Additional Funding Request for New Elementary School Plan — On Thursday (Febraury 7), School Board members will be asked to approve additional funding for the architectural firm working on the new school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The project has gone over its expected three month time frame because of resident concerns voiced during the process of devising a concept design, so nearly $121,000 is being requested to compensate the firm for its additional two months of work. [Sun Gazette]
Move to Establish Virginia Currency — A measure advanced in the Virginia House of Delegates that could bring the state closer to adopting its own currency. Del. Robert G. Marshall proposed the idea three years ago of studying whether the state should adopt its own currency to protect it from what he believes is an out of control banking system. Although states do not have the constitutional authority to print money, Marshall suggested a loophole may exist allowing states to make silver and gold coins. [Washington Post]
Residents Concerned About Traffic Crossover — In a letter to the editor, a resident tells the Sun Gazette about safety fears regarding a traffic median on S. Walter Reed Drive. Residents of the Concord Mews Condominium say they have contacted the county about the placement and size of the median, which they say has caused many near collisions. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
Arlington School Board member James Lander is facing a primary challenge this year.
Lander is being challenged in the upcoming Democratic Caucus by Barbara Kanninen, a Yorktown High School mom, children’s book author, environmental economist and Democratic National Convention delegate. The endorsement caucus is scheduled for May 9 and 11.
Lander is the only African American elected official in Arlington, where about 8 percent of the population is Black or African American. This has led some political observers to predict a racially-charged primary.
Kanninen plans to officially announce her candidacy at Wednesday’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Asked why she’s running, Kanninen released the following statement to ARLnow.com.
We have great schools in Arlington, from preschool all the way to high school. We prepare thinkers, entrepreneurs, and artists, and we prepare them well. But, the world is changing fast and we need to stay ahead of the curve. We need a School Board that is experienced, forward thinking, and, above all, passionate about educating kids.
Kevin and I have lived in Arlington for 20 years. We have been elementary school parents for 9 years, middle school parents for 6 years, and high school parents for 3.
I have spent years volunteering in classrooms, doing everything from one-on-one reading, to hands-on science, to gifted math. I’ve worked with kids of all ages and backgrounds and skill-levels.
I’m a math geek, a children’s book author, a Ph.D. economist with a business motto of “Good, Clean Data Crunching.”
I’ve worked on School Board committees. I’ve been on the ACI — the Advisory Council on Instruction. I’ve co-chaired the Early Childhood Advisory Committee, and I’ve served on the Math Advisory Committee.
I coached Odyssey of the Mind for seven years.
I am also, occasionally, a political activist.
All these experiences — but especially that of being a parent — have fed into and nurtured my core belief that all children are awesome human beings, they all deserve every opportunity to excel, and we owe it to them to pay attention, to push our own thinking in new and fresh ways, and to never, ever shrug our shoulders.
Here are three things I think we should focus on, going forward:
- Strengthening our STEM programs — science, technology, engineering, and math. More hands-on science programs in elementary school, Mentoring programs for middle and high school science fair projects. Better utilization of the crown jewel of STEM education here in Arlington: the Arlington Career Center. We need to make it more accessible to more kids, including making summer programs more affordable.
- The Arts. Young people are coming into a world where new ways to express yourself are cropping up every day — video, graphics, even music is changing. We not only have the opportunity to help kids take their talents to the cutting edge, but, if needed, we can help them use their talents and interests to buttress up their academics.
- Finally, at the end of the day, kids are kids, and kids needs personal support. I believe every child in Arlington should be able to walk into their school building every morning and know that there is at least one adult who knows them on a personal level, who believes in them — exactly as they are.
Photo via barbarakanninen.com
Park Police Seeking Hit and Run Info — The U.S. Park Police is asking for the public’s help with providing information about an early morning hit and run on Monday. Around 5:45 a.m. on December 31, a driver was involved in an accident with a motorcyclist while traveling on the Memorial Bridge. The motorcyclist is being treated for a serious leg injury and other non-life threatening injuries. Police need help finding the other driver involved. The person was said to be in a brown minivan, which may have damage along the front driver’s side. Call the U.S. Park Police tip line at 202-610-8737 or U.S. Park Police Dispatch at 202-610-7500 with any info.
