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by Heather Mongilio — July 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,063 0

Emma Violand-Sanchez, School Board chairThe Arlington School Board voted unanimously this morning to include gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policies for hiring teachers and other employees.

The language is intended to prevent discrimination and harassment against transgender individuals.

The School Board also voted to ensure that all of its employment policies include protection against discrimination based on disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and national origin.

“I’m very proud that we have these policies, and we are going to implement it,” said Emma Violand-Sánchez, who was elected as the School’s Board 2015-2016 chair during the meeting. “And that we are going to implement it with students, with the staff, within the hiring process, and I think we have to eliminate bullying, harassment and more than anything enhance the candidates in our school system for employment.”

Including gender identity and expression is in line with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, a law that requires schools to provide an equal opportunity learning environment for both genders. Title IX includes gender identity and expression, according to Ellen Kennedy, the director of Employee Relations at Arlington Public Schools.

Complying with the federal government was one reason the board members adopted the new changes. But members also said it was the right thing to do.

“We do not want to put our community, legally, down the road,” outgoing chair James Lander said. “And so, again, in alliance with our County Board colleagues, the state and the federal government, we again are showing progressive leadership.”

The School Board did receive emails about the changes, Lander said. However, many questioned the procedure and not the policy. Residents were worried that the board would make the decision behind closed doors.

There were no public speakers at the meeting, which was a surprise, member Abby Raphael said. However, throughout the process, there had been little dissent from the community or APS employees, Barbara Kanninen noted.

“It was very clear from the beginning we were going to do this,” she said. “I don’t think it was ever an issue of any disagreement in terms of wanting to do this.”

The School Board also updated its bullying and harassment policy today to include protections based on creed and age. The bullying policy, which had last been updated in 2008, already included protections based on gender identity or expression.

Update at 12:40 p.m. — Democratic County Board candidate Christian Dorsey has issued a statement commending the School Board’s action and calling on Arlington County to make similar policy changes. “I urge the County Board to pursue ways to update the County Code to ensure that people are not discriminated against in Arlington based on their gender identity,” he said.

by Heather Mongilio — June 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm 1,094 0

Arlington School BoardThe Arlington School Board voted this month to provide $640,000 to train teachers in student use of school-issued Apple iPads and Macbooks.

The funding was approved after an amendment to stop it failed one to four.

The professional development will help teachers be able to better incorporate digital tools, such as laptops or iPads, in lesson plans. It is part of the Arlington Public Schools’ digital learning initiative, which has the goal of equipping children in second to eighth grades with an iPad and high school students with Macbook Airs.

Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez submitted the amendment to defund the professional development for digital learning. She argued that while technology is important there were other areas recommended by advisory committees that needed the money more, she said during the School Board meeting on June 16.

“We have forgotten the whole child,” she said. “We have forgotten any of the support systems or professional development we need for that. We have forgotten professional development that could be needed for English language learners. We have forgotten the needs for the middle schools and other areas I feel are needed.”

Emma Violand-Sanchez

But other board members said that the professional development was key to the success of the already-approved digital learning initiative.

“I fundamentally believe that technology is going to be a key component of any future change for our children, our ability to include all students in a general education setting and to provide the differentiating instruction,” member Nancy Van Doren said.

Van Doren agreed with Violand-Sánchez that professional development was needed in other areas but said it was not a question of one or the other. Instead, the School Board should look to providing the financial needs for multiple areas of professional development, she said.

The digital learning initiative also provides for the whole child, member Abby Raphael argued. In order for the digital learning to be successful, teachers need the training, she said.

“I think it is so meaningful. And it affects special education students, it affects [English language learners], it helps accelerate students, and it really, I think, does personalize learning and individualize learning,” Raphael said.

The digital learning also provides low-income children with the opportunity to interact with technology that they would not have otherwise, Chair James Lander said. Low income families often only buy what they need, and laptops and iPads do not always make the list, he said.

“I believe in technology, and I believe this is a way for a school that is majority minority to have an opportunity to get their hands on technology and start to close the digital divide,” he said.

