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APS Mixes Up Students’ Last Names in Bus Letter

by Ethan Rothstein | June 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm | 2,560 views | No Comments

APS sends name mistake in busing letter to parents(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools’ transportation department sent out its annual letter informing parents of their children’s bus status this past week, but many parents saw names of children they didn’t recognize.

That’s because of a processing error that used the wrong last name in letters to children slated to walk to school next year.

One parent, Jim South, said he received a correctly-addressed letter for his third-grade daughter, who rides a courtesy bus. However, his kindergarten-aged daughter, who won’t be taking a courtesy bus, received a letter addressed to a non-existent “Caroline Chacon-Barrientos.”

Another parent, Inger Moran, told ARLnow.com that she received a letter addressed to her daughter that also had an incorrect name, and found out on social media the problem was widespread.

“If they can’t do a simple mail merge then how can they manage bus routes?” Moran said in an email.

APS Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations Linda Erdos said the mistake was made in the process of a mail merge for one of four groups of students.

“We discovered this weekend that the mail house merge for the ‘walker’ letters pulled the last name from the wrong field on the data file,” Erdos told ARLnow.com. “This error only occurred with the walker letters — the other letters printed the name correctly.”

As a result, APS Transportation Services had to send out the following correction letter:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Last week we mailed letters to families about Transportation for the 2014-15 school year. We have learned that your student’s last name was not printed correctly and we apologize for the error. However, we wanted to confirm that your student is designated as a walker for next year, and all of the other information in the letter was correct.

If you have questions about transportation services, or if you believe your student may be eligible for courtesy bus service and would like to discuss that option, please contact the Transportation Call Center at 703-228-8670 weekdays between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Sincerely,

APS Transportation Services

As for reports from some parents that one child in a household was granted courtesy bus transportation while another was designated a walker, Erdos said that courtesy bus service is offered on an as-available basis.

Courtesy busing was first offered in select areas last year for specific students whose parents requested it. It was approved for each student based on whether there was adequate space available on the bus. If the request could be accommodated, the transportation status for the student was changed manually in the student information system from Walker to Courtesy. So it is possible that a family could have requested courtesy service for one student last year and assumed that it would automatically be provided for a younger sibling this year. Unfortunately, that is not the case since staff have to go in and “override” the walker designation.

However, more importantly, this is why we have staff available to help through the Transportation Call Center (703-228-8670). If a student has been miscoded in the student information system, we want to know that now. The Call Center staff will be happy to work with families to resolve any issues so that when the letters with bus stops and times are mailed before the start of school, those inconsistencies will have been resolved.

Residents Petition Parks Dept. Over Softball Field Conditions

by Ethan Rothstein | June 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,762 views | No Comments

A group of residents in North Arlington have launched a petition, aimed at county Director of Parks and Recreation Jane Rudolph, to protest the conditions of the softball field at Greenbrier Park.

Diamond #1 — which is the home field for the Yorktown High School varsity and JV softball teams and is used by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA) – has several patches of dirt in the outfield grass and the petitioners say the warning track between the grass and the outfield wall has drainage problems to the point that, after it rains, water “collects in deep pools several inches deep along the entire block wall in left field.”

“The $10 million renovation of Greenbrier Park which was completed in 2007 is a perfect example of what Arlington County can do when constructing new facilities. It was beautiful,” the petition, submitted by AGSA Vice President David Lansing, states. “It is also a perfect example of how Arlington County cannot seem to maintain these expensive, state of the art facilities to a level dictated by their initial expense. Focusing on the softball field, it has deteriorated in 7 short years from the pride of our softball community to an embarrassment.”

The petition says that, after the outfield grass deteriorated, the ACSA, Yorktown officials and the county hired an outside contractor to repair it. Since then, “[t]he grass turf is now in far worse condition than before this $20K project was started last fall.”

