PRESS RELEASE: The Cost of a More Car Diet

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I want to clarify my position on new school construction in the County.

At the July, 2018 School Board meeting I criticized the design of the $55 million Reed School, because it requires demolishing the existing $20 million school constructed in 2009. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

When ARLnow published some of my remarks, readers accused me of flip flopping, since I had advocated “Build Up Not Out to Preserve Green Space” as a School Board candidate in 2014.

True. Westover residents were told that the Reed School had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up–namely to expand parking space on an existing lot. While this scheme furthers APS’ commitment to a “more car diet”, it will impose a physical hardship on the students and drive up costs.

The same focus on parking governed the design of Alice Fleet Elementary School off Route 50 and Glebe Road in South Arlington. There a 4 story structure is under construction on an existing parking lot with a two story underground parking garage that has driven up the project cost to an eye popping $59 million. That’s a cost per pupil of $78,457 as compared with the new Patrick Henry Elementary in Alexandria with a cost per pupil of $48,848.

Virtually every recent school construction project in the county has resulted in expanded run off inducing surface parking and massive loss of tree canopy. According to longtime civic activist Suzanne Sundburg:

“Likewise most APS school construction projects result in mature tree loss: at least 94 at Ashlawn Elementary School, almost 80 at McKinley Elementary School, more than 160 at Stratford Middle School, etc.”

APS will tell you that additional costs and degraded surroundings are a necessary sacrifice to provide ample parking for teachers and staff. I disagree.

Parking and drop off facilities could be scaled back if:

  • more teachers took transit, and
  • more kids were bused instead of driven to school.

This would also reduce congestion around schools.

These options aren’t feasible now, because the County is not providing the incentives. If the County had a policy in place like Fairfax County to provide workforce housing to Arlington teachers, and APS changed its school bus policy to pick up kids within a half mile of the school, more people would leave their cars at home.

Other incentives include:

  • replacing school bus routes with ART service, and
  • subsidizing transit use by teachers and staff.

If you like these ideas or are concerned about the steady erosion of green space throughout the county and loss of tree canopy on school campuses–then support my run for Arlington School Board.

I’m a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow. I also serve on the Arlington Transportation Commission.

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Promote a school construction program that increases classroom capacity on time and on budget
  • Reduce the need for trailers with an accelerated building program that brings the cost of new classroom capacity in line with the rest of the Commonwealth
  • Cut the fat out of the School Board’s top heavy administration and use the savings to fund needed services
  • Close the achievement gap
  • Mainstream special education programs
  • Implement more efficient school transit alternatives
  • Install renewable energy in all public schools
  • Provide a voice–minus the doublespeak–on Arlington School Board for all taxpayers

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy
  • volunteer to help
  • Donate to my campaign

If you’re interested in helping out, just shoot me an email or call or text. If you want to find out more about my campaign, visit my website.

Together we can make Arlington Public Schools provide all students with an honest education.