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by Ethan Rothstein — January 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm 1,688 0

The proposed Thomas Jefferson elementary school site, put on hold by the Arlington County BoardIt’s back to the drawing board for school administrators trying to keep up with soaring elementary enrollment in South Arlington.

A County Board vote Tuesday night threatens to turn elementary schools south of Route 50 into virtual trailer parks — as Arlington Public Schools administrators scramble to come up with ideas, studies and public support for new school construction.

The County Board voted 4-1 to say “not now,” to the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on county-owned land next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Libby Garvey, a former School Board chair, cast the dissenting vote.

The School Board previously vowed to provide 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington by September 2018, but last night’s decision has put that goal in doubt. Those voting against the school said APS didn’t make enough of a case to the community that the TJ site was the best option.

“I don’t think the School Board organized the data and presented the data in a way that everyone in South Arlington can say ‘I see what they’re doing… this is the best they’re going to be able to do,’” County Board Chair Mary Hynes, also a former School Board hair, told ARLnow.com today. “The broader community does not understand that.”

Garvey, however, blasted the decision.

“South Arlington needs a new elementary school and they need it now,” she told ARLnow.com.

According to a press release, the School Board can re-submit their request to the county to build next to TJ, but only after it provides a full analysis of sites and potential additions in South Arlington, including “feasible non-construction strategies.” The analysis must include, Mary Hynes said, “tradeoffs with parking, green space and traffic implications.”

The School Board must also have “as close to final estimate” of what funding it needs from the county on top of the $50.25 million approved in the 2014 bond referendum. Initial estimates peg an underground parking deck at $7 million, money not included in the bond question.

The School Board has already approved an alternative plan for South Arlington elementary schools: building additions onto Randolph and Barcroft elementary schools. But School Board member Abby Raphael told ARLnow.com that it’s far from certain that the Board will move forward with those plans.

“In light of what the County Board’s decision is, the School Board is going to have to consider what our next steps are,” Raphael said.

Yorktown High School classroom trailersIf no permanent seats are built by 2018, elementary schools south of Route 50 will be over capacity by 894 students, according to APS projections. If no alternative, temporary solutions are found, that would mean 45 more relocatable classrooms would have to be installed at South Arlington elementary schools, more than double the 38 currently in use.

In APS’ presentation for the County Board last night, schools staff laid out the realities of South Arlington’s enrollment growth. Based on current projections, the area needs either two new elementary schools, one new school and three additions on existing schools, or six additions by 2024. APS projects that 1,384 additional students will need elementary school seats in South Arlington in the next 10 years.

“I thought the schools did a spectacular job in their presentation and clearly addressed the concerns that had been expressed,” by opponents, Garvey said today. “I was extremely disappointed… We’re building a new school in North Arlington and now we’re telling South Arlington ‘oh well, never mind.’”

Raphael said the County Board’s decision was “frustrating” and felt the School Board had done more than enough to inform the community and justify its decision.

“I’m not sure that the County Board and maybe some of the community have a full appreciation of the work we’ve been doing since 2011,” Raphael said. “There’s extensive documentation on all the feasibility studies we’ve done. I don’t know what else the county is expecting us to do for that.”

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2015 at 11:00 am 8,761 0

Arlington Public Schools tweetArlington Public Schools wants students to stop launching expletive-filled tirades at its Twitter account.

Yesterday @APSVirginia tweeted a “friendly reminder” for those mentioning it in tweets to “be respectful.”

“We remove followers who don’t,” the school system said. “Our technology policies apply in the Twitterverse.”

Via email, school spokesman Frank Bellavia says the tweet was specifically aimed at students who have been complaining about snow cancellation and delay decisions.

“We have had a number of students use inappropriate language or make inappropriate comments on twitter over the last few weeks,” Bellavia said. “This is the second time we have posted this message asking students to be respectful on Twitter or we will block them.”

APS’ internet policy states that student and staff must be courteous, use appropriate language, must not harass or attack others, and must not “view, send, display, or use profanity, obscenities, sexually explicit, or offensive materials.”

Violations of the policy may result in school suspension, but so far APS has apparently just been blocking offenders.

Today, when APS decided on a two hour delay instead of a school cancellation — like Fairfax County Public Schools — students did not seem to heed the warning.

Student tweets at @APSVirginia 1/27/15

More tweets from this morning, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2015 at 7:05 am 878 0

Arlington Public Schools are opening on a two hour delay this morning due to concerns about icy conditions.

