Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
AFAC—the Arlington Food Assistance Center—is one of these organizations.
AFAC is a non-profit founded over 20 years ago to distribute food and groceries to Arlington residents who cannot afford to purchase enough food to meet their basic needs. Any family seeking such assistance must have a referral from a local church, school, social service agency, or Arlington County government agency.
AFAC currently serves approximately 1,600 families. About 40 percent of its clients are children. Among these are homeless children. The Arlington Public School system estimates that there are as many as 300 homeless children attending schools in the County at any one time. They live in transient housing, often with no food or kitchens available. Their main meal of the day is at the school they attend.
The other main categories of AFAC’s clients include:
- elderly residents with high medical expenses
- those with mental or emotional disabilities
- eligible applicants for food stamps who have not yet begun to receive them
- those suffering from illness or disability who lack sick leave employment benefits
AFAC depends on different kinds of volunteer assistance to sustain its programs. In 2012, volunteers provided AFAC with over 25,000 hours of their time. This saved AFAC at least $500,000 in staffing costs, and enabled AFAC to direct these savings to help eligible families. Organizing food drives, and encouraging other Arlington organizations to become AFAC community partners, are two of the principal ways in which to volunteer.
AFAC organizes and administers a series of genuine safety net programs, helping needy individuals and families avoid hunger when they truly have no other viable option.
To learn more about AFAC, and how you might be able to help, visit www.afac.org.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Not to be confused with Walk and Bike to School Day in October, which has a similar name and a similar mission, Bike and Walk to School Day “encourages students to bike or walk to school while teaching them about the health and environmental benefits of biking and walking.”
“Bike and Walk to School Day also helps to raise community awareness about the importance of bicycle and pedestrian safety education, safe routes to schools, well-maintained walkways, and traffic calming in our neighborhoods and around our schools,” says Bike Arlington, on its website.
The event, held in conjunction with National Bike and Walk to School Day, is a partnership between Arlington Public Schools, Bike Arlington and Walk Arlington.
“APS encourages all families and staff to participate in this event,” said a school system press release. “This energizing event reminds parents and students alike of the simple joy of biking and walking to school while focusing attention on the importance of physical activity, air quality, safety, and bike-able, walkable communities.”
The event will be held in the morning. Students and parents will be greeted at their elementary, middle and high schools by county and school officials and staff. At the schools, giveaways will conducted and “healthy refreshments” will be distributed, according to Bike Arlington.
Update at 3:50 p.m. — “Based on weather forecasts, some schools have opted to postpone their celebrations until Friday, May 10,” according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
Between 2008 and 2012, the number of autistic children enrolled in Arlington Public Schools’ special education program increased by more than 50 percent — a trend that matches a national increase in autism diagnoses.
There were 276 autistic special education students in 2008. By 2012, enrollment had increased to 421, a 52.5 percent jump.
“While it seems alarming, it actually reflects the growth we are seeing in autism nationally,” APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said of the increase. According to a government study that was released last month, the number of school age children with autism has risen 72 percent since 2007, and now stands at about 1 in 50 children ages 6 to 17.
APS “has an excellent history of services for students with autism,” Erdos said. While APS tries to integrate autistic students with the general student body, the school system does have special classes for autistic students who need extra educational support. APS is working to continue to find ways to better serve autistic students, we’re told.
On Tuesday, April 30, APS and the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) will be hosting a “Family Information Night” that will “present new initiatives and assessment tools that are designed to improve teaching for students with autism and others who learn differently.”
The event is taking place at the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m.
Among those expected to speak at the event are Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Del. Patrick Hope (D), APS Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Dr. Brenda Wilks and Steven Celmer, from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Autism Center for Excellence.
Moran, who visited to Barcroft Elementary for World Autism Awareness Day last month, is expected to update families on his AUTISM Educators Act, which seeks to create a five-year pilot program that would help to train general education teachers who work with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The bill was referred to Education and the Workforce Committee in the House of Representatives earlier this month.
The new Arlington Public Schools proposed budget includes less money for minor construction and major maintenance, after the Arlington County Board approved a smaller tax increase than was sought by the School Board.
The School Board had asked for an additional 0.5 cent tax increase dedicated to school funding, in addition to the County Manager’s proposed 3.2 cent tax increase. In the end, the County Board approved a 3.5 cent increase, only 0.3 cents more than the manager’s proposal — and that increase will be split by the county and the school system.
With an earlier version of its proposed budget now facing a shortfall of $1.4 million, the School Board cut about $600,000 from the minor construction/major maintenance fund, and another $600,000 from the school system’s reserve fund. Even with the cuts, however, the maintenance and construction fund and the reserve fund are both set to receive more than $7 million apiece in the budget.