But the program is not without its problems. Members brought up monetary concerns about the costs of the actual devices and the software that each would need as APS increases the number of devices it maintains from 5,000 to 25,000.

Barbara Kanninen also brought up concerns about the lack of planning involved in the rollout of the devices and questioned whether they actually helped to accelerate learning. She attempted to halt the program in the past until budget and educational concerns were addressed.

“I still feel, as I did then, that we need a full evaluation of this program,” she said. “So far we had a work session earlier this year, we’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about successes in our schools system, but we don’t have solid evidence that it’s truly achieving our goals.”

Despite that, Kanninen voted against Violand-Sánchez’s amendment, saying that the training is necessary.

Van Doren said there is also a need to look a security and privacy concerns brought up by parents.

“We must address the parent concerns related to security, privacy and the continuous feedback and improvement related to the devices,” she said. “That is tantamount in allowing parents to be partners in this process.”

Parents need to feel that their children are safe while using these devices, and they need to feel as if they are partners with the school system, she said.

Lander agreed that those areas are important and should be part of the next steps going forward. However, despite the budget, educational and concerns, utilizing technology in school is too important of a priority to stop, he said.

“We can’t hold back the tide of technology,” Lander said. “This is how we do business.”

by ARLnow.com — June 30, 2015 at 10:30 am 1,385 0

The Arlington School Board at its Feb. 5, 2015 meeting(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) The Arlington School Board will consider a proposal to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy for teachers and other employees, ARLnow.com has learned.

The proposal is on the School Board’s consent agenda for its meeting tomorrow morning. The policy would prevent Arlington Public Schools from discriminating against transgender individuals in its hiring process.

“The School Board seeks to employ highly qualified, well trained and committed teachers, administrators and support personnel to fill vacancies, without regard to race, national origin, creed, color, religion, gender, age, economic status, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic information, gender identity or expression, and/or disability,” the proposed policy states.

The policy adds “genetic information” and “gender identity or expression,” while removing “political affiliation or affiliation with an employee organization” from APS’ nondiscrimination hiring goals. Another sentence dealing with politics remains at the end of the policy: “The private, religious and political life of an employee is not a concern of the School Board unless it prevents the employee from performing properly his or her assigned responsibilities during the workday.”

Political affiliation and employee organization affiliation are not currently included in two other policies: APS’ human relations and equal employment opportunity policies. The proposed revisions, meanwhile, add genetic information and gender identity or expression to those policies. The goal is to “align the protected class categories with other School Board polices,” according to a memo from APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

Fairfax County made headlines when its school board proposed and then voted to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy last month. Some parents said they were concerned that the policy could lead to mixed-sex bathrooms.

by ARLnow.com — June 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm 2,114 0

H-B Woodlawn and the Sratford School (via Google Maps)Arlington County is considering a local historic designation for the former Stratford Junior High School on Vacation Lane, causing some parents to worry that preservation efforts may mean more school overcrowding.

With the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program set to move from the Stratford building to a new building in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools is planning a $29.2 million renovation of Stratford that would allow it to house a new 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school. Both schools are set to open in 2019.

Tomorrow night, however, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board will hold the first of six public hearings on whether to recommend designating Stratford, which was built in 1950, a local historic district. It’s already on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of its role in the civil rights movement: in 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.

“A local historic designation will provide a framework for preserving and telling the important story of this building and site while allowing plans for a separate new school to be designed and built,” the group Preservation Arlington said in support of the designation. “Stratford Junior High School is an incredible part of Arlington’s history… as well as an excellent example of International Style school architecture.”

Parents worry that a historic designation could push back the opening of the new middle school beyond 2019.

The Jamestown Elementary PTA, which last year decried APS delaying a decision on a new middle school, says a middle school at Stratford is key to alleviating overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson middle schools. The PTA asked parents to make their voice heard at meetings this week.

“Right now the Arlington County Board is considering turning Stratford into a historical property, which would likely delay the opening of Stratford as a neighborhood middle school,” the PTA said in an email to parents. “That delay will impact all of the surrounding middle schools leaving the overcrowding issue as one that will remain for much longer.”

