Instead, Arlington Public Schools has been directed to incorporate pieces of the old building into the new, 775-seat school that will replace it and house the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. The vote was the final hurdle before APS can move forward designing the $80.2 million project, including demolition of the Wilson School.
“We appreciate that there is community passion around preserving sites that help tell Arlington’s story,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “That is why we have directed the Manager to collaborate with APS to honor the history of Wilson School in a meaningful way even as we move forward to build a new school designed to address the challenge posed by our rapidly growing student population.”
The Arlington School Board and Planning Commission each recommended denying the historic district status, while the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board voted unanimously in favor of the status. If the County Board had sided with the HALRB, the new school’s construction would have had to go through more regulatory processes. APS Assistant Superintendent John Chadwick said the costs would likely exceed the $80.2 million budget, but he added no formal study of the costs had been done.
“We do feel keeping [the school would cost] a great deal more than has been quoted in the community,” Chadwick told the Board on Saturday. “The interior of the building does not comply with current codes. Therefore we would have to replace staircases. It does not have any level directly accessible from grade, which is clearly an issue with persons with disabilities.”
The building has been significantly renovated from its initial form, but the HALRB ruled it still meets at least six of the 11 criteria for historic district status; a building needs to meet just two to qualify for approval.
HALRB chairman Joan Lawrence noted the Wilson School has an architectural style “that is an important visual reminder of the time period” when it was built, and “provides a sense of place and connection with our past in the most urban area of Arlington, other than Crystal City, where there are no remaining connections to the past.”
More than a dozen speakers spoke before the Board, most in favor of preservation. Many of those speakers were among the 161 who signed a petition to preserve the building. In giving her presentation, Lawrence acknowledged it was likely falling on deaf ears.
“Preserving significant reminders of the county’s history was important to the County Board at one time,” Lawrence said. “I wish I could say with confidence that it has the same importance today. Too many times, I feel like the Lorax speaking not for the trees but for historic buildings.”
Photo, top, courtesy Preservation Arlington
Record No. of Arlington Runners in Boston — An “all-time record” of 116 Arlington runners are registered to participate in the 2015 Boston Marathon today. [InsideNova]
Vehicle Overturns in Ashton Heights — A vehicle “pinballed off two parked cars” and overturned near the intersection of 6th Street and N. Lincoln Street in Ashton Heights Sunday morning. [Twitter]
H-B No. 1 in Challenge Index — Three Arlington high schools have made the top 10 of the Washington Post’s 2015 Challenge Index of local public high schools. The H-B Woodlawn secondary program ranked No. 1, Yorktown ranked No. 6 and Washington-Lee ranked No. 10. [Washington Post]
Complaints Against Towing Co., Questions About Video – While ESPN reporter Britt McHenry serves out her suspension for berating an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington, there’s some push back against the towing company and the video it produced of McHenry’s mean-spirited remarks. NBC 4 notes that there have been 155 complaints to police against Advanced from 2012 to 2014. Us Weekly, meanwhile, gossips that “a source close to the situation” says the video was edited “to make it look like Britt has gone on a one-way tirade as opposed to being in a two-way verbal spat with someone.” [NBC Washington, Us Weekly]
Net Migration Negative for Arlington in 2014 — More people moved out of Arlington than moved in last year, according to new census estimates. Arlington’s net migration in 2014 was -1,520, compared to +2,004 in 2013. That follows a broader trend of slowing growth in the D.C. region, which is still growing thanks mostly to births. [Washington Post]
County Board to Pay School Delays Costs — The Arlington County Board, which in January put the brakes on a plan to build a new elementary school in South Arlington, pledged last week to “take the financial hit” for the project’s delay, which is expected to cost up to $2.1 million. The County Board rejected the plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School after residents raised concerns about traffic and the school’s impact on a nearby park. [InsideNova]
‘Enhanced Risk’ of Severe Weather Today — The National Weather Service says there’s an enhanced risk of severe weather in the D.C. area this afternoon, including a 1-in-3 chance of damaging wind gusts and hail. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
School Board member Barbara Kanninen, serving the first year of her term, proposed pausing what’s called the “1:1 Initiative” during the School Board’s budget deliberations last week. Her motion failed, 2-3, with Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez voting in favor.
The initiative has already provided second- and sixth-graders with iPads and freshmen with MacBook Airs. Next year, devices will again be provided to students in those grades.
“We have conducted a very large pilot project this year in terms of this initiative,” Kanninen said, estimating about 3,000 devices are now in the hands of students. “That is a very large and potentially very informative data set. I made this motion because I believe it is now time to evaluate how it’s working and ask some basic questions. Is it helping students learn? Is it helping teachers teach?”
