Arlington Public Schools (APS) currently plans to add more than 800 high school seats at the Career Center site between 2022-2024.
Late last year, APS and the County appointed a joint working group to consider alternative options for the future development of this site.
In parallel, APS is considering what the instructional focus of this high school should be and what it will cost to build it.
The charge provided to the Career Center Working Group affirms that both the County Board and the School Board are committed to “a process to analyze, evaluate, and plan how to optimize the site in the long term within the context of existing Arlington Public Schools (APS) high schools and the broader Arlington community.”
How to decide
The final decision regarding what kind of high school should be located at the Career Center site must be made with a full understanding of the long-term fiscal implications for the broader Arlington community of APS’ seat needs at every grade level (K-12).
Any decision to commit too many financial resources to any one kind of school at any one site will mean that there may not be adequate funding for future seat needs.
Neighborhood Comprehensive High School
One of several possible high school instructional options at the Career Center site is a neighborhood comprehensive high school with multiple on-site amenities. There appears to be significant support for this option in the surrounding neighborhood. Other communities are beginning to weigh in with a mix of perspectives.
STEAM Option High School, with neighborhood enrollment preference
A STEAM option high school, with neighborhood enrollment preference, might be a better option at the Career Center site if the direct and opportunity costs of a neighborhood comprehensive high school with multiple on-site amenities — field space, aquatic center, performing arts facilities — prove too high.
Imagine a high school with a focus on project-based learning that could utilize the existing specialized Career Technical Education (CTE) facilities and enhance them with new state-of-the-art classrooms and academic programs.
An expanded program of studies could offer AP courses, fine arts electives and classes that span diverse subject areas, in addition to the existing Dual Enrollment classes for high school and college credit at Arlington Tech and the Career Center.
Arlington has a unique opportunity to build upon its strong and growing CTE programs which align very well with Virginia’s evolving “Profile of a Graduate.”
As a specialized option high school open to all students, with a broad base of course offerings, it could have a small attendance zone to encourage walkability and neighborhood support, much like a neighborhood high school.
It also could have a broad selection of sports and extracurriculars–either Virginia High School League sponsored sports or intramural sports and activities. Rooftop field space should be studied as part of the design for this unique, multistory, urban campus.
Ideally, students from the other Arlington high schools and programs could still take CTE classes at the Career Center. This STEAM high school could be a valuable resource for all Arlington families and a forward-looking civic landmark for the communities along Columbia Pike.
No final decision regarding the nature of the kind of high school to be located at the Career Center site should be made without a full, transparent, county-wide discussion regarding the direct and opportunity costs of each alternative compared to other alternatives.