“It is overgrown with weeds and large clumps of un-mowed clover. It has large bare spots with no grass whatsoever and only dirt showing… Our non-profit organization has essentially thrown away thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it other than the worst high school level diamond field in all of Northern Virginia.”

Other issues the petition identifies are a lack of an adequate mix for the infield dirt, resulting in “sink holes,” and a lack of trash collection that allows trash cans to be “overflowing” with trash “before any attempt at removal occurs.”

The petition asks Rudolph to “direct the Field Maintenance crews under her authority to correct several major deficiencies that have gone unchecked at Greenbrier Park.”

Rudolph, who joined Arlington County as parks and rec director in January 2013, says the department is working on it.

“I’ve seen the petition and appreciate the community’s interest and concern,” Rudolph told ARLnow.com. “Staff is meeting with stakeholders next week at the site. We value this feedback and interest and will work with them to make sure that Greenbrier is a safe and enjoyable place to play ball.”

H-B Woodlawn Could Move to Wilson School

by Ethan Rothstein | June 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | 3,395 views | No Comments

Wilson School (photo via Preservation Arlington)Arlington Public Schools has floated the idea of moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Wilson School property in Rosslyn in the coming years.

APS staff’s presentation during the third work session to discuss the 2015-2024 Capital Improvements Program last week introduced a new, alternative capacity solution, one that would convert H-B Woodlawn’s current building at 4100 N. Vacation Lane to a roughly 750-seat middle school and build a 1,300-seat secondary school at the 1601 Wilson Blvd property to house the H-B Woodlawn program, Stratford program and a 600-seat middle school.

The plan was introduced, according to the presentation, after APS staff received feedback from the School Board and the community.

Another solution proposed for alleviating middle school capacity problems is a $117 million, 1,300-seat middle school at the Wilson School property. Yet another is a combination of $59 million for an addition at the Reed-Westover Building to house H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs; $48 million for an addition to H-B Woodlawn’s current building to house a 1,300 seat middle school; and $9 million to renovate part of the Madison Community Center, a former elementary school, to house the Children’s School daycare program for the children of APS employees.

H-B Woodlawn (via Google Maps)APS staff said in the presentation that there are currently 204 middle school students in the Rosslyn area spread out among five middle schools, with 142 attending Williamsburg Middle School on the western edge of the county. APS also projects 73 more students will come into the APS system from the approved, but not under construction, residential projects in the Rosslyn area, like Central Place and Rosslyn Gateway.

“The CIP process is very fluid, and staff continues to work to refine the proposed plan and options for Board consideration, based on School Board direction and community feedback,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com.

If the Wilson School is built as a 1,300-seat middle school, APS staff estimates it would cost $117 million and it would open in 2019 or 2020, depending on bond funding. 

Also being considered as part of the CIP is a needed renovation to Abingdon Elementary School, in the Fairlington area. County staff is pegging the cost of a renovation alone at $14.5 million, while a renovation and addition would cost $28.5 million for 136 additional seats or $33 million for 225 additional seats.

Tonight, APS Facilities and Operations staff will be presenting another revision to the proposed CIP to the School Board, and Bellavia said that could include changes to the proposal to move H-B Woodlawn to Rosslyn.

After tonight’s informational meeting, there will be another CIP work session on June 10 if needed, and the School Board is scheduled to adopt the CIP on June 17 before it goes before the County Board on June 19.

Photos courtesy Preservation Arlington (top) and Google Maps.

APS Denies Rumors of Rogue Tablet Purchase

by Ethan Rothstein | May 30, 2014 at 11:00 am | 2,247 views | No Comments

aps_logoArlington Public Schools staff are denying rumors that allege the school system has already purchased and received hundreds of tablet computers for ninth-grade students.

