McKinley Elementary School, in Arlington’s Madison Manor neighborhood, will open the next school year 131 percent over capacity due to construction delays, school officials told parents this week.
McKinley is in the midst of a $22 million expansion project that was approved in 2014. The expansion will add 241 seats to the school, which opened this school year with a capacity of 443 and an already-burgeoning enrollment just north of 600 students.
APS is adjusting school boundaries to move students from Glebe and Tuckahoe elementary schools, which are both also well over capacity, to McKinley this fall. The idea was to balance capacity utilization across the schools, taking advantage of McKinley’s expansion.
There’s only one problem: the expansion, which was to wrap up this summer, is now not expected to be completed until November or December. And APS is moving forward with its boundary adjustments regardless, bringing a projected student body of 712 to McKinley in the fall.
In a presentation to parents and the community, APS said its contractor encountered a number of unexpected problems, including the discovery of an underground spring, old building footings and undocumented utility lines.
Those problems are delaying the expected substantial completion of “Phase 3” of the expansion project — a three-story addition with a number of classrooms and other facilities — until late November.
To bridge the gap, over the summer APS will be re-installing a “six-plex” classroom trailer complex that it had removed over spring break, to allow for the installation of an underground storm water management system. APS was able to meet capacity needs without the trailers thanks to the completion of “Phase 2” — a one-story addition with four new classrooms — over the winter.
A few concerned parents have emailed ARLnow.com about the construction snafu, concerned about APS proceeding with the boundary changes. However, APS’ numbers show that capacity utilization will actually be slightly lower even without the Phase 3 addition.
McKinley was 136.6 percent over capacity when it opened last fall, according to APS. It is projected to be 131.1 percent over capacity when it opens this fall, thanks to a 100-student boost in capacity via the completed expansion work.
Once classes move into the three-story addition over winter break, the school will be 104 percent over capacity: a capacity of 684 for 712 students. That compares to the projected 112.4 percent capacity level at Glebe Elementary and 107.5 percent at Tuckahoe Elementary.
“APS believes that moving the students from Tuckahoe and Glebe to McKinley as planned this fall provides the best continuity of instruction and relieves crowding at both Tuckahoe and Glebe,” Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick told ARLnow.com.
Parents are also concerned about a lack of recreation space for students at McKinley. A new gymnasium won’t be ready until Phase 3 is completed and the fields around the school are now not expected to be restored post-construction until April 2017. This fall, physical education classes will take place in a trailer in the school’s parking lot.
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Four Mile Run Cleaning Planned — Starting in a few days, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria will begin a joint project to remove excess vegetation from the Four Mile Run flood control channel, which extends from I-395 to the Potomac River. “Residents will see crews working in or near Four Mile Run, removing trees, shrubs, and other vegetation growing in the channel,” the county noted in a press release. [Arlington County]
Washington Blvd Lane Closure — A northbound lane closure on the Washington Blvd bridge over Route 110 was put in place overnight, according to VDOT. A southbound lane closure, similarly reducing the number of lanes on the bridge from three to two, is expected to be put in place next week. The lane closures were originally planned for this past Monday.
Another County Board Straw Poll — Another straw poll in the race for the Democratic County Board nomination was held last night at Del. Alfonso Lopez’s campaign kick-off event at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. The reported results were: Christian Dorsey 27%, Peter Fallon 23%, Katie Cristol 22%, James Lander 15%, Andrew Schneider 12%, Bruce Wiljanen 1%.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.
The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.
The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.
APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.
The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.
“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”
Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.
“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”
Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.
(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Just 18 months after Arlington’s School Board approved a new elementary school boundary plan for North Arlington, an influx of more new students is prompting the Board to reconsider those plans.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says 652 additional Pre-K and elementary students came to the district this year, outpacing APS’s growth projections by 52. That, along with variances on a school-by-school basis, has caused APS to explore “possible refinements to the boundaries.”
Following a series of three community meetings, the School Board is scheduled to fast-track a vote on a new boundary map for the 2015-2016 school year in January.
The process for determining the new school boundaries will begin with a community meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at Williamsburg Middle School. There, APS staff will present data showing the need for the boundary change, demonstrate the online tool that parents can use to recommend their boundary maps and “begin work with the community to refine boundary options,” according to an APS press release.
The schools whose boundaries will come under review are the under-construction elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School, Glebe Elementary, Tuckahoe, Ashlawn, Nottingham, Taylor, Jamestown and McKinley.
The approved boundary change from May of last year reassigned 900 students and resulted in five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Tuckahoe, McKinley and Nottingham — sitting at more than 100 percent capacity, but no school above 105.1 percent capacity. The decision was reached after an eight-month community process, and previous boundary realignments have resulted in tension among parents.
