Arlington schools looks at its facilities

  • Saturday, February 25, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

Arlington Public Schools has been recognized as a statewide leader in providing educational services to our community. District staff and leadership work every day to maintain that high standard. The people of the district are its greatest asset, but an ongoing focus on school buildings is important as well. In April 2013, Arlington Public Schools re-assembled its Facilities Advisory Committee. The committee was tasked by the superintendent to:

•Review the district’s educational mission and its long-term facility implications;

•Identify building condition needs and prioritize improvements; •Review building capacity, enrollment projections and the need (or lack of) for additional capacity; •Establish long-range facility goals; •Review property inventory and determine alignment with anticipated needs; and •Develop an implementation plan for facility improvements based on educational mission and facility goals.

The recommendations included many projects designed to enhance or prolong our school buildings’ operational life. These projects included new roofs at Haller Middle School and Eagle Creek Elementary; a new gym floor at Haller; and a synthetic turf field at Arlington High School (partially funded by a National Football League grant).

The committee also recommended that the district sell non-school properties and use the proceeds to support future district facilities’ needs. District administration has done that, successfully negotiating a sale of the Trafton School site and beginning the process of selling the Highway 530 site – a 168-acre parcel east of Arlington.

The most important recommendation was to rebuild Post Middle School on another part of the site where the school is located. The committee evaluated adding to, modernizing or rebuilding the school. The committee’s recommendation was based on the cost/benefit relationship across all options; modernization and addition options would ultimately cost 80 percent of building new and not provide comparable features as a new building.

Rebuilding Post would provide the greatest long-term value, a new 50-plus year building that creates a secure environment and is able to support modern education goals like science, technology, engineering and math.

With the state’s new 24 credit high school graduation requirement, the middle school years are now more important than ever to prepare our students for high school. Also, parts of the school are located 50 feet from the edge of a steep slope. Moving the building away from that edge mitigates the hazard posed by a potential landslide. The district’s Master Facilities Plan was completed in 2014 and included an additional recommendation that the FAC reconvene in 2016 and review the plan’s recommendations. The district has done that. The FAC’s current 26 members are comprised of community members and school staff. Since September, the committee has helped select an architectural firm to complete a state-required facilities Study and Survey process, heard presentations from city of Arlington staff on zoning regulations that affect school siting decisions and studied projected school enrollment through 2035. Ultimately, the committee will use a number of information resources to make a recommendation to the school board focused on preparing our district’s buildings to serve us into the future.

Brian Lewis is executive director of Operations for the district. If you want more details contact him at 360-618-6238 or blewis@asd.wednet.edu.

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