From APS:

APS schools and offices will open two hours late today and all schools will end at the normal dismissal time. Essential school employees should report on time. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late. There will be no early release and all morning field trips are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

Snow on Columbia Pike Monday nightAPS joins D.C. and Alexandria, among others, in setting a two hour delay. Fairfax and Montgomery County schools have closed for the day.

Arlington’s STAR paratransit system, meanwhile, is opening at 10:00 a.m. and all rides before that are canceled, except for those that are for dialysis.

So far, few accidents are being reported on the roads around Arlington. The county says it’s treating both main roads and residential area this morning.

The National Weather Service is reporting 0.5-1.7 inches of snow accumulation around Arlington since Sunday night.

Photo courtesy @ezequieeeel

by ARLnow.com — January 12, 2015 at 1:00 am 10,732 0

Arlington Public Schools has yet to announce any sort of delay Monday, despite concerns about freezing rain.

ABC 7 meteorologist Steve Rudin doesn’t think that’s such a good idea.

Over the course of several tweets Sunday night, Rudin reprimanded APS for not making an early delay call, like the federal government and numerous local school systems.

APS says it will wait until the early morning to make a final decision.

Arlington and other local school systems were criticized for not delaying school last Tuesday when snow was in the forecast; the snow turned out to be heavier than expected, causing major travel delays and numerous crashes.

by ARLnow.com — January 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm 1,901 0

Arlington Public Schools logoFor the second day in a row, Arlington Public Schools will open on a two hour delay.

With Arlington and the D.C. region under a Wind Chill Advisory, the two hour delay on Thursday is intended to help protect students from the extreme cold.

APS issued the following statement about the decision tonight.

Because of the weather forecast for extreme low temperatures tonight and in the morning, Arlington Public Schools will open two hours late on Thu, Jan. 8, and all schools will end at the normal dismissal time. This will again will ensure that students are walking to school or bus stops in the daylight, especially because some neighborhood roads and sidewalks remain icy. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and all morning field trips will be canceled. Administrative offices will open on time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

by ARLnow.com — January 6, 2015 at 9:40 pm 2,140 0

Car hits a stuck school bus at S. Joyce and 23rd Street. No children were on board.

Arlington Public Schools will open on a two hour delay tomorrow (Wednesday).

APS says predicted frigid temperatures may cause a refreeze on roads and sidewalks overnight, making driving and walking dangerous. The delay comes after APS was roundly criticized for opening on time this morning, in the midst of a snow storm.

The school system issued the following statement about its opening decision tonight:

Based on weather forecasts for low overnight temperatures tonight which may result in freezing road conditions in the morning, Arlington Public Schools will open two hours late tomorrow and all schools will end at the normal dismissal time. This will allow added time for county crews to treat the roads, and will ensure that students are walking to school or bus stops in the daylight. Because of this change, there will be no early release tomorrow and all morning field trips will be canceled. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late. All administrative offices will open on time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

Arlington County offices, meanwhile, will open at the normal time on Wednesday.

“County offices will open on time Wed., Jan. 7,” the county said via Twitter. “County employees may take unscheduled leave or telework with supervisor’s approval.”

by Ethan Rothstein — January 6, 2015 at 12:20 pm 15,728 0

(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools has issued an apology as the early-morning decision to keep schools open today has been widely derided by parents as dangerous and misguided.

As more snow fell than predicted, and did so during the morning rush hour, school buses around the county got stuck on hills, were involved in accidents and, in some cases, never arrived to pick up their students.

Parents and students alike tweeted ARLnow.com about their travel woes.

Liz Vance, the mother of a third-grader at Barrett Elementary School, dropped her child off at about 9:30 a.m. after assuming there would be a delay. She told ARLnow.com she had one friend who lives on N. Granada Street waiting for the bus to come.

“[APS Superintendent Patrick] Murphy can’t get anything right,” Vance said. “Why didn’t we at least have a delay? We were driving really slow, and the roads are not good. This is kind of ridiculous. They were really pretty clear that it was going to snow. They knew with enough time to at least call a delay.”

School buses were involved in six accidents this morning, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, including on N. McKinley Road next to McKinley Elementary School, at S. Joyce and 23rd Streets and on N. Kirkwood Road. Another was reported stuck for at least two hours at S. Quincy ands 12th Streets. Bellavia said it appears none of the accidents were serious and no students were hurt.