The Board and Superintendent Patrick Murphy had extensive discussions the week leading up to their meeting about the initiative, and the majority, including Murphy, agreed that an evaluation can be completed while pushing forward with handing out devices.
“I have moved from thinking we needed to pause to believing we can do that evaluation and do that assessment at the same time as we continue forward,” Board member Nancy Van Doren said. “Many people have called me about the problems we’ve been having … When I suggest pausing the program, I was surprised people said ‘don’t pause, just do it better.’”
Many of the complaints around the devices have focused on teachers not being adequately trained to use the devices, preventing an optimal environment for the students. Murphy said many teachers have “emerged as leaders” in using the devices while other teachers are more hesitant.
“I will say, with any new initiative, there have been a variety of issues with the rollout,” Murphy told the School Board. “We need to continue to strengthen our training models. I think we’ll continue to focus on professional development, working with families so they understand and working with safety, so students aren’t spending an excessive amount of time in front of these devices.”
The 1:1 Initiative is budget neutral because it is funded by diverting money away from APS’ annual technology replacement funds. While Murphy and the School Board majority acknowledged hiccups with the rollout, Kanninen pushed for a more detailed look at what went wrong.
“One of the main reasons a pause would be necessary is we also need to ask, “are we implementing this model the right way?’” she said. “There are other models and ways we could be rolling this out. By taking a pause here, we then can work on developing curricula, designing professional development programs, developing our principles for use, clarifying our budget implications.”
School Board member Abby Raphael said many of the concerns expressed in the community have been alleviated by a more thorough explanation of the program.
“It’s all about personalizing learning, it’s not about the devices,” she said. “I agree that we can continue to roll this out and evaluate what we’re doing, because I really do think this is a very valuable tool in eliminating the achievement gap.”
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) The Arlington School Board has approved a proposed $555.9 million budget for the 2015-2016 school year, requesting $6.18 million more than County Manager Barbara Donnellan proposed in her budget.
The School Board’s approved cuts of $7.4 million from Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s budget, unveiled in February. Some of those savings have come from updated revenue figures, but others have come from slashing Murphy’s budget, including cuts to the Arlington Public Schools central office staff.
Other savings came from moving money around, funding replacement buses and new technology with one-time funds from last year’s closeout budget as opposed to ongoing funding.
“We have now shrunk by $6.2 million, and that’s been a lot of hard work,” School Board member Abby Raphael said at the decisive meeting last week. “Everyone was asked to really scrub their budgets and make changes, so we’re making some hard cuts and some hard choices … I think it is very reasonable, very responsible.”
The Arlington County Board will vote on its budget next week, and in the process it could either approve the School Board’s budget, or force APS to make further cuts. If the School Board is not granted the $6.2 million, the next cuts to make would be step increases for staff, eliminating early release from the four elementary schools who still have it. APS could also increase class size by one, which would cut 55 jobs.
If the County Board approves the Board’s adopted budget, all early release programs at Arlington elementary schools would be a thing of the past, paving the way for broader implementation of the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program.
The adopted budget would mean a cost-per-pupil of $18,558, APS’ lowest since FY 2012 and third-lowest since FY 2008. The Board and staff managed to reduce the cost from Murphy’s budget by $131, while adding new positions along the way.
“We’ve worked well together and stuck to our common values, which is what’s important,” School Board member Barbara Kanninen said. “The changes we’ve made, every one has been careful and deliberate with thought to the taxpayers dollars. When we made a new addition, it’s because we need it.”
Some of Murphy’s proposed cuts the School Board elected to restore, including the World Languages distance learning courses, and its six associated positions. The Board also added three facilities and operations positions to help with the ever-continuing school construction.
The Board also made community outreach a priority, adding a full-time family and community engagement coordinator and allocating $67,000 for “communications support” for the Board.
DCA’s Growth Hurting Dulles – Arlington’s Reagan National Airport is growing fast — it set a new record for passengers on March 27, with 39,073. Congress has widened DCA’s flight perimeter three times and more and more airlines are scheduling flights. In the meantime, Dulles is more expensive to fly out of and won’t have a Metro line until 2018 at the earliest. Reagan now has more daily passengers than Dulles, and Dulles’ consumer base is shrinking. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Teacher Selected For Cuba Trip – Yorktown social studies teacher Tom Lenihan is raising funds to participate in Tulane University’s Cuban Culture & Society Teacher Institute. To ensure his place in Havana, Lenihan, also an adjunct professor at Marymount University, must raise $3,000. Lenihan says he will bring back knowledge and experience to share with fellow educators and his World Affairs class. He has set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money. The program is from June 20-July 4.
