The Alexandria City School Board approved the FY2016-25 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget of $305.9 million. The budget allows for a program of modernization of school buildings to improve building conditions and accommodate rising projected enrollment over the next five years.
With the modernization program, the final approved budget reflects a $9.2 million reduction in the previous School Board-approved 2015-24 CIP budget. Prior to beginning the major construction of the modernization program, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) will focus its efforts on completing necessary projects from previous CIPs.
“This CIP plan represents a prudent, studied and reasonable way to address our long-term and long-standing facility quality and capacity issues. The student population is growing and many of our school buildings are nearing the end of their life cycle. Even at a time when funds are tight, it is our duty to respond practically to future needs,” School Board Chair Karen Graf said.
The purpose of the CIP budget is to address the school division’s need for construction, expansion and refurbishment of capital assets to ensure the provisions of safe and conducive learning environments.
For the past eight years, the student population of ACPS has been growing by an average of four percent each year. That results in an additional 500 new students each year across various grades, which is the equivalent of the size of a small elementary school.
Additionally, four ACPS schools have reached their recommended 75-year life span and 14 of the 17 are more than 45 years old. Due to rising enrollment, some of these schools no longer have music rooms, art rooms, teacher work rooms or science labs.
“We know that adequate facilities allow good instruction to take place and that in the absence of those, valuable instruction time is lost addressing building issues. Our students and staff deserve to learn and work in environments that are clean, accessible and conducive to the delivery of high quality instruction,” said Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley.
In FY 2016-17, the Board has approved a new building for pre-K through eighth grade at Patrick Henry Elementary School and two capacity planning projects at T.C. Williams High School Minnie Howard campus and James K. Polk Elementary School.
Built into the 10-year CIP budget are plans to completely renovate Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, George Mason Elementary School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.
During the modernization process, temporary space, called “swing space” will be found and funded to accommodate classes during renovations. This temporary space will be used to house students throughout the modernization project.
Communication about the modernization program will go through a new modernization committee composed of ACPS staff, principals and three community members from impacted schools.
The CIP budget also includes funding for evaluating and upgrading aging outdoor school play spaces at Matthew Maury Elementary School, Charles Barrett Elementary School, John Adams Elementary School, William Ramsay Elementary School, James K. Polk Elementary School, Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy and Mount Vernon Community School. Additionally, outdoor spaces at T.C. Williams High School and George Washington Middle School will be evaluated for upgrades.
“Creating this new modernization approach is only a beginning. I look forward to supporting our staff in the effort of implementing the plan with fidelity and discipline,” School Board Vice Chair Chris Lewis said.