The recommended changes are detailed in a memo that also lists two alternative plans. The intent is to ease school overcrowding and to assign students to a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The shuffle will affect students at seven elementary schools in North Arlington — Ashlawn, Glebe, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor and Tuckahoe.
The major changes will involve moving around 900 students in the following ways:
- Reassign 67 students from McKinley to Ashlawn
- Reassign 56 students from Glebe to McKinley
- Reassign 164 students from Jamestown to the new school at Williamsburg
- Reassign 71 students from Taylor to Jamestown
- Reassign 347 students from Nottigham to the new school at Williamsburg
- Reassign 146 students from Tuckahoe to Nottingham
- Reassign 49 students from Taylor to the new school at Williamsburg
“We went through a process of community meetings starting this past fall. There was lots of input and lots of options,” said APS Transition Facilities Planning Consultant Meg Tuccillo. “The superintendent examined the input he received, and the need to address capacity, and determined that this recommendation met that need.”
The plan also includes recommendations for grandfathering that would also need to be approved by the School Board. The ideas especially apply to fifth graders so they don’t have to move for their final year of elementary school. Siblings of fifth graders also would not have to move immediately. The grandfathering recommendations are as follows:
- Rising fifth graders and concurrently enrolled younger siblings (grades K-4 as of June 2015) may choose to remain at their current school for the 2015-16 school year only. Transportation will continue for current bus riders for that year.
- A student attending either Immersion School, in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved from one Immersion School group to another Immersion School group, may remain at their current Immersion School through fifth grade with transportation provided by APS.
- A student attending Arlington Science Focus in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved to the New Elementary School #1, may remain at ASFS through fifth grade with transportation provided by APS.
APS reports that its staff has participated in more than 40 community meetings since the beginning of the boundary changing process. Two additional public meetings will take place in April, and the School Board is scheduled to give a final vote on May 16. If approved at that time, the changes will go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year. An exception would be made for students reassigned to McKinley. Those students would be delayed a year and instead would switch schools in time for the 2016-2017 school year, when McKinley’s expansion is expected to be completed.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s recommended FY 2014 budget would keep class sizes steady, would add new school buses and would provide for merit pay increases for school employees, despite a $23.5 million budget shortfall.
Murphy formally unveiled his budget Thursday night at a budget work session with the School Board.
To help close the gap, Murphy’s budget takes advantage of $20.2 million worth of surplus and reserve funds from previous years, and “efficiencies” in custodial staffing, the teen parenting program and gifted teachers, among other programs.
In all, $411.1 million of the $520.4 million budget comes from county tax revenue. Aside from the $20.2 million “carry forward” and $17.6 million in fees, the rest — about 13.3 percent of the budget — comes from federal and state sources.
The budget allocates an additional $10 million in staffing, materials and facilities costs for the nearly 1,000 additional students expected to be enrolled next year. That includes $1.9 million for new trailer classrooms.
The budget also provides $7.2 million for merit-based raises for teachers and other employees. Of that, about $446,000 will come from the state, under a plan to supposedly provide 2 percent raises for Virginia teachers. Of those staff members receiving raises, the increase in pay will average about 3 percent, APS said in a budget briefing for the media.
By maintaining the current class size levels while accounting for the rapid enrollment growth, Murphy says the budget fulfills the school system’s goal of putting students first.
“This budget is a prudent and targeted effort to maintain APS quality and the education that our community values,” Murphy said in a statement. “This budget firmly commits to our students by maintaining current class sizes and to our staff by including a compensation increase, the first step increase in two years.”
APS plans to purchase and staff 6 additional school buses this year. That should prevent another round of controversial bus service adjustment.
The budget also provides for a full-time residency verification specialist. Murphy also proposed the position last year, but it did not make it into the School Board’s final budget. Currently, APS only employs a part-time residency verification specialist for the entire 22,613 student school system.
Murphy said a full-time residency verification specialist could help identify students who are attending Arlington Public Schools but whose parents don’t live here.
