Yesterday @APSVirginia tweeted a “friendly reminder” for those mentioning it in tweets to “be respectful.”
“We remove followers who don’t,” the school system said. “Our technology policies apply in the Twitterverse.”
Via email, school spokesman Frank Bellavia says the tweet was specifically aimed at students who have been complaining about snow cancellation and delay decisions.
“We have had a number of students use inappropriate language or make inappropriate comments on twitter over the last few weeks,” Bellavia said. “This is the second time we have posted this message asking students to be respectful on Twitter or we will block them.”
APS’ internet policy states that student and staff must be courteous, use appropriate language, must not harass or attack others, and must not “view, send, display, or use profanity, obscenities, sexually explicit, or offensive materials.”
Violations of the policy may result in school suspension, but so far APS has apparently just been blocking offenders.
Today, when APS decided on a two hour delay instead of a school cancellation — like Fairfax County Public Schools — students did not seem to heed the warning.
More tweets from this morning, after the jump.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The working group charged by the county to help decide the fate of the green space next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School says it was unable reach a final consensus.
Arlington Public Schools is eyeing land surrounding the middle school as the site for a new $50 million, 725-seat elementary school for south Arlington. Those funds were adopted by the School Board as part of the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan last June, and approved as part of the schools bond referendum by Arlington voters in November.
The 20-member Thomas Jefferson Working Group was formed by the Arlington County Board last year, after APS announced the middle school’s surrounding area was its “preferred” location for a new elementary school. The group has met 10 times over the last five months but still couldn’t reach an agreement on how best to proceed.
“While the group could not reach full consensus within tight constraints, we do agree on strong guidelines under which a new school, if approved, could be fitted into this important site without harming TJ Park or the many community activities there,” working group chair Carrie Johnson said in a press release.
An advocacy group, Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park, formed soon after APS announced it was considering the TJ site, and the Friends group has been expressing vocal opposition to the placement of a new school on existing parkland at the 27-acre site.
“Building adjacent to the middle school ignores the county’s future recreation needs by permanently converting parkland and valuable open space to non-park and recreation uses,” Friends group President Jim Presswood said in a December press release. “We agree that Arlington needs more seats for students, but we should not have to choose between schools and parks.”
The group now leaves the decision of whether to build on the site up to the County Board. If the Board elects not to build on the site, the elementary school seats the school could have provided to South Arlington would come from additions at Barcroft and Randolph Elementary Schools, an alternative plan the School Board has already approved but is more expensive than building a new school.
Johnson will present the working group’s recommendations to the County Board at its Saturday meeting, and the Board is expected to respond during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27. During its deliberations, the working group engaged the community with open meetings, surveys and involving local civic associations in the discussion.
Any plan to build a school at the site needs County Board approval because part of the land is owned by the county, not Arlington Public Schools.
The complete working group report is available online. The group found that it’s feasible to build an elementary school site to the west of the existing middle school and it would have a relatively minor impact on current recreational uses. However, the group says building on the site removes it from consideration for future parkland — for which it’s currently slated — and it would pre-empt the comprehensive study the County Board is launching this year of all county- and school-owned properties for future use.
Kids Have iPads, But Teachers Don’t Have Training — Updated at 1:50 p.m. — Some fourth and sixth graders received iPad Air tablets (and ninth graders received MacBook Air laptops) from Arlington Public Schools this year, but many teachers have reportedly still not received formal training on how to use them, according to the Washington Post. (ARLnow.com hears that some students from other grades also received iPads.) While certain parents view the devices as “another screen,” others say the devices, if properly implemented in classrooms, can be used to educate students in an interactive way that they’re especially receptive to. [Washington Post]
Concrete Falling from I-66 Overpass — A local cycling advocate says chunks of concrete have been falling from the I-66 overpass over Lee Highway. [Windy Run]
Superintendent Makes Boundary Refinement Recs — Arlington Public Schools staff presented the superintendent’s recommendations for North Arlington elementary school boundary refinements to the School Board Thursday night. The changes would impact a relatively small number of students. A public hearing on the refinements is set for Jan. 15. [InsideNova]
Aquatics Center Still on Back Burner — Arlington County was hoping that D.C. might win the 2024 Summer Olympics bid so that it could build the stalled Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center with Olympic funds. With hopes of that dashed, the county is now focusing on finding a way to build the aquatics center without using more than the $79.5 million allocated. The county may also start building the next planned phase of Long Bridge Park without the center. [Washington Post]
As a result of the freezing rain and potentially slippery conditions, Arlington Public Schools has decided to open on a two-hour delay.