Avant Bard Needs New Theater — WSC Avant Bard has spent the past two years as the resident theater company at Artisphere, but now the performance group is looking for a new home. Avant Bard has not been operating under an official lease at Artisphere, and received the news last month that it needs to find a new space before its play season begins in May. The county now wants to use the stages at Artisphere for shorter running productions. [Washington Post]
APS Holding Meetings about New Williamsburg School — Public meetings begin next week regarding the new elementary school that will be built on the Williamsburg Middle School site. There will be a work session next Wednesday, January 9, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg auditorium. On January 14, the public will get a chance to look at the concept designs from 6:00-8:00 p.m., and on January 17, the School Board and County Board will engage in a work session about the plan following a project presentation. Residents are welcome to attend all meetings. [Arlington Public Schools]
Boundary and admission policy changes will be necessary to relieve pressure at overcrowded schools once two new elementary schools and three new elementary school additions come online between 2014 and 2017. (A 225 seat addition at Ashlawn Elementary is expected to be complete by fall 2014, and a new 600-seat elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus is expected to be ready by fall 2015.)
Based on past experience, APS can expect parent opposition to some boundary changes. Perhaps with that in mind, the school system will kick off the discussion about boundaries and admissions at a meeting next week.
The meeting will be held at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Room 101 of the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street). At the meeting, the School Board will “review the current boundary policy, discuss the scope of the boundary changes to be considered, and give direction to staff to ensure communication with and feedback from the community.”
The School Board is expected to take action on new school boundaries in late February 2013, according to a “proposed boundary framework” presentation from earlier this summer. Planning for new middle school boundaries is expected to start during the 2014-2015 school year.
In addition to planning for boundary changes, the school system is also starting its design process for the Ashlawn addition and the new school at Williamsburg.
Rosslyn Jazz Fest to Be Held on Saturday — The annual Rosslyn Jazz Festival will be held at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway) from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. The musical lineup includes groups and artists like Afro Blue, Rene Marie, Don Byron and Joshua Redman. Some surrounding roadways will be closed for most of the day. Planned street closures for the event include westbound Lee Highway from Lynn Street to Fort Myer Drive, and one lane each on eastbound Lee Highway and North Lynn Street. [Rosslyn BID]
Duncan to Visit Arlington Traditional School — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will announce the 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools in Arlington this morning. The announcement is scheduled to take place at 10:00 a.m. at Arlington Traditional Elementary School (855 N. Edison Street). Duncan is expected to be joined by Rep. Jim Moran (D) and Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. [Department of Education]
APS Still Processing Appeals — Arlington Public Schools has received 450 formal appeals from parents of children denied bus service this year. The school system is continuing to respond to those appeals “as rapidly as possible.” At a school board meeting last night, however, APS officials showed no sign of backing down from their controversial new busing policy, despite strong words from a dozen or so parents who spoke. [Sun Gazette, Arlington Mercury]
No West Nile Virus in Arlington — Updated at 9:30 a.m. — D.C. officials revealed this week that an elderly man has died from West Nile virus. So far this year, 21 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Maryland and five confirmed cases have been reported in Virginia. No cases have been reported in Arlington, a spokesman for the county’s Department of Human Services tells ARLnow.com.
Parents Speak Out Against New Bus Policy — Some parents spoke out against Arlington Public Schools’ new voucher-based school bus policy at last night’s School Board meeting. The policy will result in some students no longer being able to ride the bus to school. School Board member Abby Raphael said the changes are necessary: “Our school system is growing,” she said. “We have to adapt and make changes. It’s very expensive to add a bus and a bus driver.” [Sun Gazette]
APAH Asks For School Supply Donations — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is seeking donations of school supplies. APAH will fill backbacks with the supplies and give them to about 250 disadvantaged students ahead of the first day of school. [Arlington Mercury]
W-L Softball Field Approved — The Arlington School Board formally approved a new softball field at Washington-Lee High School at its meeting last night. The softball field will cost about $1.3 million. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Gamble
School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced the new policy, devised after an independent study of the system last fall, in a letter to parents in July. APS sent parents another letter on Aug. 1 urging them to update their addresses.