“With the growing enrollment we have, we need to make sure we’re serving our kids here in Arlington,” he said. ”I think there’s a concern that people are attracted to Arlington Public Schools. We need to monitor that.”
Other additions in this year’s budget include a new security coordinator, technology upgrades, athletic trainer who specialize in concussion management, and dropout prevention coordinators.
The “efficiencies and reductions” — including cuts in custodians, high school gifted teachers, the teen parenting program, and administration — will eliminate 61 positions and save $7.8 million. With the school system continuing to grow and hire — some 300 teachers were hired last year — Murphy says those impacted by the cuts will be reassigned elsewhere in APS, not laid off.
With Murphy’s proposed budget, the per-pupil cost in Arlington will rise from $18,675 to $18,709, although that could drop to $18,405 if the School Board elects not to use one if its reserve funds.
The School Board will adopt the final FY 2014 budget on May 2. Between now and then, APS will hold a number of budget work session and public hearings.
The task of re-working the Arlington Public Schools boundaries is in the home stretch. The options have been whittled down to two, and tomorrow night (Wednesday) the public can get a detailed look at the final recommendations.
The School Board approved the creation of new boundaries to accommodate a new elementary school on the Williamsburg site and to help ease crowding at seven other elementary schools: Ashlawn, Glebe, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor and Tuckahoe. Since the announcement last year, there have been numerous meetings and the public has submitted suggestions and concerns about the changes.
The two final options will be revealed to the community tomorrow at a 7:00 p.m. meeting at Williamsburg Middle School. The maps are largely similar to each other, with the main differences appearing along the Glebe/Taylor border and along the Glebe/McKinley border.
After the public gets a chance to discuss the choices at Wednesday’s meeting, staff will present their recommendations to APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. He will review the options and decide which plan(s) he will present to the School Board at its meeting March 21.
In a letter to parents and in an online video (above), Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is trying to answer questions and quell outrage among some parents in response to changes to the school system’s busing policies.
Just weeks before the start of school, APS sent letters to parents notifying them that the school system would begin enforcing rules, already in place, that reserve bus transportation for students a mile or more away from their elementary school and 1.5 miles or more away from their middle or high school. Students outside the so-called “walk zones” have been issued passes that allow them to board a bus at a specific bus stop; those inside the walk zones must walk, bike or otherwise find their own transportation to school.
The goal was to increase the efficiency, on-time performance and safety of the bus system by knowing which students will board the bus at which time and place. The changes also made it possible for Arlington to absorb nearly 1,000 new students this year without having to buy additional buses or hire additional drivers.
But hundreds of parents have protested against the changes by signing an online petition or joining a Facebook group called “Arlington Parents for Safe Transportation.” Many of those parents say their children were previously eligible for bus transportation, but were not issued passes this year. They argue that forcing their children to walk to school — sometimes over busy roads — risks their safety.
In his letter, Dr. Murphy said the changes actually improve student safety.
“The primary focus of this transition has been to ensure the safety of our students,” he said. “This means we need to know who is on the bus, and to ensure that our buses are not overcrowded, especially in the face of our growing enrollment needs. We also need to focus on improving on-time service to and from schools. This new system will also ensure that we avoid having too many or too few students assigned to a bus.”
Dr. Murphy struck an apologetic tone when responding to complaints that the changes were made too close to the new school year, which starts on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
“I regret the confusion some families have experienced and want to assure you that we are working to address and respond quickly to the many questions and concerns that have been raised,” Dr. Murphy wrote. “I recognize that notifying you recently of specific changes for your child’s eligibility for the bus service has been disruptive to some families.”
Approximately 14,000 students are eligible for bus transportation this year, while about 9,000 are within their school’s walk zone, according to APS. The letter revealed that a recalculation of distances to schools has prompted APS to eliminate 12 bus stops, affecting about 250 students. (There are 1,783 bus stops across the county.)
Dr. Murphy said some mistakes were made, resulting in bus passes not being issued to some students outside the walk zones. Those mistakes are being corrected, he said, via an ongoing appeals process.
