Construction crews have moved in and are well on the way to demolishing the former Wilson School in Rosslyn to make way for the future H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs.
As of Thursday, very few walls from the school at 1601 Wilson Blvd were remaining, with piles of rubble, metal and bricks piling up as workers continue to clear the site. Construction on the new $100 million building is set to start later this year.
The new structure is scheduled to open in fall 2019 and house 775 students across both programs. 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, with outdoor terraces allowing open space for recreation and learning.
The former Wilson School had been recommended for designation as a historic district, but that request was denied by the Arlington County Board in 2015. Instead, the Board directed Arlington Public Schools to incorporate pieces of the old building into the new school.
Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4
Arlington Public Schools will add 1,300 high school seats across the Education Center and the Career Center after the School Board approved the so-called “hybrid option” at its meeting Thursday.
The option, put forward by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month, would add 500-600 seats to a renovated Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) by 2022, then add another 700-800 at the Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive), which would get a renovation and an addition. The County Board denied a request to designate the Education Center as a historic district last month.
Murphy’s proposal had not been among the original short list of three finalists for the new high school site, but Board members said it would balance the need for more seats with limited building space, and make use of what already exists.
“We cannot allow this Ed Center site to lie fallow,” said Board member Reid Goldstein. “We go to the County Board every year and we tell them we need more: we need more money; we need more land. I’m a taxpayer too. We cannot have a site that could hold students going unused.”
By December, Murphy must also provide a list of recommendations for the Education Center, including its cost, any boundary changes needed and educational programming. He must make similar recommendations for the Career Center no later than May 2018.
In addition to their vote in favor of the plan, Board members directed Murphy to include options for a fourth comprehensive high school, including programming, cost and location, in APS’ 2019-2028 capital budget. Arlington currently has three comprehensive high schools: Washington-Lee, Wakefield and Yorktown.
“It’s not a blank slate,” said Board chair Nancy Van Doren. “We have eight points we want answers to, we have a finite amount of money and we have a vision that says we’re going to need to potentially add onto those and make them into something even greater going forward. So we want to leave our options open, and one thing I think we’ve learned to do is not create buildings that aren’t flexible.”
The Board voted 4-1 in favor of the plan, with James Lander the lone dissenting vote. He said the plan was not the best use of the space at the Career Center, had safety concerns around traffic on S. Walter Reed Drive and worries about locating high school students close to Patrick Henry Elementary School.
“If you know someone with 40 acres in Arlington who is willing to sell to the school system, I would be happy to negotiate that,” Lander said. “Until then, we have to utilize the space effectively that we have now, and we have to think about what our needs could be potentially down the road. I think this site could be better used than just 600 seats.”
The perceived lack of consultation with nearby residents on the new option came in for some criticism during public testimony. Maria “Pete” Durgan, president of the Penrose Neighborhood Association, urged the Board to delay their vote to explore the hybrid model further.
“We feel disappointed in the way the solution came about because we don’t feel like we were presented with the various scenarios and had an opportunity on what would affect us greatly,” she said.
Goldstein raised similar concerns with the way the fourth option came forward, and challenged his colleagues to think about how they continue engaging with the community even as new ideas come forward late in the game.
“How do we do idea changes or option changes in a project like this when there isn’t enough time to extend the community engagement process?” he asked.
Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen said APS intends to get “right back out there” in the fall to begin discussing the new schools, and may look at convening something similar to the South Arlington Working Group that helped site a new elementary school.
“After tonight, we’re proceeding with two projects, and I’m excited about both of them, the Ed Center project, the Career Center site, but it’s no longer a hybrid,” Kanninen said. “These are two projects, just like we have several other projects on the books.”
A plan to designate one of the potential sites for a new public high school as a historic district will be discussed by the County Board tonight (Tuesday).
But the proposal has drawn skepticism from county and Arlington Public Schools staff, who want the Board to deny the request and instead help preserve flexibility for APS as it solves its capacity issues.
