The McKinley Elemenatary School expansion project is supposed to be the poster child for what’s right about the Arlington Public Schools (APS) More Seats for More Students program, in contrast to the Ashlawn project, which is a tree hugger’s nightmare.
Yet when you look at the details, there’s not much difference. The Ashlawn project demolished a tree lined hill overlooking Bluemont Park and removed 100 mature trees to put in a parking loop. The McKinley project will take out 77 mature trees, including a “significant” red oak to put 20 additional parking spaces.
While County appointed commissions that rubber stamped this plan deplored the loss of the red oak, they were gratified that under the County’s current zoning ordinance, McKinley School could actually have gotten twice as many parking spaces.
Belatedly the Planning Commission had second thoughts about the zoning ordinance and vainly appealed to County Board to scrap the parking spaces to save the trees.
In approving the McKinley project, E2C2 said it would have been nice if the additions were built up not out to conserve green space. But APS staff stood firm. Building up not out with modular design costs too much money.
APS’ next door neighbor, Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) has had just the opposite experience.
In fact the ACPS 2015-24 CIP shows that utilizing modular design, ACPS plans to build 43 additional classrooms at 6 elementary schools for $38,339,842, or approximately $900,000 per class room, which compares favorably to the $2 million per classroom that APS plans to spend on the McKinley expansion project.
Expecting County Board to be concerned about APS’ per classroom construction cost is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. Nevertheless I urge County Board to recommend that APS investigate why it costs our next door neighbor Alexandria half as much to build new classrooms.