The snow didn’t just affect parents, students and buses; teachers and APS employees also had trouble making it to the school this morning. The instructional technology coordinator at Glebe Elementary School tweeted at 10:53 a.m. that it took him four hours and 12 minutes to get to the school today, and classes at Gunston Middle School may not have started on time due to a lack of teachers able to make it to the school.

“I think most of our schools started on time and we had enough coverage in the buildings,” Bellavia said.

There was also no phone service at some schools, including Williamsburg Elementary. Students who arrived late this morning would not be marked tardy, APS announced.

All after-school and evening activities have been cancelled, APS said in a statement, but students will be sent home at normal times.

“We believe that students are safest at school when parents have not had a chance to make alternate plans for their child’s return home from school,” the schools said in a statement. “However, families who prefer to pick up their children early today are welcome to do so.”

At noon, APS released a statement explaining its decision. APS apologized for the decision to keep schools open, as did Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Schools earlier.

The full APS statement, after the jump.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — December 19, 2014 at 6:00 pm 2,203 0

Long Branch Elementary School (photo via APS)School and health department officials are investigating a possible norovirus outbreak at Long Branch Elementary School.

At least 20 students went to the school clinic Friday because of nausea or vomiting, according to Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.

Officials say they’re investigating whether the illness was caused by norovirus, and whether the virus might have spread due to a bathroom that was not cleaned properly.

Photo via APS

by Ethan Rothstein — December 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm 3,585 0

Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board voted last night to move the H-B Woodlawn program from its home on Vacation Lane to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.

The Wilson School, which preservationists launched a petition to save last year, will be torn down and replaced with an estimated 775-seat facility house H-B Woodlawn, the Stratford program, and other, smaller programs that had been housed in the Stratford building.

The demolition and new facility will cost an estimated $80.2 million and be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

As part of the School Board’s goal of building 1,300 new middle school seats by 2019, it will be constructing a $29.2 million renovation of the Stratford building and convert it into a neighborhood middle school with 1,000-seat capacity.

Arlington Public Schools staff will also determine which sites to recommend spending up to $16.6 million on renovating or building additions for 300 more middle school seats. Where those seats will be, according to APS staff, will be decided “no later than the next” Capital Improvement Plan process.

The plan the School Board approved is similar to the one endorsed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month. They elected the plan over building a neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site and building a middle school at the Reed/Westover building.

School Board Chair James Lander and Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said they opposed building a neighborhood school in Rosslyn two months ago.

“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez said at the time. Lander said the site is “not one that would be my first option.”

School Board member Abby Raphael, who said at that same meeting that she would be open to seeing a neighborhood school at the Wilson site, voted against the motion.

“I myself believe that a 1,300-seat, or even 1,000-seat, neighborhood school at the Wilson School was the best option for us,” Raphael said. “We have students in that area, it is a growing neighborhood, many students would have been able to walk to that school, it would have been one project, and it would have been cost effective.”

During a community meeting on the middle school capacity options in October, parents expressed support for using the Wilson School as a facility.

“I don’t know what should go in there, but I think that [the Wilson School] needs to be considered,” Ponappa Paleyanda, who lives near the site in the North Highlands neighborhood, said at the time. “It’s urban, and we live in an urban setting. It would give kids the ability to be put in settings they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in school.”

The motion carried 3-1, with Lander, Violand-Sanchez and Nancy Van Doren voting in support.

“I think the vast majority of this, we have a consensus on, and I think we should all take a breath and realize we’ve done really, really well here,” Van Doren said, emphasizing the lengthy community process and a final decision that appears to bring “1,300 secondary school seats, within budget, on time, by 2019.”

The School Board’s decision will be disappointing to preservationists, who have argued that the 104-year-old Wilson School is historic in nature and should be preserved.

by Ethan Rothstein — December 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm 4,840 0

Arlington Public Schools has released preferred and alternative plans for its revision of the North Arlington elementary school boundaries.

Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.

The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.

The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.

Many of the students that will likely move to McKinley will stay in their originally intended schools in 2015 before moving to McKinley in 2016, when the school’s 241-seat expansion opens.

APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.

The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.

“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”

Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.