At a meeting at Williamsburg Middle School last night, parents were told that the school may need up to 28 relocatable classroom trailers by 2018. The trailers could ultimately hold the school’s entire 6th grade class, school administrators said.

Another APS meeting on middle school capacity issues will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Swanson Middle School. The historical review board will meet at the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

by ARLnow.com — June 15, 2015 at 2:10 pm 1,314 0

Key Elementary School (photo via Arlington Public Schools)Update at 9:15 p.m. — Key Elementary has canceled classes on Tuesday due to continued air conditioning issues.

“At this time, the air conditioning at Key Elementary School cannot be maintained at a comfortable temperature for students to return on Tuesday,” the school said in an email to parents. “If APS needs to close Key School on Wednesday, an additional notification will be sent. Otherwise, school will be open on time on Wednesday, June 17.”

“Fifth grade promotion will take place in the Washington-Lee High School auditorium (1301 N. Stafford St.) at 6:30 p.m. Fifth grade students should arrive at Washington-Lee by 4 p.m. for promotion practice.”

Earlier: Key Elementary students were bussed to Washington-Lee High School today due to a lack of air conditioning in the school.

A power outage on Sunday caused Key’s air conditioning system to fail, prompting the evacuation this morning, according to an email sent to parents.

Students will be bussed back to Key in time for normal dismissal.

From Key Elementary principal Dr. Marjorie Myers:

Dear Key Families:

I wanted to let you know that a power outage occurred yesterday that led to an air conditioning failure today at Key. With temperatures expected to be in 90s, for the health and safety of students APS will transport students by bus to Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St.) for the remainder of the day. Instruction and meals will be provided at Washington-Lee; however, families who wish to pick up their children early may do so at Washington-Lee at any time today.

All students will be transported back to Key Elementary before normal dismissal so they can walk or ride the bus home at the regular time. Students who attend Extended Day will still be able to do so at Key, but families are encouraged to pick up their children as early as possible today.

by Mariah Joyce — June 15, 2015 at 10:30 am 2,054 0

Williamsburg Middle School (via Wikimedia)Update at 5:50 p.m. — The County Board’s action on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group Charge has now been deferred until July, according to an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman.

The debate over lighting the fields at Williamsburg Middle School is making a comeback.

At its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) in July, the County Board will charge a working group with leading a community process to evaluate whether or not to light the Williamsburg synthetic fields.

The issue first emerged in 2013 as neighbors battled soccer parents over whether Williamsburg’s fields should be lighted. The County Board ultimately deferred the lighting decision until 2015.

After the County Board decides on the working group’s exact tasks at tomorrow’s meeting, members will be appointed to the group next month. It is expected to make a recommendation to the Board in May 2016. The Board will then deliberate in June 2016.

Two synthetic fields are currently under construction as part of the Discovery Elementary School project, located on the Williamsburg campus, and are scheduled for completion at the end of the summer.

Arlington Public Schools split the cost of the fields with the County, according to Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. Kalish said that APS paid for the cost of installing natural grass fields, and the County then funded the difference.

In an APS question and answer session about the construction project held in the fall of 2012, the County stated that if it funded an artificial field, “it would expect that the field be lighted in order to maximize their investment in the field.”

While Kalish confirmed that this is typically the County’s policy regarding turf fields, in this case the Rock Spring community pushed back.

“That’s why we’re having this work group,” said Kalish.

Design of new Williamsburg elementary school

Fifteen community members representing diverse interests will comprise the work group, including one representative from the Arlington Soccer Association and one from the Rock Spring Civic Association. The ASA and the RSCA disagreed vehemently on the construction and lighting of the field when the plan was first proposed in 2013, eventually launching dueling petitions.

President of the RSCA Carl Cunningham said that while he could not speak for all residents, most who live near the Williamsburg fields do not support the addition of lights because of concerns about potential light spillage into their homes.

Cunningham added that residents were concerned about evening noise and traffic from extended hours of play on the field, which might “fundamentally alter the basic character and their peaceful enjoyment of what has been a small, secluded and quiet neighborhood in the evenings.”