The Education Center at 1426 N. Quincy Street is one of three remaining options for the county’s next public high school — not counting a new option involving the center, floated by superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Under the plan for historic designation, the Education Center and the adjacent David M. Brown Planetarium would be saved from possible demolition and subject to a strict design review process for any changes to its exterior.
The request for historic designation came from local resident and Planning Commission member Nancy Iacomini, who described both 1960s-era buildings as “physical embodiments of the forward thinking of Arlington and our County’s hope for the future” in her nominating letter.
Preservation Arlington said in a blog post that the buildings are examples of “New Formalism,” which combined classical and more modern design elements. Both were completed in 1969, after being funded through a 1965 bond referendum.
But in their report on the plan, staff said the Education Center could help address school overcrowding and so designating it would prevent “maximum use (and reuse) of the public facilities we have.”
That is a view echoed by School Board chair Nancy Van Doren, who in a brief letter to County Board chair Jay Fisette expressed the School Board’s opposition to the plan.
“School Board members do not support pursuing historic designation of the building at this time as it would limit options to address the school division’s capacity needs at this site,” Van Doren wrote.
In a previous column, Peter Rousselot argued against the historic designation, and noted that APS is moving its administrative staff out of the building to new offices at Sequoia Plaza 2 on Washington Blvd. The School Board approved the move at its meeting last week.
Staff recommended finding that the site meet some of the criteria for historic designation but that further evaluation be shelved. They also proposed denying the request and collaborating in the future to see how the site can be reused.
Just days after local parents launched a petition favoring building a high school next to Kenmore Middle School, others have begun a petition of their own against the plan.
The petition against the Kenmore plan raises concerns about the impact on traffic on S. Carlin Springs Road, which it says would increase the number of students that attend nearby schools from 2,200 to approximately 3,500.
“Carlin Springs Road is one of the County’s few north/south arterials and a major commuter thoroughfare,” the petition reads. “There is no reasonable alternative to Carlin Springs Road for many people using this route. Adding students would add vehicular traffic in the form of school buses, and cars for students and staff. The increase in traffic and the increase in the number of students crossing Carlin Springs Road will increase the threat of accidents involving students.”
The School Board recently whittled down a list of nine possible sites for the county’s new public high school to three. Under the Kenmore plan the current middle school would remain on the 33-acre campus, and adjacent property would be used to build a new 1,300-seat high school.
The other two options remaining are to develop a ninth-grade academy on the site of the Education Center next to Washington-Lee High School, with the International Baccalaureate program expanded and a World Languages site created, or build at the Arlington Career Center site to co-locate with Arlington Tech.
The petition was also critical of the process to determine the site of the new high school.
“The planning process by the County and the School Board to engage in more proactive planning is appreciated,” it reads, “but it appears that the effort to site the 1,300 [seat] high school seats is short circuiting the process.”
Another School Board work session is scheduled for May 15 at the Education Center, with the Board set to discuss the options and adopt one in June.
Parents and community members are being asked to help choose the name of the new elementary school that’s being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
A naming committee has narrowed down the choices, which included suggestions submitted via an online survey, to five. The finalists, each with an explanation from the naming committee, are below.
- Alice West Fleet Elementary School — “A native Virginian, a granddaughter of slaves, and a long-time Arlington teacher, resident, community activist and leader… she broke down racial barriers, serving as the first black reading teacher in Arlington and the first black teacher to teach in an all-white school in Arlington.”
- Grace Hopper Elementary School — “Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an acclaimed computer scientist, professor, and long-time Arlington resident… Ms. Hopper was key to the development of COBOL, a computer programming language that helped make coding more accessible.”
- Journey Elementary School — “The new elementary school building is designed with different levels and sections representing different biospheres… The name ‘Journey’ was recommended through the Community Input Form and represents the students’ journey through the building as they explore our diverse world as well as the educational journey that students and their families experience.”
