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by ARLnow.com — February 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm 931 0

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.

by Ethan Rothstein — February 17, 2015 at 1:05 pm 2,208 0

Barcroft Elementary School 2-19-14(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Dozens of students at Barcroft Elementary School were sent home from school on Friday with stomach illnesses.

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…)

by ARLnow.com — February 16, 2015 at 9:15 pm 1,992 0

Arlington Public Schools logo(Updated at 10:05 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools and the federal government will be closed on Tuesday due to snow.

“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.”

by Ethan Rothstein — February 6, 2015 at 3:15 pm 2,133 0

The Arlington School Board at its Feb. 5, 2015 meetingThe Arlington School Board has vowed to work with the county government to find short-term fixes to South Arlington’s elementary school capacity crisis.

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…)

by Ethan Rothstein — February 3, 2015 at 3:30 pm 4,137 0

Arlington Public Schools logoThere are 100 students in Arlington Public Schools who are exempted from vaccinations, the school system tells ARLnow.com.

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.

by Ethan Rothstein — January 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm 4,000 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 9,794 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.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2015 at 7:05 am 895 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.

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