Multiple tipsters — including at least one high school teacher and a person commenting on our story about the recently-passed Arlington Public Schools budget – have contacted ARLnow.com this week claiming the administration has purchased hundreds of Microsoft Surface tablets, including 400 specifically for Yorktown High School. The School Board’s adopted budget pulled the $200,000 Superintendent Patrick Murphy had proposed to accelerate APS’ plan to give every student in the school system a tablet to take home by 2017.

However, APS said they have only purchased 10 tablets in the past month, one for the Instructional Technology Coordinators in 10 different schools. The total purchase price was roughly $8,600, according to purchase documents provided to ARLnow.com.

Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations Linda Erdos told ARLnow.com that, while the school system has continued to allocate funding for technology purchases, the idea that it has conducted a mass purchase of tablets for students is “false and misleading information.”

Raj Adusumilli, APS assistant superintendent for information services, said the purchase of 10 tablets was used with operational funds already in the system’s FY 2014 budget.

Microsoft Surface tablet  (photo via Microsoft“We are not aware of any school that has purchased tablets for all ninth graders — this includes Yorktown. We have confirmed this with the school principal and with Information Services,” Adusumilli said in an email. “The current Strategic Plan sets a target of having personalized devices for all students by 2017. In support of this goal, the Department of Information Services has conducted and continues to do pilots in all of our schools to find the best options to support instruction and classroom needs. These pilots are designed for individual schools based on the school goals and instructional needs. APS will continue to work towards achieving this Strategic Plan goal.”

Erdos said the $200,000 that was pulled from the budget was to accelerate the strategic plan as part of a broader early literacy initiative. Although APS says it did not conduct the mass tablet purchase, they are determined to acquire thousands of tablets in the coming years.

“At no time has the School Board ever made any decision about changing its six-year Strategic Plan for 2011-17,” Erdos said. “The Strategic Plan was developed after a 12-month process involving the APS community stakeholders. The Board takes that plan seriously and would not change the plan without a separate community engagement process that is separate from the annual budget deliberations.”

Photo (bottom) via Microsoft

W-L Soccer, Yorktown Lacrosse Spring Success Stories

by Ethan Rothstein | May 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 692 views | No Comments

W-L girls lacrosse (photo via Washington-Lee athletics)(Updated at 1:00 p.m.) The spring sports season is over for all but the elite teams, like Washington-Lee boys soccer and Yorktown boys lacrosse, which are still hoping to raise more banners in their gyms.

The Generals’ boys soccer team is in the midst of one of its best seasons ever, sporting an undefeated 16-0 record with three ties. It took home the Liberty Conference 6 championship last week and continues its march to the state tournament at home against Stonewall Jackson tomorrow night.

Washington-Lee girls soccer (10-3) also took home the Conference 6 title, defeating Yorktown before losing in the opening round of Region 6A North action, 4-2, to Centreville last night. The Patriots soccer squads both lost just three times this season, and their years wrapped up in similarly heartbreaking fashion: both squads lost in double-overtime last night in the opening round of the regional tournament, the boys to Centreville and the girls to Robinson Secondary School.

Wakefield’s boys soccer team is still playing after turning around what could have been a disappointing season. The Warriors were the runner-ups in the Conference 13 tournament after losing six straight games before the tournament began. They play Leesburg’s Tuscarora in Region 5A North action tomorrow night to try to keep their improbable postseason alive.

Yorktown’s boys lacrosse team, after losing to state powerhouse Langley in the conference champion, secured a huge win last night in the opening round of the regional tournament, blowing by Oakton 12-5. They’ll face South County at a neutral field, Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, tonight at 7:00 p.m. The Patriots girls lacrosse team — also a Conference 6 runner-up — saw its season come to an end last night at the hands of Robinson, 22-12.

Washington-Lee baseball, despite going just 11-11 in the regular season, managed to make a deep run in its conference tournament and qualify for regional play. Arlington’s only remaining baseball team in action will hope to keep its season alive at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow in Chantilly.

