MacArthur Modernization FAQs
NEW FAQS: Updated 8/26/2020
What will be the capacity of the new school building?
The new school building is being developed for 825 students in grades preK-5.
What was the capacity used for redistricting and how does that compare to the projected enrollment and capacity for the new school building?
The redistricting process assumed the new K-5 capacity of Douglas MacArthur to be 775 students and the capacity for the new building has remained unchanged at grades K-5. Capacity for approximately 50 pre-K students has been added to the program since redistricting; however, because pre-K is not based on boundaries, only the K-5 capacity is relevant. The most recent enrollment projections show Douglas MacArthur remaining flat at about 650 students over the next 10 years, but it is important to note that:
- Some residential development is planned in the MacArthur boundary that will likely bring more students to the neighborhood; and
- The School Board adopted a policy to review boundaries every five years and with the opening of every new school.
How has the design of the building evolved since the Forest Concept was chosen?
The following changes were made to the Forest Concept during the schematic design process:
- The gymnasium was pushed back to allow room for a basketball court and the main entrance was better defined.
- A long rectangular bar of classrooms that ran across the back of the school was separated into two classroom wings to make it easier to move around the building and increase outdoor play spaces.
- Bridges were added linking the two wings.
The evolution of the design is best depicted with pictures. Please view slides 5-8 in our May 26 presentation (PDF).
Has the design been adjusted due to community input?
Throughout the design process, the proposed design has been modified as a result of input from the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group and Douglas MacArthur staff and community. However, significant feedback led to the following changes:
- Angles present in earlier iterations of the design were removed.
- The natural form canopy has been modified to have straight lines and the tree was removed.
- Kalwall, a semi translucent material, was added to bring more light to the front facade and the east-connector building.
- Wood paneling was added at the front of the building and around the windows.
- Increased outdoor play space.
- Hallway circulation improved to increase instruction time.
- Blended brick selected as the primary building material to fit in with the neighborhood.
- A natural color palette was selected rather than the original bold blue and orange colors that were proposed.
Why has a wing of classrooms been added to the Forest concept?
The new classroom wing allows ACPS staff to have the types of spaces they need to collaborate and create a safe, nurturing classroom community. It provides more natural light to more classrooms. It creates a hallway system that allows for students to easily move through the building. In addition, the separation of the wing into two wings adds play space for our youngest learners and creates contiguous play areas on the east end of the site. Initially, a single long corridor with classrooms on one side of the hallway was considered, however, teachers and staff found this would repeat the circulation problems — such as dead ends — experienced in the current Douglas MacArthur school building. For example, in the existing school, the long corridor in the front of the building puts the kindergarten pod far from the gymnasium, cafeteria, main office and clinic. Additionally, interior classrooms in the upper elementary wing are isolated down disorganized hallways.
The building seems larger than originally planned. Did it increase in size?
The building has decreased in square footage from the originally proposed concept. The overall building square footage is more than double the existing school; however, this was accomplished by only growing the building footprint by 5,000 square feet or approximately 8% so that we can retain at-grade play space and traffic circulation. The three stories allows ACPS to double the square footage and still provide staff with a cutting edge learning environment in which to instruct students while also expanding capacity.
How will this design be a benefit to the educational program?
The educational program has and will continue to drive every major decision on this project. Teachers will be able to maximize instruction and planning time because the internal flow will allow students and staff to move much more easily and quickly through the building. The proposed design has created diverse places for extended learning spaces for one-on-one instruction and self-guided learning and collaboration. There are also individual, handicap accessible restrooms throughout the building which means restrooms will be closer to classrooms and allow for student privacy. This design ensures that all students will have a classroom with ample natural light. It creates additional capacity to accommodate 275 more students, including pre-K students.
Why was a courtyard added to the Forest Design concept?
The courtyard was developed largely to accommodate the circulation needed throughout the building, and to create a “new forest” so that all classrooms still have views to nature. In addition, the courtyard provides a usable and secure play space for our youngest learners.
Will the general public be able to access the courtyard?
The general public will not be able to access the courtyard for safety and security reasons, unless it is being used for a specific event to which they are invited.
Did the creation of the two classroom wings and a courtyard push the building closer to Janneys Lane?
The classroom wings have pushed the school approximately 40 feet closer to Janneys Lane than what was presented in the original concept. However, the school is still set back about 180 feet from the street. The courtyard in the proposed design increased play space from the current 84,000 square feet to 111,000 square feet; it provides the circulation inside the school that teachers and staff need to optimize instructional time and use hallways more efficiently; and it helps reach the goal to have views of a forest from every classroom.