- Liberty Elementary School — “The name ‘Liberty’ is a tribute both to Patrick Henry’s famous ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’ speech and to his support of the Bill of Rights. This option represents a name change that maintains a connection to the school’s existing name.”
- Patrick Henry Elementary School — “Patrick Henry Elementary School was given its name in 1925, renaming the original school name, Columbia Elementary School. Patrick Henry was a lawyer, orator, and statesman who served as the first and sixth governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was also a slave owner.”
The new school is expected to open in September 2019. Students and staff will be moving from the existing Patrick Henry Elementary, near the Columbia Pike Branch Library, to the new school.
The naming committee says it received input on both sides of the debate over the current school’s name.
The committee heard compelling arguments both for keeping and for changing the name of the school. Some felt that keeping the name would provide continuity and maintain a connection to the school’s history, while continuing to honor one of our nation’s founding fathers. Others thought that the school name should be changed in order to avoid confusion between the new and existing school, or to reflect the creative design of the new building. Some also felt that Patrick Henry’s name should no longer be used since he owned slaves.
The committee says it received more than 500 survey responses via its online form. Among the serious suggestions were at least a few from pranksters, we’re told; other name suggestions included Howard Stern Elementary and Pokemon Elementary.
This time around, the committee is hoping to only receive input from Patrick Henry Elementary and Jefferson Middle School parents, students, staff and nearby neighbors.
A proposal to build a high school next to Kenmore Middle School appears to have garnered some support among local parents.
The School Board recently whittled down a list of nine possible sites for the county’s new public high school to three. Under the Kenmore plan the current middle school would remain on the 33 acre campus, and adjacent property would be used to build a new high school.
A petition in support of the Kenmore plan — and against expanding Washington-Lee High School — has garnered more than 100 signatures.
“This would be a smaller high school initially but would have the potential to become a 4th comprehensive high school if a new middle school building can be built elsewhere in the near future,” the petition says. “School start times could be staggered, and officials have recognized the need to improve access to the campus to relieve traffic.”
(Currently, the county has three comprehensive high schools: Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield.)
Of the other two options remaining, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said a ninth-grade academy would be developed on the site of the Education Center next to Washington-Lee, with the International Baccalaureate program expanded and a World Languages site created.
That, says petition supporters, would make W-L far too large of a school.
“Students would share common spaces and fields with students already at W-L,” says the petition. “This would place 3,500 to 4,000 high school students in one location.”
The third option is to build at the Arlington Career Center, expanding Arlington Tech and allowing for the repurposing of the Education Center. Supporters of the Kenmore option say the plan to build at the Career Center would force that to be a choice program, something that has come in for criticism online given Arlington Public Schools’ enrollment growth.
“Choice schools were great when the schools were under-enrolled and kids had a decent chance of getting into them,” wrote one commenter on a message board for local moms. “Now getting into a choice school is like a Golden Ticket while everyone else is crammed into high schools that are getting too big and you don’t know the people in your class. We can’t afford to spend $100 million on choice schools like HB [Woodlawn] while the rest of the peasants make do in trailers smuched [sic] together at other high schools.”
“[The] Kenmore option is the only option that establishes a solid pathway to a 4th comprehensive high school, which the APS system desperately needs,” the petition says.
Earlier this week, the Yorktown PTA hosted a town hall with Board members Barbara Kanninen and Reid Goldstein. Another School Board work session is scheduled for May 15 at the Career Center, with the Board set to discuss the options and adopt one in June.
