Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to School

On Monday, September 13 at 7 p.m. the Alexandria School Board will hold a community meeting at Jefferson-Houston School on the proposed redevelopment of the school and the surrounding City-owned properties.

Readers, this is your chance to hold the three School Board officials in our district (District A) accountable. Snooze and you lose ... literally, with important community resources like open space on the auction block.

While the Growler's focus in the last few weeks has been on ACPS Superintendent Dr. Morton Sherman, it is time to take a look at the School Board. They are publicly elected officials who have been the other major force behind this controversial redevelopment project, although we also can't count out CB Richard Ellis, the commercial real estate giant which is freely — pun intended — advising ACPS behind the scenes. (CBRE is not a developer per se, but as maestros who will orchestrate private development on the site they stand to profit handsomely from packaging the project. Anything their representatives say at Monday's meeting should be evaluated carefully in this light.)

As a primer for tomorrow's meeting, the Growler offers an excerpt from the School Board work session last January 12:

Chairman Yvonne Folkerts: Ms. Morris, can I actually ask you question, knowing you live very close to Jefferson-Houston? What is your opinion or gauge of how the community would react to issues of density or how big this is or what might happen to the property or … what is your early gauge of community concerns?

Helen Morris: Thank you for that question. I think that largely the community would support a new school on the site. I think that it’s clear if you walk around the site that the site needs to be upgraded, that it has not – I mean, its uses are limited right now and that the community would love upgrades. (School Board Work Session, January 12, 2010 at 00:57:22)
Let's define upgrades. A soccer field on the roof, accessible by elevator on top of a building bigger than the Monarch, with a floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.5? Reasonable or unreasonable?

Don't be fooled tomorrow night by words like "collaborate." Think carefully about how this proposal has been handled so far by the School Board (particularly District A representatives), read past postings on this blog including the links to public documents and the chronology, and then make your feelings known tomorrow night.

Class dismissed!