Last week Arlington Public School parents were informed in a letter that all currently enrolled students who were eligible for bus service this year will remain eligible in the upcoming 2013-14 school year.
In order to maintain bus service while the school system adds nearly 1,000 additional students, APS is expected to add 10 new full-time positions to its transportation services department. The transportation budget will increase by about $1.75 million in Fiscal Year 2014, compared to FY 2013. All told, the FY 2014 proposed budget for transportation is $16.1 million.
The transportation budget boost comes after hundreds of parents protested changes to the busing policy at the beginning of this school year. The changes — intended to allow the school system to stop adding buses and drivers to its fleet — backfired when impacted parents complained bitterly about their children no longer being allowed to ride the bus to and from school.
The Arlington School Board is holding a public budget work session tonight (April 23) starting at 6:00 p.m. The School Board is expected to approve a final budget at its meeting on May 2.
Parents of Gymnasts Want New Facilities — Despite a tight county budget, parents of Arlington gymnasts are calling on the County Board to fund new gymnastics facilities. Heather Cocozza, a representative of the Arlington Tigers competitive boys gymnastics team, claims that a new gymnastics facility can actually make a profit for the county. [Arlington Mercury]
APS Ranks Among Top High Schools — Arlington’s public high schools have ranked in the top 2 percent of all high schools in the country, according to the Washington Post’s “Challenge Index.” In the Washington region, H-B Woodlawn ranked #4, Washington-Lee #10, Yorktown #14 and Wakefield #62. [Arlington Public Schools]
Vacant Retail Space May Become Conference Facility — A vacant 13,000 square foot retail space on the ground floor of the new 800 N. Glebe Road office building in Ballston would become a conference facility, under a proposal that’s under consideration by the Arlington County Board. The nearby Bluemont Civic Association has expressed concerns about the change. [Sun Gazette]
Pi Day in Arlington — Today is March 14, or 3/14, the day that celebrates the mathematical constant Pi (3.14159). In honor of Pi Day, the business review website Yelp is holding a “pie” event at Bakeshop (1025 N. Fillmore Street) in Clarendon, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. [Yelp]
Red Light Cameras Play ‘Pivotal Role’ — Red light cameras play a “pivotal role” in improving traffic and pedestrian safety. Arlington County says. The county’s red light cameras — currently active at four intersections — resulted in a 50 percent decrease in red light violations at those intersections, the county said. [Arlington County]
State Awards for APS Schools — Eight Arlington public elementary schools have earned a distinction as 2013 Virginia Index of Performance award winners. The schools honored are Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Ashlawn, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor, Henry and Jamestown. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington’s All-Male Book Club — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark explores “one of those rare literary phenomena — an all-male book club.” The group of 10 professional men has been meeting to discuss books in the East Falls Church/Westover neighborhood for 13 years. [Falls Church News-Press]
Photo courtesy “Westover Leftover”
Vote Expected on Homeless Shelter — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote this weekend on a use permit for the planned year-round homeless shelter at 2020 14th Street N. in Courthouse. A group of neighbors has vehemently opposed the shelter, which is located two blocks from the existing emergency winter shelter. [Sun Gazette]
Opposition to Environmental Cuts — One local environmental advocate is sounding the alarm about proposed cuts in the County Manager’s proposed budget. The budget would cut a Natural Resources Specialist at the Long Branch Nature Center, would eliminate an “urban forestry” position,” and would shrink the budget for tree plantings, tree supplies and invasive species control. [Arlington Mercury]
Proposed 2013-14 School Calendar – The 2013-14 school year for Arlington Public Schools would begin on Tuesday, Sept. 3 under a proposed calendar that administrators presented to the School Board. [Arlington Public Schools]
Volunteers Pack 60,000+ Meals — A group of volunteers packed more than 60,000 meals for the hungry on Saturday. The meals — a lentil casserole consisting of “lentils, dehydrated vegetables, rice, vitamins and Himalayan sea salt” — were packed in baggies that will be distributed through the Arlington Food Assistance Center and the Capital Area Food Bank. [Sun Gazette]
The federal government and Arlington Public Schools are both closed today due to the “Snowquester” or “Saturn” snow storm.
Although the ground in parts of Arlington has yet to become snow-covered, forecasters say the storm is intensifying and should soon start accumulating here.
This periodic sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.
Question: We are going to be moving from Maryland to Northern Virginia with our 6 and 9 year old. We are not familiar with Arlington yet and I am wondering if you can point us in the direction of any tools that will help us find the right elementary school district for our future home.
First of all, welcome to Northern Virginia. It seems all too rare an occasion that someone makes a move from one side of the Potomac River to the other.