“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”

Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm 1,908 0

Wakefield football coach Wayne Hogwood talks to his team before the biggest game in school history

In what may be the final practice of the Wakefield High School football team’s greatest season ever, head coach Wayne Hogwood runs a drill for end-of-game situations that culminates in a 30-yard field goal. His team, joking on the sideline in between drills for the previous hour and a half, storms the field as if they just clinched a championship.

Players hoot and holler — one even jumps on Hogwood’s back — before settling down to hear their energetic young coach discuss meeting times before tonight’s game. One would never suspect that, in 26 hours, the Warriors (8-3) would kick off the school’s first second round playoff game against an 11-0 team from Tuscarora High School that has laid waste to nearly every opponent it has played so far.

This is the new reality for Wakefield football. Last week, the Warriors played their first ever home playoff game against Potomac Falls High School and won, 25-18, the first playoff win in school history. Just two years ago, the Warriors had gone 0-10 and played before crowds of dozens.

Last Friday, hundreds of students, alumni and South Arlington residents packed the stands to witness history. Hogwood, who graduated from Wakefield in 2000 and whose mother still lives across the street from the school, knew what the game meant to the community.

“They filled the stands in like 28-30 degree weather, so we’re really appreciative of the community,” Hogwood said. “All of my friends, people I graduated with, everybody was out here, people were supporting the program. People have really started to pick up and get on the bandwagon for Wakefield football … It’s a great feeling to get the win, but we’re not settled on that. We have another game this week.”

It was the culmination of two years of work for Hogwood to turn around his alma mater’s football team. Last year, he was focused on teaching the fundamentals of football while the team finished 3-7, a three-win improvement from the previous year. It wasn’t good enough to satisfy Hogwood, who left an assistant coaching job at Yorktown to take the reins here.

Hogwood started to realize his message of discipline and togetherness had sunk in during the last game of the 2013 season, when the Warriors, who had been 2-7, rallied to come together and beat Mount Vernon. The teamwork carried over to this year.

“This year we finally jelled as a unit and had each other’s back,” he said. “We would go to war for each other. Once I realized we had that coming back and we were able to get a couple of players come out, that really helped.”

Wakefield football practices before their second-round playoff gameJunior running back Leon Young has rushed for more than 1,200 yards this year and scored 12 touchdowns. He said that while Hogwood has laid the groundwork for the team’s new mentality, the attitude shift had to come from the boys in pads lining up next to each other every day.

“It starts with the players themselves, and getting them to want to be here,” Young said. “It’s really about holding each other accountable for what you do. You’ve got to make sure you put forward the effort and believe in what you do.”

One of the first players to experience Hogwood’s new coaching style was junior lineman Anthony Tham. Last year, Tham had had behavioral problems at school and at home, and showed up for training camp two weeks late with no physical. Hogwood wouldn’t let him play.

Tham cried in his office, Hogwood said, and the new head coach leaned in and told him, “if you want to be on this football team, be the first one here next summer with your physical in hand.” This August, when Hogwood showed up on the first day of training camp, Tham was there, physical in hand. (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — November 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm 2,512 0

APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy gives his FY 2015 budget briefingThe H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.

Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.

If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school – by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.

The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.

Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3″ option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.

The "SWE3" middle school expansion option, which Superintendent Patrick Murphy is recommending to the School BoardThe other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.

Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.

The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm 5,575 0

College Board logoA senior at Washington-Lee High School will have to retake the SATs after the College Board — the company that administers the college entrance exam — reportedly canceled his score under circumstances his mother is describing as “deeply frustrating.”

Gabriel Crittenden-Toth took the test last month, had finished it and given it to the proctor at W-L when he “instinctively reached for his phone in his pocket,” which was turned off, Melissa Crittenden, Gabriel’s mother, wrote in an email. Despite the fact that the phone was off and his test was over, the proctor reported the incident to the College Board, she said.

Gabriel was allowed to leave and was informed by the counselor that this was just a formality and that his test scores wouldn’t be affected [...] Today we discovered that because the report was filed and it involved a cell phone, his scores were invalidated. I called the College Board to appeal the decision. The fact that my son may potentially be denied the opportunity to apply for early decision college applications, because he instinctively reached for his phone at the wrong time and is being penalized for that by the College Board, is deeply frustrating. They didn’t investigate the circumstances of the ‘irregularity’ and instead choose to simply cancel his scores and jeopardize his college application process.

