Voters in the coming November election will do more than decide who to elect, they will also decide the fate of Arlington schools. On the ballot, they will find a proposal that would grant $78,128,000 to the school district for construction projects and land purchases.
The majority of the funds, about $73 million, would be used to build a new building for Washington-Lee High School. Its current building, according to the school board's vice chairman Dave Foster, who is acting as the special liaison between the board and Arlingtonians on the bond question, is old and over-used.
"We conducted a study of the building with the help of consultants and we found that the systems are too out of date," he said. "It would be more economical to build a new facility than to try and fix the old one."
A design for the new building is already composed. It is taller than its predecessor, four stories, with updated electrical and environmental systems aimed at making the school more energy efficient.
ITS TOTAL COST would run $80,657,500. The school district will pay the remaining difference between the school bond funds and the final cost. Parents, teachers and administrators all played a hand in the design of the new building through months of committee meetings.
The facility would contain a 10-lane swimming pool, a new auditorium and a gymnasium. It would also allow for the creation of two new athletic fields. Since the school would be built up and out, the design would give students the chance to walk to class on far more green grass.
"We're creating more green space," Foster said. "The community has too little of that. It's something that many people brought to us in the planning stages. After all, there aren't a lot of 30-acre grass lots in Arlington."
The design originally called for a new $4.6 million parking garage next to the new building but a study of parking in the area suggests that it is not necessary. It states that Washington-Lee has about 100 parking spots open during any given school day. Yet parents say that the rest of the project would meet a vital need for students.
"We want a building where, if you move from one room to the next, the temperature won't rise or drop by almost 20 degrees," said Lynn Dorfman, head of the Washington and Lee's Parent Teacher Association. "The current building's design also isn't efficient for the administration. It has several entrances and they can't tell where students are coming in and going out."
She added that most parents at Washington-Lee are "optimistic" about the outcome of the bond proposal.
"Arlington residents have consistently shown themselves to be supportive of their schools, whether or not they have school-age children."
The remainder of the funds in the school bond would go toward finishing the construction of a new Kenmore Middle School with some set aside for the demolition of the old building. Yorktown High School would also get $2.2 million for phase 2 of its renovations, expanding classrooms and other facilities.
If the bond passed, construction on Washington-Lee's new building could begin as early as June 2005. Students would remain in the old building until the new one is complete. It could be ready for students to use by January 2007.