The school system made the announcement just after 4:30 a.m.:
“All Arlington Public Schools will open two hours late today. All administrative offices will open on time. Essential employees should report to work as scheduled. Twelve month employees may take unscheduled leave or telework. Please communicate your plans with your supervisor. Morning field trips are canceled. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.”
APS caught some criticism from a TV meteorologist last night for not making its call sooner.
So far, no problems have been reported on roads in Arlington that were pre-treated. Reagan National Airport, meanwhile, reports that runways are “open and in good condition,” although some flights have been canceled.
Arlington Public Schools has yet to announce any sort of delay Monday, despite concerns about freezing rain.
ABC 7 meteorologist Steve Rudin doesn’t think that’s such a good idea.
Over the course of several tweets Sunday night, Rudin reprimanded APS for not making an early delay call, like the federal government and numerous local school systems.
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) January 12, 2015
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) January 12, 2015
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) January 12, 2015
APS says it will wait until the early morning to make a final decision.
Arlington and other local school systems were criticized for not delaying school last Tuesday when snow was in the forecast; the snow turned out to be heavier than expected, causing major travel delays and numerous crashes.
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools has issued an apology as the early-morning decision to keep schools open today has been widely derided by parents as dangerous and misguided.
As more snow fell than predicted, and did so during the morning rush hour, school buses around the county got stuck on hills, were involved in accidents and, in some cases, never arrived to pick up their students.
Parents and students alike tweeted ARLnow.com about their travel woes.
– David Hawkins (@khnashi) January 6, 2015
– David Hawkins (@khnashi) January 6, 2015
Liz Vance, the mother of a third-grader at Barrett Elementary School, dropped her child off at about 9:30 a.m. after assuming there would be a delay. She told ARLnow.com she had one friend who lives on N. Granada Street waiting for the bus to come.
“[APS Superintendent Patrick] Murphy can’t get anything right,” Vance said. “Why didn’t we at least have a delay? We were driving really slow, and the roads are not good. This is kind of ridiculous. They were really pretty clear that it was going to snow. They knew with enough time to at least call a delay.”
School buses were involved in six accidents this morning, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, including on N. McKinley Road next to McKinley Elementary School, at S. Joyce and 23rd Streets and on N. Kirkwood Road. Another was reported stuck for at least two hours at S. Quincy ands 12th Streets. Bellavia said it appears none of the accidents were serious and no students were hurt.
The snow didn’t just affect parents, students and buses; teachers and APS employees also had trouble making it to the school this morning. The instructional technology coordinator at Glebe Elementary School tweeted at 10:53 a.m. that it took him four hours and 12 minutes to get to the school today, and classes at Gunston Middle School may not have started on time due to a lack of teachers able to make it to the school.
“I think most of our schools started on time and we had enough coverage in the buildings,” Bellavia said.
There was also no phone service at some schools, including Williamsburg Elementary. Students who arrived late this morning would not be marked tardy, APS announced.
All after-school and evening activities have been cancelled, APS said in a statement, but students will be sent home at normal times.
“We believe that students are safest at school when parents have not had a chance to make alternate plans for their child’s return home from school,” the schools said in a statement. “However, families who prefer to pick up their children early today are welcome to do so.”
The full APS statement, after the jump.
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board voted last night to move the H-B Woodlawn program from its home on Vacation Lane to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.
The Wilson School, which preservationists launched a petition to save last year, will be torn down and replaced with an estimated 775-seat facility house H-B Woodlawn, the Stratford program, and other, smaller programs that had been housed in the Stratford building.
The demolition and new facility will cost an estimated $80.2 million and be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
As part of the School Board’s goal of building 1,300 new middle school seats by 2019, it will be constructing a $29.2 million renovation of the Stratford building and convert it into a neighborhood middle school with 1,000-seat capacity.
Arlington Public Schools staff will also determine which sites to recommend spending up to $16.6 million on renovating or building additions for 300 more middle school seats. Where those seats will be, according to APS staff, will be decided “no later than the next” Capital Improvement Plan process.
The plan the School Board approved is similar to the one endorsed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month. They elected the plan over building a neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site and building a middle school at the Reed/Westover building.
School Board Chair James Lander and Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said they opposed building a neighborhood school in Rosslyn two months ago.
“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez said at the time. Lander said the site is “not one that would be my first option.”
School Board member Abby Raphael, who said at that same meeting that she would be open to seeing a neighborhood school at the Wilson site, voted against the motion.