Wakefield’s softball team is also still alive after a 10-9 season and a 15-1 loss to eventual conference champion Marshall in the Conference 13 semifinals. Their season continues on the road in regional tournament play tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. against Massaponax.

After the jump, the records and results for Wakefield, W-L and Yorktown’s major varsity team sports. (more…)

School Board Passes $539.4 Million Budget

by Ethan Rothstein | May 27, 2014 at 3:30 pm | 2,879 views | No Comments

The Arlington School Board adopts its FY 2015 budget 5/22/14The Arlington School Board adopted its FY 2015 budget last week, increasing its expenditures by 3.13 percent from $523 million last year to $539.4 million this year.

Arlington Public Schools will receive a transfer from the county of $432.2 million, with the rest of the money coming from federal, state and other sources.

Responding to parent criticism, the School Board reversed many of the cuts proposed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy. While the school system is growing thanks to increased school enrollment, Murphy sought to offset some of the expense of that growth through cuts totaling $7.3 million and the equivalent of about 75 full-time positions.

The School Board moved more than $5.6 million in reserves for 2016 into expenditures for this coming year, adding the equivalent of 70 full-time positions to Murphy’s proposed budget. Among the proposed cuts nixed by the Board:

  • Merging the Langston High School continuation program with Arlington Mill High School, located at the Arlington Career Center ($1.6 million and 19 positions)
  • Eliminating library assistants at elementary schools ($1.1 million in the budget and 21 positions)
  • Reduction of professional development funding from the Twice Exceptional program, for gifted special education students ($75,000 and a part-time position)
  • Cutting seven of the 12 assistants from APS’ secondary school autism program (see below)

School Board Chair Abby Raphael was the only School Board member to vote against reinstating the autism assistants. The seven positions were restored with $271,859 in one-time funding.

“It’s our job to set priorities,” she said during the meeting last Thursday night. “I think as we go through that process, it’s also our job… to decide if we’re not going to have cost savings and we’re going to add things, then what are we going to cut? Primarily how we’ve funded [these programs] is taking funds from our FY 2016 reserve.”

School Board Chair Abby RaphaelRaphael said the reserve in the approved budget is less than $300,000 for FY 2016. In addition to restoring the autism programs, the School Board approved ending early Wednesday release and implementing FLES programs (foreign language in elementary schools) at Oakridge, Nottingham, and Tuckahoe elementary schools.

The School Board decided to quietly eliminate the superintendent’s 1:1 Initiative, which received considerable attention when it was announced this winter. The initiative would have provided APS second-graders with Apple iPads and sixth-graders with Google Chromebooks, with plans to broaden the program to other grades in future years. The initiative was slated to cost $200,000 next year, and it was part of Murphy’s broader literacy initiative, which was slashed by $600,000 in the School Board’s adopted budget.

FY 2015 will also see a decrease in capital projects funding, with the $6.9 million allotted for 2015 coming in 13.5 percent less than 2014′s $8 million in funding.

Though the budget will push Arlington’s per pupil spending to $19,244, the highest of any suburban D.C. school system, some teachers are saying — privately — that it doesn’t deliver on APS’ pledge to attract and retain high-quality teachers. The budget includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and $500 one-time bonus for APS employees, but no salary step increase.

“They are not giving teachers the step increases that they promise when you are hired,” one anonymous tipster told ARLnow.com. “They are giving us cost of living increases, sometimes, which help older teachers, but not younger teachers. They keep implementing new ideas and spending loads of money [on] stuff that gives teachers more work, but not actually increasing the pay to even it out.”

(more…)

Kanninen Wins Democratic Nod for School Board

by Ethan Rothstein | May 19, 2014 at 11:00 am | 1,159 views | No Comments

Barbara Kanninen votes for herself in the 2014 School Board Democratic caucus (Flickr pool photo by wolfkann)(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Barbara Kanninen won the Democratic endorsement for the Arlington School Board this weekend, a narrow victory in the caucus over Nancy Van Doren and Greg Greeley.

