Arlington County School Superintendent Robert G. Smith has proposed a six-year, $229 million capital improvement plan that includes construction of a new Washington-Lee High School and major renovations to Yorktown High School and Jefferson Middle School.
Smith said that the school system is not facing as many construction challenges as it has in past years but that the projects needed are large in scale. The proposed capital plan includes projects that will be undertaken between fiscal 2005 and 2010.
"What this plan says is that we're coming into fewer projects, but they're bigger because we're into the high schools now," Smith said.
A $76 million bond referendum is expected to be on the November ballot to pay for five projects: construction of the new Washington-Lee, planning for the Yorktown renovation, demolition of the old Kenmore Middle School building and a design overhaul at the Arlington Mill and Reed buildings, which house both county and school programs.
By far, the largest project for the district will be the construction of Washington-Lee, the oldest of the county's three high schools.
The 77-year-old school has numerous structural flaws, including problems with the heating and ventilation systems. Officials determined that the price tag to renovate the building actually made constructing a new school more cost effective. The new school will cost an estimated $70.6 million.
Based on voter support of previous school bond referendums, which were approved by large margins, Smith said he is optimistic that the November bond proposal will pass.
If passed, construction at Washington-Lee would begin next year, he said.
The plan also includes funding for the second phase of renovations at Yorktown High School. Under the plan, a $40 million bond to pay for reconstruction of the original building will be proposed in 2006, and, if approved, construction would begin in 2007. Smith said the $9.9 million first phase of the project, which includes the construction of 31 classrooms, is nearly complete.
The extra classrooms are needed to ease capacity problems. Currently, the district has a capacity of 19,461 seats; by 2009, it anticipates needing a capacity of 20,947 seats. Schools that face or will face capacity problems, according to the plan, are Arlington Traditional School; Jamestown, Glebe and Nottingham elementary schools; Kenmore and Swanson middle schools; and Yorktown and Washington-Lee high schools.
Another major construction project included in the plan is a $33.7 million design overhaul and improvement to the building systems at Jefferson Middle School, which is slated to begin in 2009.
At Kenmore, one building is under construction, and the plan calls for an additional $2.7 million to demolish the old building next year.
The Arlington County School Board will hold work sessions May 25 and 27 to review the plan. Board Chairman Frank K. Wilson said the figures could change, saying there has been concern about the high cost for the Washington-Lee project, and that board members are trying to figure out ways to reduce it. "There are many unknowns still," he said.
Vice Chair Libby Garvey said the board is working to offset costs by using current revenues. "Over time, the bond debt will stop growing," she said.
A May 20 public hearing is scheduled for citizen input on the proposed plan.
The school board is expected to adopt the capital improvement plan at its June 3 meeting.