The community would like to retain as much of the front lawn as possible, can this be done?
While it is impossible to have as large a front lawn as currently exists and still fit all that is needed on this school site, the architects were able to save approximately 6,500 square feet of green space in front of the entrance. By reducing the lawn that is currently there by about 1000 square feet, ACPS has been able to:
- Prioritize the entire east end of the site (at the intersection of Yale Drive and Janneys Lane) for outdoor play space and to create a meaningful connection to the forest and Forest Park.
- Provide adequate bus drop-off space to avoid traffic and back ups on Janneys Lane.
- Move parent pickup and drop-off away from the intersection at Yale Drive and Janneys Lane.
Has ACPS considered having a landscaped promenade from Janneys Lane and Yale Drive that leads up to the front entrance of the school?
The design team will work on landscaping options for the entrance into the school.
What materials will be used on the facade of the school and will they be easy to maintain and cost-effective?
It is always the goal of ACPS on any modernization project to choose materials that are easily maintained and ensure the entire project is cost-effective. The exterior facade materials of the building are almost all brick, which is the most cost-effective and maintainable material in this region. Brick is also expected to fit best within the neighborhood. Though limited, there are some other building materials, such as kalwall, a material that is being used as an accent that will allow for more light inside of the building. This was brought into the design in response to community feedback requesting more light. In addition, wood paneling has been added in some discrete locations to capture the “forest” elements in the design.
What will be the size of a typical classroom?
The classrooms in the new school will align with the ACPS Educational Specifications for elementary, having a range from approximately 900 to 1,000 square feet. This represents an increase of about 200-300 square feet from most current Douglas MacArthur classrooms.
What is the purpose of the canopy?
The canopy was created to provide protection from the weather and shade at key drop-off and pickup points. The canopy also adds roof space to hold solar panels which is a potential future need. Finally, the canopy adds an aesthetic component to connect the varying heights of the building. Please be sure to view the updated canopy in the ACPS presentation to the Douglas MacArthur community on August 27, 2020.
A tree has been added to the canopy, are there any potential maintenance or other problems with having a tree located in this space?
The most recent design iterations do not have a tree as a part of the canopy. This simplified design was a direct response to feedback from the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group.
What is the thinking behind the size and location of the windows in the building?
Natural light is critical for student learning. Windows in the proposed design have been strategically placed to optimize views of the forest through the school. They are located with consideration of student heights and placements in their classrooms. While often a general push in design is to have more glass and windows, ACPS must take into consideration that the more glass, the more costly and less efficient the design may become. Additionally, wall space in classrooms is a commodity for staff and students to display work. This design reflects windows that optimize natural light while considering the needed balance of window to wall space and building efficiency.
Will the windows be operational?
ACPS is currently investigating this option and will be sharing information with the staff and the community in the near future.
Will the community still be able to easily access the trails and Forest Park as we can today through the parking lot?
The same access points to the trails and Forest Park that exist today will remain when the new school is built.
Will parking for staff be underground?
The Douglas MacArthur building will have a new underground parking structure for staff to use. They will be able to access the garage on the west end of the property. By placing the parking underground, ACPS was able to maximize the plot of land for the educational needs of the school community. An additional lane was created so that the new drop-off and pickup lanes will not interfere with the staff entering the garage.
Where will parents drop off and pick up students?
A drop-off and pickup lane is located on the west end of the property away from the Yale Drive and Janneys Lane intersection.
Are there enough play spaces outside of the building?
Outdoor play was a priority on this project. At the request of ACPS, The DLR Group was able to increase play areas from the 84,000 square feet on the current school grounds to 111,000 square feet in the proposed design.
Are there enough shady spots for play for students?
Providing outdoor play areas for students has been a priority for ACPS and The DLR Group. The actual playground design will be considered following the DSUP approval of the proposed design. ACPS can assure staff and families that shade will be a major consideration and will be accommodated wherever it is possible.
Will there be playground structures? If so, where?
There will be playground structures. The architects, Douglas MacArthur teachers and ACPS staff will be discussing their preferred play structures and their locations playgrounds.
Is the soccer field a full adult-size field?
This soccer field is not a full-sized adult field because it is not necessary for an elementary school and would not fit on the site. The site has two smaller fields that, combined, create one larger field, all intended for use by elementary-age children.