D.C. Area to Grow By 1.6 Million People? – The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects the D.C. area, including the outer suburbs, will grow from 5.05 people in 2010 to 6.62 million people in 2040. The core area, made up of D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, is projected to have a growth rate north of 40 percent. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Brandi Moore is far from your typical high school student.
Most days, she goes to bed at midnight or later to study or finish. Some days, she wakes up at 5:00 a.m. to get in a few extra hours of studying before attending classes at Washington-Lee High School. In the evenings or on weekends, you can find her performing in one of a handful of theater groups — at school or otherwise — or volunteering to clean up streams and mark sewer grates.
High-achieving students, especially in Arlington, are hardly news. But what makes Brandi stand out, her father George tells ARLnow.com, is her own self-possessed drive.
“I never had to push her to read or anything,” he said. “I used to have to tell her to stop reading and go to bed. I’ve never even had to look at her grades online. She just naturally absorbs stuff and wants to learn.”
Brandi’s hard work has paid off. This week, she received acceptance letters from all five Ivy League universities she applied to: Cornell, Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Harvard. Those letters came after she had already been accepted at eight other schools, making her 13-for-13 in college applications.
A month before her flood of Ivy League acceptance letters, Brandi said she received “likely” letters from four of the schools, something she said the Ivy League universities only send to a few hundred students.
“They helped the process a lot. I knew my fate would be decided, because I was already pretty sure I was getting in,” she said.
Before she got those “likely” letters, it was a different story. Her first letter and package was from Brown University in Providence, R.I., which had been her dream school since she was 8 years old.
“When we got a pretty sizeable package from Brown, we didn’t know what it was,” she said, referring to the piece of mail that came. After she opened it, “I lost it. I was really excited.”
The Moores live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and Brandi has risen through the ranks of Arlington Public Schools, from Campbell Elementary School, to Kenmore Middle and now Washington-Lee. The 18-year-old senior has narrowed down her choices to Brown and the Ivy League school that gave her the biggest financial package: Harvard. The family will be traveling to Cambridge, Mass., tomorrow to visit the oldest university in the United States.
“Harvard is really, really pushing her,” George Moore said. He added that the whole process has been “so strange,” because, after all, what parent expects Ivy League schools to fight over any student? Reed College in Oregon paid for her to fly across the country to visit the campus. “I knew something was going on when they flew her out there and paid for everything. I thought ‘something special’s going on here.’ It just sort of comes one after another. It’s hard to keep up.”
Brandi said she hopes to make her decision in the next week. Next year, she hopes to start studying biology or something in the life sciences, while keeping up with theater, her passion. Brown appeals to her because the school doesn’t have a core curriculum; students can take whatever classes they want. On the other hand, Harvard is Harvard.
Either way, it’s clear she’s ready for bigger and better things.
“Our classes in high school, there are kids who love what’s going on in the classroom, there are kids who don’t love it as much,” she said. “I’m excited about being in the class where everyone loves learning. I’m just generally excited to see what my limits are and what I’m really going to end up doing. I really want to find myself.”
Photo courtesy George Moore
Wounded Marine’s Golf Clubs Stolen – Retired Marine Lt. Col. Justin Constantine had a couple of his beloved, custom-made golf clubs stolen from Arlington’s Army Navy Country Club after accidentally leaving them at the driving range. Constantine was shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq in 2006. So far, one of the clubs has been returned while two remain missing. [Marine Corps Times]
Video: iPads in Use at APS — Arlington Public Schools has posted a new “#digitalAPS” video that shows iPads in use in a middle school science class. [Arlington Public Schools]
APS Community Engagement Juggling Act — Arlington Public Schools is planning a community engagement blitz as it seeks to keep up with rapidly rising school enrollment by building new schools. This comes in the wake of the County Board putting the brakes on a plan, unpopular with some residents, to build new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. APS is trying to juggle getting community consensus with the need to build new capacity quickly. [InsideNova]
Dremo’s Owner Dreams Up ‘BeerDisneyLand’ — The owner of the late, lamented Dr. Dremo’s in Rosslyn is proposing to build a two-acre “BeerDisneyLand” on D.C.’s Anacostia River waterfront near Navy Yard. [Hill Now]
Flickr pool by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The proportion of Arlington households making at least $200,000 annually has tripled in the past decade.
As part of the county’s ongoing Community Facilities Study, staff from the county government and Arlington Public Schools presented data to a working group this week that will come as little surprise to anyone who follows the county’s demographic trends.
