Construction of an addition at Ashlawn Elementary could begin in the fall and trigger a potentially sensitive process of shifting school boundaries, if school board members approve the current proposal for the superintendent’s Capital Improvement Plan in June.
Arlington Public Schools staff on Wednesday recommended starting with Ashlawn, out of a group of five major school construction projects aimed at increasing elementary school capacity. Ashlawn’s district abuts seven other neighborhood school boundaries, more than any other elementary, giving an expansion there a greater impact on overcrowding at other northwest Arlington elementaries.
The board needs to find seats for about 1,800 more primary age students who are expected to enroll by 2016.
Ashlawn’s addition would open in fall 2014 and hold 255 new students. The board came one step closer to approving this and other a set of projects Wednesday at a work session at Kenmore Middle School. On the list after the 12-room addition at Ashlawn is a brand new neighborhood elementary to be built on the grounds of Williamsburg Middle School, proposed to open in fall 2015 with 600 students.
Opening in the 2016-2017 school year would be 12-room additions at McKinley Elementary and at Arlington Traditional schools, holding 225 students each, and in 2017-2018 another new elementary would be built on school land between Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School. That school would be a 600-student, county-wide choice school.
Additions at Ashlawn, ATS and McKinley include proposals to expand media centers, cafeterias and other common areas.
The total cost for those projects would be about $122 million, including about $14 million for the Ashlawn expansion, funded mainly by new school bonds. If the plan is approved, the district would ask Arlington voters to approve a two-year bond, to fund Ashlawn and to start one new school, for about $45 million.
Another bond request of about $72 million would follow in 2014, officials said.
School officials should start community discussions about boundary changes as soon as possible, said schools facility planner Alison Denton. Students could shift from Tuckahoe, the county’s most-overcrowded school, south through McKinley and Glebe Elementary districts to Ashlawn’s.
“Boundary moves might happen during construction, not after,” Denton said. “Obviously we’re going to change a lot of boundaries.”
Middle School Expansion Is Not Far Off
Denton also asked the school board to consider building an entirely new middle school after this round of school expansion, when the bulge in younger students moves up. The district’s four current middle schools are already close to full, and at least one, Swanson, has no room to expand.