An elementary school in Fairfax County, Va. has taken a towering approach to its overcrowded hallways.
With 1,400 students filling Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences 130 percent beyond capacity, county leaders decided to look up for a solution.
About 764 students now take classes in a formerly abandoned office building that’s been transformed into the new Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences. Located about a mile away from the original school, the 6245 Leesburg Pike building in the Falls Church suburb is now a 5-story second campus for Bailey’s third-to-fifth graders.
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The Washington Post reports that the old office building (purchased by the county for about $9 million with another $10 million spent in renovations) has been transformed into a fully functioning vertical school. According to the school’s architectural firm Cooper Carry, it’s tricked out with administration offices on the ground floor and classrooms from the second to fifth floor. There’s also a two-story library/theatre hybrid that’s connected by an open staircase, exercise space, as well as a science lab and multimedia rooms. A second phase of construction will add a traditional gym, outdoor play areas and other upgrades.
This unique move solved two problems in the Falls Church area. First, a booming residential population where children were squeezed into the original Bailey Elementary and its 19 trailers. Second, it gave a new purpose to the suburb’s dying office buildings. The Post reports about 33 percent of office buildings in Falls Church are empty, 12 percent more than just two years ago and more than twice the amount compared to the larger metropolitan area.
This route is also less costly than finding a piece of available land and building a school from the ground up. “They used to be able to get a piece of virgin land and have all the fields they wanted and that’s just not available anymore … no public school district is going to be able to afford that,” Lauren Perry Ford, an architect at Cooper Carry, tells the newspaper.
Based off its success, the Post reports that other local developers and officials are interested in turning offices into schools.
Schools are, shall we say, open for business.
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