The Arlington County Board, during an hours-long meeting on Saturday, debated whether to include a controversial driveway feature in the design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale.
Though the Arlington School Board approved the school’s design in November, the project’s designers, county staff and some neighbors have come to an impasse on whether that design should include a one-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive.
Proponents of the plan with the driveway — including its designers and some locals — argued the one-way avenue is needed to mitigate traffic in the area and would give the new school a much-needed area for pickup and drop-off. But opponents of the plan said building the driveway would negatively impact the environment by removing 166 trees from the site and would send hundreds of vehicles directly onto Old Dominion Drive, among other concerns.
Among those arguing against building the driveway is Dennis Leach, deputy director of transportation for Arlington County.
“The driveway causes adverse environmental impacts to the site and is not essential for transportation access,” he said.
But Vern Torney, a traffic expert hired by a community organization dubbed the Coalition for a Safe Stratford, said the driveway plan would actually help the environment, albeit in a different way.
“With the driveway, you’ll see that the fuel consumptions seven percent less and the noxious emissions range from one to ten percent less than the without driveway scenario,” argued Torney. “It’s my professional opinion that the with driveway scenario offers an advantage over the alternative.”
Members of Arlington Public Schools’ Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) also supported the plan to build the driveway, citing reduced risk of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and better accessibility and emergency access.
After hearing hours of concerns and comments from members of the community and other interested parties, the Board’s members made their opinions known.
“It’s clear to me that reasonable people with good motives can still have profound disagreements about an ultimate proposal that’s before you,” said Board member Christian Dorsey. “I am comfortable with the driveway option as being the most prudent to address all of the concerns that the renovation of stratford has at this point.”
Board members John Vihstad and Katie Cristol also agreed that building the driveway was ultimately the right course of action in a complicated decision.
The lone voice of dissent came from Board member Jay Fisette.
“I think we can accomplish and maximize the benefits in the longer term… by not including the driveway,” Fisette said. “The best way to do that is changing the modal split.” But Fisette acknowledged that, “either way, we’re going to have a much better outcome.”
County Board Chair Libby Garvey had the last word on the matter.
“I do believe in the end that building the road will be helpful to the environment, will improve safety and will encourage more students and their families to be walking instead of driving to school,” Garvey said.
In total, the Board spend about 4.5 hours on the discussion, even though it was just a “Request to Advertise” on the “Consent Agenda” for non-controversial items. Most of the time was spent in an impromptu County Board work session; a vote on the matter is expected to take place at a subsequent Board meeting.
The Stratford school building is slated to be renovated after its current primary occupant, the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, moves to the Wilson School in Rosslyn.
Photo via APS/Quinn Evans Architects
Local Schools Rank High in Challenge Index — One Arlington high school and one high school program cracked the top 10 of the Washington Post’s local 2016 Challenge Index. Washington-Lee High School ranked No. 4 and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program ranked No. 7. The two other Arlington high schools — Yorktown and Wakefield — ranked No. 11 and 82 respectively. [Washington Post, Washington Post]
Larger Fire Station 8 Possible at Current Site — Arlington County is changing its tune when it comes to Fire Station 8. The county now says that it is possible to build a larger fire station on the current Fire Station 8 site. Before, the county had said the fire station would likely have to be relocated in order to build a larger, four-bay station. [InsideNova]
More on Crystal City BRT — The new Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, the region’s first bus rapid transit system, officially opened Sunday with the opening of the Crystal City portion of the busway. The transitway features bus-only lanes and stations with “substantial arched roofs and attractive wall panels.” [Greater Greater Washington]
More on Michael Wardian’s Marathon — Arlington resident and prolific marathoner Michael Wardian ran the Boston Marathon in 2:31:39 yesterday. It turns out he did so while wearing a GoPro camera. Having completed Boston, Wardian is planning to run the London Marathon on Sunday. [Hartford Courant]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Design of New Wilson School Lauded — “The new Wilson School might be the fanciest public school building in the nation.” So says the influential urbanist news website Citylab, of the design of the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program. The fan-like design comes from a team of two architecture firms, including the Bjarke Ingels Group, which is noted for its experimental designs. The total project cost is estimated at $86-94 million. [Citylab]