Photo via Google Maps
New Elementary School Approved — After a years-long process that included neighborhood opposition and lots of community discussion, the Arlington County Board has approved a use permit and ground lease for a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson middle school and community center site. [Arlington County]
Rosslyn Farmers Market Approved — Also at its Saturday meeting, the County Board gave the go-ahead to a new FreshFarm Markets-operated farmers market that will be held at the new Central Place public plaza in Rosslyn. The market will be open on Wednesday evenings from April to November. [Arlington County]
Bebe Closing at Pentagon City Mall — The Bebe store at the Pentagon City mall will close by the end of May. It’s part of a larger restructuring for the struggling young women’s clothing retailer. [Patch]
County Board to Honor Trees — “Arlington has about 755,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $6.89 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings and avoided stormwater runoff. The Arlington County Board will honor 10 of these trees as Notable Trees at the April 25 County Board Meeting.” [Arlington County]
Blue Virginia’s School Board Endorsement — Local Democratic blog Blue Virginia has endorsed Monique O’Grady in the race for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board. The endorsement cites incumbent James Lander’s recent controversial remarks about a murder victim as a reason for not endorsing him. [Blue Virginia]
Flickr pool photo by Ameschen
And then there were three. The list of nine possible sites for Arlington County’s new public high school has been whittled down to three finalists.
At a work session last night, the School Board weighed constructing a 1,300-seat high school at the sites of Kenmore Middle School, the Arlington Career Center and the APS Education Center. The new school is expected to open at one of these locations in September 2022.
The options have been narrowed based on staff analyses of the pros and cons each site presents, along with feedback from the Facilities Advisory Council and the community.
The Board still must determine whether the school would be a specialized choice school, like Arlington Tech or H-B Woodlawn, or a community high school like Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown. The information gathered thus far from surveyed community members indicates that 44 percent favor a neighborhood school and 56 percent favor a specialized school.
Board member Tannia Talento brought up the importance of further examining the impact of traffic, parking and walkability at each site. She said that parking needs and traffic for extracurricular activities and special events come into play in addition to the daily school needs.
“How is it impacting the neighborhood? These things will come into play when we’re adding 1,300 seats at a site like the Ed Center or Kenmore,” she said.
School Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen questioned the feasibility of renovating or expanding any of the proposed sites rather than starting from scratch with building. That potentially could accelerate the project for completion before 2022. Regarding school overcrowding, “We really know we hit trouble in 2021,” she said.
Board chairwoman Nancy Van Doren echoed Kanninen’s sentiment about site renovation or expansion, adding that such an option could provide cost savings, perhaps even through a phased plan for adding seats over time.
“I would like to perhaps consider a hybrid option,” Van Doren said. “One of my personal criteria is cost and making sure we have enough money to build all the seats we need going forward. So if there are ways that we can provide additions or renovations at a lower cost than the total amount of money that we have currently allocated, then I’d be very interested in that.”
Site analyses will continue through mid-May, and final recommendations are expected at the Board’s May 15 work session. Final site approval is anticipated for June. Until that time, staff will continue to engage the community about the three high school site options, including through feedback received via the “Engage with APS” website.
“This is about our kids and about our families and it is emotional,” Van Doren said.
The new elementary school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road would provide 752 seats and replace the current Patrick Henry Elementary School at 701 S. Highland Street. A naming process for the new school is underway. It is projected to cost $59 million and to open in September 2019.
But a report prepared by county staff acknowledges the project still has concerns, including theater parking during construction, the impact on homes at the north side of the site, whether an existing surface parking lot should remain and neighbors’ desire for sidewalk improvements in an area outside of the project’s scope.
As part of the approval process, the County Board will also discuss leasing county-owned land at the site to the School Board so the new school can be built.
If the County Board allows the lease to be executed, Arlington Public Schools would then have the right to use the land to build the new elementary school and a 214-space, joint-use parking garage. The lease would be set to expire in 75 years, in 2092.
A report by county staff found that executing the lease would not impact the county financially, but an agreement will be necessary to solidify how the county and APS will share the parking garage’s operating and maintenance expenses.
Staff recommends approval of the use permit for the new school and the execution of the lease.
As Arlington school officials consider locations for a new high school, a resident has nominated one of the potential sites for consideration as a local historic district.
The 1960s-era Arlington Education Center and planetarium, next to Washington-Lee High School, should be designated historic and preserved, says Nancy Iacomini, an Arlington Planning Commission member.
