School Board Says Collaboration with City Council is Key to Solving School Capacity and Overdue Maintenance Issues

Alexandria, Va. — In a press release issued today, Alexandria City School Board issued the following statement: “Collaboration with the City will be key to resolving facilities issues and setting the schools on a positive trajectory for the future, both the Alexandria City School Board and Superintendent agreed as the Capital Improvement Program Budget for the next ten years was approved to go forward to City Council on Thursday.”

The School Board has called on the City Council to make both school capacity and upkeep a priority and identify funds to address urgent needs outside of the budget cycle. ACPS is simultaneously juggling the two issues of capacity and maintenance and will need to find comprehensive ways to resolve both over the next several years.

School Board Wants Reserve Fund for Repairs 

The School Board is requesting that the City Council consider a mechanism to address urgent non-capacity needs such as establishing a reserve fund for repair and renovation projects that could be used if needed in the future. ACPS is currently conducting building assessments of all schools that will provide an up-to-date, comprehensive view of the condition of all its facilities and is concerned that the condition of some buildings may have changed since the last facilities assessment in 2014.

“It’s going to take collaboration with the City as well as community support to make sure we can provide proper long-term solutions to the issue of growing enrollment — a positive problem to have — as well as the issue of deferred maintenance and aging facilities. It’s going to be essential for our next School Board and City Council to work hand in hand to help us find space and fund urgently needed repairs,” said School Board Chair Ramee Gentry.

School Board Wants Nearly $500 Million for Improvements and Another New School

The $478.5 million ten-year Capital Improvement Program Budget provides funding for the high school project, the modernization of three elementary schools, a new school to be used as flexible space during construction, an additional school in the out-years of the CIP, and a modernization of the transportation facility. The budget closely follows the city-wide recommendations made last fall by the Ad-Hoc Joint City-Schools Facilities Task Force and ensures the overall capital goals of the city and school division remain aligned.

This fall, members of Ferdinand T. Day’s family joined civic leaders as they cut the ceremonial ribbon on Alexandria’s first new school to open since 2000. Photo courtesy of ACPS

Funding for a resolution of middle school capacity issues, as well as funding for urgent repairs outside of the budget cycle, were not included because they fall outside the Task Force’s recommendations. ACPS will be exploring the feasibility of different options to modernize Douglas MacArthur, George Mason and Cora Kelly to determine if these projects could be advanced in future CIPs.

“It is essential that we have transparency, and innovation as well as continuing collaboration with the City to resolve our maintenance and capacity challenges. It is also important to recognize that the community may not see changes overnight and we need to remain realistic about what is achievable. It will take time and patience to set things on the right footing but we are very confident that we are moving in the right direction,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.

Over the past two years, ACPS and the City have established joint planning that allows discussion of land acquisition, possible grade level configurations, site suitability and best use of City and ACPS assets. This will continue next school year.

A total of $42.6 million has been allocated in 2020 including soft costs for the high school project, upgrades to the security management system and cameras across all schools and buses and the addition of several new buses to accommodate growing enrollment.

Funds have also been allocated in 2020 for renovation work at George Washington Middle School, and general repairs and upgrades at Francis C. Hammond Middle School, John Adams and Matthew Maury elementary schools and Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. Jefferson-Houston School and James K. Polk, Samuel W. Tucker, William Ramsay and Charles Barrett elementary schools, as well as Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy and both campuses of T.C. Williams High School will also receive funds for upgrades to their facilities. Mount Vernon Community School will receive almost $2.5 million next school year to complete work identified in the November 2018 building assessment and a kitchen update. The rowing facility for T.C. Williams will also get an upgrade to the fire alarm and sprinkler system.

The CIP will now be discussed as part of the City’s budget process, including a Public Hearing at City Hall on Monday, March 11 at 4 p.m. The final budget will be adopted on May 1, 2019.