APS Seeks to Squeeze More Capacity Out of Existing Schools — Facing a continued capacity crunch, Arlington Public Schools is seeking to find additional room for students in its middle and high schools. APS thinks it can squeeze another 600+ students total in its three high schools and another 150 students at middle schools, by finding additional usable space in the existing buildings. Growth in school enrollment, meanwhile, is slowing down but is not expected to stop. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
APS Wins Budget Award — Arlington Public Schools has been awarded a Meritorious Budget Award for excellence in budget presentation from the Association of School Business Officials International. The entry fee to be eligible for the award is more than $1,000. [Arlington Public Schools, ASBO]
Passenger Thrown from Minivan in Crash — Three people were hurt in an early morning crash on S. Arlington Ridge Road today. Police say a car traveling at 55 mph on the residential street slammed into the back of a minivan near 23rd Street S., causing one passenger in the van to be ejected from the vehicle. [WJLA, NBC Washington]
School Board Approves $100 Million H-B Design — The Arlington School Board has approved a concept design for the Wilson School in Rosslyn, future home of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. With a 92-space parking garage factored in, the construction cost of the school may exceed $100 million. Also last week, the School Board confirmed that it will again ask the County Board for permission to build a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School campus. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
County Facebook Post Raises Eyebrows — Democratic political operative Ben Tribbett, among others, is calling an Arlington County Facebook post about a local Democratic resolution on the Redskins team name an “inappropriate use of a government Facebook account.” Tribbett was previously hired by the team to defend its name. [Facebook, Blue Virginia]
Nine Arlington Restaurants Make Top 50 List — Nine Arlington establishments have made Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants list. The highest on the list is new-this-year Kapnos Taverna in Ballston. [Patch]
Fisette on County’s Support for I-66 Plan — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette says the county supports a plan for tolling I-66 because it is a regional compromise that’s cost effective, multimodal and not “the typical knee-jerk reaction [of] just widening roads.” Fisette notes that Arlington “was traumatized by the building of I-66 right through some of our neighborhoods” in the 1970s and 80s. [Washington Post]
Four Mile DMV Moving After Losing Lease — Dozens of angry Fairfax County residents came out to a meeting Thursday night to express opposition to a new DMV office in the Barcroft Plaza shopping center. The meeting also revealed more information on why the DMV is moving from its current location on S. Four Mile Run Drive. The DMV reportedly lost its lease due to a planned redevelopment, which has since fallen through. [Annandale VA]
More Info on Courthouse Redevelopment — We now know a bit more about the planned redevelopment of a low-rise office building in Courthouse. A 15-story, 91-unit condo building with 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail space is planned to replace the office building at 2000 Clarendon Blvd. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
The following letter to the editor was submitted by Joan K. Lawrence, Chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board.
The recently posted “Peter’s Take” commentary calling for the rejection of historic designation for the Stratford School is both premature and uninformed. Arlington does not create local historic districts lightly. There are many public hearings involving the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), the Planning Commission and the County Board, as well as the School Board, when the property in question is a school. This process is still in progress.
The designation process was started by a request from Arlingtonians and included one of the four African-American students who made national headlines on February 2, 1959. On that day, in the face of the massive resistance movement in Virginia, four students, escorted by police, walked from Old Dominion Drive and entered Stratford through a door in the back of the building to begin the integration of Virginia’s public schools. This door and the adjacent central portion of the building remain part of Stratford and are clearly visible. It is still possible today to experience the site and enter the building as those courageous students did over 56 years ago. Children and adults can actually put themselves into the picture of what happened that day because the façade of the school has not been altered.
Capacity can be added to the current Stratford building without covering over the central portion of the rear of the building. This has been demonstrated over and over at public meetings. We just need the will to maintain the visual link with our past.