In 2000, less than 6 percent of Arlington households made $200,000 or more. The largest income group in the county was those making between $75,000 and $99,999 (about $100,000-$135,000 in 2013 dollars, according to the county).
In 2013, more than 18 percent of the county was earning $200,00 or more — which is more than any other income group. The second-biggest segment is the $75,000-$99,999 group, at less than 13 percent of the county’s population.
More relevant to the overflowing schools problem that continues to plague the county: the size of the average family has increased. Non-family households made up 53.9 percent of the county population in 2013, down slightly from 54.5 percent in 2000.
Four-person households saw the single-biggest growth over the same time period. In 2000, there were 6,715 four-person families in Arlington. In 2013, there were 8,263 — marking a 23.1 percent increase. These are the households that generate the most significant portion of APS students, according to the county.
To compound the growth in the sheer number of larger families in the county, more families than ever before are sending their kids to Arlington schools. In 2000, 82 percent of school-age children in Arlington attended public school in the county. That number climbed to 91 percent in 2010.
According to U.S. Census data, there were 145 more total school-age children in Arlington in 2000 than in 2010, but the APS population added 1,837 children anyway.
What the Community Facilities Study and the Arlington County Board do with this information is still to be seen. The group has been meeting for about two months, and will continue to meet this summer. The group is charged with determining the best way to use the county and school system’s buildings, property and open space to serve everyone.
New Democratic County Board Contender — A field of six has been finalized for the Democratic Arlington County Board primary. The candidates include all five who spoke before the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this month, plus Bruce Wiljanen, “who is largely unknown to the Democratic political establishment.” [InsideNova]
New Tenant for Fmr. Marvelous Market Space — Empty for years, the former Marvelous Market storefront at 888 N. Quincy Street in Ballston has a new tenant. The space is being built out as an office for the real estate sales and marketing firm Smith | Schnider.
Coming Soon: More Dedicated Bus Lanes — A mile of dedicated bus lanes for the new Metroway route are set to open in Arlington this summer. Another 1.3 miles of peak-hour bus lanes are also planned. The route runs from the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to Crystal City. [Washington Post]
Medal of Honor Recipients in Arlington – On Tuesday, 26 living recipients of the Medal of Honor flew in to and then attended a luncheon at Reagan National Airport. The following day, on national Medal of Honor Day, they gathered for a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. [Army Times, Stars and Stripes]
Grant for APS Program — Arlington Public Schools has received a $25,000 grant from Rosslyn-based Graham Holdings to support the school system’s award-winning Traveling Trolley summer reading initiative. [Arlington Public Schools]
Police: Pair Stole Car, Shrimp, Underpants — (Updated at 2:00 p.m.) A man and a woman allegedly under the influence of crack cocaine and alcohol were arrested in Rosslyn Tuesday afternoon. Police say the pair had stolen a car, men’s underwear and a “large quantity of shrimp.” [MyFoxDC]
Playgroup Controversy in Fairlington — Members of a cooperative playgroup that uses the Fairlington Community Center say that Arlington County is attempting a “takeover of the group.” The parents say the county is trying to buy the playgroup’s toys, take over registration and raise the playgroup fee from $20 to $190. [Patch]
How One Teacher Is Using iPads — There’s some question about just how well Arlington Public Schools has trained its teachers on the use of technology in the classroom — particularly the individual iPads and MacBooks that are being assigned at certain grade levels. One teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary School, however, is taking advantage of the iPads in a big way, using them for various interactive lessons. That, officials say, is indicative of how such technology will increasingly be used in schools. [InsideNova]
ACFD Metro Training — Arlington firefighters are participating in department-wide Metro safety training this month. [Twitter]
(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) While new apartments and condos make up the vast majority of new housing units in Arlington, most of the growth in Arlington’s booming public school population over the past decade has actually come from single family home neighborhoods, county and school officials said Wednesday night.
At a meeting of the Arlington Community Facilities Study Committee, staff from Arlington Public Schools and the county Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development reviewed the housing trends that have fueled explosive school growth over the last decade. Despite the constant influx of millennials into newly-constructed apartments and condos in the county’s Metro corridors, single-family homes remain the driver of APS capacity issues.
Currently, every 100 apartments in a building with an elevator produces only about 8 students, according to APS. For condo buildings it’s even lower — 3 students for every 100 units.
However, in an interview today, APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said that might not always be the case.
“That’s what really worries us,” he said. “The county is encouraging developers to build larger units, and in places like Brooklyn and Queens, families living in high-rises is the norm … Our very low [student] generation rates could really increase. If they do, we could be in real trouble.”
