Newly discovered utility lines delay MacArthur expansion


Officials will retroactively draw up blueprints of aging school buildings after the discovery of previously unknown utility lines delayed a project to expand the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School cafeteria.    

The roughly $120,000 project approved in 2010 would have allowed for the cafeteria to seat more children, said Margaret Byess, deputy superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools. The school, which is dealing with high enrollment and little space, was forced to lengthen its lunch service to feed its students.

When contractors began their underground survey at the Janneys Lane school soon after classes ended for the year, they found water, gas, electric and cable lines running beneath the proposed construction site, said Mark Krause, director of educational facilities. They didnt check for possible obstructions earlier because money for the project only became available at the start of the new fiscal year, he said.

Officials didnt know about the utilities lines beforehand because the district lacked an as-built set of blueprints for the building, Byess said. As-built blueprints must be filed with code enforcement in order to get an occupancy permit, but MacArthur opened in 1942 was built well before the requirement took effect, she said.

Officials have final plans for just two schools district-wide: T.C. Williams and Samuel Tucker Elementary School, according to Krause. 

Weve run into those issues at a number of sites this summer, Byess said. One of the things [Krause] and our staff is going to do is work on putting together as-built plans for each our buildings in the next year.

Krause anticipates the district will need to bring on consultants to do underground surveys of each of schools without as-built plans. They likely will use ground-penetrating technology to map out utility lines, he said. 

Officials dont yet know how much creating the new blueprints will cost, said Kelly Alexander, ACPS spokeswoman.

As a result of the discovery, the MacArthur cafeteria projects cost may rise as well, according to Byess. Depending on the condition of the utility lines, they may need repairs or replacement work, bumping up the final cost, she said.

While work to expand the schools kitchen will continue, construction on the cafeteria will be held up until next summer after the utility lines are moved. Theres not enough time to finish the work before classes resume in the fall, Krause said.

In the meantime, officials have freed up space enough for two more lunch tables seating 12 students each in the cafeteria, which should alleviate the capacity problem until work can begin again, Byess said.

Were able to accomplish more ore less the same thing with a different mechanism, she said. If you add a couple of tables you gain a fair amount of time.

The schools lunch schedule for next year remains under discussion, Alexander said.