Power Outage Update — As of 8:30 a.m., there were 14,860 Dominion customers still without power in Arlington. That’s down from 27,586 outages as of 9:30 yesterday morning.
911 Now Accessible By Cell Phone — Arlington County says its 911 system is now properly receiving calls from cell phones. Problems were reported with the system yesterday afternoon.
Cancel Special Events on the Fourth? — Citing power outages and a dodgy 911 system, Arlington Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown says he’s not sure it’s the best idea for Arlington to host events for the Fourth of July tomorrow. He told the Washington Post yesterday: “I’m questioning having a special event during an emergency.” [Washington Post]
School Board Renews Murphy’s Contract — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy had his contract renewed at Monday morning’s School Board meeting. The contract calls for Dr. Murphy to stay with the school system until the end of the 2015-2016 school year. He’ll be paid an annual salary of $209,976. [Washington Post]
Community Pools Busy — The indoor pools at Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools were all busy this weekend, in the wake of Friday’s storms. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Public Schools (APS) has agreed to move several relocatable classroom trailers at Jamestown Elementary School. The move comes about a month after residents and parents started loudly complaining about the placement of the trailers.
The relocatable classrooms were originally placed near N. Delaware Street, adjacent to a playground. Several members of the Jamestown PTA wrote a strongly-worded letter to the School Board in response, saying the trailers took up “valuable green space” in a “high traffic area,” were “in direct line of sight of over a dozen homes in the neighborhood,” and “sully the atmosphere of the heart of the Jamestown community.”
Parents also complained about a lack of notice before the trailers were placed on school grounds. Last night parents were notified that, in response to their concerns, the trailers would be moved closer to 38th Street N.
“It’s in the same area, it has just been set back farther,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. No word yet on whether the decision will fully assuage the PTA members’ concerns.
In a letter to Jamestown principal Kenwyn Schaffner, APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said the decision was made in response to feedback from the community and from school staff.
Dear Ms. Schaffner:
In response to your request for additional classroom space to meet the rising enrollment at Jamestown Elementary School, and the subsequent pleas from your community that the placement of the modular units be reviewed, and based on feedback I have received from you and the Facilities & Operations staff, I have accepted the recommendation that the units be placed on the Option B location. That is, the units will be moved from their current site to closer to the gym and 38th Street North.
I appreciate your efforts to manage the crowding conditions and to ensure that student learning is at the forefront of our efforts. I also appreciate your response to community concerns and the suggestions you have put forward.
Please extend to your community my wishes for a positive end to the school year and a restful summer break.
Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy presented his proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2013-2022 at a meeting last week. The plan totals nearly $538 million and includes funding for two new elementary schools and additions to three others in order to help address the school system’s capacity issues.
“I believe these changes will enable APS to provide much needed instructional space while continuing to maintain existing facilities that meet the needs of our students and teachers,” Murphy said.
Over the past three fiscal years, APS saw an 18 percent increase in students, which is nearly 3,400 additional students. APS is expected to reach capacity at the elementary school level by next fall.
Five specific capacity-generating construction projects have been identified, and would be funded through current reserves and the 2012 and 2014 bond referenda. Those major projects included in the CIP are:
- A 12-room addition to Ashlawn Elementary School that would be completed in 2014 and would add an additional 225 seats. Funding for this would come from current capital reserves.
- A 12-room addition to Arlington Traditional Elementary School that would be completed in 2014 and would add an additional 225 seats. Funding for this project would be included in the FY 2012 and FY 2014 bond referenda.
- A 12-room addition to McKinley Elementary School that would be completed in 2017 and will add an additional 225 seats. Funding would be split between the FY 2012 and FY 2014 referenda.
- A new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School site that would be completed in 2015 and would add 600 seats. $4 million to be used for the design phase would come from current capital reserves.
- A new choice elementary school on the Carlin Springs/Kenmore site that would be completed in 2017 and would add 600 seats.
