(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) While new apartments and condos make up the vast majority of new housing units in Arlington, most of the growth in Arlington’s booming public school population over the past decade has actually come from single family home neighborhoods, county and school officials said Wednesday night.
At a meeting of the Arlington Community Facilities Study Committee, staff from Arlington Public Schools and the county Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development reviewed the housing trends that have fueled explosive school growth over the last decade. Despite the constant influx of millennials into newly-constructed apartments and condos in the county’s Metro corridors, single-family homes remain the driver of APS capacity issues.
Currently, every 100 apartments in a building with an elevator produces only about 8 students, according to APS. For condo buildings it’s even lower — 3 students for every 100 units.
However, in an interview today, APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said that might not always be the case.
“That’s what really worries us,” he said. “The county is encouraging developers to build larger units, and in places like Brooklyn and Queens, families living in high-rises is the norm … Our very low [student] generation rates could really increase. If they do, we could be in real trouble.”
That growth hasn’t happened yet, although Chadwick said APS watches those numbers “very closely” so the district is not surprised if the trends shift. Until then, staff, committee members and observers from the community all agreed that the cause of growth among students in the county requires further study.
According to U.S. Census data gathered by Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, the average size of single-family households has increased by 0.3 people among homeowners since 2000, and 0.6 people among home renters.
Several representatives of civic associations at last night’s meeting said they want the county to use data from single-family house teardowns that get rebuilt as substantially larger homes, as well as large additions. A parent in the Nottingham Elementary Parent Teacher Association said APS should adjust their projections based on the recent uptick in average household size among single-family homes.
“What’s happening in my neighborhood is there’s a huge stock of houses that were built in the ’50s are being knocked down, they’re being replaced by new large homes, all bought by younger families with lots of school kids,” the parent said. “We really need to dig into growth, not looking backwards at what did happen… You cannot assume that looking backwards is going to tell us the future.”
County-wide, 100 single-family homes generate about 42 students, according to APS data. But, Chadwick said, some neighborhoods are as high as 60 or 70.
A staffer at the meeting, when asked about predictive models based on house tear-downs and additions, said the data Arlington has is unreliable for school projections.
“The [demolition] permitting system was set up to collect fees, it wasn’t set up to project students,” the staffer said. “Unfortunately there’s limitations to that data … we’ve assembled it and that’s something we’re looking into with a similar question: can it be predictive given the constraints that we have?”
In the the current school year, 55 percent of students come from single-family homes, 22 percent come from garden apartments, 10 percent come from high-rise apartments and 13 percent come from condominiums, townhouses and duplexes combined. Those proportions have held over the last years, despite overall county population growth concentrated in the Metro corridors.
While single-family detached homes make up most of the land in Arlington County, those homes only make up 26 percent of the housing stock.
Arlington Public Schools will be closed Friday, the school system announced tonight.
From APS’ School Talk email:
All APS Schools will be closed and offices will open at Noon on Fri, Mar. 6. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. For 12-month employees who are eligible to telework, you may do so on Friday, OR you may elect to use unscheduled leave. If you choose to use either of these options, please communicate your plans with your supervisor this evening.
For Friday: Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled.
Weekend Activities: At this time, all weekend activities are expected to be held as scheduled.
Snow has largely ended around the area, but now frigid temperatures and icy roadways are a concern.
The rest of the local winter storm warnings have been dropped. Travel will remain difficult overnight. http://t.co/ksEJp9ANsk
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) March 6, 2015
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) March 6, 2015
From APS’ “School Talk” email:
“All APS schools and offices will be closed on Thu, Mar. 5. 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 programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.”
Parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday will be rescheduled.
In that environment, a group of parents is petitioning Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy — for a new language program.
Following a largely successful parent campaign for foreign language classes in elementary schools, now some parents want APS to go one step further and introduce a French immersion program. There’s already two Spanish immersion programs, at Claremont Elementary and Key Elementary, and this group would like to see something similar for Français.
From a MoveOn.org petition the group has started:
Dear Arlington Residents,
We need to expand language opportunities in APS to serve a critical number of francophone residents. Bilingualism increases mental flexibility for children and allows them to perform better in math, problem-solving and logic skills. It helps build self-esteem, creativity, and get a head start in competition for universities and jobs.
