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HQ2 to house alternative high school permanently, Arlington and Amazon announce

Arlington Community High School (courtesy photo)

(Updated 9:45 a.m.) For the first time, an alternative high school in Arlington Public Schools will have a permanent home — in the second phase of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City.

Currently located next to the Arlington Career Center building, Arlington Community High School is attended by about 300 county residents 16 and older pursuing their high school diploma.

At nearly a century old, it has always moved around “to locations that were not ideally located or tailored to meet the needs of ACHS students,” according to a joint press release from Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County.

APS and the county had been searching for a permanent location in South Arlington, the release said. With Amazon’s HQ2 being built near the Pentagon City Metro station, ACHS will have just that.

“We are excited about what this new building will mean for ACHS students, many of whom work full- or part-time jobs to support their families as they earn their high school diplomas. Having a new home, built to serve their needs in an accessible location, will make a world of difference as they pursue their academic and professional goals,” Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen said in a statement.

Amazon will build the facility as part of its 10.5-acre, mixed-use development located at the corner of S. Eads Street and 12th Street S., which features the flagship Helix building. ACHS is expected to be completed by the start of the 2026-27 school year, the release said.

But ACHS will have to relocate once more, in 2023, before the permanent location is built, as major renovations are scheduled for the Arlington Career Center. APS spokesman Frank Bellavia says the school system “will begin looking for a temporary space for ACHS in the coming months.”

This project will fulfill a provision from the initial 2013 approval of development on the large PenPlace site — once considered as a location for the Nationals baseball stadium — for a community space up to 20,000 square feet. The plan said a use would be chosen during the final site plan review process, which is ongoing.

“The school will benefit the entire community and advance the County’s commitment to equity, fulfilling the community benefit promised when the original site plan was approved in 2013,” County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a statement. “I look forward to working with our schools and Amazon to help make this agreement a wonderful reality for our students and our community.”

The “transit-rich” site is easily accessible to students across the county, and is the ideal size for ACHS’s capacity needs, the release said.

“This school will be an incredible asset to so many local students and their families,” said Joe Chapman, Amazon’s Director of Global Real Estate and Facilities in a statement. “The mission of ACHS is to make success possible for every student, and we are proud to partner with Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools to help provide equitable education opportunities in the Arlington community.”

ACHS provides flexible schedules for its students, who come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, as many also work to support their families.

Last school year, 79% of students were Hispanic, 8% were Asian, 7% were Black, and 5% were white, according to the release. More than 80% of students were enrolled in the English Learner program and more than 35% qualified as economically disadvantaged. About 18% of students were age 30 and older.

Meanwhile, review of PenPlace is ongoing. Next Thursday (Oct. 28), the county will host a walking tour and begin a 10-day virtual public engagement period.

Site Plan Review Committee meetings are scheduled for the end the year and early 2022, ahead of Planning Commission and County Board public hearings anticipated for March 2022.

This article was updated to include a more accurate photo of Arlington Community High School’s location

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