Planning Process for School on TJ Park Not Transparent

I commend the TJ Working Group (TJWG) for its excellent report detailing the options and the risks associated with constructing a 725 seat elementary school adjacent to TJ Middle School and park. The group asked two questions: whether APS could build a school there and whether ACB should approve the plan.

Of the four designs presented, the group recommended Scheme 2, placing the school at the northwest corner of the site as having the least detrimental impact. I agree with this assessment of the options presented. However, I’m concerned about the options that aren’t on the table, such as reserving the site for needed middle school expansion in the form of an addition to the existing structure.

Lacking is a full scale alternatives analysis accompanied by an investigation of the impacts both on the APS capital budget and neighborhood streets. Thus I agree with those who oppose new school construction. In addition neighbors object to APS’ refusal to say whether it will designate the school as choice or neighborhood even though that decision will likely have major traffic impacts. APS also has not included structured parking in its cost estimates even while arguing that the low cost of new school construction precludes additions and renovations to existing schools.

How can anyone buy the argument that the process has been transparent when APS won’t even provide the community with the basis for its cost estimates? How can anyone suppose new school construction is the least expensive alternative when major costs aren’t even factored in? How can County Board rubber stamp a plan which was hatched in secrecy and finalized AFTER the school bond referendum, effectively precluding the voters from weighing in?

County Board has been dodging the answers to these questions for a long time. County Board must stop hiding behind the School Board’s skirts. It owns the parkland upon which APS proposes to build, and it has an obligation to the voters to say NO until such time as School Board justifies the forfeiture of that parkland with a full scale alternatives analysis.

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