Stratford’s significance in our history was recognized over a decade ago when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. We owe this designation to these four brave students and to the current and future generations of students and citizens of Arlington.
Joan K. Lawrence
Chair, Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.
The idea behind the new building was to use space as effectively as possible, and the project team and architects behind the new school kept the needs of both programs in mind with the new design, said Sean Franklin, a designer with BIG, one of the architecture firms behind the project.
“What we really wanted to do was foster an environment of sharing between these programs,” Franklin said during a Aug. 13 School Board meeting, where the new design plans were unveiled.
The new Wilson School will have a main entrance on Wilson Blvd, with a separate entrance on 18th Street for Stratford program students to allow them to more easily access the building. The Stratford Program will have the majority of the space of the lowest level, while H-B Woodlawn will have classrooms on the first through fifth floors. There will be shared spaces throughout the building.
Stratford Program Principal Karen Gerry said that she is working with H-B Woodlawn Principal Casey Robinson to identify spaces in the Wilson School that they could share, including a new multipurpose room, a black box theatre, cafeteria and library.
“Casey and I believe this will allow for more collaboration between H-B and Stratford staff and H-B and Stratford students, and that’s a win-win for all of us,” she said.
The new school will also feature fanning terraces, which will allow for open spaces for both recreation and learning. The terraces will each be designed differently, depending on the classrooms on the same level, Franklin said.
“The idea is that they’ll each have their own identity tied to something that’s inside the classroom. So if the classroom has a theme, it’ll carry on to the terraces,” he said.
Connecting the terraces is a central staircase that will be wide enough to also use as a learning space and to supervise students in the tall building, she said.
“Day lighting” was also an important part of the new designs, Gerry said. The new classrooms, which will be larger than existing classrooms, will be designed to allow in more daylight, which “decreases sensory input to heighten
The total cost for the new school will be about $100 million, about $20 million more than the original cost, according to the design plans. Additional costs came from parking needs, elevation factors and market prices.
The current design calls for 92 underground parking space, at a cost of $5.7 million.
Arlington Public Schools will be examining ways to reduce costs without compromising learning in the next steps of the design process, according to the plans.
Last month the newly-minted University of Virginia graduate and long-time ultimate frisbee player was presented with the Callahan Award, issued annually to the most valuable collegiate men’s and women’s players in the sport.
In recognition of her award and her engagement with the local ultimate community, the Arlington County Board issued a proclamation praising Johnston at a meeting earlier this month.
To receive a Callahan Award, a player is evaluated on their offensive and defensive abilities as well as their sportsmanship. Likewise, Chair Mary Hynes explained that the Board’s June 16 proclamation was meant to highlight both Johnston’s formidable athleticism and her extraordinary leadership skills.
“We are here today to recognize the extraordinary achievements of Alika Johnston both on and off the ultimate frisbee field,” Hynes said.
According to the website Ultiworld, which also named her its 2015 Women’s Player of the Year, Johnston has been a core member of the UVA’s ultimate team (the Hydras) since her freshman year in 2011, and was instrumental in the team’s development into an “elite contender.”
“Johnston’s play has spoken for itself all season long… a lot of breath and ink used in the act of praising her prolific and relentless performance,” the website said. “On both sides of the disc, she’s been a top producer and drastically influenced the fate of her team. Opponents have most been forced to submit to her, going with the ‘stopping six other people is more likely than stopping her’ strategy.”
Johnston has been playing ultimate since her days at H-B Woodlawn and credits the school with some of her success.
“I am so grateful to H-B Woodlawn’s program for introducing me to the sport and making all of this possible,” she said. “I’ve been moved by the outpouring of excitement and support from Arlington’s ultimate community.”
Johnston has also dedicated herself to introducing a new generation of athletes to the sport. She serves as USA Ultimate’s Virginia Girls State Youth Coordinator, and works to grow the sport through clinics, events and mentoring young players.
Arlington’s youth ultimate programs have grown rapidly in the past several years, as the sport becomes increasingly popular across the country. Opportunities to play can be found through the Youth Ultimate League of Arlington.
