(Updated at 8:35 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools are closed Thursday.
APS made the call at 6:00 this morning, joining Alexandria, Fairfax County and numerous other local school systems that decided to close due to snow and poor road conditions.
Based on further review of the road conditions throughout the County, all APS Schools will be closed today and Offices will open two hours late. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.
Today’s 9:15 a.m. elementary school information sessions have been canceled and will be rescheduled.
The federal government, meanwhile, is open on a two hour delay today.
Forecasters have upped their predicted snow totals. From the National Weather Service:
… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON EST TODAY…
* LOCATIONS… WASHINGTON DC AND MOST MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA SUBURBS… ALONG WITH THE CENTRAL SHENANDOAH VALLEY AND NORTH- CENTRAL VIRGINIA.
* HAZARD TYPES… SNOW.
* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS… 2 TO 4 INCHES.
* TIMING… THROUGH THE MORNING. THE HEAVIEST SNOW WILL FALL DURING THE MORNING COMMUTE.
* IMPACTS… ROADS WILL BE SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY… PARTICULARLY FOR SOUTHEASTERN SUBURBS.
* WINDS… NORTHEAST 5 TO 10 MPH.
* TEMPERATURES… NEAR 30 DEGREES.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SNOW COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
Arlington Public Schools will open on a two hour delay Friday morning, due to dangerously cold temperatures.
APS sent the following email Thursday night.
All APS schools and offices will open two hours late. The Extended Day program also will open two hours late and all morning field trips are canceled. Essential personnel are to report to work at their scheduled time.
Arlington County and the rest of the region is under a Wind Chill Advisory until noon Friday.
From the National Weather Service:
… WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON EST FRIDAY…
* WIND CHILL… BETWEEN ZERO AND 10 BELOW INTO THE EVENING HOURS BEFORE FALLING TONIGHT TO AROUND 10 TO 15 DEGREES BELOW ZERO.
* TEMPERATURES… DROPPING INTO THE LOWER AND MIDDLE TEENS THIS EVENING. LOWS TONIGHT INTO EARLY FRIDAY AROUND ZERO.
* WINDS… WEST 15 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 30 TO 35 MPH INTO THIS EVENING… SUBSIDING TO 10 TO 20 MPH OVERNIGHT AND INTO LATE MORNING FRIDAY.
* IMPACTS… THE COMBINATION OF GUSTY WINDS AND COLD TEMPERATURES MAY RESULT IN DANGEROUS WIND CHILLS THAT CAN QUICKLY CAUSE HYPOTHERMIA AND FROST BITE.
A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS… MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.
Murphy’s proposal, which he will present to the Arlington School Board tonight (Thursday), calls for a total of $561.1 million of spending, a $21.7 million or 4 percent increase over FY 2015.
With a projected enrollment bump of 1,413 students next fall, Murphy’s budget calls for a $14.6 million spending increase just to handle the increased capacity, plus another $3.2 million to open Discovery Elementary School in north Arlington. Murphy also included $8.1 million in teacher step pay increases, a directive from the School Board.
“There’s nothing new in this budget,” Murphy told ARLnow.com this morning. “The emphasis is around instruction, efficiencies, compensation package among our employees and addressing enrollment to date.”
Murphy’s budget includes eliminating early release on Wednesday for the four schools that still have it: Arlington Traditional School, Arlington Science Focus, Long Branch and Taylor Elementary schools. The change costs $2.1 million, Murphy said, and necessitates adding 20.5 full-time equivalent positions. The elimination of early release also clears the way for APS to implement a broader foreign language in elementary schools (FLES) program.
APS projects its per-pupil cost in Murphy’s budget at $18,689, the lowest level since FY 2013.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget, also announced today, includes an additional $13.2 million over the county’s contribution last year, still leaving a gap of $13.6 million. Murphy provides a plan to cut the $13.6 million deficit — assuming the county doesn’t allocate more funding in its deliberations — in three tiers.