“I myself believe that a 1,300-seat, or even 1,000-seat, neighborhood school at the Wilson School was the best option for us,” Raphael said. “We have students in that area, it is a growing neighborhood, many students would have been able to walk to that school, it would have been one project, and it would have been cost effective.”
During a community meeting on the middle school capacity options in October, parents expressed support for using the Wilson School as a facility.
“I don’t know what should go in there, but I think that [the Wilson School] needs to be considered,” Ponappa Paleyanda, who lives near the site in the North Highlands neighborhood, said at the time. “It’s urban, and we live in an urban setting. It would give kids the ability to be put in settings they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in school.”
The motion carried 3-1, with Lander, Violand-Sanchez and Nancy Van Doren voting in support.
“I think the vast majority of this, we have a consensus on, and I think we should all take a breath and realize we’ve done really, really well here,” Van Doren said, emphasizing the lengthy community process and a final decision that appears to bring “1,300 secondary school seats, within budget, on time, by 2019.”
The School Board’s decision will be disappointing to preservationists, who have argued that the 104-year-old Wilson School is historic in nature and should be preserved.
Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.
The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.
The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.
APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.
The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.
“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”
Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.
“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”
Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan and Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy, in a meeting with a few dozen residents last night, explained plans to handle the Arlington’s projected $28.4 million shortfall for next year.
“It will take cuts,” Donnellan said from a podium in Washington-Lee High School’s cafeteria. “It’s not an option. The Board may increase [spending] in some areas, but we’re going to have to cut.”
After presentations where each laid out the state of their administrations — Donnellan summarized the stagnant corporate real estate assessments, while Murphy laid out the school system’s exploding enrollment — residents broke into groups with staff members to discuss possibilities for budget improvements.
“I think there should be more sharing between the county and schools,” one resident said, telling a story about tree surveying around Thomas Jefferson Middle School. He said the county conducted a tree survey, and months later APS conducted one of its own. “There is too much duplicity and excess.”
Other resident questions and ideas posed in breakout groups, as taken down by county and APS staff, were:
- Why not use budget reserves instead of cutting services?
- Is APS looking into cutting from summer school or increasing class size?
- Will the county close Artisphere?
- Can the coordination between county permitting and APS improve for projecting student generation?
A topic that came up at multiple groups was Foreign Language in Elementary Schools, an initiative that has drawn community support and is offered in a majority of the county’s elementary schools. Multiple attendees suggested the program could be scaled back, while others, who supported its implementation, questioned the common sense of offering FLES while not allowing sixth-graders to take a language.
Donnellan and Murphy said they were gathering information before creating their proposed budgets, which will be presented to their respective boards in February.
“The residents give a lot of good insight into the tolerance for what they’re willing to live with and without,” Donnellan told ARLnow.com. “You get a lot of balance and they have a really good conversation.”
Murphy was less focused on cuts than the school system’s performance thus far and its growing needs. APS is projecting $8.7 million in this year’s budget for teacher pay step increases, and Murphy said the idea of a hiring freeze or cutting teacher pay is not a solution.
“D.C. is now offering $50,000 for an entry-level teacher,” he said. “They are stepping into the fray to make the market more competitive. We need to maintain that competitiveness.”
While many have called for more coordination between the governments, Donnellan and Murphy stressed that the two organizations work in tandem, not in opposition.
“It’s not schools vs. county,” Donnellan said after her presentation. “It’s one budget, it’s one community.”
Board to Consider ‘Technology Zone’ Expansion — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved a motion to advertise changes to its program of giving tax breaks to small technology firms. Possible changes include expanding the “technology zones” in which businesses are eligible for the program to instead cover the entire county. The Board will vote on the changes in December. [Arlington County]
Werth Gnome Made of Cans at DCA — A huge Jayson Werth garden gnome sculpture made of cans is one such can creation on display at Reagan National Airport. Made for the annual “Canstruction” competition, which runs through Nov. 22, the sculptures will benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center. [DCist]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six Arlington Public Schools students have placed first in a state-wide video contest. They created a 30-second video for the annual Virginia School Boards Association competition. [Arlington Public Schools]
Shooting Suspect Arrested in Arlington — One of the two suspects in the shooting of two teenagers in Woodbridge was arrested Tuesday by Arlington County Police, following a traffic stop on N. George Mason Drive. [WNEW]
Columnist: Streetcar’s Death Will Widen Class Divisions — Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney opines that the decision to kill the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system will “probably deepen” class and racial divisions in Arlington. “In effect, Arlington just told its least prosperous residents: ‘You want streetcars to upgrade your neighborhoods? Too expensive. Keep riding the bus.’” McCartney writes. [Washington Post]
The H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.
Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.
If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school – by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.
The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.
Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3″ option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.
The other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.
Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.
The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.
Glencarlyn Park, Sewer Main Upgrades Approved — The Arlington County Board over the weekend unanimously approved a sewer main construction project for Old Dominion Drive. The Board also approved upgrades to Glencarlyn Park, including a rain garden, plaza and bicycle facilities. [Arlington County]
Arlington’s Per-Pupil Spending Tops Region — Arlington Public Schools spends $19,040 per student, the highest such figure of any Washington suburb. On a per-pupil basis, Arlington spends 24 percent more than Montgomery County schools, 41 percent more than Fairfax County schools and 84 percent more than Prince William County schools. [InsideNova]
Loan Approved for Senior Housing — On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $1.35 million loan to help keep the Culpepper Gardens I apartment complex affordable. The complex include 204 committed affordable units for seniors. [Arlington County]
No New Westover Middle School? — The Arlington School Board has informally voted to remove the Reed School site in Westover from consideration as a potential location for a new middle school. Many residents have said they would rather see the building used for a neighborhood elementary school. [InsideNova]
Board Updates Green Building Incentives — The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 to require higher sustainability standards for its Green Building Incentive Program, which rewards developers for environmentally-sound building practices. [Arlington County]
Local Reporter Travels to Germany for Streetcar Story — WAMU reporter Michael Lee Pope traveled to Germany to report on the use of streetcars in Berlin, tying his findings back to Arlington’s proposed streetcar project. Streetcars run in formerly Communist-controlled East Berlin, but no longer in West Berlin. One interviewee said people ride East Berlin’s streetcars partially out of a sense of nostalgia and the “special feeling” one gets from riding them. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Property Assessments Expected to Rise — Arlington property owners may be on the hook for $330 to $440 in additional taxes next year, if rates stay the same. That’s because initial estimates suggest that assessments of single-family homes and condos in Arlington County will rise 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively. [Washington Post]
New Construction Coming to DCA — Reagan National Airport will be getting a new regional jet concourse, a new parking garage and larger security screening areas, as part of a just-approved $1 billion capital construction program. Security screening will be relocated to the ticketing level, which will open up the “National Hall” shopping and dining area to all security-screened passengers. The airport served 20.4 million passengers in 2013, a figure that’s expected to rise to 22 million soon. [MWAA, Greater Greater Washington]
County to Receive Breastfeeding Program Grant — Arlington County is set to receive a nearly $30,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Health to support a breastfeeding counselor program for lower-income residents. [Arlington County]
APS Thanks Voters for School Bond — The Arlington School Board is thanking Arlington voters for approving this year’s $105.78 million school bond. Among the six projects to receive bond funding are $50 million for either a new elementary school or two elementary school additions, $29 million for an addition and renovation to Abingdon Elementary, and $5 million for improvements at Washington-Lee High School that will add 300 seats. [Arlington Public Schools]
Cold, Snowy Winter Outlook — This winter is expected to be colder and snowier than usual, according to forecasters. [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
APS Ranked in Top 100 — Arlington Public Schools has ranked No. 38 on a list of the top 100 school districts in America, published by the education website Niche. [WJLA]
Howze Won Pike Precincts — There was a bright spot for Democrat Alan Howze, who lost to incumbent John Vihstadt in a historic County Board election on Tuesday. Howze narrowly beat Vihstadt in the voting precincts along Columbia Pike. Howze supported the building of the Columbia Pike streetcar while Vihstadt vehemently opposes it. [InsideNova]
Preservation Arlington Opposes School Plans — The group Preservation Arlington wants its supporters to speak out against plans to build a new school on the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and to make changes to the Stratford School that would compromise its “historic integrity.”
No Tysons Wegman’s — A deal to bring a Wegman’s grocery store to Tysons Corner has fallen through. That will likely be disappointing to the many Arlingtonians who have been longing for a Wegman’s location closer than Fairfax or Woodbridge. Arlington isn’t the only D.C. suburb hoping for a Wegman’s, however. Reston residents have been calling for one, though the chain’s general requirement of a 80,000-150,000 square foot store with plenty of surface parking reportedly makes a Reston location unlikely. [Washington Post]
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.
The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.
A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.
“The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.
Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.
Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.
A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.
According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”
In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.
The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.
Photo via Google Maps