Has the soccer field increased in size since the Forest concept was selected?
The soccer field has not increased in size, and, unfortunately, is still smaller than the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for an elementary school field for physical education.
Is there a plan to put lights on the soccer field?
ACPS can assure residents that lights are not a part of this project and there is no plan to add them to the soccer field. However, regular site lighting will be provided throughout the play space area.
Will the final design include the line of evergreen trees separating the current parking lot and neighboring fence line?
The trees currently lining the parking lot on the east end of the site between the school and residential neighbors will remain.
How wide are the sidewalks?
The existing sidewalks at the school are much narrower than those in the proposed design. The proposed sidewalks range from 6-to-15 feet wide. This is adequate for the proposed uses and allows the design to:
- Accommodate multiple pathways for school and community use, including a loop around the field;
- Provide as much play space as possible;
- Maintain some existing trees and add plantings throughout the site;
- Provide adequate emergency vehicle easement access;
- Manage stormwater on site.
Have ACPS and DLR respected the 12-foot offset requirements from the existing property lines?
The proposed design has accommodated all setback requirements from residential properties.
When will demolition begin?
ACPS has scheduled demolition to begin on the site in September 2020.
How will ACPS contractors handle water drainage in the area of the parking lot and future soccer field to protect neighboring properties?
The City mandates require that all stormwater is handled on-site. The proposed site plan has multiple stormwater mitigation design features on the site to handle water drainage, including retention under the field and bioretention in the parking area.
What are the major drivers affecting the site plan?
As with every school building project, the educational needs are the first priority. This paired with Alexandria City requirements for the building footprint, open space, driveways, access, building exits and entrances and parking drive the majority of decisions that end up on a site plan.
Will the new campus be efficient and affordable?
Net-Zero Energy ready and LEED Gold are design goals for this project and, because of this, it is incumbent on the new building to not only use space efficiently, but also be sustainable and contain operating costs. This is the focus of much of the work of the design team ACPS has contracted with and we are confident that the final design will be energy efficient, use space well and operate smoothly.
Who has a say on the aesthetics of the building?
Aspects such as the look of the school entrance, the canopy and landscaping can, and have been, adjusted based on feedback and input from stakeholders, such as the community, staff and the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group. The ultimate aesthetic should represent a balance of the goals of ACPS, the community’s requests, and the City’s professional approval process.
What was the purpose of the community engagement in the fall?
In the fall, ACPS and The DLR Group kicked off the design of the new school building by holding visioning sessions with the Douglas MacArthur community, with the staff and with the students to learn about their needs and desires in a new learning environment.
What was the purpose of the community engagement in January?
In January, The DLR Group held an open house for the community to view and provide feedback on three design concepts for the new school building. The community's feedback was used to narrow the choices to two and was shared with the School Board to help them make a decision.
What was the purpose of the community engagement in May?
Unable to meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACPS solicited the community virtually through a presentation and feedback form to discover the preferred materials and color schemes for the facade of the new school building. Review the presentation (PDF).
What was the purpose of the community engagement in July?
ACPS provided a second virtual presentation in mid-July to gather general community feedback on the aesthetics of the design of the school building. It is important to note that Alexandria City requirements, as well as, our needed program for the school, drive many of the other decisions, such as the building footprint, open space, parking, driveways, access, and building entrances.
Will ACPS share a narrated presentation that explains the design decisions and rationale?
ACPS plans to hold a virtual community meeting on August 27 to share information on the design before the September 1 hearing with Planning and Zoning.
How was the design modified and tweaked over the last few months? Was this in response to community views?
There were a number of modifications to the design as a result of input from the Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group and the Douglas MacArthur community. You can read more about these on the ACPS website.
How can community members share concerns over noise, traffic or run off once construction begins?
ACPS will hold a meeting with the neighborhood before construction begins and will provide contact information as well as regular updates for open communication throughout the project.
Will ACPS hold any kind of farewell to the Douglas MacArthur building before demolition begins?
While COVID-19 has presented some challenges with regard to celebrating this building's more than 75 years of service, we are preparing to host a mural goodbye party in September before demolition commences. We are still planning this event in an effort to ensure all safety precautions can be met and will share details with the community soon. In addition, ACPS communications staff have prepared a video tribute to the school that was first built with just eight classrooms to serve the children of employees of the Naval Torpedo Factory.
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 https://www.acps.k12.va.us/swingspace. 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 was the first Douglas MacArthur Advisory Group meeting?
The first DMAG meeting was 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.