide sufficient space for staff to schedule all physical education requirements for all students, including the three Adaptive Physical Education classes per week that are required for certain students in their IEPs.
  • Some classrooms used by students in the Stratford Program will be on the ground and first floors; classrooms for students in the ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will be distributed throughout the building.
  • All students will have access to an outdoor courtyard on the ground floor, the main field, which is accessed from the first floor, and to outdoor terraces on floors two, three, four and five.
  • Short-term reserved parking spaces will be provided for parents picking-up and dropping off students on-street, and in the adjacent parking garage, when completed.
  • The school will have four elevators, three main elevators that will serve all floors of the building and one that will serve the ground and first floors; all four elevators are sufficiently large to accommodate several different mobility devices at one time.

We are confident that when the new school on the Wilson property opens to students in 2019 it will provide innovative, agile and adaptable teaching and learning environments that will enable school administrators, teachers and staff to continue to find new ways of including students in all four programs with one another.

Information about Board action on the Final Design and Construction Award for the New School at Wilson is posted on Board Docs at http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/arlington/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AUWLER528046.

We appreciate the time you took to contact us.  Please continue to write to the School Board with any other concerns you may have or if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Dr. Barbara Kanninen
School Board Chair
Arlington Public Schools

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