The Alexandria City School Board voted on Thursday to approve the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget for FY 2017-2026 that resolves some of the elementary and secondary capacity issues through innovative programming and the addition of space.
The School Board voted to support a modernization program that seeks to add much-needed and long-awaited capacity to school buildings and bring them in line with modern education specifications. The CIP is aligned with the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan, which includes designing optimal and equitable learning environments to support high-performing schools.
The final ten-year CIP budget totals $291.2 million, which is $14.5 million less than last year’s final FY 2016-2025 CIP.
The budget focuses on the creation of a new elementary school location in the West End in time for the start of the 2017-18 school year, which will require retrofitting leased space to accommodate projected growth in elementary enrollment and add the classrooms needed for the current population.
The budget supports finding space to expand comprehensive pre-K services in Alexandria City in 2017 to promote learning opportunities for young children in collaboration with educational partners. A second pre-K center, serving 360 students, will be added in 2021 at a cost of $9.1 million.
James K. Polk Elementary School will see the addition of five more modular classrooms in 2017 and Douglas MacArthur Elementary School will see planning for a new building beginning in 2019. Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology will also begin its modernization in 2021, with George Mason Elementary School scheduled for improvements in 2023.
The School Board also voted to reduce the scope of modernization by $14.6 million at the T.C. Williams Minnie Howard Campus. Grade configurations for secondary will be reassessed through a study that will report findings in 2018.
The School Board agreed to introduce a specialized learning academy, to boost instruction for secondary students in 2020 and supplement student capacity by 650. It also agreed to look at the creation of a ‘Middle College’ in 2019 that would house a cohort of 200 students in a college setting who could graduate with an Associate’s degree.
“The rapid student growth at ACPS is a healthy sign that citizens have confidence in the school system. This budget provides creative solutions for addressing capacity while remaining fiscally responsible. The School Board and the City Council now need to work together to advance our goal towards creating optimal learning environments commensurate with a high-performing school division for students from pre-K through grade 12,” said School Board Chair Karen Graf.
The major drivers for capital planning over the next ten years are increased student enrollment — which is expected to average 3.6 percent growth through 2021 — educational adequacy and building conditions, all of which require modernization of outdated facilities and new program options. Both the elementary and the pre-K expansion help create capacity for the redistricting effort.
The School Board has stressed that they will be collaborating with the City over the coming months to prioritize the school division’s needs as part of a shared vision for long range planning in Alexandria City. The school division is no longer able to continue to defer capacity projects and is committed to working with the City Council to identify all revenue options available.
The CIP budget addresses crowding on high school buses and overall enrollment growth by replacing ten outdated buses and adding nine new buses. This will reduce the number of students per seat at the high school level from three to two students and improve the delivery of transportation services.
It also includes $10,000 to support the implementation of the Life Skills program for students with disabilities at T.C. Williams High School and $77,715 for the replacement of the metal halide lights with more energy efficient L.E.D. lighting in the T.C. Williams gym.
“This CIP budget allows for modernization, capacity changes and programming changes to go hand-in-hand and is the start of a new way forward for ACPS as a high-performing school division. We will now be working closely with the City to ensure that we have funding to fulfill our vision,” said Dr. Crawley.