- Tier One: Saving $4.7 million
- Central Office reductions, including cutting six language positions and converting some world language classes to online, laying off four maintenance workers, and restructuring the library services department
- Add more one-time funding from FY 2014 closeout funds into general budget
- Fund replacement buses and technology with one-time funds
- Tier Two: Saving $5.2 million
- Increase class size by one, saving $4.1 million and cutting 55 positions
- Defer the elimination of early release in two schools
- Tier Three: Saving $3.7 million
- Implement the step pay increase one-third of the way through the fiscal year, saving $2.7 million
- Defer the elimination of early release in the other two schools
“I don’t support this,” Murphy said of the tier two cuts, particularly increasing class size, “but this is one of the strategies we’ve had to take.”
The cuts are divided into tiers in case the County Board elects to provide only partial funding toward closing the budget deficit.
The budget also includes $1.7 million for purchasing and outfitting 14 new relocatable classrooms, a number that APS staff anticipates changing before the final budget is approved. Revised enrollment projections for the 2015-2016 school year are expected to be released next month, prompting readjustments across the board in the proposed budget.
Relocatable classrooms, or trailers, as they’re also known, are just one piece of the puzzle for APS in solving its capacity crisis. Murphy said there are no additional measures in his proposal to help relieve south Arlington elementary school overcrowding; that’s a Capital Improvement Plan discussion, he said, which won’t be updated until 2016.
Instead, Murphy said there’s constant discussion about finding space efficiencies with what’s already in place, including changing the way space is used or moving county-wide programs to different buildings. Montessori classes and pre-K programs have already been shifted for capacity reasons, Murphy said.
“There’s been a strong message from my office about how we use our existing capacity, redefining space in buildings,” Murphy said. “We’ve made accommodations for [overcrowded] schools either with relocatables or redesigned space within those buildings.”
Arlington Public Schools will open on a two hour delay Wednesday, the school system announced tonight (Tuesday.)
From APS, via email:
All APS schools and offices will open two hours late tomorrow and there will be no early release. Schools will end at the normal dismissal time and all morning field trips are canceled. The Extended Day program also will open two hours late. Essential personnel are to report to work at their scheduled time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics.
The contagion prompted school officials to cancel after-school activities on Friday, including a PTA-sponsored “Sweetheart Dance.” Students were sent home with a letter on Friday advising parents on how to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal illness.
“This communication is being sent to let you know that Public Health has been receiving an increase in reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness in members of the Barcroft school community,” the letter reads. “If your child develops vomiting or diarrhea, we recommend that you keep your child home for 24 hours after the symptoms stop before sending your child back to school.”
School will reopen and activities will resume as normal on Wendesday, weather permitting.
School Health Bureau Chief Marian Harmon told ARLnow.com in an email this afternoon that, between Feb. 11 and Feb. 13, 38 students at Barcroft were either sent home or stayed home with gastrointestinal issues.
“Kids were lying around the office waiting to be picked up” on Friday, an ARLnow.com tipster wrote in an email.
Because Arlington Public Schools offices were closed due to the snow today, officials could not confirm the number of cases reported at Barcroft. In the letter, APS said all shared surfaces in the school are disinfected “each day and after any illnesses at the school.”
After the jump, the letter APS sent home with Barcroft students. (more…)
“All Arlington Public Schools and Offices will be closed on Tue, Feb. 17,” APS said in an email. “Essential personnel are to report to work at their scheduled time. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult and community education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled.”
All APS pools will also be closed on Tuesday.
Federal government offices will be closed Tuesday, per the Office of Personnel Management.
“FEDERAL OFFICES in the Washington, DC area are CLOSED,” OPM said on its website. “Emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency’s policies, including written telework agreements.”
Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, will operate at “severe service levels” on Tuesday.