Right now, families have to leave Arlington to McLean and MD for French immersion Programs.
So far, the petition has gathered 88 signatures.
In New York City, according to an article linked to on the group’s Facebook page, public schools have three dual-language programs — Spanish, Chinese and French — and the French programs are paid for in part by the French government.
The program, which has the goal of giving each 2nd-12th grade student a tablet or laptop for school use by 2017, was rolled out last year with little fanfare. There were no APS press releases or public announcements, and ARLnow.com only found out about some of the details thanks to tips from parents who were seeking more information on the schools system’s plans.
While some criticized the lack of transparency and the idea of school-issued computers for students, there is little denying that the move comes at a time when the younger generation is increasingly “digital native” — 72 percent of children age 8 and under, and 38 percent of children under 2, have used a mobile device for a media-related activity, according to one study cited by APS.
Today’s students are accustomed to reading, watching, writing, discovering and communicating on phones, tablets and computers. To supporters, it seems natural to transition from the age of pencils, paper and textbooks in schools to one increasingly reliant on computing devices. Additionally, supporters say providing each student with a device, much like schools currently provide textbooks, will ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t get left behind.
APS has now set up a Digital Learning web page and recently started producing a “#digitalAPS” video series, in part to make its case for technology in the classrooms. This week, ARLnow.com asked APS about where the digital learning initiative stands now and what future plans are for adding more laptops and tablets.
Arlington Public Schools is currently leasing 3,800 Apple iPad Airs for one grade level per elementary school (mostly 2nd-4th grade) and for middle schools (mostly 6th grade), according to school spokeswoman Jennifer Harris. Another 1,700 Apple MacBook Airs were leased for 9th graders. The annual leasing cost: approximately $400,000, or less than $73 per device, which comes out of APS’ $2.1 million technology replacement fund.
(APS expects to have about 20,000 2nd-12th grade students enrolled this fall.)
Individual schools are able to decide whether to allow students to take the devices home or leave them in school, according to Harris. As for what sort of instruction is taking place with the devices, Harris said that there are a “wide variety of examples where technology supports instruction,” and referred us to the three videos in the #digitalAPS series.
“We are using technology purposefully, not just for the sake of using technology,” Harris said. “Our focus is integrating it as an important strategy to support the teaching and learning process.”
More laptops and tablets — iPads for elementary and middle school, MacBooks for high school — are expected to be rolled out on an annual basis until all levels from 2nd to 12th grade have their own device. APS has previously set the goal of each eligible student having a device by 2017.
Harris did not specifically address a question about whether someday students will be reading digital-only textbooks from their devices, saving the school system money on physical books. She did, however, quote the following passage from this APS document.
The words of John Dewey best frame our challenge: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Arlington Public Schools is committed to providing all of our students with the learning benefits of a personalized education that will lead them to successful and accomplished tomorrows.
(Updated at 9:10 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools announced just before 5:00 a.m. Monday that classes are canceled today.
While students have a day off, school office will open at noon.
All APS Schools will be closed and offices will open at Noon. 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.
The federal government meanwhile, is operating under a two-hour delay. From the Office of Personnel Management:
Federal agencies in the Washington, DC area are OPEN under 2 hours DELAYED ARRIVAL and employees have the OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK. Employees should plan to arrive for work no more than 2 hours later than they would be expected to arrive.
Earlier this morning, an Arlington Alert warned of hazardous travel conditions.
Icy conditions and patchy dense fog expected this morning. Ice will persist on untreated surfaces as air temps remain around freezing. Patchy dense fog will combine with residual ice and may result in slick spots. Visibilities may drop to a quarter mile or less at times. Please use extra caution if traveling. Sidewalks may be quite icy and require particular caution.
Some residents said that while roads were okay this morning, sidewalks were particularly slippery.
@ARLnowDOTcom Roads in Pentagon City fine. Sidewalks are ALL sheets of ice. Have to walk in street to get anywhere
— Sara Caitlyn (@Sarandipity885) March 2, 2015
Parents may not being loving the school closure, but some Arlington little leaguers will apparently be living it up today.
— Arlington LL (@ArlingtonLL) March 2, 2015
(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.”