Arlington Spends More on Low-Income Students — Arlington Public Schools spend about $21,000 per pupil on low-income students, compared to the $12,000 it spends on more affluent students, according to data from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. [Greater Greater Washington]
Tornado Struck Alexandria Last Week — A weak EF-0 tornado struck part of Alexandria this past Wednesday. A Tornado Warning was issued for Arlington as the tornado tracked north. [National Weather Service]
Teachers Endorse Kanninen — The Arlington Education Association’s political action committee has endorsed Barbara Kanninen for School Board. The teachers group said “Barbara understands that all types of students need personal support and that teachers are important partners in making this happen.” Kanninen is running against Audrey Clement.
Arlington’s ‘Ten Commandments’ — A parody video showing “Arlington County Government’s Ten Commandments” has been created by someone calling themselves “Jim Taxpayer.” The video includes commandments like “With These Riches, Which Have Become Thine, Build A New Covenant, A Glorious Car of Street, Thy Chariot of Vanity.” [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board released a joint statement Tuesday regarding public lands and the school capacity crunch.
County Board candidate Alan Howze and School Board candidates Barbara Kanninen and Nancy Van Doren said that while the school system should address capacity needs “expeditiously and cost-effectively,” it should do so following a “broadly inclusive community process” to discuss the use of public lands for schools, parks and affordable housing.
In response, incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt said that while a community process is currently underway, “what is also needed is a recognition that some difficult choices will have to be made and that hard trade-offs must occur.”
School Board candidate Audrey Clement, who is running against Kanninen (Van Doren is running unopposed), in turn questioned why the county’s school construction costs and per-pupil costs are significantly higher than other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
The full statements from the candidates, after the jump.
File photo courtesy APS
Halloween Bar Crawl Begins Discounting — Tickets for the Nov. 1 Halloween bar crawl in Clarendon are being discounted from $15 to $9 on LivingSocial. So far, 63 tickets have been purchased on the site. A police source tells ARLnow.com that ACPD is planning on having “a number of officers specifically detailed to Clarendon for the crawl and throughout the night until a little after closing time.” [LivingSocial]
APS Finds Ways to Make Kids Want Veggies – The Arlington School Board was flabbergasted to learn that the school system’s food services division has apparently found a way to make kids want to eat their veggies. The secret: creatively pairing veggies with other foods. For instance, while spinach alone had an anemic 8 percent selection rate, a spinach and strawberry salad was selected by 78 percent of elementary students. [InsideNova]
What Foreign Students Like About Arlington — A group of exchange students from Germany and Ukraine recently talked about their experience staying in Arlington. They said they liked Arlington’s Metro access and bike paths, and were impressed by how proud Americans are of their country. However, our food got mixed reviews: “The food, they said, tastes good but is ‘a bit unhealthy.’” [Falls Church News-Press]
Open House for TJ Site Evaluation — The Thomas Jefferson Working Group, which is charged with evaluating the feasibility of a new elementary school near Thomas Jefferson Middle School, will hold an open house Saturday, inviting the community to “learn about the process, review site materials, provide feedback and ask questions.” A vocal group of residents has spoken out against the potential loss of parkland at the site.
Kudos for Crystal City’s Startup Scene — Southern Alpha, a website that writes about startups in the southeastern U.S., is impressed with Crystal City’s recent entrepreneurial push. [Southern Alpha]
The average SAT score for students in Arlington Public Schools increased last year, as did participation in SAT and ACT college preparedness testing.
According to data from Arlington Public Schools and SAT and ACT’s test administrators, 77.9 percent of APS grads took at least one of the two tests this year, up from 66.9 percent five years ago. The improvement was even more dramatic among black and Hispanic students, with participation increases of 17.1 and 12.9 percent respectively.
Students with disabilities saw the biggest jump in participation: In 2009, just 30.4 percent of students with disabilities took the tests; last year, 69.9 percent took one or both tests.
Arlington students averaged a combined 1,652 points on the three SAT sections — reading, math and writing — which is a 30-point increase since 2009 and 123 points higher than the statewide average. All racial groups saw increases in their scores, but the achievement gap has not been closed: white students had an average SAT score of 1,813 in 2014, while black students’ average score was 1,373 and the score for Hispanics was 1,469.
“As we continue to focus on academic planning through our Aspire2Excellence efforts, it is rewarding to see more and more of our students stretching themselves with their academic goals and moving toward future college and career pursuits,” Superintendent Patrick Murphy said in a press release. “I applaud and recognize the commitment of our instructional staff to ensure that students are well-prepared for these important steps, and I appreciate the critical support that is provided by our families and administrators to ensure that all students excel and realize their full potential.”