The development of these five projects represents the culmination of the “More Seats for More Students” initiative that launched last year. That planning process involved surveys, computer modeling and months of work sessions.
“The process was structured to be objective, transparent, and result in a set of options driven by School Board determined criteria,” Murphy said. “I am pleased that we met these goals and look forward to deliberating with the Board on this CIP.”
There are “placeholders” included in the CIP to be used for capacity funding in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 referenda. Those funds total $253 million and would likely be used for an additional elementary school, a new middle school and additional space at the secondary school level.
The CIP also includes $34.6 million for HVAC and roofing projects, $21 million for infrastructure projects and $63.4 million for minor construction projects or maintenance.
There will be a public meeting on the CIP on May 24, and the School Board is scheduled to adopt it on June 19.
Arlington Public Schools need a full-time residency verification specialist, according to Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, but such a position isn’t provided for in the school system’s proposed budget.
Dr. Murphy listed the residency verification specialist as an “unfunded operational need” during his school budget presentation last month. So far, APS has only employed a part-time residency specialist to complete the “very labor intensive” process of researching the residency of students.
“One of the issues that we often hear from time to time is there are folks that are attending our schools who do not actually reside in our school division,” Dr. Murphy said. “While we’ve had a part-time position dedicated to that on a very small basis, I’m finding the need [for a full-time position] as we look at… the number of students that may be attending our schools that are not residents.”
“I think it’s a responsibility incumbent upon us as an organization using citizen tax dollars to make sure that those kids who are getting an education here are, in fact… residents of Arlington,” Dr. Murphy added.
Word that non-residents may be attending Arlington schools comes as APS is facing a system-wide capacity crisis.
While the need may be there, the residency verification specialist is listed along with an expanded elementary school foreign language program, additional Montessori classes and new print shop equipment as needs that won’t be funded in the FY 2013 budget currently under consideration. Dr. Murphy is hoping to find money for those and other unfunded needs in a future budget.
The Arlington County School Board will present the proposed budget to the Arlington Civic Federation tonight. A public hearing on the FY 2013 budget will be held at Thursday’s School Board meeting around 7:30 p.m.
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed FY 2013 budget includes an across-the-board increase in maximum class sizes and a small raise for all APS employees.
At $493.8 million, the proposed budget is a 3.9 percent increase over FY 2012. The increase reflects, among other things, a 2 percent increase in the APS salary scales — Dr. Murphy says the increase is a reflection of the “cost of competing” with other Northern Virginia school systems for quality teachers and staff – and 3.9 percent growth in student enrollment.
Student enrollment is projected to jump by 857 students, from 21,841 to 22,698. APS calculates that growing enrollment will cost $1.8 million for the purchase of 16 new relocatable classrooms and $2.2 million in additional staffing costs. Though the overall budget is flat in terms of per-student spending, the official “per pupil” cost — as calculated under a set formula that differs from just looking at the overall budget — will actually increase from $18,047 to $18,400.
Helping to offset otherwise higher costs of enrollment is Dr. Murphy’s proposal to increase the maximum allowable class size for all K-12 classes by one student. Though he admits that it’s “a tough decision” that is likely to be of concern to many parents, Dr. Murphy is quick to point out that the increase in the maximum class size will not automatically increase the size of every class. Instead, it will primarily affect classes that were already at the maximum.
Murphy also noted that the current proposal to transition middle schools to block scheduling is not “not designed at all” to impact class sizes.
In addition to the salary increase, the new budget factors in investments in professional learning for teachers, the purchase of new science textbooks, and the purchase of new classroom and enterprise technology. APS is also planning on spending more this year as a result of lost federal grants, the need for more reserve funds, and rising costs associated with paying off the debt incurred for recently-built schools.
Dr. Murphy listed a number of “unfunded instructional needs” that the budget does not address. Included in that list of unmet goals is an expansion of foreign language classes in elementary schools, an expansion of Virginia Preschool Initiative and Montessori classes, a salary “step increase” for teachers, and additional textbook purchases.