Kanninen, who narrowly lost to School Board member James Lander in last year’s Democratic endorsement caucus, defeated Nancy Van Doren by a similar margin this year, with 1,812 votes to Van Doren’s 1,794. Before an instant runoff was conducted, and Greeley’s votes were distributed to voters’ “second choice” candidates, the margin was a bit wider: Kanninen received 1,549 votes, Van Doren 1,329 and Greeley received 839.

Kanninen campaigned for reduced standardized testing among Arlington Public Schools students and said she was “uncomfortable” when Arlington was announced as the top-spending school system in the state. She also said that one way to solve APS’ growing capacity issue was flexible spending during a debate among the three candidates last month.

Kanninen, an economist and children’s book author, said through working on advisory boards for both the School Board and County Board over the years, as well as with children in Arlington and D.C., she has the experience needed to be a productive Board member.

“Our schools are important to all of us, whether we are parents, teachers, homeowners, or citizens who want to live in a community that values education,” she wrote in her candidate essay for ARLnow.com this month. “Collectively, we have the energy, the brains, and the will to do great things for our kids and our community.”

Kanninen told ARLnow.com in an email Monday afternoon that she enjoyed “the many lively and informative discussions” she’s had with the community during what she called “a vigorous campaign that highlighted Arlingtonians’ deep commitment to making our schools the best they can be.”

Van Doren announced after the caucus results were counted that she would be throwing her support behind Kanninen for the general election in November, for which Kanninen now becomes the odds-on favorite. She will run to fill the seat left vacant by retiring School Board member Sally Baird.

“I wholeheartedly support Barbara in the upcoming general election as she faces the challenges in our school system,” Van Doren said in a press release. “Our community needs to work together to face the challenge of continuing to improve educational outcomes while working with the county to find space for our growing student population.”

Greeley, in an email to ARLnow.com, also congratulated Kanninen, saying the campaign was a chance to have “a great discussion about the future of our schools.”

“Barbara ran a strong campaign,” Greeley wrote. “She had the experience and organization from her campaign last year. Last year’s campaign also provided a degree of name recognition that ultimately proved decisive this year. I look forward to working with her to address the important issues our school system faces, most notably our looming capacity crisis.”

Flickr pool photo by wolfkann

Affordable Housing Planned on Four County-Owned Sites

by Ethan Rothstein | May 14, 2014 at 11:15 am | 2,695 views | No Comments

Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn (photo via Google Maps)Four Arlington County-owned sites are already in the planning stages to be developed into affordable housing.

The sites — Rosslyn Highlands Park/Fire Station 10 (1559 Wilson Blvd); Courthouse Square and Plaza; land adjacent to Lee Gardens at the intersection of Fairfax Drive and Arlington Blvd; and Gables North Rolfe Street (1307 N. Rolfe Street) — were introduced by County Manager Barbara Donnellan yesterday when she presented her proposed 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the County Board.

The sites are already in the planning process, Donnellan told the Board, and the county is exploring their potential for affordable housing during said process. Providing more affordable housing has long been a priority for many of the Board’s elected members.

In addition, Donnellan identified three sites as potential places for new school construction. Those locations include Wilson School, which had already been earmarked for a potential new school, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and the Arlington Career Center/Fenwick Center site at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive.

“Affordable housing and schools are two of our County’s highest priorities, and the County Board has emphasized its commitment to the concept of using Public Land for Public Good,” Donnellan said in a press release. “We need to do a lot more analysis, but this is a good start for finding ways to use public land to achieve important community goals.”

Four other sites are considered “Tier 2″ potential places for affordable housing — they are not in the CIP for redevelopment but they have been identified as areas where affordable housing development could be feasible. Those sites are Lubber Run Park, which one interfaith community group has also identified as having potential for affordable housing; Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway; land adjacent to Jennie Dean Park on Four Mile Run near Shirlington; and the Edison Complex, adjacent to Virginia Hospital Center.

