New School Options–Where Are the Numbers?

School Board’s search for an appropriate site for a new middle school has become a moving target, with neighborhoods pitted against one another as the host location. Good reasons have been advanced to rule out the current site of HB Woodlawn, the Reed School in Westover and the Wilson School in Rosslyn.

In view of these well considered objections, it appears that the only viable option consists in additions to three existing middle schools. Yet APS has all but ruled out additions due to cost.

First, it says that on site construction is too expensive when class is in session due to safety concerns. Okay. How about modular classrooms constructed off site and erected during summer session? No. That’s too expensive too. No cost analysis has been offered to support this conclusion. Just the say so of APS staff.

It appears then that Arlington neighbors have been addressing the wrong issue. The question is not where to put a new school. The question is where are the numbers with which to make an informed decision?

I know that if I needed more space to accommodate a growing family and my husband informed me that a MacMansion was the only way to go, I would not accept his recommendation at face value. I would get general estimates from builders on the cost of an addition versus a new home.

Likewise School Board ought to get general estimates for on site construction versus modular additions. It should also consult with neighboring jurisdictions like Alexandria, Fairfax County and Falls Church on why their construction costs are so much less than the projections in the APS capital budget.

In addition Arlington residents should ask why new school construction is always the preferred solution. Why have options like modular additions, leased space and preservation tax credits been taken off the table? When arguably cheaper options are rejected on counterintuitive grounds, it raises questions about whose needs are really being served.

One thought on “New School Options–Where Are the Numbers?

  1. Melissa Pittard October 26, 2014 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Good comments, Audrey. I, too, wonder what basic assumptions they make when they do estimates. Probably things like, “A middle school has these things, and a high school has these things.” I keep hearing that they would, basically, do a custom building for HB if it is moved. Really? How would they know what that would cost if they haven’t even asked HB what would be needed there? And if they plan to do renovations and additions to HB, would they build a new school first, move the HB students, and then do the renovation/additions? How long would that take, and how would it affect the cost? Seems modular would be the only way to go to save time and money. So many questions. Thanks for asking them. Wish they’d answer.

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