“This budget is a fiscally responsible proposal,” Dr. Murphy said in a statement. “Even though this budget does not fund all of our needs, I have no doubt that we will do what APS always does. We will be guided by our strategic plan, our high expectations for students and our commitment to providing students with everything they need to succeed in school and in life.”
In additional to several budget work sessions in March, a public hearing on the school budget will be held on April 12. The final budget adoption by the school board is scheduled for April 26.
The Arlington County School Board is scrambling to decide on permanent solutions to the school system’s current capacity crisis.
Facing a burgeoning school population that has grown by 15 percent since 2006 and is projected to balloon another 20+ percent by 2017, school leaders are examining numerous options for new buildings, additions and renovations. Sixteen options for buildings or additions on Arlington Public Schools property were presented at a public meeting last week, and more options are on the way.
At a joint work session last Wednesday, County Board and school board members signed an agreement that will open up county-owned properties for possible school use. In the coming months, the school system is expected to add proposals for building on or renovating county-owned properties to the existing 16 conceptual plans for school properties — although only a handful of plans will necessarily be acted upon.
Among the school properties where feasibility studies have been conducted are: Abingdon, Arlington Traditional, Ashlawn, Carlin Springs, Drew, Glebe, Hoffman-Boston, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Oakridge, Taylor, Jefferson, Kenmore, Williamsburg, Reed. Proposals for those sites include adding on to existing school buildings, renovating buildings for classroom use, or adding entire separate, new schools onto the properties.
Among the county properties expected to be studied for possible school use are community centers like the Madison Community Center, among others.
Arlington Public Schools officials say they expect to add about 25 “relocatable” trailer classrooms per year “for the foreseeable future” in order to meet growing demand at schools across the county. The school system has just about run out of other options for packing more students in — by converting computer labs to classrooms and other creative “repurposing” techniques — without adding more bricks-and-mortar or further increasing class sizes.
“We’ve pretty much exhausted all our avenues of repurposing space,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “We’re going to be adding relocatables every year to alleviate some of that overcrowding, but those are just temporary solutions.”
Temporary solutions aren’t enough, administrators say, because the school system’s enrollment growth appears to be permanent. The recent growth in enrollment and the growth in the county’s birth rate point to a sustained rise in the student population that must be met with a permanent capacity increase, they say. By 2017, school enrollment is expected to surpass 26,000 students — nearly 3,500 seats over current capacity.
“This is not a bubble,” said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy.”This is a realization… we need to go ahead and do it.”
The event, part of International Walk to School Month, “encourages students to walk and bike to school while teaching the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking,” according to the school system. Parents are also encouraged to participate.
In addition to encouraging walking and biking as part of a healthy lifestyle, Walk and Bike to School Day “raises community awareness about the importance of pedestrian safety education, safe routes to schools, well-maintained walkways, and traffic calming in neighborhoods and around schools.”
This year, McKinley Elementary School will serve as the public face of Walk and Bike to School Day. In recognition of the many students who walk to school at McKinley, Arlington Public Schools will be setting up refreshment stands and holding a before-school rally for McKinley students and parents.
The refreshment stands will be set up, starting at 8:30 a.m., at the intersection of N. 11th Street and N. Potomac Street, at 1030 N. McKinley Road and at 14th Street N. and N. Ohio Street (where buses will drop students off, to allow them to walk a couple of blocks to school).
The rally will take place at the school field at 8:45 a.m., and will feature McKinley administrators, PTA representatives, Arlington School Board Members, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, Arlington County Board members, school transportation staff, crossing guards, police officers and Walk Arlington staff. Classes will start at 9:00 a.m., according to the school system.
“This is the 13th consecutive year that APS has participated in ‘International Walk or Bike to School Month,’ and since 1999, APS and Arlington County have worked together to create walk-friendly neighborhoods,” Arlington Public Schools said in a media advisory. “As part of this effort, materials have been produced for families with children attending Arlington Public Schools’ elementary and middle schools. These include maps and Web resources for county residents who want to walk or bicycle throughout the community.”