From the July letter:
With the start of the school year this fall, we will be moving forward with the plans that the Office of Transportation has outlined. One of the first steps underway includes the implementation of bus-routing software to help us plan routes that are more efficient so we can maximize the capacity of our bus fleet.
The second step that is critical to this plan is to serve students who are eligible to receive bus transportation services. As outlined in School Board policy, elementary school students who live more than one mile from school and secondary school students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from school will receive bus transportation.
In early August, principals will be sending families of students who are eligible for transportation services a letter that will include their child’s bus stop and route. This addresses a critical safety concern for students who ride buses and allows us to better communicate and serve families when we may experience a delay or other changes in service.
The distance rules are not a change to the transportation policy, APS spokesperson Linda Erdos said. Students who live within the mile or 1.5-mile radius who would have to cross large roadways or highways to get to school will still be allowed to take the bus.
The vouchers will be a way for bus drivers to become accustomed to the students on their routes, Erdos said, providing for what APS hopes is a safer, more efficient system with an expected 900 more students and the same amount of buses.
“We have had problems in the past when students who live in the walk zone walk outside the walk zone and get on the bus,” Erdos said. “Our priority is to add classroom teachers to teach children, not more buses. More important, the new system will let us know every student who is on a bus route. If something happened, this will let us know who’s on that bus.”
Students within the “walk zone” are being encouraged to walk or bike to school. Still, one parent thinks the new system will actually increase the number of students from inside the walk zone who drive or who hitch a ride to school, which could cause traffic and safety issues.
“I applaud Dr. Murphy on working to reform the bus system,” wrote Donaldson Run blogger Robert Cannon. “But creating a voucher system, and refusing to transport students who live just less than 1.5 miles from school is only going to make things worse.”
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]
The election follows the normal order of School Board succession — Violand-Sánchez served as vice chair for this past school year, and the vice chair is typically then elected to the chairmanship the next year. This time around, however, a faction of the Board was said to be intent on re-electing Abby Raphael as chair.
Word that Violand-Sánchez might not become chair sparked a mini controversy over the past two weeks or so. On June 23, Gabriela Uro, the chair of the Arlington Latino Network, sent an open letter to the School Board (republished after the jump) expressing “deep concern” that Violand-Sánchez might be passed over for the chairmanship. Uro also wrote that the Board “appears to be split along racial and ethnic lines.”
In the end, the School Board voted 4-0 to elect Violand-Sánchez as chair at its meeting this morning. In a statement, Violand-Sánchez said she was “honored” to be chair and promised to work to “provide optimal learning environments” for students as the school system addresses significant capacity challenges.
“I am honored to accept the chairmanship of the Arlington School Board,” she said in a press release. “Arlington Public Schools is a great school system. We are proud of our phenomenal staff, students and our diverse community. We need to continue to focus our work in the next year within the framework of our Strategic Plan to ensure that every student is challenged and engaged, that we eliminate achievement gaps, that we recruit, retain and develop high quality staff, and that we provide optimal learning environments to our growing student population to meet the needs of the whole child.”
The Sun Gazette has more details about the “internal battle” behind the vote.
The Arlington School Board approved the $1 million softball field project at its Nov. 15, 2011 meeting. According to a project timeline published earlier this year, construction on the new field is expected to begin as soon as next month, and should wrap up by late winter or early spring 2013.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed that the new field is expected to be ready by the next softball season. The $1 million cost will be split between the school system and Arlington County, he said.
The new field will be built at the corner of Washington Boulevard and N. Quincy Street, on the Washington-Lee High School campus, next to the school’s football field. Currently, both the W-L softball and baseball team play on county-owned land at Quincy Park, across Washington Boulevard from the campus. Last summer parents of W-L softball players waged a campaign for better girls softball facilities, threatening to file a Title IX complaint if the school system did not upgrade the field, the bleachers and other amenities to the standards of the boys baseball field.
The new softball field will include a natural grass playing field, a 192-square-foot press box, 230 grandstand seats, dugouts, bullpens, a batting cage, a practice field, a scoreboard, and focused “dark sky” lighting.
