Dorothy Hamm Middle School addition

Rendering shows the addition (at left) to the future Dorothy Hamm Middle School. (Arlington Public Schools)

The surroundings may prove a bit cramped for a while, but county school officials say they are working up contingencies if the expansion of Dorothy Hamm Middle School isn’t ready in time for the start of classes in September.

“All of the students who are zoned for that school will be reporting to that school on the first day,” School Board Chairman Reid Goldstein confirmed to delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation on Feb. 5.

For several months, school officials have been telegraphing concerns that the construction timetable might not be met. An exceptionally rainy 2018 is usually fingered as the culprit.

The retrofit and expansion to accommodate 1,000 middle-school students is costing taxpayers $39 million.

What in September will become Dorothy Hamm Middle School currently is in use by the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, which over the summer are decamping from the Vacation Lane facility to their own gleaming, $100 million new home in the western part of Rosslyn. With those countywide programs moved out, the school will resume its function as serving the surrounding neighborhoods, much as it had from the 1950s to the 1970s under the name Stratford Junior High School.

On Feb. 7, Arlington Public Schools’ construction chief John Chadwick told School Board members that “some concern” remained about having the expansion ready in September. But he said contingency plans were being worked out “so that the school can be started on time, as planned.”

Contractors will be working to play catch-up in coming months, but the chair of the Civic Federation’s schools committee issued an appeal to an even higher authority.

“Pray for good weather for the next few months, if you’re into praying,” Michael Beer said.

Two other major school projects – the new home for the Woodlawn and Stratford programs in Rosslyn plus Alice West Fleet Elementary School adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School – are on schedule for their expected debuts in September.

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