Photo: Steve Thurston
Arlington Public Schools is planning an expansion of the Ashlawn Elementary School building and hopes to have certain plans in front of the Arlington County Board by January. The schools at that point will be asking for approval of the land use permit, a major step in the development of the new addition. The school expects about 120 more students to enroll over the next five years.
Ashlawn is the first of three elementary schools that will receive additions over the next three years. Arlington Traditional and McKinley elementary schools are the other two. As well, the school system will build two new schools, one proposed for the campus of Williamsburg Middle School, the other is scheduled for the campus of Kenmore Middle School. This is part of the school system’s More Seats for More Students project which hopes to make room for another 1,800 elementary students countywide within the decade.
At a meeting of the county and school board minds Monday night at Ashlawn Elementary School, county board Chair Mary Hynes told those gathered that plans for Ashlawn school have to pass through the county board in order to receive a land use permit, which looks at the placement of the building, the transportation around it and the parking.
“And you need to get them right because when you build a building, it’ll be around for awhile,” Hynes said.
This was not the first meeting for this sort of discussion. School planners, designers and the architects have been meeting since the start of the school year. Two committees, one on the school side, the other on the county side have been part of the process.
Led by Planning Commissioner Charles Monfort, the county’s Public Facilities Review Committee has met twice with the schools’ Building Level Planning Committee. It is the job of the Monfort’s committee to help the school make sure it puts forward a plan that can receive a use permit.
The school’s building committee has met a handful of times since early September.
Katie Boone, the Ashlawn PTA president, said, “We think that the process has been fantastic.”
But they have one issue: pedestrian safety, especially along N. 8th Road that fronts the school building.
About 170 families walk their children to school daily, the PTA officials said, and those students who have to walk along or cross N. 8th Road contend with numerous cars and schools buses. The road has no sidewalks, so kids walk down the center of the street. Parking along both sides of the road chokes the road. Parents get in a hurry along the dead end street and make "k-turns" mid-block.