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NEW: Nottingham will not be a ‘swing space’ for upcoming school renovations, says APS

Nottingham Elementary School (via Google Maps)

Nottingham Elementary School will not become a swing space for other schools slated for renovations, according to Arlington Public Schools.

The administration came to this conclusion last night in a “Committee of the Whole” meeting during a preview of a forthcoming report outlining the schools in need of extensive renovations.

This report found none of the schools recommended for renovations need Nottingham to become a swing space “at this time,” per an email sent to families this morning, Wednesday, and shared with ARLnow. The email assured families the swing space proposal will not be included in the Capital Improvement Plan for 2025-34.

“There may be a need for swing space for future projects, and any swing space proposals will be communicated well in advance,” the email said. “Moving forward, a more in-depth feasibility study of any school needing major construction or renovation will be completed prior to determining when and if swing space will be needed, or if there are alternative ways to manage the project.”

This decision closes a chapter of heartache for Nottingham families and staff, opened this spring when APS proposed closing Nottingham, in the Williamsburg neighborhood at 5900 Little Falls Road, and making it a swing space as early as 2026.

APS said it chose this school because it would cost the least to retrofit compared to other schools, county facilities or commercial buildings, and because this approach would be more fiscally responsible than building a new school.

The backlash from current and future Nottingham parents was swift. Some argued APS made the decision on faulty projections of falling enrollment and criticized the system for releasing this information before a renovation plan was ready.

“This entire fiasco could have been avoided if they had waited to get the results of this report,” parent Kiera Jones told ARLnow today. “A ton of time, energy, and stress for nothing.”

“The process was completely out of order,” parent Malini Silva added.

Jones called on APS to “rehaul… their approach to projects and how they treat their stakeholders.”

This includes how APS treats teachers, according to parent Jennifer Loeb and June Prakash, the president of the teachers union, Arlington Education Association.

Teachers felt demoralized and angry after a meeting last month with administrators about the swing space proposal, Loeb told ARLnow. Prakash told the School Board the same thing earlier this month.

“The actions of the current cabinet over the past few weeks highlight exactly why one joins the union,” Prakash said, citing how teachers felt after the “botched informational session” about Nottingham and pending healthcare changes that roiled current and retired teachers.

Prior to the forthcoming report, the Arlington County Council of PTAs predicted APS would not have sufficient funding for the large-scale renovations that would require a swing space.

This was confirmed during the discussion of the renovations report, which found APS has funding for five large-scale projects, Jones said.

During the meeting last night, Loeb said administrators discussed how APS would not know if it truly needs a swing space until it conducts deeper studies of buildings set for renovations and contractors weigh in.

These studies take a year and would not begin until next fall, meaning APS would not know if a swing space were necessary until two years from now.

“You’re talking about work that is happening years from now, but they told Nottingham six months ago ‘It’ll be you,’ when they had none of the necessary data,” she said.

This morning, when parents were walking their kids to school, Loeb said everyone “looked relieved.”

“We can get back to being a community now. We can get back to building our school and really investing in our school community again,” she said. “We have space and breathing room to do that now.”

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