The Alexandria City School Board has approved a fiscally responsible Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget for 2019-2028 that goes part way toward addressing the needs of growing student enrollment and ACPS’ aging facilities, while focusing on future collaboration with the City and property acquisition to address the rest.
To solve growing capacity issues the School Board has set aside funding for future property acquisition so that ACPS can pursue options to purchase land or other buildings as they arise. The School Board budget also proposed funding to collaborate with the City through the joint facilities master planning effort in FY 2019. This includes exploring the needs of all City and ACPS assets and their feasible use options to address them, such as the possibility of using adjacent public open space for elementary modernization projects to accelerate the process.
The School Board is eager to begin the elementary school modernization projects as soon as possible in alignment with the Task Force’s recommendations. We want to work with City Council to explore all options, including the use of City land, to begin this work as soon as possible. In the meantime, we are committed to working with the City Council and the community to ensure that CIP funds are spent in the most responsible and effective manner for our students and citizens,” said School Board Chair Ramee Gentry.
Recognizing the importance of collaboration with the City to address capacity and aging infrastructure needs, the approved CIP budget, which totals $474.7 million over the next ten years, is consistent with the recommendations of the Ad-Hoc Joint City-Schools Facilities Investment Task Force. The Task Force was set up by the City Council in May 2017 to prioritize facilities project needs in the City as a whole in a financially constrained environment.
The CIP includes funding for a new high school building and the modernization of Douglas MacArthur and George Mason elementary schools and Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. It also includes new capacity to be used as a permanent new school to address middle and or/elementary school enrollment and a gym for the new West End Elementary School. Funding was included to maintain aging buildings where modernization has been deferred.
Even with the additional seats generated by these projects, ACPS will not be able to meet the capacity needs of its growing student population. Additional funds will be required, above the 2019-28 allocation, to create sufficient seats. ACPS is already 1,600 students over capacity and student enrollment is projected to grow at an average rate of 2.2 percent each school year. This seat deficit will increase to nearly 2,000 students in five years’ time, even with the addition of seats at the new Patrick Henry School and new West End Elementary School in 2018, and early college – a partnership at Northern Virginia Community College where students at the high school level would be served off-campus – in 2020.
This year, pre-K through grade five is 1,189 seats over capacity. In five years, even with the addition of the West End Elementary School, ACPS is projected to be more than 750 elementary students over capacity. In addition, the high school is currently close to 150 seats over capacity and the middle school is approximately 250 seats over capacity. High school and middle school are expected to grow rapidly with the largest cohorts entering the secondary level next year.
Although the CIP does not specifically allocate funding for a new middle school, the School Board has allocated approximately $60 million for additional capacity that could be converted into a new middle school at a later date. The School Board also confirmed their intention to work with the City and partner organizations through the joint facilities master plan to increase capacity in order to make pre-K available for all age appropriate students.
We view it as imperative to work with City Council to expedite the development of a joint facilities master plan that outlines preferred sequencing of projects to address the enrollment gap, while identifying and aligning resources. The School Board understands that a significant amount of joint planning conducted in FY2019, including land acquisition, grade level configuration, community input and site sustainability, will result in adjustments to the CIP timelines and funding,” a joint statement from the School Board said.
The approved CIP budget will now be submitted to the City Manager who will consider the request for funding. The City Manager will announce his budget on February 22. Public hearings for the budget will be held at City Hall on March 12 and April 28.
View CIP budget documents.