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Local: Education

Arlington enrollment boom means higher costs, new boundaries

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Photo - Elementary school students get on bus
Elementary school students get on bus
Local,Virginia,Education,Rachel Baye,Arlington

The Arlington Public Schools chief has asked for a 4 percent budget increase to handle

the nearly 1,000 extra students the already overcrowded

school system expects to enroll next school year.

The 4.3 percent boost in enrollment is expected to cost the school system an additional $10 million, including the costs of additional trailers to house the students at packed

schools.

Superintendent Pat Murphy's proposal also includes a pay raise for all employees, ranging from 1 to 5 percent,

according to school system spokesman Frank Bellavia -- and cuts 61 support staff positions while adding another 78 positions elsewhere.

"APS believes that the single most important element affecting student achievement is the quality and training of our staff," Murphy wrote in a letter to the School Board. "Maintaining our competitive edge in attracting, retaining and developing excellent staff is critical for our continued success."

In addition to the increased costs, the anticipated enrollment growth is behind a plan to relocate roughly 600 students from seven elementary schools in the northwestern part of the county to a new elementary school, slated to open in fall 2014.

All seven of the affected schools are already over their capacities. Two -- McKinley and Nottingham elementary schools -- are at more than 130 percent of capacity.

Without the new school, which is under construction in the Williamsburg neighborhood, the school system would be short more than 3,000 seats in 10 years, Bellavia said. In five years, McKinley would be at nearly twice its capacity, the schools' data show.

"We are busting at the seams," said Katie Boone, president of the Parent Teacher Association at Ashlawn Elementary School, one of the seven schools affected by the proposed change. The school is about to undergo renovations that will create more space for students, but for the time being, it has eight trailers and is slated to get another one this summer, she said.

"It's going to be a tough year for Ashlawn, no matter how you look at it."

No matter how necessary, though, boundary changes are never easy, said Jill Curran, PTA president at Jamestown Elementary, another of the affected schools.

Roughly a quarter of the school's current students would be relocated under the changes, she said. "It's tough on the families."

But many of the parents at the schools whose students face being relocated say they understand the need for the change.

"If ultimately we had to go to another place, we would embrace that school," Boone said.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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