The ASA, on the other hand, stressed the need for a lit synthetic field.

“We have more children playing sports in Arlington every year, and the rate of field construction or redevelopment is not close to keeping pace, thus we have to squeeze what we can out of existing play spaces,” said ASA Executive Director Justin Wilt.

(more…)

by Heather Mongilio — June 3, 2015 at 11:05 am 15,301 0

Oakridge Elementary is getting desks with bicycle pedals and swinging bars in an effort to incorporate movement and exercise into classroom learnings.

The new desks, as well as yoga ball chairs, are part of a pilot program to improve kids’ ability to learn while in school.

The idea behind the new equipment is based in science, said Heather Suave, a member of Oakridge’s 2Fit2Quit Committee and Wellness Council. Research has shown that when kids’ brains are active, which happens during exercise, they are able to retain more information.

“Kids in elementary school have the wiggles, and it’s a good energy release,” Suave said.

Oakridge Elementary was able to raise $9,000 through sponsorships and donations — from Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, the Oakridge PTA and individual donations — to buy three of the two person pedal desks, four stand-up/swinging desks and eight yoga ball chairs.

The pilot program has only been in place for a month, Suave said, but it is already showing promise.

Jenn Crain, a third and fourth grade teacher, said the new equipment has helped with keeping her students focused and have not been a distraction in the classroom. She has had the pedal desk and standing desks in her class.

“Some of them prefer the pedal desk, some of them prefer the standing desk, some of them prefer none,” she said.

The kids have also had positive feedback toward the equipment, she said during a presentation.

Maxwell Thomas, an 8-year-old student, likes the pedal desk because they help him concentrate while he does his math schoolwork.

“I can get my body moving while I work,” Maxwell said.

Annabella Brooks, a fifth-grade student, likes the standing/swing-desk “because people have a way to fidget without making noise.”

The desk helps her concentrate and she finds it relaxing, Annabella said.

“It’s easier to think while moving,” she said.

This is the first pilot program in Virginia. The equipment is also used in 30 schools in Texas and in 32 other states, said Lowell Lease, a representative with KidsFit, the company that provides the equipment.

The company has received good feedback on the equipment from other schools as well, Lease said.

“The kids love it,” he said. “The teachers love it because the kids pay attention better.”

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm 1,066 0

Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.

On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.

Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.

Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.

The full letter is below.

Dear Mr. Severn:

I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).

The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.

The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.

We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community.  Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period.  However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event.  We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.

Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.

Sincerely,

James Lander, Chair

by ARLnow.com — May 18, 2015 at 10:10 am 1,136 0

School Board candidate Reid GoldsteinReid Goldstein has won the Democratic endorsement in the race for school board.

Goldstein received 1,252 votes in the Arlington County Democratic Committee caucus, which was held on May 14 and 16. His opponent, Sharon Dorsey, received 648 votes.

Democrats were quick to embrace Goldstein after his caucus victory.

“Reid will not only be a great voice for balancing the needs of school facilities, but also for improving instruction for all of Arlington’s students,” said ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky. “He has demonstrated leadership on educational issues and in the larger community.”

A 30-year Arlington resident and father of two Arlington Public Schools graduates — both of whom are pursuing careers in education — Goldstein has a record of civic participation on PTAs, county and school commissions and committees, and the board of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

Goldstein is running to replace School Board member Abby Raphael, who is not seeking reelection in the fall.

“We face the challenge of growing enrollment as families are drawn to Arlington by our tradition of excellent education,” Goldstein said in a statement after he was declared the winner. “We must maintain that excellence going forward as we work to close the achievement gap, provide for growing enrollment, and ensure openness and respect for diversity.”

“I thank Sharon Dorsey for a positive, thoughtful and energetic campaign, and Abby Raphael for her years of service to Arlington families,” Goldstein added.

by Ethan Rothstein — May 15, 2015 at 11:00 am 1,498 0

Walk and Bike to School Day 2012 at Oakridge Elementary SchoolFor the last month of school, the Arlington County Police Department will devote more resources and officers toward preventing crime in county middle school and high schools.

