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Plans to turn Nottingham Elementary into ‘swing space’ prompt swift backlash

Nottingham Elementary School (via Google Maps)

A new proposal from Arlington Public Schools (APS) would send Nottingham Elementary students to other schools and use the building to house other students temporarily displaced by school renovations.

Parents of students at Nottingham were notified of the proposal yesterday (Thursday) by APS, ahead of a School Board work session discussing the proposal last night.

Within 24 hours, some current and prospective parents mobilized and formed a group, Neighbors for Nottingham, to learn more about the proposal and formulate next steps before a potential School Board vote a year from now.

The school system says it needs a “swing space” to prepare for renovation projects and balance enrollment in North Arlington, where there are more seats than students. APS staff are currently developing a timeline and list of schools to be renovated for the 2025-2034 Capital Improvement Plan, which will be approved next June.

“By serving as swing space, our school will continue to play a vital role in supporting education in our community while other schools undergo necessary improvements,” planning staff told parents in an email, shared with ARLnow.

Elementary capacity by zone in Arlington (via Arlington Public Schools)

APS considered 61 sites before settling on the Williamsburg neighborhood school at 5900 Little Falls Road, eliminating options based on size, location and cost needed to prepare the building for young students. It says Nottingham works because enrollment is low and stable, and nearby schools can absorb many of the 413 displaced students — though APS noted that receiving schools may need to add some capacity.

If the CIP is approved next year, Nottingham could be repurposed as early as the 2026-27 school year. Students would be transferred to surrounding elementary schools such as Discovery, Jamestown, Taylor, and Tuckahoe, and staff would begin to be reassigned in the spring of 2026.

Ways to create a swing space and potential costs (via Arlington Public Schools)

Would-be parent Coco Price says she and her neighbors are devastated.

“We have been so looking forward to sending our now-toddler-age children there when they reach elementary-age in a few short years and would be sincerely crushed to see them reassigned to another Arlington school — one that is potentially either not within walking distance or not as highly-rated as Nottingham,” Price said.

The proposal could disrupt educational plans for new homeowners, like Price.

“Should the motion pass, it would… potentially drive us to consider moving to a more stable school district outside of Arlington,” she said. “We also worry how this decision would impact our home’s resale values down the line.”

Others questioned the need for this work and criticized APS for not evaluating alternatives to a “swing space” in its 272-page report.

“We didn’t see any serious discussion about options such as portable learning trailers for schools going under renovations or for temporarily displacing just the students at schools that were under renovations for the limited time period of those renovations,” would-be parent Jeff Heuwinkel told ARLnow.

Watchdog group Arlington Parents for Education says APS introduced this proposal before presenting the rationale, such as specific schools to renovate and timelines for them.

“What’s not clear is what problem APS is trying to solve,” the group said in a statement. “Long range major renovations? Which schools and with what budget? Where are the proposals and plans? Are these temporary or permanent fixes? Given the sizable impact of these changes, more than ever, we urge APS to be transparent with the community about its intentions and forthcoming about future plans.”

For now, this is only a proposal, APS says.

“None of this is chiseled in stone,” School Board Chair Reid Goldstein said in the work session last night. “That’s why we’re discussing it.”

Nottingham could return to being a neighborhood elementary school if enrollment increases after new housing is built via the Missing Middle rezoning and Plan Langston Blvd. APS previously noted, however, that it does not project significant increases due to Missing Middle.

Families can share their feedback through Sept. 15, before the School Board provides direction on developing the 2025-34 CIP in October, which would be voted on next June.

APS previously tried to balance enrollment in North Arlington by proposing to turn Nottingham into an “option school” any student could apply to attend. This never came to fruition but was unpopular among parents as well.

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