Thirty percent of on-time APS graduates took the ACT test, with a composite score of 25.2 out of 36, above the state average of 22.3 and the national average of 21.
Civ Fed Votes Against Tall Buildings — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted to urge the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt stricter rules regarding skyscrapers around airports. Such a rule, intended as a safety measure in the event a plane suffers an engine failure on takeoff, could impose a moratorium on future tall buildings in Crystal City and Rosslyn. [InsideNova]
Walk and Bike to School Day — Arlington Public Schools participated in International Walk and Bike to School Day this morning. Students and parents across the county ditched their cars and made their way to school on foot. [Arlington Public Schools]
Man Steals Skinny Jeans from Mall — A 33-year-old D.C. man has been charged with stealing numerous pairs of skinny jeans from the Hollister store in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. The alleged crime happened Tuesday afternoon. [NBC Washington]
Slow Start for Gay Marriage in Arlington — Only five same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Arlington in the 24 hours following the Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for same-sex marriage in Virginia and a number of other states. Among Virginia jurisdictions, Arlington grants the third-most marriage licenses per year. [InsideNova]
Fairfax Approves Streetcar Design Funds — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved its $4.2 million share of design and program costs for the Columbia Pike streetcar on Tuesday. The Board voted 7-2. Arlington County already approved its share of design funds. The Pike streetcar will run from Pentagon City to Bailey’s Crossroads in Fairfax County. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington Public Schools’ capacity crisis is only getting worse, and members of the community are clamoring for good solutions fast.
APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said the school system grew by 1,200 students in the 2014-2015 school year, 400 more than APS had projected. That’s the equivalent of two full elementary schools, Chadwick said.
The growth means that initial APS projections of seat deficits will need to be revised. With last year’s numbers, APS projected having 960 more middle school students than seats in the 2018-2019 school year; once projections with this year’s numbers are calculated, that figure is likely to reach over 1,000.
“We are experiencing an unprecedented rate of enrollment growth,” Chadwick told a crowd of more than 100 parents and residents at Williamsburg Middle School last night. “Determining the location of those seats is a really challenging process, but we have to make decisions. If enrollment continues to grow as projected, we’re going to look at many more sites for new schools and renovations before we’re through.”
At the heart of the discussion during last night’s community meeting is the School Board’s impending decision to try to add 1,300 middle school seats in North Arlington by some combination of building additions and renovations to existing APS properties, or constructing a new school at the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.
Other options on the table include:
- Building additions onto the Stratford school site on Vacation Lane, which currently houses the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, to form a new neighborhood middle school. Stratford and H-B Woodlawn would be moved the Reed-Westover site with additions and renovations.
- Expanding both the Stratford and Reed-Westover buildings and constructing an addition onto an existing middle school.
- Moving H-B Woodlawn and Stratford to the Wilson School site and constructing a new neighborhood middle school at the Stratford building.
“Our goal is try to get secondary seats as soon as possible to alleviate what we see as imminent future crowding in our schools,” Lionel White, APS director of facilities planning, said.
Many residents and parents have complained that APS has faltered in both informing and seeking input from the community, but last night’s meeting was viewed by some as a significant step toward alleviating the crisis.
“I think for the first time, everyone’s realizing we’re wasting too much time and we’ve got to get more seats,” said Emma Baker, a parent of two Jamestown Elementary School students. “We need to start building now.”
Baker had attended previous meetings between staff and parents, and she said last night was the first time she felt everyone was actively trying to reach the best decision, instead of hemming and hawing. “It’s a very different tone,” she said.
Jamestown teacher and mother of two Megan Kalchbrenner said the option of building additions onto four existing middle schools is “not an option” — staff generally agreed, saying it would cost $16.5 million over budget and wouldn’t be an optimal long-term solution.
“What I want to know is what are they going to do for kids in the next two years?” Kalchbrenner asked. “We have capacity issues today.”
Last year, there were eight “relocatable classrooms” — classrooms in trailers adjacent to schools — at Williamsburg, four at Swanson and one at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Chadwick said the interim plan before major construction is still being developed, and he couldn’t reveal any concrete solutions.
The results were tallied in APS’ biennial community survey, released this month. The survey, conducted by a District-based polling company, randomly selected respondents and polled 1,680 staff, 1,160 students, 602 parents and 600 Arlington County residents without a direct connection to the school system.
The company says its results had a “95 percent confidence score.”