School Resource Officers will conduct “saturation patrols” and educate students about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Until school lets out June 18, ACPD plans to put more officers at malls, parks and community centers around Arlington. Police will also have a heightened presence at school and community events.

“This initiative encourages positive interaction between officers and the students of Arlington County,” School Resource Officer Supervisor Lt. Ron Files said in a press release. “Our goal is to provide a safe environment in the school communities by using crime prevention strategies and utilizing enforcement measures.”

The initiative coincides with the department’s efforts to curb underage drinking and drinking and driving during prom season.

File photo

by Ethan Rothstein — May 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm 2,991 0

Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.

The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.

This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.

“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”

Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.

While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.

“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”

Arlington Girls Softball Association's fields at Arlington Traditional SchoolSevern said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.

“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”

Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.

Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.

“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”

Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.

by ARLnow.com — May 11, 2015 at 8:50 am 2,829 0

Hazmat situation at Yorktown High School (photo courtesy @KateMuth)(Updated at 8:55 a.m.) The Arlington County hazmat team has responded to Yorktown High School for a reported spill of hydrochloric acid.

The spill has been contained to a classroom, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani.

So far no injuries have been reported.

Students are currently in the building, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. The facilities staff is trying to determine whether the school will need to be evacuated in order to flush the HVAC system, he said.

Photo courtesy @KateMuth

by Ethan Rothstein — May 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm 2,744 0

Drew Model School grocery store revenue (image courtesy Drew Model School PTA)The Drew Model School Parent Teacher Association is throwing its first Spring Fair next weekend, in hopes of closing a $22,000 funding gap.

Because of changes to local grocery stores’ policies in the last two years, donations that have come from shoppers signing up to donate a portion of their purchase to schools have almost disappeared. According to Drew PTA President Evan Thomas, grocery store donations accounted for $22,700 of the PTA’s $30,000 budget in the 2012-2013 school year.

This year, the PTA projects $495 in revenue from the two stores that it has received money from, Harris Teeter and Safeway.

A manager at Harris Teeter said their program hasn’t changed, but schools are no longer allowed to sign up shoppers on the way in, which has hamstrung participation, Thomas said. According to a manager at Safeway, the chain was just purchased, and in the lengthy negotiations over the past two years, the “program has changed some.” According to Safeway’s website, donations through its eScrip program aren’t taken from credit card purchases.

Thomas doesn’t begrudge the grocery stores, he said, but the fiscal reality of the PTA’s current budget is inescapable.

“We felt fortunate that we were able to work within the program as we were before those changes were made,” he told ARLnow.com today. “It’s just a reality of where we are, and we’re just trying to look for ways to move forward and fundraising without doing it on the backs of our families.”

The PTA has responded by hosting a Spring Fair next Saturday, May 16, to draw families to the school and raise a few thousand dollars.

Drew School (Photo via Google Maps)The fair will take place on the school’s grounds (3500 23rd Street S.) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There will be foods from a variety of food trucks, a moon bounce, a cake walk game, and raffles. There will also be carnival style games, with the price of participation going to the Drew PTA.

“We’re really hoping the Spring Fair can serve as a signature event so we can have a little more certainty going into each year to allocate comfortably,” Thomas said.

The PTA has received help from its counterpart at Nottingham Elementary School in North Arlington. The Nottingham PTA has chipped in $1,500 to offset costs and provided mentorship and support — Drew is hoping to model the Spring Fair after Nottingham’s annual MayFest.

As for the drastic downturn in PTA revenue, Thomas said purchases the group has made in the past, like smartboards for classrooms and a climbing wall, will no longer be feasible. Thomas said 65 percent of Drew students are on a free or reduced lunch program. APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said it’s one of nine schools in the county that have at least 40 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunches.

Image, top, courtesy Drew Model School PTA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps

by Ethan Rothstein — May 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm 3,561 0

Yorktown High School classroom trailersWith schools bursting at the seams and student growth outpacing new construction, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy is proposing to place 71 new relocatable classrooms around Arlington elementary and middle schools over the next five years.

