ACPS has announced it is conducting a study to assess the feasibility of using the old Patrick Henry School facility as temporary swing space to accelerate the modernization of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.
ACPS Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. and City Manager Mark Jinks have discussed the potential that using the old school would be a fiscally responsible option that could also speed up the modernization of Alexandria’s elementary schools while saving taxpayers up to $60 million. If deemed feasible, the $60 million saved in this project could be reinvested in other school projects sooner and help mitigate rising costs.
The former Patrick Henry school building would be refurbished and used as the temporary location for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. This plan would allow an approximate two-year acceleration of Douglas MacArthur, with design work beginning this year and construction starting as early as 2021.
The modernization of the school — built in the 1940s and with eight windowless classrooms and insufficient space for its 700 students — had been pushed back in the absence of suitable temporary swing space for the students and staff during any rebuild. If the option moves ahead, Douglas MacArthur students and staff would relocate to the old Patrick Henry building beginning September 2020 for up to two years while their own new school is built.
At this point, demolition of the old Patrick Henry school facility has been suspended until early April while all considerations are being explored. The old recreation center will still be demolished to provide a proper flow between the old and new school buildings.
While there will be some short-term impacts to the community, including a delay of the completion of the fields and parking lot in front of the new Patrick Henry School and Recreation Center for up to four years, ACPS will work with the City to minimize these impacts. In an urban area such as Alexandria there are many difficult choices and our goal is to explore the best option for the overall community.
Appropriate play areas, bus drop-offs and bell times for each school will be incorporated into a plan to meet a temporary occupancy situation for city permitting and code requirements.
Research has shown that providing high-quality learning environments can have a big impact on the ability of children to learn. ACPS is in the process of modernizing its aging elementary facilities in line with the goals of the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan to ensure every child has a suitable learning environment.
This swing space study follows the January 2018 recommendations of the Ad-Hoc Joint City-Schools Facilities Investment Task Force, which proposed advancing elementary modernizations if swing space could be identified.
Alexandria has aging school buildings which continue to need maintenance and ongoing repairs. The modernization of Douglas MacArthur would be followed by George Mason Elementary School and Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology within the next ten years. The new Patrick Henry School and Recreation Center opened in January with increased capacity for 900 K-8 students, while Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School and the Early Childhood Center located at John Adams opened in August last year. The new Jefferson-Houston School facility opened in September 2014.
To follow the process, please visit the ACPS Swing Space Study web page.
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