“ART will operate only routes 41, 42, 45, 51, 77 & 87 on arterial streets Tuesday Feb 17 due to weather and street conditions. Expect delays,” ART said via email. “No service on S. Courthouse Rd, in Columbia Hts West, the Walter Reed hill, or north of Virginia Hospital Center. No other routes will be operated.”
In response the Arlington County Board’s decision to say “not now” to APS’ plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, the School Board delivered a joint statement last night, agreeing to work with the county to find creative solutions to fit the hundreds of new students coming to the county every year.
“We appreciate the County Board’s commitment to partnering with the School Board to provide a minimum of 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington not later than the start of school in September 2018, using a combination of interim and permanent solutions,” the School Board’s statement reads. “This commitment increases the variety of options available. The County Board has offered to provide technical support to identify and evaluate County buildings and private commercial spaces that might help meet our capacity needs on an interim basis.”
The School Board took turns reading from parts of the statement at its meeting. The five members said they will start another community engagement process of their own, including directing Superintendent Patrick Murphy to work with County Manager Barbara Donnellan on identifying county- and privately-owned sites that could accommodate school uses.
Murphy is also charged with, according to the School Board’s statement, outlining “a process and timeline for considering solutions that enable us to meet our deadline of providing a minimum of 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington by the start of school in September 2018.” That includes spending the approved $50.25 million bond funds, approved in November for the purpose of a more South Arlington elementary school seat.
Murphy has been directed to return before the School Board by April 30 with a status report on his conversations with the county and community engagement. The Board did not set a deadline for a complete recommendation or when it would make a decision.
The School Board also asked Murphy and APS facilities staff to “update APS feasibility studies of APS properties, as appropriate.” One of the County Board’s criticisms of the schools’ recommendations was a lack of study of the broader impact of a new school.
“The School Board is optimistic that more options will serve our community better,” the School Board statement reads. “We are moving forward in collaboration with the County Board and will work to build community consensus around capacity solutions. Together with Dr. Murphy, APS staff, the community, and the County Board and its staff, we are confident that we will maintain our focus on student achievement as we meet our capacity challenges.”
School Board Chair James Lander said “blood, sweat and tears” went into the School Board’s statement, and the five-member panel met at a retreat on Saturday to finalize the language. It is meant to come from “one board and one voice,” he said. (more…)
The number represents only 0.4 percent of the 24,529 students currently enrolled in APS. There are only two reasons a student is allowed to attend school without receiving proper immunizations: medical or religious reasons.
“For a medical exemption, a letter must be written from a licensed medical provider stating specifically from which immunizations a child is exempt,” Arlington School Health Bureau Chief Marian Harmon said in an email. “For a religious exemption, the parent must complete the religious exemption form for immunizations and have it notarized.”
Childhood vaccinations have been thrust into the national spotlight after a measles outbreak started at Disneyland in California and has spread to at least 94 people in eight states, according to NBC News. The disease had been largely eradicated in the U.S., but since the Centers for Disease Control reported the disease was brought from overseas, children whose parents declined vaccinations have fallen victim to the highly contagious infection.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle have urged parents to vaccinate their children, shooting down controversial reports from years back that linked vaccinations to autism. Those studies have since been debunked, but the anti-vaccination movement is still prevalent enough in the U.S. to contribute to the largest number of measles cases in 20 years.
Harmon says APS tracks which students have vaccination exemptions, and makes sure to notify parents when there is a disease outbreak at the child’s school.
“School Health works with Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County Communicable Disease staff to determine the needs for that student and their exposure risk,” she said.
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said there are no suspected cases of measles in the county.
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.
If 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.”
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.
More tweets from this morning, after the jump.
Arlington Public Schools are opening on a two hour delay this morning due to concerns about icy conditions.
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.
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
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.
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) January 12, 2015
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) January 12, 2015
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) January 12, 2015
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.
For 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.
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.”
(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.
– David Hawkins (@khnashi) January 6, 2015
– David Hawkins (@khnashi) January 6, 2015
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.”
The full APS statement, after the jump.