“This proposed project [will] improve the existing combined softball and practice field at the Washington Lee High School which was part of the original design for the school,” according to a project overview document. “Growing APS and County needs and requirements have caused the need to consider improving this portion of the original school design.”
In a memo, school staff said the new field will benefit both the school and the community.
If a new field is built at W-L, the school will have a truly dedicated softball field similar to Wakefield and Yorktown, W-L will have increased options for sports activities on the new field for Physical Education and both APS and the County will have increased use on the Quincy field and add diamond sports as well as other PRCR programs to the W-L field. APS staff has met with County PRCR staff about shared community use and programming for the proposed WL field. The results of these discussions resulted in a 50:50 Schools/County shared use agreement for the W-L field that provides W-L priority use for softball play. In order for W-L itself to have the greatest use possible for this new field, it is expected that a new field would have a removable fence like the boys baseball field has so that the outfield can be utilized to its greatest extent after the softball season is over both for APS and County activities.
To address school capacity issues, Arlington Public Schools is planning to build a number of new schools, including a new 600-seat “choice” elementary school on the site of the existing Kenmore Middle School/Carlin Springs Elementary School campus.
The Citizens’ Association says the new school, slated to be built by 2017, would bring the total number of students attending schools in the Glencarlyn neighborhood to 2,600, including at Kenmore, Carlin Springs and nearby Campbell Elementary School. That, the association says, presents major traffic, parking and open space issues that will degrade the quality of life for residents.
The association is asking for the County Board’s help after not getting a satisfactory response from the School Board.
“We have tried to raise our concerns with the School Board, but our community was not consulted during the planning process, despite our requests that it do so, nor has it been responsive to our questions and concerns,” Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association President Peter Olivere wrote in a letter to the County Board (after the jump). “We need your help.”
Olivere told reporters that Glencarlyn residents do not want to be portrayed as having a “Not-In-My-Backyard” attitude.
“Please, we very much do not want to be categorized as NIMBY; we only want a process which fully addresses the community concerns before a final decision is made, which is the ‘Arlington Way,’” he wrote.
As previously reported, Arlington Public Schools is facing a significant capacity crunch. The school system is expected to reach capacity at the elementary school level by next fall. The new choice school in Glencarlyn is one of five proposed new capacity-generating construction projects throughout the county.
The full letter from the Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association, after the jump.
A plan for changing the way the county’s middle schools do class scheduling appears to be on the chopping block, at least for now. The Arlington Public Schools proposal to implement block scheduling at middle schools will not happen in the 2013-2014 school year, after all.
The change would have extended core class times for subjects like English, math, social studies, science and world languages, but would have reduced the number of classes per day. Longer “block” periods for sixth graders would have been 76 minutes, and would increase to 93 minutes for seventh and eighth graders. Electives like music and arts would have remained at the current, shorter length.
Many parents fought the change, raising concerns with children of that age having to concentrate for such long periods of time, and about eliminating electives.
At last night’s School Board meeting, there was a presentation laying out what APS has learned about public reception to block scheduling and how it plans to go forward. Through means like community forums, staff meetings, online surveys and individual feedback forms, APS discovered that block scheduling largely isn’t something middle school parents are interested in. APS said it heard that parents prefer focusing on issues like providing more languages for students, maintaining electives and ensuring appropriate reading instruction.
The change has been in the works for five years, but consideration of the plan had been delayed earlier this year, due to outcry from parents. At the time, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said postponing a decision would allow for more time to adequately discuss the issue with families.
Although block scheduling will no longer begin in 2013, it’s not permanently off the table. The board is examining ways to make it work in the future. Of particular interest is finding alternative ways to increase the amount of time spent on core content areas. The length of schools days and start times will also come under review.
Even though the plan was nixed for middle schools system-wide, individual schools have the option of exploring their own flexible block schedules. Block scheduling is already in place at Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Lee high schools.