Murphy’s plan, which he presented to the School Board last week, calls for 27 new relocatables for elementary schools in South Arlington by fall 2020. By fall 2019, Murphy plans for middle schools around the county to add 44 new trailers.

In five years, that would bring the total number of trailers for middle schools and South Arlington elementary schools to 120.

Relocatables are just one part of APS’ response to the Arlington County Board’s denial of a plan to build a new elementary school at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Other ways to mitigate school overcrowding that could be implemented are: converting computer labs to classrooms; making internal modifications like the ones just approved at Washington-Lee High School; and moving programs to facilities with more space.

Where Arlington Public Schools is planning to put relocatable classrooms in the 2019-2020 school yearWhen asked how many seats the average relocatable classroom provides, APS Community Liaison Meg Tuccillo responded “It varies by school depending on the program using the classroom, needs of the school and class size guidelines,” and provided no specifics.

The county has offered four facilities — Drew Community Center, Carver Community Center, the Fenwick Building and Madison Community Center — that schools have the option to use temporarily while waiting for new schools to be approved and built.

In Murphy’s plan, none of those facilities are used, but Tuccillo said “we are considering use of county sites offered for interim solutions.” She did not offer more specifics on which facilities APS is considering, how they might be used or when.

The total cost for the new trailers outlined in Murphy’s plan is $7.92 million — $5 million for the new middle school trailers, and $2.92 million for South Arlington’s.

“While waiting for new permanent construction, relocatables offer less disruption for families and for school programs, avoids need for disruptive, temporary boundary moves, offers possiblity of flexible configuration of grades together with specials (art, music, etc in same configuration),” Tuccillo said in an email.

Where Arlington Public Schools is planning to put relocatable classrooms in the 2018-2019 school yearWhile the relocatables are interim solutions, APS and the School Board are also laying the groundwork for permanent relief of school overcrowding. The County Board and School Board must approve a new South Arlington elementary school by December, Murphy said, for it to be ready for the 2019-2020 school year.

If the two sides cannot reach a decision by then, South Arlington will have to wait at least two years longer than initially promised for a new school. Staff is continuing its community outreach process and gathering more information to recommend a site for the new school, but no specific alternatives to the preferred Thomas Jefferson site have been identified.

by Rob Laybourn — April 29, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1,392 0

The Washington-Lee girls lacrosse team after beating Yorktown, April 28, 2015 (photo courtesy Celia Slater)The Washington Lee High School girls varsity lacrosse team upset the Yorktown Patriots last night at home, 20-19, besting their cross-county rivals for the first time in seven years.

The Generals (5-4) built a commanding lead deep into the first half, going up 13-6, behind the skill and goal-scoring of junior Meghan Fox. Fox had five of her game high eight goals in the first half, with senior Colleen Salazar adding three.

The Patriots (7-2), however, were able to cut the lead to three, 13-10, going into halftime.

W-L added four goals in the first five minutes of play of the second half.  The two teams then traded goals, but Yorktown was able to mount a strong comeback, tallying seven unanswered goals, tying the game at 18.  After the teams traded goals again, and with under two minutes to go, W-L sophomore Emma Vogel scored what would be the winning goal.

Generals freshman Caroline Laybourn won the next draw control — women’s lacrosse version of a faceoff — giving W-L possession as time was running out. However, the Patriots caused a turnover with under 30 seconds remaining, bringing the ball down to their offensive zone, but Salazar was able to pick up a ground ball and hold possession as the game ended.

The Generals’ superior defensive play held Yorktown’s Metro region standout sophomore Laura Crawford to just three goals. W-L also dominated the draw control, taking 28 of 39 in the circle.

In addition to scoring by W-L’s Fox (8), Salazar (3) and Vogel (4), other goal scorers included Laybourn (1), senior Julia Fyffe (3) and sophomore Brooke Tannehill (1). Senior Kristen Somers led the Patriots scoring with 6 goals. Other Yorktown goals came from junior Kate Grattan (4), junior Emma Thurman (2), freshman Claire Kuwana (2) and senior Margaret Doyle (1).

Photo courtesy Celia Slater

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