While 12 percent of teachers and staff gave Murphy a failing grade and 20 percent graded him at a “D,” teachers were generally satisfied with other aspects of their positions. Seventy-two percent gave their school administrators or department’s assistant superintendent an “A” or “B” grade, 85 percent gave high marks for their school and 91 percent gave high marks for their colleagues. Two-thirds of teachers also said they were satisfied with the compensation they receive.
Students also gave the school system generally high marks — 78 percent gave their school either an “A” or “B,” with 70 percent of teachers earning those high marks from students — but 18 percent of students agreed with the statement that they felt bullied in school. Eighteen percent of students also responded that they disagree that “School staff stops bullying in school whenever they see it.”
Parents were even more positive about their school experience, with 94 percent giving high marks to their child’s school and 90 percent giving high marks to APS as a whole. What’s more, 81 percent of parents are satisfied with their involvement in the School Board’s decision-making process — APS teachers and staff are, by contrast, 55 percent satisfied with their inclusion in the School Board’s process.
Other items of note from the survey results:
- 8 percent of students report that they spend too little of their after school time on homework.
- 64 percent of students said they don’t like “to wake up early for school,” the top response in the survey asking about local students dislike. Fifty percent said they dislike doing homework, and 42 percent said they are “bored at school” (students were allowed multiple answers).
- 55 percent of parents gave Murphy an “A” or “B” grade, but 37 percent said they “don’t know” how they feel about Murphy’s job performance
- 93 percent of parents agreed that “my child likes to go to school.” The top response in the “I like to go to school because” question for students was “I like to see my friends,” with 83 percent, followed by “it will help me in the future” at 75 percent.
APS Graduation Rate Rises to 92 Percent — Arlington Public Schools’ graduation rate rose to 92 percent for the Class of 2014, up from 85.2 percent in 2010. The dropout rate declined to 3.8 percent this year and the graduation rate for Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools reached 98.7 percent. “This steady improvement is a reflection of the teamwork of everyone working together to ensure that our students succeed,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, in a statement. [Arlington Public Schools]
Company Promises In-N-Out Delivery — As a publicity stunt, food delivery service OrderAhead is offering to deliver frozen In-N-Out Double Double burgers from California today to addresses Arlington and D.C. Even though In-N-Out is famous for food that’s never frozen or pre-packaged, the offer is apparently proving popular for those with a craving for the west coast chain. Currently, a website set up to provide more information about the promotion is down. [Eater]
County Board Supports Nonpartisan Redistricting — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to support nonpartisan redistricting of state legislative boundaries. Democratic Board Chairman Jay Fisette said partisan redistricting leads to “stagnation and gridlock,” while independent Board member John Vihstadt said it produces “toxic partisanship in Washington and Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Arlington County board approved a policy on Tuesday night to install high-resolution cameras on the “stop arms” of school buses to catch drivers who don’t stop to protect children.
“Any car passing a stopped school bus, throw the book at them,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said.
The cameras will automatically capture photos and video of any vehicle that passes a school bus from behind or the front when it is stopped with its driver’s side stop sign extended.
The images will be reviewed by a vendor selected by Arlington Public Schools through a competitive bidding process and then sent to the Arlington County Police Department. Police will then send citations to the vehicles’ registered owners.
The cameras will be installed and operated at no cost to APS, which will share ticket funds with the vendor and reimburse ACPD for reviewing the footage. According to County Board documents, in Falls Church a school bus camera vendor receives 75 percent of revenue in the first year of a contract, 60 percent in the second year and 50 percent in subsequent years.
The $250 fines will be payable to Arlington Public Schools, which may earmark the money for school bus and pedestrian safety programs.
“This is not about money, it’s about safety — and the red light cameras aren’t either. It’s about saving lives and reducing injury,” Fisette said.
County Board members opted to push back the effective date of the ordinance to Feb. 1 to put in place policies on storing, accessing and sharing the recordings.
Board Vice-Chair Mary Hughes Hynes said she wanted to balance children’s safety with privacy concerns.
“I’m very concerned about wandering in here without some conversation about what the limits and our expectations are,” she said.
Lt. Mike Watson said the images caught on camera will be held for 60 days if an infraction is recorded, and then deleted.
“If there are no violations issued, that information will be purged 10 days after use,” he said.
If the cameras were to record another crime, the footage could be released only by court order, Watson said.
Violators will receive warnings, not tickets, for the first month the cameras are used. ACPD has issued an estimated 700 citations in the past five years to drivers who pass stopped school buses.
