The Arlington Public Schools Board of Education continued its discussion of the northeast addition to the school during their board meeting Monday.
The one-story addition can help the district gain approximately six classrooms and cost around $3 million. The six classrooms give the school three classrooms per grade for kindergarten through sixth grade. This plan would add 10,100 square-feet.
DLR Group and the board had previously presented possible expansion plans during a community engagement meeting in January. The plans offered construction in four phases as additions to the existing 150,000 square foot building or the potential for a separate new elementary school.
The first phase included the addition of 13 elementary classrooms to allow for three sections and lower class sizes. The second phase included a new wrestling room, locker rooms and new band and vocal spaces. The third phase included an auditorium, while the fourth phase was a few additional classrooms.
Supt. Dawn Lewis said the majority of the cost of the project will be available before it begins due to reserves and the ability to levy in the special building fund.
Board president Matt O’Daniel said the finance committee met and went over the budget numbers, saying there was conversation about replacing or updating the east-facing windows in the section that are original.
“As a board member, we should ask how will it impact our district in the short-term, midterm, longterm,” O’Daniel said.
“We can tell you there’s no longer an overflow room, every room will have at least one teacher, and a few may have two in the classrooms,” Lewis said. “Without this next year, there’s no room at all. It’s at least a five-year solution and it might get us down the road a little further.”
AHS Principal Aaron Pfingsten said depending on the areas around the school, there's no way to know if they will have an influx of students.
"On the middle school and high school side, we are getting squeezed out of a few classrooms," he said.
O’Daniel said this solution of the northeast addition is not something that DLR came up with for the school.
"Their plans were all bigger and grander and all involved the west side," he said. "We looked at this on
our own. It is making great use of extra space without giving up practice areas."
Board member Bruce Scheer expressed concern about farmers who are dealing with markets that are down and said there might be a lot of discussion about this project.
"In their mind, if we wouldn’t opt any kids in we wouldn’t need the addition," he said. "You said the classrooms are all full, can we say they’re full not because we opened them up and filled them with option kids?"
Lewis said the policies they have governing that would only split the classrooms in the elementary into a third section when growth sustains it.
"We do not approve options and let it get big enough so we can add third sections," she said. "We are only adding sections when our local growth has increased that classroom size so much that we need a third classroom."
O'Daniel said by the time this would kick off, it would be almost two years from when the board first introduced it at the community engagement meeting.
"We aren’t as far off on the timing," he said. "We have very logical and reasonable explanations for it. This project is smaller and directly serves our needs for educating kids."
Several board members agreed with moving forward with the smaller project.
"I think with this smaller project it buys us time, it's what we need and people will probably be OK with it," board member Jason Arp said. "I hear a lot of people say why don’t you just build what you need and I get that. I think it will be easier to get everyone on board."
Janet Warner and Shanon Willmott agreed.
"I always thought that this small option is probably in our best interest," Willmott said.
O’Daniel said they would gather more information to polish it up around the edges and resume discussion at their June board meeting.