Arlington, Alexandria Compete for Federal Funds — Alexandria’s planned transit corridor along Route 1 is competing with Arlington’s proposed Columbia Pike streetcar for a limited pool of federal transporation funds. Meanwhile, Alexandria officials are still upset that Arlington declined to help pay for a study that could have helped Alexandria obtain federal funding for the Route 1 transit project, which the two jurisdictions have been otherwise cooperating on. [Connection Newspapers]
Democratic School Board Slate Set — Incumbent Emma Violand-Sanchez and political newcomer Noah Simon have received the Democratic endorsement for Arlington County School Board, all but guaranteeing their election in November. [Sun Gazette]
Condo Building Sells Out in Weeks — A new condo building at 1221 N. Quinn Street, in the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, sold out of all 13 units in just a matter of weeks this past winter. [CityBiz List]
Pike Buildings Set for Redevelopment — The buildings along Columbia Pike that house Rappahannock Coffee, L.A. Nails and Saah Furniture are set for redevelopment. A developer has proposed a single seven-story building to replace the aging buildings on the site. [Arlington Mercury]
School Board Approves Sequoia Plaza Lease — The Arlington School Board has approved a lease for office space in Sequoia Plaza, next to the new headquarters of the county’s Department of Human Services. The office space will allow the school system to move out of the Clarendon Education Center building and the Syphax Building on N. Quincy Street. [Sun Gazette]
H-B Student Production Accepted to Capital Fringe — Mindset, an original H-B Woodlawn student production, has been accepted to the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival. Mindset creator and H-B Woodlawn junior Jace Casey says he’s “excited” to be showcasing his production at the annual performing arts festival.
Naked Man on the GW Parkway — A naked man was reportedly taken into police custody this morning after being spotted by drivers on the GW Parkway near Memorial Bridge. [NBC Washington]
Todd McCracken, the President and CEO of the National Small Business Association, will serve on the School Board until a new board member — to be elected in November — is sworn in. McCracken has not indicated that he’s interested in running for the seat.
In a press release, school officials hailed McCracken’s expertise in school capacity issues.
At last night’s meeting, the Arlington School Board appointed Todd McCracken to fill the vacancy on the School Board created by Libby Garvey’s election to the County Board in March. McCracken will be sworn in today in the School Board Meeting Room at 4 p.m., and his term on the School Board will begin immediately and continue through December 31, 2012.
A long-time school and community leader, McCracken was recently recognized as an “Honored Citizen” by the Arlington School Board for his extensive volunteer work with APS. He has been Chair of the Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital Programs (FAC) and Chair of the FAC Projection and Capacity Subcommittee. In 2010 he co-chaired the School Bond Committee, and has served as representative to the Elementary Capacity and Crowding Committee, liaison to the County Council of PTAs, and a long-time PTA volunteer. He has also served on the board of the Tara-Leeway Heights Civic Association from 2006-12.
School Board member Sally Baird said, “As a citizen leader, Mr. McCracken has been highly engaged and is well-informed about the many complexities associated with Arlington’s increasing capacity needs. He is well known, and highly respected in both the APS school community and Arlington County through his many leadership roles, and has been one of the strongest voices to ensure a thoughtful, proactive and transparent public process as we address our current and future capacity needs. Mr. McCracken brings a unique and invaluable perspective to the Board at this very important point in time in our deliberations.”
McCracken said, “I am grateful for this opportunity to serve Arlington Public Schools and thank the Board for their support. My family has had children in both neighborhood and countywide programs, and I understand the challenges and benefits of each. We have seen first-hand how important it is for our schools to provide rich and varied learning opportunities so that each student can succeed. I will do my utmost to fulfill the trust and expectations of the rest of the Board, and will do my part to keep Arlington County as the best place to live and to raise a family.”
McCracken is currently president and chief executive officer of a national association, and has over 25 years of management, public policy, and non-profit experience.
A native of New Mexico, McCracken has lived in Arlington since 1988. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas where he now serves on the Board of Visitors. He and his wife Melissa have two sons, who currently attend Swanson Middle School and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program.
School Board Chair Abby Raphael thanked the many applicants for their interest. She said, “We are fortunate as a Board and as a community to have had so many qualified individuals interested in working with the Board. This made the decision particularly challenging, but we look forward to continuing our collaboration with all of them to make decisions that will ensure a strong instructional program and excellent learning environment for our students.”