In regards to researching elementary schools in Arlington, you may want to explore GreatSchools.org. Each school gets a 1-10 rating based on a comparison of test results within the state. Of course, they also recommend factoring in other information, including the quality of each school’s teachers, the school culture, special programs, etc.. You may want to start that process by reading the reviews on GreatSchools.org. This is where parents, teachers and students can post reviews.
Since receiving your question, I spent some time creating a list of all the elementary schools in Arlington. I included in the list, the GreatSchool.org rating, median home sales price in the school’s district and a link to listings in that district. Below is a sample of the list.
- GreatSchools.org Rating = 4
- Median home sale price (1/2013) = $398,000
- Listings in Abingdon school district
- GreatSchools.org Rating = 9
- Median home sale price (1/2013) = $496,500
- Listings in Ashlawn school district
- GreatSchools.org Rating = 6
- Median home sale price (1/2013) = $525,000
- Listings in Barcroft school district
- GreatSchools.org Rating = 6
- Median home sale price (1/2013) = $200,000
- Listings in Barrett school district
If you find this guide helpful, you can click the following link and bookmark the full list of Arlington public elementary schools. It’s only meant to give you a very high level view of your options, but I think it can be a great place to start.
I’m hoping that some of our readers will provide additional advice, tips and tools in the comments.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Wakefield Falls in State Semis — The Wakefield Warriors basketball team lost to John Marshall in the semifinal round of the state AAA tournament last night in Richmond. Wakefield fell 66-46, finishing the season with a 25-6 record. [Washington Post]
Lawmakers Name Biggest 2013 Achievement – Asked to name their biggest achievement in this past legislative session, the state lawmakers who represent Arlington cited an expansion of Medicaid, the new transportation funding plan, and affordable housing funding. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Students Win at Science Fair — Two Arlington high school students won the “Best in Fair Grand Prize” at the Northern Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair over the weekend. They will now go on to compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair in May. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s recommended FY 2014 budget would keep class sizes steady, would add new school buses and would provide for merit pay increases for school employees, despite a $23.5 million budget shortfall.
Murphy formally unveiled his budget Thursday night at a budget work session with the School Board.
To help close the gap, Murphy’s budget takes advantage of $20.2 million worth of surplus and reserve funds from previous years, and “efficiencies” in custodial staffing, the teen parenting program and gifted teachers, among other programs.
In all, $411.1 million of the $520.4 million budget comes from county tax revenue. Aside from the $20.2 million “carry forward” and $17.6 million in fees, the rest — about 13.3 percent of the budget — comes from federal and state sources.
The budget allocates an additional $10 million in staffing, materials and facilities costs for the nearly 1,000 additional students expected to be enrolled next year. That includes $1.9 million for new trailer classrooms.
The budget also provides $7.2 million for merit-based raises for teachers and other employees. Of that, about $446,000 will come from the state, under a plan to supposedly provide 2 percent raises for Virginia teachers. Of those staff members receiving raises, the increase in pay will average about 3 percent, APS said in a budget briefing for the media.
By maintaining the current class size levels while accounting for the rapid enrollment growth, Murphy says the budget fulfills the school system’s goal of putting students first.
“This budget is a prudent and targeted effort to maintain APS quality and the education that our community values,” Murphy said in a statement. “This budget firmly commits to our students by maintaining current class sizes and to our staff by including a compensation increase, the first step increase in two years.”
APS plans to purchase and staff 6 additional school buses this year. That should prevent another round of controversial bus service adjustment.
The budget also provides for a full-time residency verification specialist. Murphy also proposed the position last year, but it did not make it into the School Board’s final budget. Currently, APS only employs a part-time residency verification specialist for the entire 22,613 student school system.
Murphy said a full-time residency verification specialist could help identify students who are attending Arlington Public Schools but whose parents don’t live here.
“With the growing enrollment we have, we need to make sure we’re serving our kids here in Arlington,” he said. ”I think there’s a concern that people are attracted to Arlington Public Schools. We need to monitor that.”
Other additions in this year’s budget include a new security coordinator, technology upgrades, athletic trainer who specialize in concussion management, and dropout prevention coordinators.
The “efficiencies and reductions” — including cuts in custodians, high school gifted teachers, the teen parenting program, and administration — will eliminate 61 positions and save $7.8 million. With the school system continuing to grow and hire — some 300 teachers were hired last year — Murphy says those impacted by the cuts will be reassigned elsewhere in APS, not laid off.
With Murphy’s proposed budget, the per-pupil cost in Arlington will rise from $18,675 to $18,709, although that could drop to $18,405 if the School Board elects not to use one if its reserve funds.
