Historic status sought for Arlington Education Center

This composite image by Wakefield High School student Amy Kohan, showing the David M. Brown Planetarium and Arlington Education Center, was selected as the design for the 2017-18 Arlington tax decal.

The Arlington school system’s lone planetarium will be closed for about a year and a half starting later this month, as construction takes place turning the nearby Arlington Education Center building into classroom space.

But leaders with the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium say they will fill the gap with programming elsewhere during the closure.

“We will continue to offer great programming for the community every month of the school year at alternative locations throughout the county,” Carolyn Lange, president of the organization, said in an e-mail to boosters.

Closing the planetarium for the duration of the construction project was first discussed in mid-2018, and the current timeline is roughly the same as was anticipated then – as is the expectation that the school system would provide space for science-themed programming in the interim.

Friends-group leaders initially expressed the hope that the facility could be kept open during nearby construction, but ultimately came to agree that closure was necessary.

The planetarium, located along North Quincy Street, dates to the 1960s. In 2010, Superintendent Patrick Murphy proposed shuttering the facility to cut costs, a move that provoked a community outcry.

Eventually, School Board members agreed to keep the facility open, with a non-profit “friends” group providing financial support for programming. Many planetarium boosters (and objective onlookers) saw the school system’s move as a pure-and-simple shakedown, but opted to go along with it.

In 2008, the School Board named the planetarium in honor of David Brown, a 1974 Yorktown High School graduate who went on to become a physician, U.S. Navy aviator and astronaut. Brown was among those killed in 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry.

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