John Adams takes one for T.C.


School officials came together and found a solution to the discovery of asbestos in the old T.C. Williams building that will make the added time and money needed less painful than originally thought.

To cover the additional $1.5 million needed to remove the asbestos safely, the money will be diverted from a heating and air conditioning project at John Adams Elementary School. The elementary school will then be moved to the top of the list in the next capital improvement plan.

These plans were hatched at an emergency School Board session Sept. 12, after Superintendent Rebecca Perry met with PTA leaders at John Adams and came to a resolution to fund the asbestos cleanup.

Theyre very supportive of our school division, Perry said. The PTA did want some kind of guarantee that a new HVAC system will be moved up on the CIP, and the officials at John Adams were looking for assurance that they will be first priority.

Another speaker, Marianne Hetzer, the PTA Council president at Alexandria City Public Schools, wanted to see the work completed at John Adams as planned, and urged the board to seek other options.

Beth Schweinefuss, PTA president at John Adams and parent of a fifth-grader at the school, was at the initial meeting with Perry.

I recognize and support our need as a school system, she said, urging everyone to work toward the same goals and focus efforts on a greater good. Students from John Adams will eventually be the new student body at T.C. Were one community, she added, before urging the School Board to work with the city council to see if they can find some additional funding in other sources.

Several options were examined, including delaying the resurfacing and artificial turf on the sports facilities at T.C. and creating one large asphalt parking lot instead of a garage, which would not be in line with the green design of the school. It would have affected the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating of the building.

Board member Charles Wilson was not comfortable with that. Weve already bragged were green Wilson said.

A second source of funding the board looked at involved the upgrades at the ACPS transportation facility. More asbestos may be found during the demolition, which might require more funding. We wont really know until after they finish the job, how much is in there, said Perry.

The improvements at John Adams have been in the planning stages for years, and the work was to begin in the summer of 2008. ACPS Director of Educational Facilities Mark Krause said some interim measures were made at the school to make the current system last.

Weve already replaced the chiller and were in the process of replacing the boiler, he said. Classroom temperature controls will be individualized next summer, and the new fire alarm system will be replaced after that. Krauss said the fire alarms were just inspected. They are entirely safe.

Board Chairwoman Claire Eberwein questioned the parking availability at a couple of nearby churches and a funeral home. They have a huge parking lot, said John Porter, assistant superintendent. The school system already talked to the owners, but they will not allow us to use that on a regular, daily basis, although it is possible for T.C.s Grand Opening Day on Oct. 14, when a large crowd is expected.

The cost of the whole asbestos abatement project is estimated to be $2.3 million, but the T.C. budget included $800,000 for this purpose. Construction crews removed unforeseen debris while clearing the grounds for the new school, and its something they may encounter under the old school as well.

There will be cost increases for re-bidding John Adams, added Eberwein. We owe a debt of gratitude to the John Adams community.