Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The $40 Million Windfall

Tomorrow (Wednesday, June 1) at 7:00 PM Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will hold a community meeting at Jefferson-Houston regarding plans for a new school.

Nearly a year ago, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) proposed a public-private partnership to pay for a new Jefferson-Houston building financed by megadevelopment on the existing site. That was roundly decried by the neighborhood, and the School Board was forced to pull back and consider other options.

During the FY 2012 budget discussions earlier this year, the City Council and Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) came to the negotiating table over the school district's ginormous capital requests. The result of the back room negotiations was that money was allocated in the multi-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget to fund new school buildings at Jefferson-Houston and Patrick Henry Elementary Schools.

Now, the Growler continues to think that it is most curious that ACPS claims that enrollment pressures and capacity are the drivers behind the huge CIP request while simultaneously pushing a new school for Jefferson-Houston. Until Jefferson-Houston meets federal standards under No Child Left Behind parents will still have the option to send their children elsewhere. A recent presentation from ACPS to the Council (fast forward to slide 20) reveals that the two elementary schools with the greatest capacity are those with the greatest academic challenges: Jefferson-Houston and Cora Kelly.

According to an E-mail from ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman, "The meeting on June 1 is to discuss process and timetable for developing proposals for a new school." However, residents need to know that earlier this year ACPS proposed aggressively pushing through the site plan and approval processes by the end of the year in order to start and complete the school by the fall of 2014 (FY 2015). The Planning & Zoning Department even gave Council an accelerated review process schedule.

If this schedule is still intact, it appears that whatever community outreach will be done in connection with the new school will take place in a very brief period over the summer.

Besides schedule, another question which remains open is whether ACPS still proposes moving several hundred staff from their administrative offices on N. Beauregard Street to the Jefferson-Houston site, which would require a larger facility in our neighborhood with underground parking.