The School Board will adopt the final FY 2014 budget on May 2. Between now and then, APS will hold a number of budget work session and public hearings.
School Boundary Meeting on Wednesday — Arlington Public Schools will hold its next school boundary meeting on Wednesday (February 6), at 7:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg Middle School auditorium. APS will share feedback gathered at the January 23 meeting, and present a smaller set of boundary options. After reviewing the options, meeting attendees will have the opportunity to offer feedback. The final set of options is expected to be offered to the School Board in late March.
Metro Region Worst for Traffic — The annual Texas A&M Transportation Institute survey lists the D.C. metro area as number one for the country’s worst traffic congestion, topping Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. The average driver is said to spend 67 hours per year sitting in traffic. Analysts believe drivers will add seven hours to that number by 2020. [Washington Post]
Cuccinelli Backs Alternative Transportation Plan – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not backing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan, but rather a plan that’s considered the conservative alternative. Instead of eliminating the gas tax and increasing the sales tax as McDonnell’s plan proposed, the alternative plan would replace the current gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline. McDonnell’s plan has been controversial, including when the Arlington County Board bashed the proposal late last month. [Washington Examiner]
Free Pancakes at IHOP — Customers at IHOP can get a free short stack of pancakes today. Guests celebrating National Pancake Day are encouraged to leave a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The offer is limited to one stack per customer while supplies last. Arlington’s lone IHOP is at 935 N. Stafford Street in Ballston.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
APS Announces Make-up Day Plan — Arlington Public Schools has lost three days this school year due to inclement weather, including the day lost as a result of the controversial decision to close this past Monday for what turned out to be mostly drizzle. APS has announced its make-up plan, though most schools will not actually have to make up any days due to additional hours built into the school calendar this year. Those impacted by the make-up plan are elementary schools with early release and the Stratford Program, which will see three abbreviated days turned into full days as part of the make-up plan. [Arlington Public Schools]
County to Explore More Options for Reeves Farmhouse — Arlington County is issuing a ‘request for information’ for the historic Reevesland farmhouse. The county is now seeking ideas from individuals and groups who want to use the farmhouse and its grounds but don’t have the nearly $1 million necessary for repairs to the property. That’s a win for one group of residents who have been pushing for the property to be used as a learning center. ”We’re open to the idea of shared investment,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Judge to Retire — Arlington County General District Court judge Karen A. Henenberg is retiring. Henenberg and her husband plan to spend more time with their sons: Kenneth, a rock band guitarist, and Benjamin, a professional golfer. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for Arlington and the D.C. region, warning of the potential for about an inch of snow between 2:00 and 9:00 p.m. Though relatively light, the snow could wreak havoc with traffic during the evening rush hour.
While Montgomery, Fairfax, Prince George’s and Loudoun County schools have announced early dismissals, Arlington Public Schools announced at 11:20 a.m. that students would not enjoy the same abbreviated school day. All APS after-school and evening activities, however, have been canceled.
“Arlington Public Schools will dismiss on time,” the school system said. “All APS after-school and evening activities are canceled, including extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, team practices, field trips, adult and community education classes, and recreation programs in schools and on school grounds. Extended Day will remain open until 6 p.m. but those parents are encouraged to pick up their children earlier if possible.”
From the National Weather Service:
… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 2 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 9 PM EST THIS EVENING…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 2 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 9 PM EST THIS EVENING.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… SNOW
* ACCUMULATIONS… AROUND AN INCH.
* TIMING… SNOW WILL BEGIN DURING THE MID AFTERNOON AND TAPER OFF IN THE EVENING. SNOW MAY BE MODERATE TO LOCALLY HEAVY AT TIMES DURING THE LATE AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING.
* TEMPERATURES… IN THE LOWER 20S.
* WINDS… SOUTH 5 TO 10 MPH.
* IMPACTS… ROADS WILL BECOME SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY… RESULTING IN HAZARDOUS TRAVEL DURING THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING COMMUTE.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… 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.
A man who was struck by a car and critically injured Wednesday night is expected to survive.
The man was apparently trying to cross Carlin Springs Road near Kenmore Middle School when he was struck by a southbound vehicle, suffering what police described as “severe head trauma.” The man is expected to survive, although severe head injuries are often debilitating.
“The victim remains in a medically induced coma at this time but is expected to survive,” Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com. “His wife informed our lead detective on the case that he is in stable condition.”
The man is an Arlington Public Schools teacher. The school system declined to identify the school at which he teaches.
“Students have been told that the teacher was in an accident and to keep him in their thoughts,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Unfortunately I can’t release his name because of privacy issues.”
Police remained on scene for hours to investigate the accident. So far there’s no word on whether any charges will be filed.