More from the website of Preservation Arlington:
Designed by Cleveland-based architecture firm Ward and Schneider, the building is an excellent example of “New Formalism” which combined classical design elements with modern materials and techniques. Bethlehem Steel used a new cost-saving technique of steel wedges to construct the building. Both buildings were completed in 1969, having been funded by a 1965 bond referendum and designed with community-wide input. In 1967 a special citation from the American Association of School Administrators said the center “should attract the public and focus attention on the importance of education.” The two buildings were built as a pair and symbolize the great civic pride of Arlington and its’ investment in the future.
Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will now consider the nomination. If the HALRB recommends historic designation, public hearings will then be held by the Planning Commission and County Board.
Iacomini says there is both architectural and cultural significance to the Education Center, which currently houses Arlington Public Schools administrative offices and the School Board’s meeting room.
From her nomination letter:
Structures are literally visual landmarks of our shared history; the Education Center is emblematic of an important era of Arlington’s past…
Clearly the 1960s was a boom time for the county — a time when we were beginning to plan for the future of the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor and time of great growth in our schools but also still a time of grappling with social issues in our schools. The Education Center and the planetarium are physical embodiments of the forward thinking of Arlington and our County’s hope for the future. They should stand as reminders of our accomplishments and goals of the past as we continue to provide for the future.
The Education Center and Planetarium are proud civic buildings of a set, carefully designed and constructed with taxpayer funds on publicly owned land. It is not unlike the commitment we’ve made to the new school on the Wilson site. They are part of our shared civic heritage.
The proposed elementary school on the site of Thomas Jefferson Middle School is on track for County Board approval next month.
The new elementary school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road would house the current Patrick Henry Elementary School at 701 S. Highland Street and provide 725 seats. A naming process for the new school is underway. It is projected to cost $59 million and be open in September 2019.
A previous report by county staff noted the unique nature of the project as it was evaluated by both Arlington Public Schools’ Building Level Planning Committee and the county’s Public Facilities Review Committee.
But concerns remain over the project, particularly the impact of construction on the 3.85-acre site.
A tipster emailed ARLnow to say that while construction is underway, a large portion of the western parcel of the campus will be unavailable for public use, limiting access to the middle school. The tipster said this may put the programs at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater “at risk of failure.”
Meanwhile, parking at the community center along 2nd Street S. will be reduced during the day, as portions will be used as drop-off and pick-up points for the middle school. And school staff will park in the east lot at S. Irving Street and 2nd Street S.
Previously, community members have also raised concerns about the impact of construction on nearby homes and the effect moving a sidewalk north will have on existing mature trees and green space.
In the last few weeks, the project has been examined by the Urban Forestry Commission; the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission; and the Park and Recreation Commission. It will also go before the Transportation Commission in April 3, before heading to the Planning Commission two days later.
One expected hot topic of conversation: whether parking for the school should be partially above ground or completely below ground.
From an APS email about the meeting:
APS wants to hear your input and questions related to the New Elementary School at the Jefferson Site. Planning is currently in the schematic design phase and a proposed design is expected to be submitted to the School Board in October. On September 13, 2016 APS will host a Community Forum beginning at 7 PM in the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Library. The purpose of the event is to inform the community of the planning progress made so far and to hear feedback from community members. The event will be an Open House format with materials on presentation boards. APS staff and consultants will be available to answer questions. Participates are welcome to come and go as they please.
Originally a number of community members fought against a new elementary school on the TJ site, but they only succeeded in delaying the project for a year before the County Board voted to approve it in December.
Arlington Expects ‘Speedy’ Election Returns — The Democratic primary for Arlington County Board and the 45th Virginia House of Delegates district is taking place today, utilizing Arlington County’s new optical scanners. The county issued a press release on Monday promising that “changes should result in speedier reporting of unofficial results on election night.” Polls close at 7:00 p.m. and the first results are expected to be reported on the county website around 7:30.
