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Local private school plans move from Ballston to Rosslyn office space

1550 Wilson Blvd (via Google Maps)

A private secondary school in Ballston is looking to move to Rosslyn.

The Sycamore School, which has operated at 4600 Fairfax Drive since it began in 2017, will soon lose its home to a residential redevelopment. So it is asking Arlington County for permission to relocate to 1550 Wilson Blvd, near Fire Station 10, offices, apartments and an Arlington Public Schools building

The Sycamore School proposes operating a private school for up to 140 students grades five through 12, along with 40 staff members and teachers, according to a county report. Its campus would comprise 14,000 square feet on the third floor, divided into seven classrooms, a canteen, an art studio, an exercise room and other administrative rooms and amenities.

“The Applicant provides a valuable educational service to the County’s residents by serving a diverse cross-section of students,” writes land use attorney Andrew Painter. “As part of its personalized learning approach, The Sycamore School offers small class sizes at a ratio of one teacher to six students, and provides individualized instruction with self-paced learning and a focus on student choice.”

The Sycamore School floor plan (via Arlington County)

The Sycamore School’s proposed opening hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with classes occurring Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Occasional school-related and community-based events may occur in the evenings, and are required to conclude by 11 p.m.

Meanwhile, the County Board approved a new childcare tenant in a nearby office building last month. The Gardner School will set up in the ground-floor retail space of an office building at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Quinn Street (1776 Wilson Blvd).

The Gardner School has locations in seven states, the closest being in Herndon, Virginia.

The child care center will take up about 17,670 square feet, divided into 13 classrooms for preschoolers, toddlers and infants, playrooms and 400 square feet of outdoor play area. There will be up to 28 staff and up to 186 enrolled children.

But with two schools moving into an area with offices, apartment buildings, Arlington Public Schools’ H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program, and Fire Station 10, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District expressed some concerns about transportation management.

The Rosslyn BID encouraged the county to “take a holistic approach” to evaluating APS’s transportation management plans for its two programs against those of the new daycare and private school.

Doing so, the BID said, could “help mitigate potential logistical and safety impacts, particularly during pick-up/drop-off hours,” per the report.

Pick-up and drop-off for The Sycamore School will occur in the below-grade parking garage, the county says. The first 30 minutes are free, which county staff say is sufficient for this activity.

The Sycamore School also has plans for encouraging other modes than driving, the county report says. It will provide bicycle parking and education on multimodal transportation. When enrollment reaches or passes 100 students, it will provide SmarTrip or iRide cards to new faculty and students.

County staff say the school’s plan “will help to promote multimodal transportation options for students and staff, reducing the transportation impacts of the school.”

The Sycamore School is leaving because its current home, an aging office building about a 10-minute walk from the Ballston Metro station, is slated for residential redevelopment by Hoffman & Associates, which developed The Wharf in D.C. and is working with Ballston-based Snell Properties.

The nearby Holiday Inn Arlington at Ballston and two single-family homes, which, according to site filings, are being leased on a year-to-year basis and will be vacant prior to construction, will also be redeveloped.

There will be a roughly 428,500-square-foot, seven-story “North” tower with 477 units.

Rendering of the ‘North’ tower in the proposed 4600 Fairfax Drive residential development (via Hoffman & Associates)

A “South” building will be 85,388 square feet, five stories tall and have 29 “townhome-style” units to transition from the denser apartment building to the single-family neighborhood to the south.

A Site Plan Review Committee meeting discussing site layout and transportation is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 24. Dates for public hearings by the Planning Commission and the Arlington County Board have yet to be set.

Rendering of the ‘South’ tower in the proposed 4600 Fairfax Drive residential development (via Hoffman & Associates)

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