“Forest” Concept Selected for New MacArthur

The School Board has voted to move forward with the “Forest” concept for the new Douglas MacArthur Elementary School building, citing its alignment with the community’s desire to have a strong connection between the school and nature. 

The chosen concept — unanimously approved by the Board on Thursday evening — fulfills a desire heard throughout the design process for a building and site that convey a community feel with plenty of open space for children to play both inside and outside school hours. The community also wanted a school that capitalized on the wooded area to the back of the school and brought the sense of nature into the building.

“We are excited to take this step toward providing the MacArthur community the school they have long been waiting for,” said School Board Chair Cindy Anderson.

The new school building will be the first school in the City of Alexandria to be net-zero energy ready, in line with the City’s green building policy. The final design will be environmentally friendly and energy efficient and will be set up ready to generate as much energy as it uses.

Selection of the concept allows DLR Group — the architects tasked with the design — to continue to expand the concept through June 2020. Between now and June they will add additional communal and recreational programming space and ensure the educational specifications are maximized. Although the design will continue to evolve, no major changes will be made at this stage. 

MacArthur building massing

Approval of the concept allows ACPS to submit a site plan to the City to begin the Development Special Use Permit process. This will keep the project on its tight timeline. Transportation patterns and the exact location and size of the playgrounds will also be worked out with the community and City during the next few months. The new school is expected to open its doors in January 2023.

The option of colocating affordable/workforce housing on the site was ruled out last week following a joint statement released by the City of Alexandria and ACPS (PDF). The City Manager and Superintendent agreed that it was essential to “keep the MacArthur project on its unique, and extremely tight planning, design and construction schedule.” Exploring housing is likely to have delayed the project and extended the use for swing space. Instead, other forms of colocation such as for after-school recreational facilities and programming and pre-K space will continue to be explored for the new MacArthur building. 

The architects will continue to meet with the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group and community throughout the spring as the project moves into the design phase.  

“This approved concept reflects the input from staff, our families and the community. Over the 77 years of the history of the school, the staff have always incorporated the environment that surrounds us into our learning. This design resonates with our values and our strong commitment to respect and value the environment,” said Douglas MacArthur Interim Principal Linda Miller.

MacArthur staff and students will say goodbye to the old building in June through collaborative alumni, community, staff and student art and video projects, as well as a farewell celebration. 

See the documents and video from the February 6, 2020 School Board meeting:

Learn more about the Douglas MacArthur Modernization project and follow the project’s progress on the Projects Updates page.

ACPS, Board Matters, MacArthur, News Release, School Board