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Alexandria cuts ribbon on new Douglas MacArthur Elementary School

After years in development, Alexandria leaders and students cut a blue ribbon and toured the rebuilt Douglas MacArthur Elementary School today.

“It feels like I’m floating through the school and marveling at each and every new feature that has been brought from design to full construction,” Principal Penny Hairston said at the ribbon cutting. “The only thing that’s missing are all of our students, and they will be here soon to enjoy this modern and welcoming school building.”

There remains work to be done, including the installation of a turf field and a courtyard playground for young kids, but the school will open for the first day of classes on August 21.

It took three years to rebuild the 154,000-square-foot school at 1101 Janneys Lane. MacArthur first opened 80 years ago, and during construction its students used the old Patrick Henry Elementary School as swing space. The project was initially planned to wrap in January.

“The 1943 building only had eight classrooms and one common area,” said Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt. “Very different than this new three-story, very innovative space where there’s natural lighting coming into each classroom, there are restrooms accessible to the classrooms that give students more privacy, I think we’ve come a long way.”

MacArthur’s three-level “Forest” plan sets the school back from Janneys Lane, putting classrooms at the rear of the building and providing a view of nearby Forest Park.

“This new school building represents our city’s commitment to educating and empowering all of our students to thrive in this diverse and ever- changing world that we live in,” said School Board Chair Michelle Rief. “I know that this new school building is going to positively impact the lives of children and families in this community for generations to come.”

The new school has an 840-student capacity, and the current student population is at around 650, according to ACPS. Those numbers are expected to change as the School Board will engage in a redistricting process over the next year.

The new school has one set of boys and girls restrooms, and a number of individual restrooms to accommodate gender fluid students — directly going against the recommended policies of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

“Amazing things are gonna happen in this building,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “Kids are going to come out of this building prepared to take on the world, and that is through an investment that we all made as a community.”

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