Photo via Flickr/madame_furie
The expansion will add a 33,040-square-foot addition in the northeast corner of the school, at 1030 N. McKinley Road, and smaller additions in the southwest corner and at the main entrance to the school. The project is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
An expansion of this size would, according to the county’s Zoning Ordinance, necessitate that Arlington Public Schools add 108 parking spaces. But because open space and a number of mature trees surround McKinley, the County Board approved plans to add just 20 spaces to the existing 36 spaces. Even those 20 spaces were the source of controversy; the county’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission recommended adding no spaces and instead using street parking to accommodate the additional staff and parent vehicles.
Advocates from the school and community who were a part of the planning process, including McKinley Principal Colin Brown, spoke in favor of adding the 20 spaces.
“I’ve said from the start that we enjoy a fantastic day-to-day relationship with the neighbors and the community,” Brown told the Board. “At this point, the neighborhood is able to handle the volume of staff and parents parking on the street given the current capacity of the parking lot. We’re at a tipping point. We need to maintain a fine and delicate balance.”
Ultimately, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended keeping the 20 spaces in the plan, and the County Board approved it unanimously. Only three members of the general public spoke, two of whom, School Board candidate Audrey Clement and Jim Hurysz, decried APS’ inability to expand schools “up, not out,” which would save green space. Despite that opposition, County Board Chair Jay Fisette marveled at the lack of animosity toward the plan, which marked the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School.
“I think it is quite a testament to this process that we had three speakers,” he said. “This is one of the easiest things I’ve seen to come before the Board.”
To make way for the school expansion, 78 trees will be removed – 12 of which are gingko trees that will be transplanted elsewhere in the county. Nearly 150 trees will be planted once construction is complete, according to APS Director of Design and Construction Scott Prisco.
“We feel strongly this is a sensitive approach to the neighbors, and it will meet our needs as a school system,” Prisco said.
In total, the expansion will mean a net increase of 32,250 square feet and include 10 new classrooms, two art rooms, two music rooms and expand the gymnasium to have enough space for the entire, expanded school. The expansion will also add a stage. Construction will include pedestrian improvements on N. McKinley Road and 11th Street N.
Photo via APS
The estimated number of unaccompanied, juvenile immigrants in APS jumped from 10 children last school year to “approximately” 80 children this school year so far, the district said Friday.
The release of the APS data on youth age 18 and under who travelled without a parent or guardian follows a national report on unaccompanied minors issued this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That report stated that through July 31, 133 unaccompanied minors were transferred to the care of family members or other sponsors in Arlington County.
The 133 count potentially includes youth below school age, in private schools, home schooled or not enrolled in school, APS pointed out.
APS served enough young, recent immigrants in the 2013-2014 school year to be eligible for an additional $43,000 in state funding, the APS statement said. The school system saw an increase of 141 immigrant students from the ’12-’13 to ’13-’14 school year, the statement said. These youth range in age from 3 to 21, were born outside the U.S. and had not attended school in the country for more than three academic years. This category includes but is not exclusive to youth who came to the U.S. unaccompanied.
Additionally, APS has devoted additional resources this school year to students who have had little formal schooling and read below grade level in any language.
The Arlington Career Center reinstituted a previously offered “Accelerated Literacy” program that draws high school students from across the county. Two more teachers were hired, and funds were redirected to serve youth in this program, according to the statement.
Washington-Lee High School is also offering the literacy curriculum. Additional literacy support is available to elementary and middle school students, the statement said.
The county Dept. of Human Services connects youth and their sponsors with medical and behavior health care, English classes, legal aid and limited emergency funds, spokesman Kurt Larrick said. Like all new APS students, unaccompanied minors new to the district are screened for tuberculosis and required to have a set of immunizations, he added.
The HHS report noted that many of the unaccompanied youth have survived trauma.
“These children may have histories of abuse or may be seeking safety from threats of violence,” it said. “They may have been trafficked or smuggled.”
School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez said in July that APS should prepare for a “crisis situation” in providing services to unaccompanied minors. County Board member Walter Tejada said then that Arlington was preparing to serve them.
APS does not request and is not required by law to ask students to report their immigration status, the statement said.
Some parents of Barcroft Elementary School students are concerned about Arlington Public Schools’ plan to expand the school if a controversial plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School falls through.
The School Board says it’s their preference to build a new school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Amid protests from those who want to preserve the parkland next to the school, the School Board has appointed a working group to determine the feasibility of that plan. The group will present its findings to the School Board in January.
If the TJ site cannot be developed, APS’ backup plan is to expand Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street) is currently at a 460-seat capacity and the expansion would add 265 seats. Randolph (1306 S. Quincy Street) has a 484-seat capacity and would expand to seat 725 students.
While APS struggles to keep up with rising school enrollment, county and school officials have warned that there’s precious little open land left in Arlington to build new schools.