The county and Arlington Public Schools analyzed all 678 parcels of publicly-owned land in the county to develop the final list of 11 sites. Donnellan is recommending each of the sites be considered for development within the next 10 years.

Photo via Google Maps

School Board Debate Reveals Differences, Agreements Among Candidates

by ARLnow.com | May 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm | 1,522 views | No Comments

The capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools and the need for establishing better coordination with county officials were two of the major topics addressed by the three candidates for School Board at a forum last month.

The candidates who are seeking the Democratic School Board endorsement — Barbara Kanninen, Nancy Van Doren and Greg Greeley — politely agreed on many topics, including the urgency of the school system’s overcrowding issues, but some differences did emerge during the two-hour forum at the Arlington Mill Community Center on Columbia Pike.

Kanninen, for instance, was outspoken in her belief that there’s too much emphasis on standardized testing in Arlington Public Schools. She said students shouldn’t be spending an entire week of instructional time preparing for Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests.

“I believe every child in Arlington deserves a bright future,” she said. “They are more than their test scores… we should de-emphasize test prep.”

Greeley agreed, to an extent, saying that he believes the tests are not “an accurate reflection” of many students’ skills and abilities.

“It’s pretty clear that the pendulum for standardized testing has swung too far,” he said.

Van Doren emphasized her volunteer work for students with special needs, including six years on APS’ Special Education Advisory Committee. She said the school system is doing a better job serving students with special needs, but more must be done. Greeley echoed that sentiment.

“If there’s any area where we as a school system must improve, it’s how we treat our students with special needs,” he said.

Asked about the rising per pupil cost at Arlington Public Schools — it will rise past $19,000 next school year, the highest of any school system in the region — Van Doren said most of APS’ costs go to teacher salaries.

“I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to cut that,” she said.

Kanninen said she was “uncomfortable” when it was announced that Arlington was the top-spending school system. She said she believes that it’s possible to cut “hidden” costs in the budget, and that savings can be found by reducing technology and test preparation spending. With the current budget, Kanninen argued, there’s no excuse for poor performance in any Arlington schools.

“We’re funding our school system at a level where we should be the best,” she said. Kanninen, Van Doren and Greeley all expressed concern about student performance issues that have come to light at Drew Model Elementary.

Greeley had some strong words about APS’ allegedly top-down approach to community communication. He said that school staff is told not to attend community forum and discouraged to communicate with the public outside of official channels.

“The notion that we don’t want staff to talk to the community is part of the broader philosophical issue that we need to address,” he said.

(more…)

School Car Wash Fundraisers Now Banned

by Ethan Rothstein | May 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm | 4,267 views | No Comments

Car wash signs (Flickr pool photo by Christaki)(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Teams, clubs and activity groups at Arlington Public Schools have been banned from doing car wash fundraisers because of stormwater regulations.

According to the county’s Department of Environmental Services, APS was issued its first stormwater permit by the state last month, after more stringent stormwater regulations were passed by the Virginia General Assembly in July 2013. The permit disallows all charity car washes on school property.

Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield High Schools notified their teams and clubs this week that they were no longer allowed to conduct such fundraisers.

“There is an important underlying reason why most types of car washing are not allowed under state and federal stormwater regulations,” said DES spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. “The chlorinated water, detergents, petroleum products, and other pollutants that get washed into the storm drain system are carried into our local streams, the Potomac River and ultimately, to the Chesapeake Bay. As a result, there are educational and environmental benefits that come with finding new and environmentally friendly ways to raise money for extracurricular activities.”

However, some coaches are concerned that, particularly for the more expensive sports, the ban could have negative repercussions for the athletes.

