Design for the new Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.
The community put up a long fight against the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and lost. Over concerns about the loss of green space and parking, the County Board voted in 2015 to approve the development of a new elementary school at what is currently Thomas Jefferson Park. Now, at a Planning Commission meeting on April 5, the county will have to revisit the parking and transportation issues that plagued the school site through the initial approval.
Jessica Margarit, planning, communications and engagement strategist for Arlington County, said the Planning Commission will consider modifications to the zoning ordinance, modifications for height, and parking for the site. If the use permit application is approved by the Planning Commission, Margarit said the permit will likely be docketed for the County Board meetings on April 22 or 24.
Designs proposed by Arlington Public Schools in August 2016 show a four-story Y-shaped building. The new elementary school will be located in the northwest corner of the site in a wedge shaped parcel adjacent to the existing Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The school will add 725 seats to the school system and is expected to open by the start of 2019. Preliminary designs showed an underground parking garage at the site will add between 200 and 235 parking spots.
The proposed elementary school has been the subject of controversy since 2014. Local community groups like The Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park have fought to keep the site as an active, community green space. At public hearings on the issue, local citizens also said they had concerns about the parking and traffic impact the new elementary school would have on the community. In January 2015, the County Board rejected the School Board proposal for an elementary school at the Thomas Jefferson site in a four to one vote, saying they were unconvinced that a new school at the site would be a sufficient benefit to the community. However, when the project was presented to the County Board again in December 2015, the County Board voted unanimously to approve the project.
Fifty-nine million dollars is available for the funding of the project through bonds and the County/School Board Joint Fund. The school will apply for final design approval from the County Board to begin a 21-month construction period.