Wilson School was selected as the first venue for the series of "Superintendent chats" for the 2010-2011 school year. Dr. Pat Murphy, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent accompanied by Mr. Clarence Stukes, head of Facilities and Operations, hosted this meeting at Wilson School in Rosslyn.
About 15 people, mostly outside of Rosslyn, attended the meeting. Representatives, besides myself, from our area were Paul Mulligan, NRCA board member, Cecelia Cassidy, Rosslyn BID/Rosslyn Renaissance executive director and Stan Karson, president of our neighboring civic association.
I asked about the future of Wilson School citing a number of issues and discussion points relevant to the community:
- Wilson School incorporates valuable and rare green space important to the community
- The "temporary" trailers have been in place since 1996 covering the field used by the community for recreation. School System strategic plans since 1996 have not addressed removing the trailers and restoring the green space.
- One row of trailers remains and is leased to the First Baptist Church of Clarendon as their "Child Development Center", raising issues of separation of church and state. I reported the community reluctantly supported this lease arrangement to provide time for discussion of ultimate development options. That initial development proposals to sell this site to a commercial developer using the proceeds to fund APS projects in other parts of Arlington were unacceptable.
- That planning needs to take place with Arlington County incorporating best use of the site to modernize the fire station, the school, and the remaining playground and basketball court recreation areas. Dense development of structures with loss of all green space and recreation space is not acceptable.
- Rosslyn is experiencing population increase of children, with a number of families having babies in the last 2 years. The community wishes Wilson School to be developed so these children's families may stay in the neighborhood and attend school rather than moving to neighborhoods that have schools.
Mr. Stukes reported that the lease of the trailers to the First Baptist Church of Clarendon ends in June 2011, when the last of the trailers should be removed.
Dr. Murphy mentioned that the site could be used as a pre-kindergarten site. He also talked about capacity issues facing APS with projected student growth and the Wilson School site would be a part of the discussion on how to solve capacity issues. I commented that if the trailers are kept to handle capacity issues, APS should consider building a permanent "swing" school to handle capacity as schools around the county are modernized. After 15 years of using "temporary trailers" it should be obvious the space needs are not temporary and a permanent and suitable structure should be considered.
I mentioned that NRCA had reached out to Glebe Elementary School while their school was being modernized. Glebe used the Wilson School as their temporary site for 1.5 years. NRCA worked with the Glebe PTA to get substantial repairs completed at Wilson School prior to their arrival and to provide information about Rosslyn to the PTA and school administration so they would feel welcome in our community. When we first approached the Glebe PTA and administration, they were less than excited about using the Wilson School location due to the condition of the facility and perceptions of Rosslyn as a congested, not kid friendly location. The efforts of the community working with Glebe School helped, but serious commitment by APS to modernize this site in a way that fits both the school AND COMMUNITY is needed. Dr. Murphy commented that he had not heard anything negative about Wilson School's location and facilities from any of the schools using the location as swing space.
Both Paul Mulligan and Stan Karson commented and had dialogue with Dr. Murphy, which I hope they report their observations and responses as additions to this discussion thread.
Thanks Paul Derby, Paul Mulligan and Stan Karson for representing our community desires and concerns relative to Wilson. I think that our attendance at this "chat" was useful and important.