The boundary revision process, from the first School Board information session to its scheduled adoption, will take two and a half months.
“After we received updated enrollment projections based on Sept. 30 enrollment numbers, the Superintendent directed staff to begin looking at refinement of the 2015-16 boundaries,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com in an email. “The projections confirmed that we will have enrollment imbalances within the those schools and there is a need to do boundary refinements for a relatively small number of families.”
At tomorrow night’s School Board meeting, APS staff will present their newest school population projections and outline the need to revising the boundaries. From Nov. 18 to Dec. 5, parents and community members will be able to go online and submit their boundary recommendations for staff to consider. Staff will review those recommendations at another community meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, in the Williamsburg auditorium.
“The community meetings will provide an opportunity for the families that may potentially be impacted to work with staff to develop recommended adjustments using the Online Boundary Tool originally introduced in the boundary process two years ago,” APS said in a press release. “Individuals will be able to see the possible moves that can help to further balance enrollment for these schools. Information shared at all community meetings will help shape the discussion and prepare individuals to use the Online Boundary Tool.”
In January, the School Board will take up the issue. First, with a work session on Jan. 5, then with an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before voting on a new boundary alignment on Jan. 22. All of the School Board meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. at 1426 N. Quincy Street.
File photo via APS
The expansion will add a 33,040-square-foot addition in the northeast corner of the school, at 1030 N. McKinley Road, and smaller additions in the southwest corner and at the main entrance to the school. The project is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
An expansion of this size would, according to the county’s Zoning Ordinance, necessitate that Arlington Public Schools add 108 parking spaces. But because open space and a number of mature trees surround McKinley, the County Board approved plans to add just 20 spaces to the existing 36 spaces. Even those 20 spaces were the source of controversy; the county’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission recommended adding no spaces and instead using street parking to accommodate the additional staff and parent vehicles.
Advocates from the school and community who were a part of the planning process, including McKinley Principal Colin Brown, spoke in favor of adding the 20 spaces.
“I’ve said from the start that we enjoy a fantastic day-to-day relationship with the neighbors and the community,” Brown told the Board. “At this point, the neighborhood is able to handle the volume of staff and parents parking on the street given the current capacity of the parking lot. We’re at a tipping point. We need to maintain a fine and delicate balance.”
Ultimately, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended keeping the 20 spaces in the plan, and the County Board approved it unanimously. Only three members of the general public spoke, two of whom, School Board candidate Audrey Clement and Jim Hurysz, decried APS’ inability to expand schools “up, not out,” which would save green space. Despite that opposition, County Board Chair Jay Fisette marveled at the lack of animosity toward the plan, which marked the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School.
“I think it is quite a testament to this process that we had three speakers,” he said. “This is one of the easiest things I’ve seen to come before the Board.”
To make way for the school expansion, 78 trees will be removed — 12 of which are gingko trees that will be transplanted elsewhere in the county. Nearly 150 trees will be planted once construction is complete, according to APS Director of Design and Construction Scott Prisco.
“We feel strongly this is a sensitive approach to the neighbors, and it will meet our needs as a school system,” Prisco said.
In total, the expansion will mean a net increase of 32,250 square feet and include 10 new classrooms, two art rooms, two music rooms and expand the gymnasium to have enough space for the entire, expanded school. The expansion will also add a stage. Construction will include pedestrian improvements on N. McKinley Road and 11th Street N.
Photo via APS
(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) The Arlington School Board adopted its 2015-2014 Capital Improvement Plan last night, and it includes a controversial plan for a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).
The School Board will ask the Arlington County Board to approve $106 million bond referendum this November to fund several elementary school capacity projects and an addition to Washington-Lee High School.
More than $50 million of the proposed bond is slated to build either a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson grounds, the School Board’s “preferred plan,” or to construct additions to two South Arlington elementary schools. According to Arlington Public Schools staff, the new school would add 725 seats by September 2018, while the two additions would add 500 seats for the same price in the same timeline.
Separately, the bond request also includes additions to McKinley and Abingdon Elementary Schools.
The new school next to Thomas Jefferson has drawn the ire of some residents. The Sun Gazette reported “angry community members” spoke at length at Monday’s School Board meeting, and a group called the Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park sent out a press release this morning declaring they were “outraged” with the School Board’s decision.
“The School Board voted to take land purchased for parks and pave it for parking lots and new buildings. This was not what voters wanted when they approved park bond issues,” Jim Presswood, a leader of the Friends group, said in the release. “All versions of the Arlington School Board proposal reduce green space, children’s playgrounds, and fitness options for the public. This reduces outdoor options at the moment our growing country needs them most. Many citizens spoke in opposition to the TJ Park proposal at the meeting and dozens more provided visible support.”