Reminder: Candidate Essays — If you haven’t cast your ballot yet, you can peruse the “why should you vote for me” essays written by the six Democratic County Board candidates: Andrew Schneider, Bruce Wiljanen, Katie Cristol, James Lander, Peter Fallon, Christian Dorsey.
Working Group to Discuss S. Arlington School Site — Following the County Board’s scuttling of plans for an elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, the Arlington School Board has created a working group to help decide the location for a new South Arlington elementary school. Former School Board candidate Greg Greeley was appointed chairman of the group, which is charged with creating a final report by November. The School Board is expected to take action on the new school on Dec. 15. [InsideNova]
Swimming Fundraiser Planned — The swim teams from four private clubs are coming together for a fundraiser on Sunday, June 28. Teams from Arlington Forest Club, Donaldson Run, Overlee and Washington Golf and Country Club will swim laps to raise money for the Arlington-based Marjorie Hughes Fund for Children. The fund helps low-income children obtain medical care and medications. [GoFundMe]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
STEM Preschool was approved by the Arlington County Board last night for a use permit at 3120 S. Abingdon Street, in the 74-year-old building once occupied by Frosty’s Heating and Cooling, next to Fire Station 7.
“We have a need in our community for daycare, for childcare,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said before the Board unanimously approved the application. “As we get more families, day care is a really important service to provide. I think this is going to be a great addition to the Fairlington community.”
The preschool is owned by Portia Moore, who owns P&E Babysitting, a service that caters largely to North Arlington families and has a five-star rating on Yelp. Moore started the babysitting business while she was a teacher for Arlington Public Schools. She taught for three yeas at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, one at Swanson Middle School and one at Patrick Henry Elementary School, in the preschool program.
Moore said she wanted to start a preschool focused on STEM education ever since she was getting her master’s degree from Marymount University and visited the elementary school programs at Ft. Belvoir.
“They have an amazing program there, with interactive labs with kindergarteners,” Moore told ARLnow.com this morning. “It was hands on, not just reading off the board. The children would learn through touching things and labs. It was interesting to me, and I thought younger kids could learn just like that.”
Moore said that there will be about 11 staff members trained in early STEM education, including a director with a master’s degree in early childhood education. She won’t be closing the babysitting business — “I think my clients would kill me,” she said — and she had hoped to be closer to her clientele, but said she fell in love with the space.
“There’s an outdoor play area in the back, and a lot of places in Arlington don’t have any land for that,” she said. As a requirement of her use permit, county staff mandated that the playground Moore plans to build is fenced in for the children’s safety.
Inside the school, there will be hands on activities to get the children to engage in STEM education, like plants, a butterfly garden to observe an insect’s life cycle and a “water table” to observe the phases of water. “Everything will be integrated,” Moore said, “the kids won’t just be doing science during science time, there will be math components, too.”
Now that the permit is approved, Moore said only building permits are left before construction can begin. She estimates the school will open on Jan. 20, the day after Martin Luther King Day. The center plans to operate 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. There are 15 parking spaces in the lot, but staff approved the site, pointing out nearby street parking is readily available for staff to use.
Photo via Google Maps
APS Mulls Contract for School at TJ — The Arlington School Board tonight will consider a $4.7 million contract for architectural and engineering work on a proposed elementary school on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That’s despite well-organized neighborhood opposition to the school encroaching on Thomas Jefferson Park. [InsideNova]
Unreliable Mail Delivery in Douglas Park — Residents of Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood say their mail delivery has become considerably less reliable in the past year. Talk of missing mail, misdirected mail and delayed mail has reached a crescendo. The Postal Service says it’s investigating. [WJLA]
HOT Lanes Lawsuit Had ‘Unintended Consequences’ — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze acknowledged at Tuesday’s debate that Arlington County might have erred in pursuing an aggressive lawsuit against proposed High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. Howze said the suit “had unintended consequences with our relations with Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf