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by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 5:55 pm 2,914 0

Washington Redskins HelmetThe Arlington County Board adopted a resolution Tuesday afternoon calling on Washington’s professional football team to change its name.

The resolution was introduced by County Board member Walter Tejada, who said using the name Redskins as a reference to Native Americans is “objectionable to many Americans, Virginians and Arlingtonians.”

In introducing the resolution, Tejada noted that the team is in talks to move from its current home at FedEx Field, perhaps to Virginia. He also said that the issue is “personal for me” as a native of El Salvador with Mayan roots.

The resolution passed with the support of Tejada, Mary Hynes and Jay Fisette. John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey abstained, saying they agreed personally with changing the name but did not think the Board should take a position on the issue.

Tejada said that Arlington “has often ‘spoken out’ on issues ‘before it became popular, and it is time for us to do it again,'” according to a county press release.

The full text of the resolution, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm 1,055 0

Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.

On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.

Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.

Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.

The full letter is below.

Dear Mr. Severn:

I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).

The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.

The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.

We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community.  Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period.  However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event.  We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.

Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.

Sincerely,

James Lander, Chair

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm 4,663 0

Former Curves storefront in Cherrydale, possible home to a new gun storeUpdate on 5/20/15 — Nova Firearms has confirmed that it is indeed opening a store in Cherrydale.

The Maywood and Cherrydale neighborhood email listservs are abuzz today with talk of a gun store coming to the neighborhood.

The rumors surround the former Curves storefront at 2105 N. Pollard Street, in a small strip mall along Lee Highway. In a widely-circulated email, a neighbor says she’s spoken with the shopping center’s owner and he confirmed that a gun store will open there.

The property owner, Kostas Kapasouris, told ARLnow.com last week that an “expensive sporting goods” store has leased the space. He would not say who owns the store was or whether it would sell guns.

Listserv users have said they believe that the store may be linked with NOVA Firearms, a gun store in McLean. A man who answered the phone this afternoon said the owner of NOVA Firearms would call an ARLnow.com reporter back — but then quickly hung up before asking for a phone number.

Owners and employees of other stores in the shopping center said they heard the same rumors of a gun store or a high-end sporting goods store selling guns, but said they had not heard anything definitive from Kapasouris. Some expressed concerns about a gun store moving in, particularly given that there are several schools in the area.

Residents on the listservs expressed similar concerns.

“Wow! Was hoping for something a bit more family friendly,” one said. “I’m sure ‘walkable to gun shop’ will do wonders for our real estate values.”

“I am adamantly opposed to this!” another said. “If others feel the same way, can we petition the County to prevent this business in our neighborhood?”

It’s unlikely the county government has any legal standing to prevent a gun store that’s otherwise following Virginia law from opening. At least one resident privately told ARLnow.com that he’s not sure why there’s such an uproar.

“Note that the pawnshop on Lee Highway and Kirkwood (which used to go by National Pawnbrokers) also sells firearms, so I’m not sure what the big deal is,” he said.

Interior construction could be heard inside the store last week and workers could be seen coming and going. County officials told ARLnow.com that construction permits were not necessary because the work was minor. Inspectors responded to the location and found no code violations.

As of Tuesday afternoon, opaque plastic sheets covered the store’s windows and no other activity could be seen.

by ARLnow.com — March 26, 2015 at 9:45 am 1,882 0

Bicyclist on the Custis Trail with child

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]

by Ethan Rothstein — March 25, 2015 at 11:05 am 5,790 0

MoNA logo(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) The Mothers of North Arlington group is reverting to Yahoo! after a maligned platform shift last year, but the splinter group formed in the wake of the original change isn’t going anywhere.

Yesterday, MONA Co-Presidents Morgan Chinoy and M.K. Yeargin sent an email to their membership group announcing that the group would resume using two Yahoo! Groups for communication after switching to a system called MemberFuse last October. The co-presidents said that, in a poll of 900 of the group’s roughly 2,000 members, a majority voted to go back to Yahoo!.

“In light of the challenges over the past year, we look forward to a revitalized member community on the Yahoo groups,” the co-presidents said in an email to members, which ARLnow.com was forwarded. “Over 900 people voted in the poll, and the sheer number of responses, regardless of preference, is a testament to how important the message boards are to the MONA community.”

In response to last fall’s platform change, a separate Yahoo! Group formed: North Arlington Parents, or NAPping. MONA members disheartened by what they felt was a lack of consideration for the membership’s wishes splintered off, forming a free group — MONA costs $40 a year — with fewer restrictions.

NAPping isn’t going anywhere, its leaders told the group’s 766 members yesterday.

“The MONA board has repeatedly shown indifference to its members’ opinions,” NAPping moderators said in an email. “Therefore, we don’t see any reason to abandon NAP in favor of something that could once again be taken away without regard to the members’ objections.”

On March 5, MONA leaders sent out the poll to its membership, saying “notification outages” had led many of its members to “feel disconnected from MONA as a result.” An anonymous tipster told ARLnow.com that the outages were just one source of frustration — the new platform “was very difficult to read and scroll through, you had to click on each message if you wanted to read it, taking a lot of time.”

The NAPping group said it pledged to “continue to be free” and “will continue to use Yahoo Groups for discussions as long as that service continues to be available.” The splinter group doesn’t organize playgroups, host speakers or socials like dues-based MONA does.

Chinoy and Yeargin have not responded to requests for comment. After the jump, you can read the emails MONA and NAPping sent to their memberships yesterday.

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by Ethan Rothstein — February 24, 2015 at 11:10 am 2,362 0

Rosslyn Highlands Park — a narrow parcel of open space, a basketball court and a playground on Key Blvd — could be sold to a developer in exchange for a new fire station.

In a Nov. 8 presentation to the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) working group, Penzance, which owns the office building at 1555 Wilson Blvd, outlined a proposal that would redevelop the county-owned site — which includes Arlington Fire Station 10 — with three buildings and open space in the middle.

Last week, county staff released a draft plan to sell the site to Penzance, with the developer building a new fire station on the site, a landscaped public plaza and an extension of N. Pierce Street to 18th Street. On the property, Penzance proposes a 17-story office building fronting Wilson Blvd, a 24-story residential building along 18th Street N. and a 27-story residential building along the eastern edge of parcel.

The park is part of the area covered by the WRAPS group, a county-led commission discussing the future of the area in between 18th Street N., N. Quinn Street, Wilson Blvd and the 1555 Wilson Blvd property line. The development would replace Fire Station 10 and sit adjacent to the new H-B Woodlawn building at the Wilson School site, expected to be complete in September 2019.

The proposal is already drawing concern from some interested parties, including the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission and some members of the WRAPS working group. Paul Holland serves on both groups and spoke about his concern before the Arlington County Board Saturday morning, with several supporters dressed in green shirts — many recycled from the “Friends of TJ Park” group’s efforts — standing behind him.

Holland said that county staff’s presentation to the WRAPS group last week proposed selling the county’s land to Penzance to develop the plot.

“The only stakeholder getting what they want out of this process is the private developer, and this equates to public land for private good,” Holland said. “Selling parkland is a dangerous precedent that threatens publicly owned parks and open space throughout the county.”

Earlier this month, county staff released a resident feedback study about how best to use this parcel of land. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed preferred an option that keeps the Rosslyn Highlands Park footprint and shrinks Penzance’s proposal to the confines of its current plot of land.

“I attended our meeting [last] Thursday, hoping to see a proposal that captured the feedback of our community members: the desire for large, consolidated open space and ample park and recreation space that can serve this underserved community,” Holland said. “Unfortunately, this was not the case.”

“Instead, staff presented the working group with a plan that reduces the size of Rosslyn Highlands Park by more than two thirds,” he continued, “replaces cherishes green space with yet another paved plaza that supports a developer, and ignores the neighborhood’s significant open space needs.”

County staff said Fire Station 10 can’t be placed where the residents want it — on the property owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, across 18th Street — because of conflicts with school traffic. Staff also said N. Pierce Street needs to be extended, not the resident-preferred plan of extending N. Ode Street to the east. Those factors prompted staff to recommend selling the land to Penzance.

The dispute appears similar — right down to the T-shirts — over the battle for open space next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School that left the School Board scrambling for alternatives. County Board members told Holland and his supporters on Saturday that they might have to sacrifice some open space for other county needs.

“We can do anything we want, but we can’t do everything,” Board member Libby Garvey said, according to InsideNova. “We all want different things — they’re all good things — but how is it going to balance? … We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to start setting priorities. It’s not going to be an easy conversation.”

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by ARLnow.com — February 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm 7,844 0

Rosslyn skyline at dusk

Another notable figure is publicly calling Arlington “soulless.”

Yesterday, Wall Street Journal White House and politics reporter Byron Tau tweeted:

Tau, a resident of the District, formerly worked for several years at Rosslyn-based Politico. At least two of Tau’s followers, including a current Politico reporter, jumped half-heartedly to Arlington’s defense.

Tau later clarified that while he has not lived in Arlington, he’s “been all over Arlington by foot, car and bike. Columbia Pike, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, etc, etc.”

Reached by ARLnow.com, Tau declined to elaborate on his views on the record. His comments come several months after New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made headlines for calling Arlington a “soulless suburb” in her new book.

ARLnow.com first reported Gillibrand’s “soulless” snub, which prompted widespread indignation in Arlington and some nods of agreement in D.C. But it turns out that Tau beat Gillibrand to the punch by more than a year. He tweeted this in 2013.

For the sake of discussion — is there anything you think Arlington should do to become less “soulless” in the eyes of some? Or should it stay just the way it is?

by Ethan Rothstein — November 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm 1,576 0

More than 230 residents attended the Lyon Park Citizens Association meeting over the funding of the community center renovations (photo courtesy John Goldener)The Lyon Park Community Center is set to break ground on its million-dollar renovation next weekend, but the community is divided about plans to pay for the construction.

Last night, 265 Lyon Park residents attended a meeting of the Lyon Park Citizens Association — a record, according to LPCA President John Goldener — to vote on whether the community center should take out a $600,000 line of credit to help fund the renovation.

Put up as collateral for the bank: the park and community center itself.

After a spirited debate, 121 voted to let the Lyon Park Community Center Board of Governors take out the line of credit, with 114 voting to proceed with the renovations, funded only by donations. The LPCA has been fundraising for five years, according to treasurer Bill Anhut, but they have raised $450,000, far from the organization’s goal.

“It’s been apparent the costs were going to come in higher than we expected, and fundraising was lagging because the process was taking so long,” Anhut said. The LPCA has been discussing renovating the Lyon Park Community House, built in 1925, for more than a decade. “People were wondering if we were ever going to get to the point where we put the shovel in the ground.”

A group of residents has circulated a flyer in the last month asking residents to vote in the motion against taking out the line of credit. The flyer reads, in part:

“Repaying the loan will cost $680,000-$800,000, primarily from new donations, from YOU or else LYON PARK COULD BE LOST TO FORECLOSURE … the community center risks default and the bank could take over operations.”

Goldener said that scenario is “impossible.” In the deed to the park and community center — which is owned by the LPCA, meaning it’s owned by the residents of the neighborhood — it is stated that the property can only ever be a park and community center, Goldener said. Cardinal Bank, which approved the line of credit, knows that and has no intention of foreclosing.

Sketch of the planned Lyon Park community house renovationsEven if the LPCA can’t repay the loan, Anhut said, a few residents have volunteered to be guarantors on the loan, meaning if something changes with LPCA leadership and the association decides to stop making payments, the residents would step in to cover the expenses.

The only reason the bank asked for collateral, Anhut said, was to protect its investment and prevent the LPCA from getting more money from another bank.

“The bank proceeded with the loan and understands they can’t look to the property to satisfy any default,” Anhut said. “The bank knows that if they were to foreclose on this property, the deed has a stipulation that it will forever remain a park. It cannot be changed.”

The flyer passed out also suggests undergoing a more modest renovation with the cash on hand, asking “why can’t a sunroom be built in a second phase?”

Goldener dismissed the notion that the renovations are more than the facility needs.

“There’s a misperception that the cost of this is a gold-plated facility and it’s not,” he said. “The reason it’s expensive is because we have to do completely redo all the plumbing, electrical, ADA accessible entry, exits and handicapped bathrooms, and the kitchen’s a commercial kitchen, so all of the costs are essentially triple what they would be for a home renovation.”

Goldener said the community has run a number of financial models, and the LPCA anticipates “easily” paying back the sum of the loan, with interest, within 10 years. The citizens association will also continue to fundraise during the renovations, and the organization will only dip into the line of credit when it runs out of cash on hand, Anhut said. When the renovations are complete, donations and rental fees will combine to go toward paying back the credit.

Lyon Park is holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovations on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 4:00 p.m. The community center is located at 414 N. Fillmore Street. The renovations are expected be complete by next summer

Photo courtesy John Goldener

by ARLnow.com — October 9, 2014 at 9:00 am 3,895 0

Blood moon Wednesday morning  (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Tallula, EatBar Closing — Tallula and EatBar, which first opened in 2004 in Lyon Park, will be closing on Sunday, Oct. 26. The restaurants’ owner says they were “unable to reach an agreement with the landlord on renewing Tallula’s lease.” [Eater, Facebook]

Civ Fed Skeptical of Housing Effort — The Arlington County Civic Federation’s revenues-and-expenditures committee released a scathing critique of the county government’s “Public Lands for Public Good” affordable housing effort. The committee’s report said Arlington “couldn’t, and shouldn’t, try to solve all the region’s problems on its own.” It also said that “the county appears to be placing greater weight on the desires of non-residents who wish to move to Arlington ahead of the needs and wishes of its own citizens.” [InsideNova, PDF]

E-CARE This Weekend — Arlington County will hold its biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) on Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event allows residents to “safely dispose of household hazardous materials, bikes, small metal items, shoes, clothing and other recyclable items.” [Arlington County]

Pop-Up Dinners in D.C. for Ballston Restaurant — Before it officially opens in Ballston early next year, Pepita — a new “Mexican cantina” from former Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella — will be holding a series of “pop-up dinners” to test its menu. The dinners will held starting Oct. 30 be at Isabella’s G Sandwich restaurant at 2201 14th Street NW in D.C. [Washington Post]

Former County Controversy, Now Hardly a Blip — In 2008, Arlington was roiled by a long political fight over accessory-dwelling units, or “granny flats.” The County Board was considering whether to allow homeowners to build ADUs, which often house elderly family members. The Arlington Civic Federation opposed it, with critics warning that ADUs could turn quiet neighborhoods into overcrowded slums. The County Board ended up voting to allow ADUs by permit, but set a limit of 28 approvals per year. Since then, “less than a dozen” have been built. [InsideNova]

Roosevelt Bridge Inspections — The District Department of Transportation is conducting inspection work on the Roosevelt Bridge today and tomorrow. Route 50 drivers can expect some short-term lane closures during non-rush hour periods while the inspections are performed. Work vehicles associated with the inspections will be parked along the GW Parkway.

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

by Ethan Rothstein — September 25, 2014 at 11:30 am 4,122 0

Bishop O'Connell High School (Photo via Facebook)(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) A potential scandal is brewing at Arlington’s private Bishop O’Connell High School.

An alumni group is asking the Vatican to look into a slew of incidents they say has tarnished the private Catholic school’s reputation.

The group, led by former basketball player Brian Culhane, has sent a “fat package of allegations and grievances” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees issues of morality in the Roman Catholic Church, according to an investigative report by the sports gossip website Deadspin.

The allegations surround the varsity basketball team and its head coach, Joe Wootten.

According to Deadspin, Wootten allowed since-convicted heroin and cocaine trafficker Curtis Malone, the founder of the amateur hoops powerhouse D.C. Assault, to practice and visit the school.

Deadspin reports that Wootten sought the transfer of Congolese basketball player Junior Etou, who was the key figure on the team’s 2013 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship. The site found that Etou was very likely 21 years old when he played for O’Connell, two years too old to be eligible for high school play.

Etou, who was living with Malone at the time, produced a passport and visa that said he was born in 1994. While he was living in the Congo, however, he had earlier provided a birth certificate to basketball’s governing body stating he was born in 1992.

The report also alleges a cover-up by school officials after two basketball players allegedly filmed a sex act with a female student at the school. The players transferred before the last school year. Via Deadspin:

The talk was that Wootten’s latest exiles had left under an ugly cloud — that one of the players had shot a video in which a female student performed oral sex on the other player inside the school, then, according to an O’Connell employee, “posted his work on Instagram.” All of those alleged to be involved were juveniles and underclassmen.

[…]

Students found to have committed what is described in memos from O’Connell alumni to school and local Catholic officials as “a sexually immoral act” on campus are generally expelled, Culhane says; however, according to the rumors, the two boys were allowed to leave without any formal finding, while the girl alleged to have been involved remained enrolled at O’Connell. Culhane says alums who inquired about the incident were told by school administrators that she faced no punishment because “the [sex] act was not consensual.” Yet no charges were ever filed.

The Arlington County Police Department investigated the video, but spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said no charges were filed and the identity of the subjects could not be revealed because they were minors.

The confluence of events — without a satisfactory response from O’Connell administration of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington — prompted Culhane and his alumni to request Pope Francis step in. If the CDF and the Vatican decide it’s worth pursuing, according to Deadspin, it will compel Bishop Paul Loverde to investigate the school and the program.

O’Connell administration has not responded to a request for comment.

Update at 4:20 p.m. — The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has provided ARLnow.com with the following statement: 

The Diocese of Arlington regrets that concerns about the basketball program at Bishop O’Connell remain a source of frustration for some members of the school community.

As stated previously in 2013, Bishop O’Connell received official documentation regarding the age of former student Junior Etou, confirming his eligibility to participate in athletics during the 2012-13 academic year.

With regard to any allegations involving other students, the Diocese of Arlington cannot comment on individual disciplinary matters. As a matter of policy and practice if a school has reason to believe a student’s actions have violated the law, the proper law enforcement agency is contacted.

Photo via Facebook

by Ethan Rothstein — September 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm 3,440 0

Lubber Run Community Center (photo via Arlington County)Arlington County is receiving some pushback over its “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing and school capacity initiative.

Specifically, the identification of the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive) as a site for potential affordable housing has drawn the ire of the 76-unit townhouse community Cathcart Springs, across N. George Mason Drive from Lubber Run.

Arlington is expected to begin studying Lubber Run, the “salt dome” along Old Dominion Drive and land adjacent to Jennie Dean Park in Shirlington as county-owned land that could be developed or redeveloped into affordable housing. The community planning portions for those sites, if approved by the Arlington County Board, would begin next spring.

The county is already accepting online comments on the proposed sites, and recently extended its deadline to receive those comments by a month, until Oct. 31.  The association is passing out flyers to its residents, encouraging them to send this comment to the county:

“Using park and recreation facilities should be preserved for future generations and should NOT be considered for conversion to alternative uses. Once beautiful parkland is gone, it is gone forever. Preserve LRCC as a recreation/community center only.”

So far, the county has received about 70 comments, according to the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

“Many of the comments suggest revisions to improve the proposed site evaluation guidelines,” CPHD spokeswoman Jessica Margarit told ARLnow.com today. “Other comments range from concerns about preserving parkland to ensuring that affordable housing locations are balanced across the entire county.”

Cathcart Springs Homeowners Association President Sandy First told ARLnow.com that she’s not opposed to affordable housing — far from it — but that site should not be considered. She also said Cathcart Springs has teamed up with the Arlington Forest Civic Association to rally against the proposal.

“I’m not against affordable housing at all, it’s just that most of it is [in the 22203 ZIP code],” she said. “Across the street at Lubber Run you’ve got an opportunity over there. With the community center, playground and amphitheater, it could play into an incredible array of programs.”

The opposition to Lubber Run’s redevelopment joins opposition from the Old Dominion Civic Association to plans to redevelop the “salt dome” site, for which adjacent green space had originally been slated for a new fire station and emergency management headquarters. That plan has been scaled back since as the county mulls its options, but the County Board approved $28 million to redevelop Lubber Run.

Photo via Arlington County

by Ethan Rothstein — September 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm 1,575 0

Barcroft Elementary School 2-19-14Some 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.

by Ethan Rothstein — September 11, 2014 at 1:50 pm 8,025 0

Bikram Arlington 9/11 Tweets (Screenshot via @Cameron_Gray)

(Updated at 2:05 p.m.) A Ballston hot yoga studio sparked outrage Thursday by promoting a Sept. 11-themed sale and referencing conspiracy theories.

“9+11 = 20% OFF! PATRIOT DAY SALE on Bikram Yoga,” Bikram Arlington, located four miles from the Pentagon at 4509 5th Road N., tweeted Thursday morning.

Twitter users told the company they were appalled by the reference to the tragedy.

“Kind of disgusting to promote shop sales with a Sept. 11 discount. Shame on you, @bikramarlington,” user @Melissaeweiss wrote.

Courthouse resident Angela Herrick, 32, said a Facebook post from the yoga studio about the sale appeared alongside a post remembering her friend’s father, who was killed in the Pentagon.

“A tragedy like this should never be used to promote a business, period,” Herrick told ARLnow.com, noting she had frequented the studio since 2011. “I will not be returning, ever.”

Bikram Arlington then tweeted, “The goal was to point out what date it was and associate to patriotism and to remember it. Its [sic] a shame some of you go to the negative.”

“Apologies to anyone who is upset by it!” another tweet from the company said.

That tweet was was quickly followed by a suggestion to search 9/11 “truther” conspiracy theories.

“If you want to be upset, research the term ‘911 building 7′ and check the news because they are hearing ‘chatter’ about us getting hit again.”

The studio’s promotion page added more color on the deal: “Freedom Isn’t Free — And we intend to honor those patriots who have died for our country and morn [sic] the loss of freedom of speech and other rights that died day.”

Studio owner Zahra Vaezi, whose husband, Frank, wrote the tweet, told The Washington Post that she “didn’t realize people would be so ‘roar,’ you know?” over the promotion.

“It’s like that man who punched his wife,” she told the Post, referring to ex-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. “I mean, that’s upsetting. But I think it kind of gets blown out of proportion.”

Multiple calls to the studio went unreturned.

by Ethan Rothstein — August 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm 6,054 0

(Updated 2:25 p.m.) The issues with nannies, childcare workers and parents letting children urinate and defecate at Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S.) were caught on camera by FOX 5 D.C. yesterday, just minutes after the news crew arrived at the scene.

“Our FOX 5 crew had only been at Penrose Park for a few minutes when we saw a girl going to the bathroom behind a tree. And then a little boy did too,” reporter Alexandra Limon wrote. “We purposely blurred the video and did not tape the girl behind the tree. But it appeared from the kids and nanny’s reaction that this was a normal thing for them.”