From the scheduled 7:50 a.m. start at middle schools to the 9:24 a.m. start at the H-B Woodlawn secondary program, from kindergarten to 12th grade, students made their way to school this morning on foot, on the bus and via car.
No significant problems with the back-to-school effort were reported, at least not from a public safety perspective.
As the school year starts, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy released a ‘welcome back’ video for students and parents. Also, Murphy announced that Deirdra McLaughlin has been appointed Assistant Superintendent for Finance, replacing the retiring Mary Beth Chambers.
A flood of last minute donations has helped to save Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium. A large donation from an anonymous donor pushed the campaign past its goal as the fundraiser came to a close on Thursday.
The anonymous donation of $50,000 bumped the total to $435,000. That surpassed the goal of $402,800 set in April 2010 by Dr. Patrick Murphy, Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools.
More than 3,500 businesses, individuals and foundations contributed to the cause, 200 of them taking part during the 10-day online fundraising challenge. The money will go toward purchasing a state-of-the-art planetarium projector, replacing the seats, updating the lighting system and repairing the inside of the dome. Had the goal not been met, the 40 year old facility would have been closed and used for classroom space.
Friends of the Arlington Planetarium, the non-profit group formed to raise money for the project, says it will continue to make sure the planetarium stays up to date and will provide support as necessary.
Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy set June 30, 2011 as the date by which planetarium supporters had to raise $402,800 to pay for necessary upgrades to the 40-year-old facility. If the deadline was not met, the school system would close the planetarium and use it as classroom space — as Dr. Murphy originally proposed before supporters successfully lobbied the School Board to find a way to save the planetarium.
A non-profit entity called the Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium was formed to raise the money for the upgrades. As of last night, they had collected some $371,000 in donations. ‘Friends’ President Alice Monet says she expects donors big and small to come through over the next day and a half.
“The community really wants to see this planetarium stick around,” she said. “We anticipate donations continuing to flow in… At the end of the day we will have full amount in hand.”
Monet admitted, however, that it’s unlikely the school system would shutter the planetarium at this point, even if the group misses its fundraising goal.
“Honestly, the point has been made already that Arlington supports the planetarium,” she said. “If we don’t make it, we’ll keep working until we do.”
Once the capital campaign is complete, Monet said, the Friends organization will shift from a fundraising role to an advisory role regarding the planetarium’s upgrades and on-going operations.
(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy proposed a budget Thursday morning that increases high school class sizes but grants teachers at least part of a desired pay raise.
The proposed FY 2012 budget includes a step increase for teachers and other school employees that was not granted last year amid a serious budget crunch. It does not, however, include a cost of living (COLA) increase. COLA increases used to be granted nearly every year until Arlington’s budget difficulties began two years ago.
Senior employees and employees at the top of the pay scale — who together make up about 33 percent of the work force — are not eligible for a step increase. Dr. Murphy is proposing a one-time payment of $1,000 to those employees. The total cost of all pay raises is estimated at
$16.4 $7.9 million. (The original $16.4 million figure included benefit and retirement increases.)
The new $470 million school budget raises the cost per pupil to $18,115, from a low of $17,322 last year and a high of $19,538 in FY 2009. The budget represents a $27.8 million — or 6.3 percent — increase over last year’s budget. It reflects, however, a projected enrollment increase of nearly 1,000 students over FY 2011.
The superintendent’s budget includes an increase in class sizes for grades 9-12, from 24.4 students per class to 25.4 students per class. Dr. Murphy leaves a one student increase in class sizes for grades K-8 as an “option” for the school board to consider. Dr. Murphy, facing a looming system-wide capacity crisis, also budgets for the purchase of 12 new relocatable classrooms.
“Capacity and enrollment will continue to be something we’re going to have to look at,” Dr. Murphy said, noting that Arlington schools still “have some of the smallest class sizes in the region.”
The budget includes some good news for supporters of the Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium.