MacArthur Modernization FAQs

  • Updated 1/24/2020

    What is the timeline for the modernization of MacArthur?

    The Douglas MacArthur Elementary School modernization project timeline has been advanced due to the decision to use the former Patrick Henry facility as swing space on Taney Avenue. The original opening date of the new school was scheduled for 2025 but due to the swing space decision, the new school’s doors are scheduled to open in January 2023. 

    Where can I find information about the move to temporary space while the modernization takes place?

    Information on the use of the former Patrick Henry Elementary School as temporary swing space can be found at While located on Taney Avenue, MacArthur will be known as Douglas MacArthur on Taney Avenue.

    Why is MacArthur being modernized?

    ACPS has been systematically modernizing aging elementary facilities as part of the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan. Douglas MacArthur opened its doors in 1943 to serve the families drawn to the area to support the war effort. The school became part of ACPS in 1947. The envelope of the building has been failing for many years. Research has shown that providing high-quality learning environments can have a big impact on the ability of children to learn. 

    What is the structure of the engagement process for the modernization of MacArthur?

    The engagement process will be divided into three distinct parts:

    • The Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group, who will provide feedback and input to a core team of architects and ACPS staff.
    • A School Team, who will provide feedback and input around learning needs and the flow of the school day during the process.
    • Community meetings. These will take place every two months throughout the process and the dates for these meetings will be shared in advance at the first community meeting.

    When is the next community meeting?

    The next community-wide meeting is on Saturday, November 9 from 9 a.m. to noon at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in the library.

    When is the first Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group meeting?

    The first DMAG meeting will be on Monday, November 4 in the fifth grade pod.

    When will the community be able to meet the architects and designers who will work on the new Douglas MacArthur Elementary School? 

    The community first met the architects at the first community-wide meeting on Tuesday, October 29 at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in the multipurpose room. At this meeting, families and residents:

    • Met the design team.
    • Met the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group.
    • Took part in a Listening Session focused on community values for the new school.

    How can parents and community members get involved?

    Anyone in the community can come to the community meetings and provide their feedback and insights. Nominees are also being solicited to establish a Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group. 

    What will the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group do?

    The committee will meet approximately once a month, and: 

    • Represent the interests of the group for which they have been selected to serve;
    • Provide feedback on the design;
    • Identify possible challenges and propose solutions.

    Who will be on the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group?

    The Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group will be made up of representatives from different parts of our community.

    • Taylor Run Civic Association
    • Seminary Hill Civic Association
    • Clover College Park Civic Association
    • A Duke Street area representative
    • The PTA President 
    • A School Board Member
    • A City Council Member
    • Representative from Alexandria City Planning Commission
    • One Community-At-Large Representative

    What is the difference between the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group meetings and community-wide meetings?

    The Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group will meet approximately once a month to collaborate and provide needed feedback to staff and consultants on the new build. The meetings will be public, but a public comment or public question and answer session will not be part of these meetings. This is standard on such projects. The community will have an opportunity to share their views at the community meetings, held every two months.

    Why can’t the public speak at the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group meetings?

    Representative designees are the only members to speak/discuss at the advisory group meeting. They represent their constituents/civic association/neighborhood. We operate in this way so that the advisory committee can dig into the work required of them. However, all meetings are open to the public so anyone can come and observe. 

    Can the public speak at the community-wide meetings?

    Yes, the public will be asked to speak at the community-wide meetings. There will be time for questions and answers and public comment. 

    How often will the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group meet?

    Approximately every other month. The first meeting will be in November.

    How often will there be community-wide meetings?

    These meetings will be held every other month. 

    Is there a possibility that the new Douglas MacArthur could be designed as a K-8 school?

    The funding currently set aside in the CIP for MacArthur is for an elementary school rebuild. K-8 schools are operationally expensive to run and so this is not a model that ACPS is pursuing for future modernization projects. 

    Does ACPS own all the land that we currently see at MacArthur?

    No. The city owns the land to the rear of the building. Some parts of the trailers sit on city land and not school-owned land. The new building would need to be built on school-owned land only.

    Isn't school-owned land and city-owned land technically the same thing?

    No. The schools have to build the land they own. Any city land that is used for a school build has to be compensated for through a land-swap of other school-owned land.

    New FAQs, added 1/24/2020

    Was a traffic study done?

    No, a traffic study could not be done before the holidays since it wouldn’t be accurate. It is being scheduled for January or February.

    Should a decision be made without a traffic study?

    • Traffic will be an issue in every choice regardless of building placement.
    • The traffic study will inform bus loop.

    How will you take account for increased traffic with more students and possible community access?

    • Traffic engineers will scale up for increased traffic in their study.
    • If we were looking at a recreation center, that would require a different kind of study, not being done now.

    In all three options, is there property being saved for co-location of city services on the site?

    • All of the concepts are focused on the school’s educational programming priorities.
    • There are still some additional locations on the site that could be identified as possible for co-location and expansion.

    Is housing a part of this project? Or has there been conversations about co-location between the schools and city?

    • There have been conversations about co-location options between the City and School staffs, but it is not part of the scope of this project with DLR.

    General Information on the Buildings

    • All three concepts are three stories. This was the only way to maximize outdoor space.
    • Regardless of concept decision, there will be a fence for play space 

    Concepts Key Points

    Concept Y: Combined some of the ideas from December presentation.

    • Three story building along Janneys lane
    • Makes more of a Y - shape (hence the name)
    • Big play area on the back of the school. (See note on play space location)
    • Adds public space at the Y part of the building that could be used as community space and close to rest of the school to students.
    • Upper levels add some outdoor green spaces

    Concept C: Coil

    • Improved visitor loop
    • Play areas in the north
    • Outdoor classrooms included
    • Open space in the middle.
    • Pros - unique space, creative thought.
    • Con - costs go up with non-standard materials when going with curves. It’s a little less efficient to plan around the curves.
    • Cons from teachers - sound. 

    Concept: Forest

    • This one didn’t change a lot from December 
    • Moved traffic of Yale
    • Has good solar orientation to maximize lighting 
    • All classrooms face the forest
    • Play space is on Janneys lane. (See next note on play space location)
    • Cons - long hallways of classrooms that are not connected

    Other suggestions/discussions:

    • Could the Y and Forest be combined?
    • Could the Y location be flipped to be closer to the forest

    Discussion about Play Space Location 

    Should the playground be located behind the school or be visible from Janneys? 

    • Regardless of location, there will be fencing - more than we have now.
    • Pro for street - it makes the space more welcoming for the community. For example, when you drive by you can see soccer fields and playground usage, which you cannot do now. This is similar to Mount Vernon and Maury. This makes the space community focused.
    • Con for street - concern for safety and comfort keeping play space behind the school. Teachers - with play space behind the building and on Janneys, this can be hard to monitor.
    • Suggestion (if going with Forest) - swap soccer field and play space and put soccer field at Janneys and play space behind (similar to Jefferson Houston).
    • Another point brought up on Forest play space location - having a play space near the forest doesn’t necessarily mean safe since the forest is open to the public 

    Advisory Feedback: We were evenly divided on the Y versus the Forest. There was not much support for the coil. Some of the division was about location of the play space (should it be closer to Janneys or visible from Janneys or behind the school), or that the Y had more of a school community appeal (wider hallways and classrooms on both sides) than the forest.