Limon’s account corroborates what many parents have said, both in the comments of ARLnow.com’s initial story and in an anonymous interview. FOX 5 also interviewed an ARLnow reporter during its morning show on the topic.

“This has been going on for a very long time at the park,” one parent said, in a phone conversation after the initial story was published. “The worst I saw was one parent dropping the kid’s underpants inside the fenced-in area” where the playground is.

Arlington Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com in an email this morning that allowing children to pee or poop in the park is a violation, with the first offense resulting in a warning. Repeat offenders can be banned from a park, she said, but the parks department doesn’t “have records of anyone being banned.”

“In the past Penrose was checked by our Rovers and Rangers throughout the week,” Kalish said. “We are beefing that up now but we think that with all the attention to this, whomever was doing it before will stop and others won’t consider it. We’ve found that even homeless people are pretty embarrassed when they get caught. Defecating in public is not a first option for anyone.”

Video courtesy FOX 5 D.C.

by Ethan Rothstein — August 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm 3,608 0

A store selling civilian and military-grade weaponry and tactical gear is planning to move into the ground floor of a condominium building in the Nauck neighborhood.

SpecDive Tactical, which currently operates out of an apartment building on S. Abingdon Street in Fairlington, hopes to move into the ground floor of 2249 S. Shirlington Road, next door to Pizzoli Pizza. When contacted, SpecDive Tactical’s owner Gerald Rapp confirmed an agreement was in place to move into the space, but otherwise declined to comment on the record.

SpecDive’s initial building permit application was rejected, according to Arlington Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Helen Duong, “because there were no parking spaces available for the new retail.” CPHD has asked for a new plan with parking provided, Duong said.

The shop has been in business since 2012, according to the owner profile section of SpecDive’s Yelp page. It has a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Federal Firearm License, according to ATF records. On the Yelp page, Rapp says he was in the Marine Corps from 1985 to 1994 and a U.S. Navy deep sea diver after that.

“SpecDive, LLC., a veteran owned small business, was created in direct response to the need for the Military and federal law enforcement  to partner effectively with private industries to meet the current and future needs of a citizen-centric government and world leader,” the Yelp page reads.

The shop was the subject of a petition from Nauck residents back in March, who were hoping to prevent it from moving in.

“We, the members of the Nauck Civic Association Executive Committee are very concerned about locating this business in our community,” an email announcing the petition stated. “Although, we are attempting to solicit businesses to locate within our community, we are not convinced that this type of business fits the description of what the residents seek.”

Reached for comment last week, Nauck Civic Association President Alfred Taylor said nothing has changed regarding the NCA’s position on the gun shop. He noted that Rapp is expected to attend the September NCA meeting.

“The position of the Association has not changed in that they would rather not have a facility of that sort at that location,” Taylor wrote in an email, “but realize it is a by-right retail business in accordance with all zoning regulations.”

Rapp has already met with representatives from the county and Arlington Public Schools and members of the community, including Drew Model School Parent Teacher Association President Evan Thomas. Thomas said the PTA has no formal position on SpecDive’s planned move, and may or may not take one when its membership reconvenes after the school year begins.

“The general tone of the meeting was pretty cordial,” Thomas told ARLnow.com today. “What Jerry spent most of his time discussing was their security protocols, what they do, their process for selling firearms, answered questions in regards to how a person could go about obtaining a firearm, what types of firearms they could purchase and the difference between the requirements for a shotgun or rifle or pistol. Those are the items you can buy off the street, assuming you can pass the background check they do.”

Thomas, speaking as a parent and resident of the area, said Rapp assuaged some of his trepidation about a gun dealer moving into the neighborhood.

“I have two kids who attend Drew… so you’re always concerned about the safety of the area where there school is,” Thomas said. “At the end of the meeting I felt as comfortable as you can with a business like that. He’s very cognizant of the perils, the need for security and the implications of what could happen to him in terms of losing his business, losing his license, facing potential jail time if he slips up. I felt comfortable with him as a business owner.”

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