Photo courtesy Lawrence Cheng
Historic Affairs Board: Preserve Stratford — Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has voted unanimously to recommend designating Stratford Junior High School, the current home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, a local historic district. The School Board will now decide whether or not to go along with the historic designation, which could delay plans to build a new middle school on the site by 2019. [InsideNova]
Three Arrests at Bar Crawl — There were only three arrests made at the All-American Bar Crawl in Clarendon on Saturday. Arlington County police were out in force, keeping the peace among the thousands of revelers who participated in the rain-drenched event, which the department again live-tweeted. Among the arrests were one for being drunk in public and another for failure to pay, according to a police spokesman. [Twitter]
Man With Knife Arrested at McDonald’s — A man was arrested at the McDonald’s on the 3000 block of Columbia Pike on Saturday afternoon. Police responded to the restaurant for a report of a fight in progress and encountered a man who was brandishing a knife. The suspect was arrested but was acting disorderly and spitting on officers while in custody, according to a police spokesman. It was later determined that the man was wanted for a probation violation in Loudoun County.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Arlington County is considering a local historic designation for the former Stratford Junior High School on Vacation Lane, causing some parents to worry that preservation efforts may mean more school overcrowding.
With the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program set to move from the Stratford building to a new building in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools is planning a $29.2 million renovation of Stratford that would allow it to house a new 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school. Both schools are set to open in 2019.
Tomorrow night, however, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board will hold the first of six public hearings on whether to recommend designating Stratford, which was built in 1950, a local historic district. It’s already on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of its role in the civil rights movement: in 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.
“A local historic designation will provide a framework for preserving and telling the important story of this building and site while allowing plans for a separate new school to be designed and built,” the group Preservation Arlington said in support of the designation. “Stratford Junior High School is an incredible part of Arlington’s history… as well as an excellent example of International Style school architecture.”
Parents worry that a historic designation could push back the opening of the new middle school beyond 2019.
The Jamestown Elementary PTA, which last year decried APS delaying a decision on a new middle school, says a middle school at Stratford is key to alleviating overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson middle schools. The PTA asked parents to make their voice heard at meetings this week.
“Right now the Arlington County Board is considering turning Stratford into a historical property, which would likely delay the opening of Stratford as a neighborhood middle school,” the PTA said in an email to parents. “That delay will impact all of the surrounding middle schools leaving the overcrowding issue as one that will remain for much longer.”
At a meeting at Williamsburg Middle School last night, parents were told that the school may need up to 28 relocatable classroom trailers by 2018. The trailers could ultimately hold the school’s entire 6th grade class, school administrators said.
Another APS meeting on middle school capacity issues will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Swanson Middle School. The historical review board will meet at the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Record No. of Arlington Runners in Boston — An “all-time record” of 116 Arlington runners are registered to participate in the 2015 Boston Marathon today. [InsideNova]
Vehicle Overturns in Ashton Heights — A vehicle “pinballed off two parked cars” and overturned near the intersection of 6th Street and N. Lincoln Street in Ashton Heights Sunday morning. [Twitter]
H-B No. 1 in Challenge Index — Three Arlington high schools have made the top 10 of the Washington Post’s 2015 Challenge Index of local public high schools. The H-B Woodlawn secondary program ranked No. 1, Yorktown ranked No. 6 and Washington-Lee ranked No. 10. [Washington Post]
Complaints Against Towing Co., Questions About Video — While ESPN reporter Britt McHenry serves out her suspension for berating an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington, there’s some push back against the towing company and the video it produced of McHenry’s mean-spirited remarks. NBC 4 notes that there have been 155 complaints to police against Advanced from 2012 to 2014. Us Weekly, meanwhile, gossips that “a source close to the situation” says the video was edited “to make it look like Britt has gone on a one-way tirade as opposed to being in a two-way verbal spat with someone.” [NBC Washington, Us Weekly]
