County Board and School Board met in a joint session at the School Board this evening to present their respective 10-year Capital Improvement Programs. Two County Board members indicated that the County Board may be willing to alter the County Board-School Board revenue sharing agreement to give APS additional funds to build classrooms when classrooms are needed in FY 17 and beyond. John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey asked a number of questions about alternatives to more building of expensive infrastructure to meet increased demand
After the County Board left APS continued with a CIP work session, which included a presentation by Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, John Chadwick, about the costs of new school construction. Turns out the major reason new schools in Arlington cost so much to construct is because new schools in Arlington are loaded with amenities that have little to do with education. If the goal of APS were to provide enough capacity when capacity is needed APS could accomplish that by constructing buildings and additions with the essentials and defer constructing the amenities.
Unfortunately, parents of Arlington's K-12 students won't let APS do that They heavily lobby the School Board for more amenities. Every new school has to have the same, and more, amenities than the previous new school. Also, new schools are constructed to provide evening and weekend programs to communities near the schools and to special interests.
All that would be appropriate if Smart Growth weren't packing as many people into the 16 square miles of Arlington that can be redeveloped as possible. New Urbanism is hugely expensive, to the point where Arlington Government and APS will be close to their their borrowing limits for many years. It remains to be seen how much longer Arlington residents, voters, and taxpayers will pay for Taj Mahal infrastructure.