School Board Votes to Move Ahead With Preferred Design Option for Patrick Henry Project

The Alexandria City School Board voted to move ahead with option A-1 for the design of the new school and recreation center at Patrick Henry at the School Board meeting on Thursday evening.

The general view of the School Board was that option A-1 presented the best value and was fiscally responsible while offering strong academic and instructional functionality.

While both plans are safe and offer community benefits, the School Board landed on the most economical choice. With so many maintenance and capacity needs across the division, adding $1.5 m – 2m to the project proved too expensive for the School Board to pursue. We are confident that in the end, the neighborhood will gain a beautiful school and recreation center where families can congregate and engage in community activities for years to come,” said School Board Chair Karen Graf.

The vote, which was 6 votes to 2 with one abstention, came after the School Board acknowledged that the community engagement process had been unable to produce consensus around either option.

Additional data requested by the School Board regarding safety and traffic flows, pedestrian safety and bus safety, cost, green space and adequacy of the buildings for educational purposes were provided by the Project Design Team to help inform the decision.

“We believe that this option adequately addresses the four critical areas identified by the Board – educational adequacy, green space, cost and safety,” said Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley.

Independent traffic consultant, Wells and Associates, assessed the safety of both options A-1 and C-1. Both designs maintained acceptable levels of service for traffic flows, were safe for bus access and suitable for bringing buses onto streets which the City has determined are wide enough to accommodate two buses passing each other.

The consultant found that the greater separation of cars and buses in option A-1 provided slightly better levels of service for traffic flows on streets around the site.

Option A-1 will require monitoring of pedestrian activity at two locations, while C-1 would have required it at three locations, according to the traffic consultants.

A report by project management firm Brailsford and Dunlavey and the Design Review Team stated that the three story design of A-1 is also better suited for the educational function of the building as it places grades six through eight on their own floor, separate from grades pre-K through five. This is preferable since these upper grades follow a different daily class schedule, moving between classrooms more frequently which requires a different approach to administration and staffing.

The A-1 plan provides approximately 7.2 acres of open space on the site, which allows for 15 percent more usable recreation space.

As with all building design, this is an iterative process where we start with a list of what we want and then narrow down design based on community feedback , site constraints and competing priorities. We have more tough choices to make, so we need to continue the great community engagement we’ve had to date, recognizing that compromises are necessary,” said School Board Vice Chair Chris Lewis.

The project, which is already on a tight schedule, needed to be approved to move ahead into the City’s DSUP process before the end of May in order to stay on schedule for the school to open in fall 2018. It will go through the City’s DSUP review process in June. Public hearings on the project are scheduled for December 2016.

A full outline of the project is available on the Patrick Henry Project page of the website, where it is also possible to sign up for email updates of the project and meeting dates.

View the video from the School Board meeting on Thursday, May 19.

ACPS, News Release, Patrick Henry, Video