Net Migration Negative for Arlington in 2014 — More people moved out of Arlington than moved in last year, according to new census estimates. Arlington’s net migration in 2014 was -1,520, compared to +2,004 in 2013. That follows a broader trend of slowing growth in the D.C. region, which is still growing thanks mostly to births. [Washington Post]
County Board to Pay School Delays Costs — The Arlington County Board, which in January put the brakes on a plan to build a new elementary school in South Arlington, pledged last week to “take the financial hit” for the project’s delay, which is expected to cost up to $2.1 million. The County Board rejected the plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School after residents raised concerns about traffic and the school’s impact on a nearby park. [InsideNova]
‘Enhanced Risk’ of Severe Weather Today — The National Weather Service says there’s an enhanced risk of severe weather in the D.C. area this afternoon, including a 1-in-3 chance of damaging wind gusts and hail. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Fire Victim Identified — The victim of Thursday’s fatal house fire on S. Randolph Street has been identified. Family and friends said 73-year-old Dennis Lee was a retired contractor, a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan and a member of the local American Legion post. He died from smoke inhalation. In the wake of his death, firefighters plan to canvass Lee’s neighborhood to test and distribute smoke detectors. [NBC Washington – Warning: Auto-play video]
Preserving H-B’s Walls — The walls of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program are covered with more than 2,000 inscriptions from past graduating classes. School officials are considering ways to digitally preserve the painted walls when the program moves to Rosslyn in five years. [Falls Church News-Press]
Historic Designation for Wilson School? — Despite opposition from school officials, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend a local historic district designation for the Wilson School in Rosslyn. The Wilson School is the second-oldest school in Arlington and preservationists are trying to save it from being razed to make way for a larger building that will house the H-B Woodlawn program. [InsideNova]
Alexandria Has School Issues, Too — Like Arlington, neighboring Alexandria is also facing a school budget deficit and rising enrollment. Another issue facing Alexandria: competing with Arlington for teachers. Arlington’s average teacher salary is $76,892, compared to $73,612 in Alexandria. [Alexandria Times]
Arlington Named Top ‘Intelligent Community’ — For the third time, Arlington has been named one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities in the world. “It is gratifying to have the Intelligent Community Forum recognize Arlington’s commitment to economic sustainability,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said, in a statement. [Arlington Economic Development]
Destroyed N.J. Apartment Has Arlington Connection — The New Jersey apartment complex that burned to the ground, leaving hundreds homeless, is owned by Arlington-based AvalonBay Communities. The $80 million apartment complex was made from wood construction, which caused it to burn too quickly for firefighters to get it under control. [Bloomberg]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
New Tot Playground Opens — An upgraded tot playground with “education-themed amenities” has opened at Chestnut Hills Park, at 2807 N. Harrison Street. [InsideNova]
H-B Woodlawn Student Scores School Musical — Calista Garcia, an 8th grade student at H-B Woodlawn, produced the score for the school’s fall musical, “Lizzy Strata.” Garcia is also the lead singer and guitarist for an all-girl rock band, the Diamond Dolls. [Washington Post]
ART Gets Bigger Buses — Arlington Transit has started using its first full-length, 40-foot buses. The service started in 1999 with vehicles similar to airport rental car shuttles. [Greater Greater Washington]
Double Decker Buses on the Pike? — A “taxpayer activist in Arlington” wants the county to consider using double decker buses — like the kind you would see in London — on Columbia Pike, in lieu of the streetcar. [Watchdog.org]
The H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.
Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.
If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school — by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.
The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.
Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3” option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.
The other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.
Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.
The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.