Some Barcroft parents, however, are crying foul over being targeted for expansion. They’re worried about the effect it would have on the surrounding community and how the school would be able to adjust to the influx of space and students.
“Barcroft has tireless, dedicated administrators and teachers, but they face serious challenges,” one parent, Sarah Freitas Waldman, told ARLnow.com in an email. “I feel the top issue is whether it is fair for the community and the students and whether it is responsible policy for APS to propose a plan that places the entire burden of South Arlington’s overcrowding on two small schools with ongoing issues of student performance.”
Barcroft’s performance on the state Standard of Learning exams has been dwindling in recent years, culminating in only 71 percent of students passing the English reading exam and 68 passing math, compared to the state average of 74 percent for each subject and the Arlington-wide average of 81 percent in reading and 83 percent in math. Randolph performed about the same as Barcroft, with 61 percent passing English reading and 70 percent passing in math.
“Barcroft consistently underperforms the County in terms of student achievement on the Virginia SOLs,” Waldman wrote. “Is it wise educational policy to expand a program by 50 percent when it is already struggling to meet the needs of its students?”
Waldman said parents were distributing flyers in the neighborhood this past weekend, including bilingual flyers, to notify residents and other parents of APS’ plans. APS facilities staff will be conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. Barcroft to inform parents of the process to address the district’s capacity crisis. For those who can’t make it, there will be another meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 22.
APS To Use ‘Big Data’ to Prevent Dropouts — Arlington Public Schools held a contest this summer for “big data” companies to analyze its student performance data, and plans to use the newly-released results to predict which students are at risk of dropping out of school. The winning company, Deep Learning Analytics, found that APS should refine its data collecting techniques. In addition, it found that, along with attendance, behavior and coursework, socioeconomic standing is a predictive indicator for school dropouts. [Arlington Public Schools]
Military Jet to Land at DCA — The Scorpion, a new military fighter jet, will land at Reagan National Airport on Saturday. The jet — manufactured by Textron AirLand LLC — will stay in a DCA hangar for a week, for marketing purposes. [InsideNova]
County Launches New Blog — Arlington County has launched “Natural Arlington,” a new blog to discuss environmental issues in the county. Recent topics include a discussion of green frogs, the environmental issues with dog poop, and a post about the sale of native plants at local nurseries. [Natural Arlington]
Road Closure for Street Fair — Part of 9th Street S. will be closed in the area of Walter Reed Drive for the annual Prio Bangla Potho Mela street fair. The event is taking place Saturday morning. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Bill Ross
APS Enrollment Still Rising — This fall, Pre-K through 12 enrollment in Arlington Public Schools is expected to rise to 23,956 students, up from 23,316 last year and 22,657 two years ago. Despite accommodating more students, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said the first day of school was “a big success.” [InsideNova]
Letter From Arlington to Mrs. Wilson — Arlington County wrote to President Woodrow Wilson’s widow in 1926 to ask permission to name a new school in her late husband’s memory. The resulting Wilson School is located at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The school building may be torn down in the near future to make way for a new school, to help Arlington Public Schools add more capacity. [Preservation Arlington]
APS Has Football Concussion Plan — Arlington Public Schools has implemented a system-wide concussion management plan for high school football players. In addition, APS is the lone school system in the area to report changing over to only the highest-rated concussion-preventing helmets over the summer. [WUSA9 -- Warning: Auto-play video with audio on]
D.C. Discusses Bike Ban on Streetcar Path — The District of Columbia is considering banning bicycles in the streetcar guideway on H Street NE. Instead, cyclists would be encouraged to utilize bike routes on road parallel to H Street, even though some complain that those roads are in poor condition for bicycling. [NBC Washington -- Warning: Auto-play video with audio on]
Flickr pool photo by Mike Darnay
New Security Measures at Schools — This school year, Arlington Public Schools has three additional police officers assigned as school resource officers at elementary schools. The school system has also added 30 new video cameras in secondary schools, which can be viewed by the county’s 911 call center and by school resource officers. [Washington Post]
Stamos Back in the ACDC Fold — Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos has apparently been welcomed back into the good graces of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Stamos voluntarily stepped down from the committee after she endorsed independent candidate John Vihstadt over Democrat Alan Howze. [InsideNova]
Bracket Room to Celebrate Anniversary — Contrary to the pessimistic predictions of its critics, Clarendon sports bar The Bracket Room is about to celebrate its one year anniversary and seems to be thriving. Former Bachelorette cast member Chris Bukowski opened the bar, at 1210 N. Garfield Street, on Sept. 5, 2013. Bracket Room is planning a birthday party on Saturday, Sept. 6. [Clarendon Nights]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann