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CIP Update: Middle School Capacity – Band-aids or Buildings?

The APS board met Thursday evening and received an update from APS staff on the school system’s Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) process. Jamestown’s PTA and several Jamestown parents addressed the Board regarding the pressing need for middle school capacity, particularly to relieve overcrowding at Williamsburg Middle School.

Why is this important?
Projections show that Williamsburg will be at 111.6% of capacity next year, 120.3% in 2016, 125.5% in 2017, and 132.9% in 2018. Swanson Middle School faces even more acute overcrowding during the same period. Read more

Take Action Today To Ensure We Have Enough Seats for Middle School Students!

Please consider signing a petition (http://www.tinyurl.com/moreseatspetition). The petition does not support a particular construction site or plan. It calls on our county leaders to include funding for construction at the middle school level.

Please consider reaching out to county board and school board members to express your concern. The correct email address for the county board is (countyboard@arlingtonva.us) and the school board can be reached by email at (School.Board@apsva.us). (The county board email address noted in our earlier missive was incorrect, apologies).

Because these concerns extend beyond just our Jamestown community, please check out www.moreseats.com for additional information and chances to activate.

County Board to Act on CIP Saturday – Please Consider Speaking Up!

The Arlington County board will vote this Saturday morning (7/19) on the 2014 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The plan, which the board is highly likely to approve and place on the November ballot, includes $105 million for Arlington Public Schools (and $112 million for other items). The CIP includes no middle school construction money. The APS Superintendent had recommended in late May that the 2014 CIP include $43 million for middle school planning and construction in order to provide at least 1300 new seats by 2018. Regrettably, the construction funding was dropped entirely from the final CIP. The CIP includes only $4 million for middle school planning.

The APS board dropped the middle school construction money largely in response to lobbying by opponents of APS’s conceptual plans to build a new middle school near Rosslyn at the Wilson School site and those seeking to block potential changes to the H.B. Woodlawn program and use of the building it now occupies. We respect the concerns of other community members, but regret deeply the unfortunate interruption in movement toward providing Arlington’s children with new middle school capacity.

The next CIP will be developed over the coming two years, and presented to voters in 2016. It takes approximately 4-5 years from the time the bond issue is voted on, until a new facility is available for students. The absence of construction funding in this year’s CIP means substantial (1-2 year minimum) delay in construction of new capacity. Today’s Jamestown kindergarteners are slated to enter Williamsburg Middle School in 2019 when Williamsburg will be at 136.1% of approved capacity. Williamsburg will exceed 120% capacity by 2016 (the school is already pressed for space now, with multiple relocatables). For more info on APS student population growth, see this APS data.

If you are concerned about overcrowding at Williamsburg in the coming years, we encourage you to express your concern to the County Board today. The easiest way to reach the members is through an email to countyboard@apsva.us. Copy the School Board at school.board@apsva.us. The County Board’s final hearing on the CIP is Saturday morning, and public comment will be heard. Please consider participating.

It’s too late to change the 2014 CIP before it goes to the voters. But you will have a vote later this year, and the fate of middle school construction funding in the 2016 CIP is up in the air. The County and School boards would benefit from learning what you think about this subject. For further information please contact president@jamestownpta.org or visit Jamestown Elementary School PTA on Facebook, or visit www.moreseats.com.

Order Your School Supplies for 2014-2015

Place your order at www.epipacks.com, School ID = JAM055. PRICES WILL INCREASE AFTER JULY 15TH! DEADLINE TO ORDER IS AUGUST 6TH! School supplies will be delivered to your child’s classroom on the first day of school. For questions, please contact Michelle Cowan at 703-534-2012 or tmcowan@verizon.net

Report on School Board’s First Meeting of 2014-2015 School Year

The APS board met on Tuesday, July 1st, conducting its first business meeting of the 2014-15 school year. Your PTA board president and two Jamestown parents spoke during the public comment period on the topic of the 2014 Capital Improvement Plan, all emphasizing the Jamestown community’s concern over the removal of construction funding from the CIP. The PTA board’s statement is here. We will continue to be active on the CIP over the coming months and wish to express our appreciation to the many parents and community members who have stepped up to express their views to the School Board and County Board on the need for new middle school capacity to offset serious overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson (and later, at Gunston).

The board took a number of potentially significant steps on a range of other APS matters:
• The new board chair is James Lander. Dr. Violand-Sanchez is Vice Chair.
• The board voted 4-1 to extend Superintendent Murphy’s contract for four years. His contract was not up this year, but the board acted to extend his contract ahead of schedule “in the interest of continuity and stability”, according to outgoing Chair Abby Raphael. Mr. Lander expressed objection to the extension on procedural grounds, and was the lone dissenting vote.
• Board member Noah Simon resigned effective August 1st, citing his responsibilities to his children following the death of his wife last year. The Jamestown PTA issued a statement thanking Mr. Simon for his service.
• It appears that outgoing board member Sally Baird has been assigned to be the board’s liaison to Jamestown (the docketed table of assignments is mislabeled and a bit confusing. It is possible the assignment will be affected in some way by Mr. Simon’s resignation, and certainly will be affected by the end of Ms. Baird’s term at the end of 2014).
• The board received a staff presentation on potential changes to bus service to lessen the distances considered “walkable” for APS students. The presentation is posted here and makes interesting reading for those intrigued by transportation logistics and costs. No immediate changes in bus transportation zones are planned, though changes in bus stops appear to be under active review. This subject will receive greater treatment in a future PTA newsletter.

For additional information, contact Tom Jensen at president@jamestownpta.org

Noah Simon Resigns from School Board

The Jamestown Elementary School PTA issued the following statement today in response to the announced resignation of Arlington Public School Board Member Noah Simon: “Noah Simon has been an exceptional public servant. He has listened and he has led. He has learned and taught. We have been very fortunate to have his time and ideas and tremendous devotion to all our children while he served on the School Board. He has helped make Arlington schools better today, and set good things in motion for the future. We will miss him greatly. We extend Noah and his family our thoughts and full support.”

CIP Update 6/25/2014

We are mobilizing, and we need your help! The PTA has developed an engagement plan for our families during these critical summer months. It is also available on our Facebook page (Jamestown Elementary School PTA) and/or you can follow our efforts on twitter (@JESmoreseats). You may see email communication coming from your room parents.

The next school board meeting is July 1. Please consider attending. We have really seen individuals and communities make a difference at these meetings by having a large presence. Our PTA President, Tom Jensen, is scheduled to speak—and he’s got the #1 slot.

We need to get our middle school funding back on track. Tom has sent a letter to School Board Chair Abby Raphael. It will take participation from our whole community to get this back on track. Please consider joining these efforts. We need to be heard on behalf of our kids.

Year-End Not So Good News: CIP Unresolved on Middle School Capacity

Please pay attention if you plan to send your child to Williamsburg Middle School in the coming years.

The Arlington Public Schools (APS) board approved its 2014 bond funding proposal this week and, regrettably, punted on deciding how and where to build new middle school capacity in north Arlington.
Opposition from some community members to APS’s conceptual plans for use of the Wilson site as a secondary school, and potential changes at the Stratford facility (where the H.B. Woodlawn program now operates) caused the board to drop all north Arlington middle school construction money from the 2014 CIP proposal. The board-approved CIP includes $4 million for planning and community engagement process, but omitted the funds requested by Superintendent Murphy to build new capacity. The APS CIP proposal now goes to the County Board for approval in mid July. If approved, it will be placed on the November ballot for voter approval. The next CIP will be considered two years from now.

Your PTA board is quite concerned that the APS board’s action will delay new construction needed to reduce expected overcrowding at Williamsburg. We will be sending a letter next week to the County Board expressing our concerns. A draft of the letter is posted for your review on the PTA website.

We encourage you to contact the County Board and School Board by email to convey your opinions directly, recognizing that, as on all things Arlington, views are diverse. Key communications points are posted on the PTA website for your consideration. That said, if you expect your child to attend Williamsburg or another middle school in north Arlington, we believe you should be concerned by the board’s decision.

For more information, please contact PTA president Tom Jensen at president@jamestownpta.org.

CIP Update from Final APS Board Work Session

A meeting was held Tuesday, June 10 at the Education Center to discuss the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Meeting notes and a follow up letter from your PTA board to Arlington Public Schools (APS) can be found on here. The next meeting where APS board members will vote on the final CIP will be held on Monday, June 16.