The School Board resolved in its CIP to decide which plan to move forward with by January 2015. If the Board decides on the Thomas Jefferson site, it will decide whether to make it a neighborhood school or a choice program by April 31, 2015.
“This doesn’t make a final decision,” School Board Chair Abby Raphael said last night. “It sets in motion a process.”
A month before the School Board decides the fate of Thomas Jefferson Park, it will decide where to put a planned, 1,300-seat secondary school. There is no site currently identified in the bond motion, but APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said a new school at the Wilson School site in western Rosslyn and moving the H-B Woodlawn program are still on the table.
The School Board resolved to make a decision on where the seats will be placed no later than Dec. 31, 2014. It has requested $4 million for planning and design of the new school in the CIP.
Major projects approved for inclusion in the Capital Improvement Plan last night were:
- A $5 million, 300-seat expansion at Washington-Lee High School, to be completed by September 2016. All funds to come from the 2014 bond referendum.
- A $20 million, 241-seat expansion at McKinley Elementary School to be completed by September 2016. The School Board is requesting $7.47 million in 2014 bond funds, and the rest will be funded by a $12 million 2012 bond resolution and $633,500 in other construction funds.
- A $28.75 million, 136-seat expansion at Abingdon Elementary School, to be completed by September 2017. All funds to come from the 2014 bond referendum.
- A $153.4 million, 1,300-seat expansion at the Arlington Career Center for a secondary school, to be scheduled in three phases, completing for the start of the school years in 2020, 2021 and 2022. No bond funding was requested for 2014.
- $70.11 million for minor construction/major renovation funding. $10.31 million to be requested in the 2014 bond referendum.
Photo (bottom) via APS
Lavern Chatman Running for Congress — Lavern Chatman, former president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, has announced that she’s running for the 8th District seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). “We need leaders who understand the struggles and joys of raising and educating children and the benefits of providing them opportunities for economic empowerment,” Chatman, a Democrat, said in a statement. [Blue Virginia]
TandemNSI Launches — TandemNSI, Arlington’s initiative to bring national security technology companies together with government agencies and universities, officially launched Tuesday night. The $525,000 public-private partnership is being launched at a time when Arlington is still smarting from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation. [Bisnow, DoD Buzz]
McKinley Elementary Expansion — A plan to add 225 seats to McKinley Elementary School by the fall of 2016 is moving forward. Arlington Public Schools hopes to complete the design of the addition by the end of 2014 and begin construction by mid-2015. [Sun Gazette]
Restaurant Challenge Begins — The Ballston Business Improvement District is now accepting applications for its Restaurant Challenge. The BID is seeking the area’s “next signature restaurant.” The winner of the challenge will receive an interest-free loan and an 11-year lease on the former Red Parrot Asian Bistro space at 1110 N. Glebe Blvd. “This new program is designed to activate commercial space and showcase the community of Ballston as a magnet for discovery and innovation,” the BID said. [Ballston BID, Washington Business Journal]
Marymount Creates Redskins Gear for Women — Fashion design students at Marymount University in Arlington have created new fashion-forward Washington Redskins apparel for women. The student project was initiated in response to what a professor saw as a lack of stylish options for female Redskins fans. [Marymount University]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
The event, part of International Walk to School Month, “encourages students to walk and bike to school while teaching the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking,” according to the school system. Parents are also encouraged to participate.
In addition to encouraging walking and biking as part of a healthy lifestyle, Walk and Bike to School Day “raises community awareness about the importance of pedestrian safety education, safe routes to schools, well-maintained walkways, and traffic calming in neighborhoods and around schools.”
This year, McKinley Elementary School will serve as the public face of Walk and Bike to School Day. In recognition of the many students who walk to school at McKinley, Arlington Public Schools will be setting up refreshment stands and holding a before-school rally for McKinley students and parents.
The refreshment stands will be set up, starting at 8:30 a.m., at the intersection of N. 11th Street and N. Potomac Street, at 1030 N. McKinley Road and at 14th Street N. and N. Ohio Street (where buses will drop students off, to allow them to walk a couple of blocks to school).
The rally will take place at the school field at 8:45 a.m., and will feature McKinley administrators, PTA representatives, Arlington School Board Members, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, Arlington County Board members, school transportation staff, crossing guards, police officers and Walk Arlington staff. Classes will start at 9:00 a.m., according to the school system.
“This is the 13th consecutive year that APS has participated in ‘International Walk or Bike to School Month,’ and since 1999, APS and Arlington County have worked together to create walk-friendly neighborhoods,” Arlington Public Schools said in a media advisory. “As part of this effort, materials have been produced for families with children attending Arlington Public Schools’ elementary and middle schools. These include maps and Web resources for county residents who want to walk or bicycle throughout the community.”