In subsequent emails, Crittenden said the College Board employee handling her son’s case told her to “get over it,” said “it’s really not that big of a deal,” and “We aren’t interested in talking to anyone. We made our decision. What makes him think he can bring a phone in when it says right on the ticket for him to leave his phone home!”

Retaking the exam costs $52.50, but more important is the $2,500 test prep course Gabriel took, which will be months in the past by the time he can retake the exam. Crittenden said the counselor at W-L was “deeply upset” by the College Board’s decision, but since the test had already been completed and collected, “it would have been sufficient to ask the boys to put their phones away.”

“In many ways I do feel like that was an an abuse of authority while I do understand they thought they were simply doing their jobs,” she said. “Please alert other parents and teens so that they can avoid this unnecessary situation. ”

Requests for comment from College Board have not been returned.

Image via College Board

by Ethan Rothstein — November 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm 2,365 0

Randolph Elementary School (photo via Arlington Public Schools(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Although a final decision has not been made on where more elementary school seats will go in South Arlington, the options have now been narrowed to two.

First, a plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a project which has come under criticism for its reduction of the green space next to the TJ Community Center.

Second, a plan for building $54 million of expansions onto Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. The Arlington School Board approved the expansion plan at its meeting last night as the alternative to the TJ plan. Whichever option is built is expected to open by September 2018.

The Board will vote in January on which option it will move forward with. Arlington voters approved $50.25 million toward the new elementary school seat plan on Tuesday as part of the $106 million school bond package.

Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said last night that there could be measures APS takes to bring the two expansions closer to the $50.25 million budget.

Two parents spoke out last night against the plan to expand Barcroft and Randolph, telling the School Board they should focus expansion efforts on schools that don’t lag far behind the rest of the school system in state testing. School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez echoed those parents’ concerns, and was the lone vote against the alternative plan.

“When we look at adding more seats, we keep on talking about seats. We’re not talking many times about students,” she said. “We’re not talking about instructional programs and options we have before us. The part of the county where Barcroft sits and Randolph sits, we have serious instruction issues when we have low achievement of Latino, African-American, students with disabilities, low-income students not perfomrming as they should. We have a problem.”

The other School Board members countered with the fact that APS capacity issues will affect every building in the school system, and performance issues can be addressed during expansion. School Board member Abby Raphael suggested that concerns about the schools’ performance are being overblown.

“Barcroft is a wonderful school. Students are achieving, there’s a wonderful staff. Of course we can do more,” she said. “Because of our growing enrollment, our elementary schools are going to reach 725 students, and we’re running out of land. Ideally, we’d love to have a number of very small elementary schools, but we just simply don’t have the land and the money to achieve that.”

The School Board’s “preferred plan” remains building a new elementary school next to TJ, but that plan is opposed by community group Friends of TJ Park. The group says the new school would reduce crucial parkland, including the community garden. TJ Middle School students spoke up at a School Board meeting last month to advocate for keeping the garden.

Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park at Arlington County Board's meeting 07/1914“I am so proud to work in the TJ Garden and seeing it every morning reminds me of how important it is to our community and school in Arlington,” seventh-grader Lucy Robinson said. “If the TJ garden were separated from the school, fewer people would go there and be involved. The TJ community would be hurt by this. Please leave our garden in its current location.”

The TJ plan would add 725 seats with the new school, while the two expansions would add a total of about 500 seats, according to APS estimates. The disparity may make the decision clearer after APS released its new set of student growth projections last night.

APS Director of Facilities Planning Lionel White told the School Board that APS figures to grow by 19 percent, or 4,957 students, in the next five years. According to the district’s projection model, APS will hit 30,000 students in 2020. Because of this growth, APS is considering refining elementary school boundaries for next fall.

“This year we had our highest kindergarten class on record, 2,196,” White told the Board. “Next year we’re anticipating [more than] 2,200.”

Many of the students affected by the school district’s boundary changes will be attending the new elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School. Last night the School Board approved the school’s name: Discovery Elementary School.

“When you go into successful schools, they use language like ‘discovery’ and ‘creativity’ to spark inspiration in the children,” School Board Chair James Lander said. “The fact that Discovery is the recommended name really pleases me.”

Photo (top) via Arlington Public Schools

by Ethan Rothstein — November 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm 2,716 0

Reed/Westover building (photo via Google Maps)(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.

The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.

A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.

The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.

Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.

Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.

A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.

According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”

In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.

The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.

Photo via Google Maps

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