Arlington Community High School Finds Home at Amazon’s PenPlace
Published on October 20, 2021
Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools announced Wednesday that Amazon will support the building of a permanent home for Arlington Community High School (ACHS) as part of its PenPlace development in Pentagon City.
The school will be built as part of the mixed-use development located at the corner of South Fern Street and Army Navy Drive on approximately 10.5 acres in the transit-rich Aurora Highlands neighborhood. With Amazon’s support, the new facility will be completed in time for the 2026-27 school year.
“I’m so happy that Arlington County, Arlington Public Schools, and Amazon have agreed to develop a 20,000 square foot space at the PenPlace site for Arlington Community High School,” shared County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “The school will benefit the entire community and advance the County’s commitment to equity, fulfilling the community benefit promised when the original site plan was approved in 2013. I look forward to working with our schools and Amazon to help make this agreement a wonderful reality for our students and our community.”
ACHS serves a diverse student body of approximately 300 students ages 16 and older from across Arlington County, who are focused on earning a high school diploma, while preparing themselves for college, work, and the future.
In 2013, the original PenPlace development was approved with a 20,000 square foot community facility with a use to be determined during the final site plan review process. Now, Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools, with the support of Amazon, have committed to develop ACHS, providing benefits to students and the entire community, while advancing the shared County and APS commitment to equity.
“We are excited about what this new building will mean for ACHS students, many of whom work full or part-time jobs to support their families as they earn their high school diplomas. Having a new home, built to serve their needs in an accessible location, will make a world of difference as they pursue their academic and professional goals,” said Dr. Barbara Kanninen, Chair, Arlington School Board. “We thank Arlington County and Amazon for their partnership and commitment toward advancing equity and education in our community.”
ACHS has never had a permanent home in the County—moving around to locations that were not ideally located or tailored to meet the needs of ACHS students. Currently, the school is co-located with the Career Center, which is scheduled to undergo a major renovation, requiring the school to relocate in 2023 per the APS Adopted CIP. Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County have been searching for a permanent home for the school in the southern portion of the County.
The PenPlace site is ideally located in a transit-rich area, including additional bus lines that will come as part of the expansion of the Transitway connecting Columbia Pike to Crystal City, which will make ACHS easily accessible to students across the county. The site also is the ideal size to serve the school’s seat and capacity needs.
Amazon’s commitment to build ACHS will reduce the overall operating and capital cost long term for Arlington Public Schools.
“Since selecting Arlington as our HQ2, it has been important to us that our development benefits the entire community. This school will be an incredible asset to so many local students and their families,” said Joe Chapman, Director, Global Real Estate and Facilities, Amazon. “The mission of ACHS is to make success possible for every student, and we are proud to partner with Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools to help provide equitable education opportunities in the Arlington community."
There will be opportunities for public feedback and engagement on the PenPlace project, which includes the Arlington Community High School space.
On Thursday, Oct. 28, Arlington County will host a PenPlace Walking Tour and begin a 10-day virtual engagement as part of the Site Plan Review Committee’s public review process.
A second virtual meeting of the Site Plan Review Committee will include opportunity for public comment and will occur by the end of 2021. There will be a third Site Plan Review Committee meeting held in early 2022 and both the Planning Commission and County Board will hold public hearings on the project that are currently anticipated to occur in March 2022.
Additional information about PenPlace, including site plan documents, recorded presentations, and meetings can be found on the project webpage.
About Arlington Community High School
Opened in 1929, Arlington Community High School has been an accredited alternative high school since 2012, providing students an alternate path to graduation to earn their high school diploma.
In the 2020-2021 school year, 79% of ACHS students were Hispanic, 8% were Asian, 7% were Black, and 5% were White. More than 80% of students were enrolled in the English Learner program and more than 35% qualified as economically disadvantaged. There is no upper age limit for students; in the 2020-2021 school year, 18% of students we age 30 or older.
The school offers flexible scheduling through the day and during the school year because many of its students are also working and supporting their families. ACHS also allows students to earn credit upon mastery of the Virginia content standards at their individual pace, and classes are designed to measure knowledge, not assignments.
Amazon’s submitted site plan for PenPlace includes approximately 2.8 million square feet of office space (three 22-story buildings), approximately 102,000 square feet of retail space (located on the ground-floor of the office buildings and in three retail pavilions), and an approximately 388,000 square foot destination and amenity structure referred to as The Helix.
Amazon’s PenPlace proposal also includes additional community benefits such as: a publicly available childcare facility, on and off-site transportation improvements including bicycle facilities, transit enhancements, approximately 2.5-acres of public open space, affordable housing commitments, and sustainable design elements to achieve LEED Platinum and to further the Community Energy Plan’s goals.
Amazon is committed to creating 25,000 jobs and investing $2.5 billion in Arlington over the next decade as part of its HQ2 development.