Oppose the Use of the Old Patrick Henry as “Swing Space” for MacArthur Elementary

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Alexandria City Public School is considering using the old Patrick Henry School as a temporary swing space while the modernization of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School takes place. The old, dilapidated building was set to be demolished allowing space for safe access to the new school and playing fields that are vital to students' health and happiness and for the full functioning of the new community recreation center by the end of the summer of 2019.

If implemented, this plan would take at least four years to complete, during which time Patrick Henry School students and the surrounding community would suffer the brunt of the consequences. Starting in fall 2020, all 1,500 students would share Patrick Henry School grounds. This will result in extreme overcrowding of the area and it raises serious safety concerns. How long can the students of Patrick Henry continue to attend school in an active construction zone and what are the health impacts from dust and limited recreation.

It decreases stability and predictability for our students and teachers, creating a more challenging learning environment for students in an already challenged demographic group. This puts at risk the fragile progress that Patrick Henry has made in moving from "failing school" to succeeding school status. Additionally, some current students at Patrick Henry will go almost their entire elementary and middle school careers without access to playing fields and open space and that is just sad.

Patrick Henry parents and neighbors are also extremely concerned that there have been no traffic studies done to assess the ability of the roads to accommodate the increased traffic and the effects of that traffic on the local neighbors. During the construction of the new school, we have dealt with consistent traffic issues that impact the safety of students and neighbors and create chaos twice a day. Adding a whole other school community, even with staggered start and end times will have a dramatic negative impact. Additionally, there will not be enough parking for teachers, staff and community members that need to access the site necessitating the use of the limited street parking in the area and potentially offsite parking with a shuttle.

We also question the feasibility within the proposed budget of $5 million. We have seen no detailed accounting of expenses to make the old school a safe environment for the students of Douglas MacArthur, to maintain increased bus routes for Patrick Henry students to reduce vehicular traffic around the school, hardscaping of the area to allow for access to the site and new parking, and to break with the construction contract. The old school suffers from years of neglect with flooding, plumbing problems, mold, a leaking roof, infestation by vermin and more. Will it really only cost $5 million dollars to achieve all of these goals?

Patrick Henry School and the surrounding neighborhood have already endured a difficult construction process which put stress on the entire community and limited student’s outdoor play opportunities. We ask that the Alexandria City School Board vote no on this project.