That growth hasn’t happened yet, although Chadwick said APS watches those numbers “very closely” so the district is not surprised if the trends shift. Until then, staff, committee members and observers from the community all agreed that the cause of growth among students in the county requires further study.
According to U.S. Census data gathered by Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, the average size of single-family households has increased by 0.3 people among homeowners since 2000, and 0.6 people among home renters.
Several representatives of civic associations at last night’s meeting said they want the county to use data from single-family house teardowns that get rebuilt as substantially larger homes, as well as large additions. A parent in the Nottingham Elementary Parent Teacher Association said APS should adjust their projections based on the recent uptick in average household size among single-family homes.
“What’s happening in my neighborhood is there’s a huge stock of houses that were built in the ’50s are being knocked down, they’re being replaced by new large homes, all bought by younger families with lots of school kids,” the parent said. “We really need to dig into growth, not looking backwards at what did happen… You cannot assume that looking backwards is going to tell us the future.”
County-wide, 100 single-family homes generate about 42 students, according to APS data. But, Chadwick said, some neighborhoods are as high as 60 or 70.
A staffer at the meeting, when asked about predictive models based on house tear-downs and additions, said the data Arlington has is unreliable for school projections.
“The [demolition] permitting system was set up to collect fees, it wasn’t set up to project students,” the staffer said. “Unfortunately there’s limitations to that data … we’ve assembled it and that’s something we’re looking into with a similar question: can it be predictive given the constraints that we have?”
In the the current school year, 55 percent of students come from single-family homes, 22 percent come from garden apartments, 10 percent come from high-rise apartments and 13 percent come from condominiums, townhouses and duplexes combined. Those proportions have held over the last years, despite overall county population growth concentrated in the Metro corridors.
While single-family detached homes make up most of the land in Arlington County, those homes only make up 26 percent of the housing stock.
Red Top Development Deal Struck — A potential deal to redevelop Red Top Cab’s property in Clarendon, which we first reported in September, is closer to becoming reality. The Shooshan Company has reportedly entered a purchase agreement with Red Top that would build three residential properties with 584 units on the 3.44 acre site. [Washington Business Journal]
Spring Yard Waste Collection — Arlington County’s spring yard waste collection is set to start Monday and run through April 24. For homeowners, the collection will take place the next business day after their trash collection. [Patch]
APS ‘Traveling Trolley’ Wins Award — Arlington Public Schools has won a national award for its Traveling Trolley summer reading program . The trolley helps close the student achievement gap, providing “an effective way for low income families to gain access to printed text by providing free transportation to their neighborhood branch of the Arlington Public Library,” according to APS. [Arlington Public Schools]
New Va. Breastfeeding Law – A new law signed by Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe allows mothers to legally breastfeed in public, including in privately-owned buildings and businesses. The law will take effect July 1. [WUSA 9 - WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Arlington Public Schools will be closed Friday, the school system announced tonight.
From APS’ School Talk email:
All APS Schools will be closed and offices will open at Noon on Fri, Mar. 6. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. For 12-month employees who are eligible to telework, you may do so on Friday, OR you may elect to use unscheduled leave. If you choose to use either of these options, please communicate your plans with your supervisor this evening.
For Friday: Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled.
Weekend Activities: At this time, all weekend activities are expected to be held as scheduled.
Snow has largely ended around the area, but now frigid temperatures and icy roadways are a concern.
The rest of the local winter storm warnings have been dropped. Travel will remain difficult overnight. http://t.co/ksEJp9ANsk
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) March 6, 2015
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) March 6, 2015
From APS’ “School Talk” email:
“All APS schools and offices will be closed on Thu, Mar. 5. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.”
Parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday will be rescheduled.
In that environment, a group of parents is petitioning Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy — for a new language program.
Following a largely successful parent campaign for foreign language classes in elementary schools, now some parents want APS to go one step further and introduce a French immersion program. There’s already two Spanish immersion programs, at Claremont Elementary and Key Elementary, and this group would like to see something similar for Français.
From a MoveOn.org petition the group has started:
Dear Arlington Residents,
We need to expand language opportunities in APS to serve a critical number of francophone residents. Bilingualism increases mental flexibility for children and allows them to perform better in math, problem-solving and logic skills. It helps build self-esteem, creativity, and get a head start in competition for universities and jobs.
Right now, families have to leave Arlington to McLean and MD for French immersion Programs.
So far, the petition has gathered 88 signatures.
In New York City, according to an article linked to on the group’s Facebook page, public schools have three dual-language programs — Spanish, Chinese and French — and the French programs are paid for in part by the French government.