Orange/Silver Line Delays — There were delays on the Orange and Silver lines this morning due to a disabled train at Virginia Square. The disabled train has since been cleared and trains are no longer single tracking around it. [Twitter]
Video: Don’t Put H-B Woodlawn in Reed School — A video created by members of the Westover community urges Arlington Public Schools to reject any proposal to relocate the H-B Woodlawn secondary program to the Reed School. [YouTube]
Design Tweaks for Courthouse Building — Developer Carr Properties has made several tweaks to the design of 2025 Clarendon Blvd, its proposed office building which will replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse. Responding to concerns from county planners, Carr has added a fourth retail bay and replaced most of the terra cotta in the facade with more glass and steel. [Washington Business Journal – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Health Violations at Arlington Restaurants — WUSA9 investigative reporter Russ Ptacek has set his sights on Arlington restaurants that have had food safety licenses revoked, including Mario’s Pizza, Aroma Indian Cuisine, Pedro & Vinny’s and Astor Mediterranean. In Virginia, restaurants get their violations cleared from the public database after getting a new license post-revocation. [WUSA9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Parking App for DCA — Starting Nov. 1, those parking at Reagan National Airport will be able to pay via a smartphone app. [MWAA]
Sun Gazette Carries Doomsday Ad — The Arlington Sun Gazette recently carried an ad for Disaster Retreat, a doomsday safe haven in central Virginia for “serious-minded families and executives.” The half-page ad was adjacent to a streetcar editorial and ads for window treatments and dog training. [Slate]
(Updated on Oct. 24 at 10:15 a.m.) The option to make the Wilson School site in Rosslyn a new, 1,300-seat middle school does not appear to have support on the Arlington County School Board.
Although no final decision will be made until December on Arlington’s plan to construct school facilities for 1,300 middle school seats by 2019, School Board Chair James Lander and School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said last night they are not in favor of an urban middle school location.
“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez. She also said that, despite the strong support for keeping the H-B Woodlawn program in its current home at the Stratford building, “alternative programs have been moved. I know that H-B Woodlawn is a very, very valuable program. It’s an outstanding school. However, sometimes we may have to be open to see if there’s options for movement.”
Lander echoed Violand-Sanchez’s comments, saying “It is still my preference that the [Wilson School] site is not one that would be my first option.”
School Board member Abby Raphael, however, said she believes “the Wilson School site is a viable option.” New School Board member Nancy Van Doren did not express an opinion on the issue at the School Board’s meeting last night.
The School Board will vote on Dec. 18 to determine which middle school plan they would move forward with:
- Building a 1,000-1,300-seat neighborhood school at the Wilson site
- Building an 800-seat secondary school at the Wilson site and expanding the Stratford building to 1,300 seats
- Building 1,300 seats in additions onto the Reed/Westover Library site and Stratford
- Building 1,000 seats in additions onto the Reed/Westover or Wilson sites and 300 seats onto an additional middle school
The vote will be cast before either Barbara Kanninen or Audrey Clement — running against each other for the vacant School Board seat — are sworn in in January.
One option that appears to no longer be on the table is constructing additions onto four existing middle schools. The plan, which was the least-preferred by Arlington Public Schools staff, was determined to be too expensive and complicated relative to the others.
Thirty-six speakers from the public spoke before the Board, many of whom were advocating for keeping H-B Woodlawn in its current location. One of those speakers was Elmer Lowe, the president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, who said if the School Board decided to make Stratford a neighborhood school site, it would be turning its back on the country’s racial history.
Making Stratford a neighborhood school “was added on very late in the process in response to intense pressure and lobbying from parents in the surrounding neighborhood,” Lowe said. “It should be noted that these neighborhoods are made up almost entirely of white, affluent families… Choosing the neighborhood school option, which means that the current diverse and high-achieving student body would be moved out and the new students coming in from the neighborhood. It would therefore approximate the segregated student body that existed before the former Stratford Junior high School (integrated) in 1959.”
Lowe, who received applause for his speech, was not directly addressed by School Board members, but Lander and Violand-Sanchez both mentioned preserving diversity in their comments.
“The diversity issue often comes up, and folks manipulate the conversation to strategically make a point, and sometimes I take offense to that because, Arlington, I sometimes say, is a great party with a huge cover charge,” Lander said. “The population in Arlington is what it is. The Board and the county does not control, nor should they penalize for, where people live. I want a diverse school system. There’s people who prioritize what’s most important for their child. And we all have that right.”
Photo courtesy Preservation Arlington