“This could have a large impact on fundraising by sports teams/boosters/school clubs in need of dollars to support the school programs,” one Washington-Lee coach, who preferred to remain anonymous, told ARLnow.com. “I am not sure how many teams are affected by this new rule. I know that my team will be, since every little bit helps deal with the expense of our sport as we try to support the kids.”

Soap suds in a waterway in Bluemont (photo courtesy Arlington County)A few years ago, the ban may have had a greater impact. But Wakefield Activities Director Noel Deskins said none of the schools teams or clubs have held car wash fundraisers there for years. Instead, they opt for bake sales, pizza sales and other money-raising endeavors.

“I think it’ll be a little easier here adjusting to the new policy,” she said.

The new regulations passed by the state last year prohibit smaller public entities, like APS, from conducting car washes, according to DES Watershed Programs Manager Jason Papacosma. All car washes that aren’t for personal use require a specific permit or written determination from the state, even charity car washes held on private property.

“Working with APS, we plan to continue educate entities looking to hold such events about the rules and environmental impacts,” Papacosma said, “and work to suggest alternatives that can raise funds and also protect the environment and comply with the environmental protection rules we are both required to follow.”

Flickr pool photo by Christaki

DEVELOPING: APS Exploring New School on Wilson Blvd Property

by ARLnow.com | April 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm | 2,881 views | No Comments

Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)(Updated at 12:00 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is backing off a plan to sell its Wilson School property to a developer. Instead, the school system and the county are exploring the possibility of building a new 1,300-student secondary school on the property.

Located at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, the Wilson School was built in 1910 and preservationists have been calling for it to be restored rather than torn down. Under a plan approved by the School Board last summer, it was to be demolished to make way for a private mixed-use development with affordable housing, a new fire station and a 1.5 acre park.

Now, according to a press release (after the jump), that plan has been scrapped in favor of retaining the property and perhaps building a new secondary school at the site, to address the school system’s capacity crunch.

The Wilson Boulevard school is envisioned as a brand new secondary school, not a new location for the 624-student H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, currently located in Cherrydale, according to Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick.

(more…)

Photos: Ashley Wagner Visits Arlington Science Focus ES

by Ethan Rothstein | April 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm | 1,990 views | No Comments

U.S. Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner paid a visit to the children and faculty of Arlington Science Focus Elementary School this afternoon to campaign against underage drinking.

Wagner, sporting the bronze medal she won this year as part of the U.S. figure skating team, told the hundreds who gathered in the school’s gymnasium that after she started training to become a figure skater when she was 5 years old, she vowed to do whatever it took to get to the Olympics.

“When you’re an athlete, your body is a machine,” she said. “You want the ultimate machine, so you want to take care of it. So I made a lot of important decisions. I ate my fruits and veggies, I drank a lot of water and, when the time came, I said no to underage drinking.”

After the crowd of kids answered questions on the basic facts of underage drinking, they got a chance to ask questions of their own. One student asked how old the 22-year-old is –”someone should teach you not to ask a lady that,” she gamely replied before answering question — and another asked how much her medal weighed, which led to Wagner giving the little boy her medal to hold.

“This medal stays in a sock,” she said when asked where she keeps her hardware from Sochi, Russia. “I should probably find a better place for it.”

In addition to students and faculty, attendees at the event included state Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope and Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibly.

Police Sponsoring HS, MS T-Shirt Design Contest

by Ethan Rothstein | March 28, 2014 at 10:15 am | 512 views | No Comments

2014 ACPD T-shirt Design Contest flyerThe Arlington Police Beneficiary Association is asking Arlington middle- and high-schoolers to design a T-shirt for Police Week in May.

Students are asked to submit designs for the theme “Honoring the Fallen By Remembering Their Sacrifice,” by Friday, April 4 at 3:00 p.m. Designs are asked to be drawn in marker — with no more than four colors — on a sheet of letter paper. The winning designs will be printed for shirts during Police Week, May 11-17.

The grand prize for the contest is $100 gift card, a press release with the winner’s name and school in it and a free T-shirt with the winning design. Each school’s School Resource Officer will be collecting the submissions, which will be printed on the back of black and/or blue shirts.

SOL Grades at Drew School Falling Behind

by Ethan Rothstein | March 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm | 4,008 views | No Comments

Pass rates in Arlington elementary schools in SOL exams last 10 years average (courtesy of the Coalition for a New Drew)(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The standardized test scores for elementary school students in the Nauck neighborhood are slipping well below the county-wide average, and some parents are fed up with the disparity.

Over the past 10 years, the graded program at Drew Model Elementary School has performed at an average of 23 percent below the county’s average in the 3rd-through-5th grade Standards of Learning exams, according to data from Arlington Public Schools’ Department of Planning and Education.

The numbers get worse the older the students get. Third-graders in the graded program — as opposed to Drew’s Montessori program, which takes children from around the county and performs on par with other elementary programs — pass the reading SOL 23.9 percent less frequently than APS average and the math 17.9 percent less frequently. For fifth-graders, that drops to 30.4 percent worse in reading and 23.2 percent worse in math.

The numbers were highlighted during last Thursday’s meeting of the Arlington School Board when Terron Sims, former County Board candidate and co-chair of APS’ Superintendent’s Committee on Eliminating the Achievement Gap, spoke out decrying Drew’s struggles.

“Since the children of the Nauck community have been allowed to attend their neighborhood school, the school has failed them,” Sims said. “For years, Drew parents and administrators bickered over whose program was better, who should occupy Drew. But now, after 10 years of failing our kids, the fighting has stopped, for all those concerned now understand that a drastic change must occur at Drew if we are to save the children from a mediocre education, and thus save them from a mediocre life.”

Drew School (Photo via Google Maps)A group of parents and community members, led by Sims, have formed the Coalition for a New Drew to try to reverse the school’s fortunes. In a press release, the coalition alleges that APS had been releasing Drew’s Montessori SOL statistics over the past few years, but not the results for the students from the graded program as some members have requested.

The statistics cited above were compiled by the Coalition. APS officials confirm the data is pulled from its report from Planning and Education’s presentation to the Arlington Montessori Action Committee.

“The data compiled by the coalition shows there is a stark difference between the educational readiness for most Arlington students and a disproportionate number of SOL-tested Drew Graded students,” Nauck Civic Association Community Affairs Committee chair Portia Clark said in the release. “We know the students at Drew have the desire to learn and we just want them all to succeed.”

Another chart released by the Coalition shows that less than 50 percent of fourth and fifth graders in the Drew graded program are passing any SOL test. The combination of the Montessori and graded programs still makes Drew the worst-performing school in the tests.

The push for change comes at a time when the school is already in administrative flux. Drew’s principal, Jacqueline Smith, resigned earlier this month after being arrested for driving under the influence. Smith has been replaced by interim Theresa Bratt, who had retired from APS last year.

“A new Drew is overdue, and the time is right to fix this instructional problem,” Cathleen Drew, a former Drew PTA president, said in the press release. “As APS looks for ways to solve its capacity problems, it should put instruction first and prioritize solutions that promote both academic and space solutions.”

Photo (top) via Google Maps. Chart (bottom) via Coalition for a New Drew. 

APS Seeks Quite a Few Good Teachers

by ARLnow.com | March 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 3,397 views | No Comments

Arlington Public School has created a video as part of its effort to recruit new teachers to the burgeoning school system.

To keep up with rising student enrollment and teacher attrition — retirements, etc. — APS hired about 300 new teachers in 2012 and more than 400 new teachers in 2013. School enrollment is projected to increase from 23,316 to 24,153 in the coming school year. Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s new proposed budget calls for 53 new K-12 teacher positions — in addition to new teacher hires to replace those retiring or leaving for other school systems.

To help promote its careers web page, APS created a PSA video (above) with the tag line “Inspire Generation.”

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