The Jamestown Elementary PTA wrote to County Board Chair Jay Fisette on Monday, asking him to work with the School Board on a middle school construction plan as part of the County Board’s 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan.
The PTA is peeved that APS waffled in its recently-passed CIP, punting a decision on the location for a new middle school to December and only including planning funds instead of construction funds. It comes at a time when the county’s student population — especially on the elementary level — is burgeoning, thanks to more young families moving to or staying in Arlington to raise their kids.
If a new middle school is not built soon, current kindergarteners could enter middle school in 2020 at a time when Arlington middle schools are over capacity by more than 1,000 students, with most of the overcrowding focused in north Arlington, the PTA said.
“The proposed CIP can only be regarded as an APS plan knowingly to overcrowd Williamsburg and other middle schools in north Arlington and degrade the learning environment for thousands of the county’s middle school students,” Jamestown PTA president Thomas Jensen wrote.
The School Board has eyed both the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and the building that currently houses the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program as possible locations for a new 1,300 seat middle school. Both proposals have met community criticism.
The Wilson School and H-B Woodlawn options are still on the table, according to a school spokesman, and the School Board says it will make a decision no later than Dec. 31. But the PTA wants more decisive action and planning.
“Lack of unanimity about use of the Wilson site is not an adequate reason to allow Williamsburg and other middle schools to become even more overcrowded,” Jensen wrote.
The full letter, after the jump.
Two Drop Out of Congressional Race — Del. Charniele Herring and entrepreneur Satish Korpe have dropped out of the race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) in Congress. There are now eight candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the June 10 primary. [Washington Post]
Bike ‘Fix-It’ Stands Being Installed in Arlington — Arlington County has been installing stations where bicyclists can change a flat tire, add air, or adjust brakes and derailleurs free of charge. The stands have been installed in Clarendon and Ballston and one is coming soon to Pentagon City. [Greater Greater Washington]
School Officials Worry About Debt Ceiling — Arlington’s student body is growing by 700 students per year, but Arlington Public Schools is in danger of hitting its legal debt ceiling as it continues to build more schools and school additions to keep up with rising enrollment. Going forward, at least one School Board member is publicly hoping for more money from the county government. [InsideNova]
GMU Students Make Transportation Recommendations – In an 80 page report, graduate students from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy say that Arlington County should continue investing in transportation in order to “stay ahead of the curve.” Arlington, the students say, should “follow more of the international urban-planning trends rather than just those that are happening in other U.S. cities.” [Mobility Lab]
Fourth Grader Makes Case for Libraries — In a hand-written letter to Arlington library staff, an Arlington Traditional School fourth grader by the name of Lillian said she loves books and libraries. Despite talk of younger generations only being interested in iPads, smartphones and other electronics — instead of old-fashioned print — Lillian says she “can’t even list” all the reasons why she likes Arlington Central Library. [Arlington Public Library]
More than 500 parents and residents have signed a petition asking the School Board to hold to its plans of building a new elementary school in South Arlington.
School Board Chair Abby Raphael sent a letter to community members last month notifying them that the Board was considering diverting $4.5 million in design funds — slated for a new elementary school next to Kenmore Middle School in Glencarlyn — to relieving middle school overcrowding in North Arlington.
The elementary school was originally supposed to open in Glencarlyn in 2017. The plans are not the only changes Arlington Public Schools facilities could be due for when the Capital Improvements Plan for 2015-2024 is adopted in June — a move or expansion for H-B Woodlawn is also on the table.
The list of options for the CIP won’t be narrowed until April or May after a long community involvement period, according to APS.
The $4.5 million was part of a bond Arlington voters approved by referendum in 2012. Glencarlyn neighbors protested the location of the school at the time, claiming the added traffic would be a hazard for the neighborhood. Raphael references their objections in her letter as a reason to reconsider the school.
Below is the Change.org petition, which has garnered 555 signatures as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday:
… we ask that you remain true to the original intention of the 2012 School Bond by moving forward with the design (and later construction) of a new South Arlington elementary school.
As busy residents of Arlington County and/or parents of young APS students, we may not have the ability to attend every… CIP stakeholder meeting — e.g. the Community Forum on Feb. 5th at Washington-Lee High School; however, we remain concerned citizens who want to ensure that our voices are heard on this issue. We voted for the 2012 School Bond based on a specific plan laid-out in the bond’s FAQ sheet (http://www.apsva.us/CIP), and we want to ensure that APS and its School Board follow-through on their original intention to alleviate imminent elementary school overcrowding south of Arlington Blvd., rather than re-directing those bond funds toward the design (and later construction) of a new North Arlington middle school.
Photo via Change.org
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Relocating H-B Woodlawn and building a new middle school next to Washington-Lee High School are some of the preliminary options on the table for the Arlington School Board to address overcrowding.
Last week, the School Board held a work session to determine the basis on which it will make its decisions when it develops a new Capital Improvement Plan this spring. APS, which has been busy planning and building new elementary schools and school additions to address overcrowding in primary schools, is now shifting its construction planning focus to middle schools.
APS facilities staff presented eight options for increasing elementary school capacity, seven options for increasing middle school capacity, two options for relocating or adding on to the H-B Woodlawn secondary program’s facility in the former Stratford Junior High School, and three other options for high school capacity.
The proposed changes to H-B Woodlawn are already drawing some concern from parents and students. The Board will weigh whether to build an addition to the facility and expand the program or move the H-B Woodlawn program to a leased space and build an addition to create a 1,200-seat middle school in the current facility.
“This is terrible,” said one apparent former student, via Facebook. “I hope the school board sees sense and doesn’t institute either of these ‘ideas.’”
Another capacity-increasing idea being considered is building a 1,200-seat middle school on the site of the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices next to Washington-Lee High School.
APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos was careful to note that these “options” are very preliminary, and are being floated for the purpose of further community discussion.
“Yes, a lot of options have been thrown out by staff and community members… but there is no plan at this point,” she said. “We’re hoping that more options become available. We need to work with the community to determine what will be the next best step.”
The School Board will vote on its CIP in June, but before then it needs to finish or update feasibility studies on the 20 possibilities. Nine of the options already have completed studies, and Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said they were “all feasible to some degree.”
“The School Board has made it clear it wishes to address the areas of most critical need for new seats within APS’ available debt capacity,” Chadwick told ARLnow.com.
The School Board listed capacity planning, alignment with APS’ Strategic Plan, feasibility and smart growth as criteria for its decision. Chadwick said ranking the options won’t happen until April or May after an extensive community outreach process.
There is a community forum to discuss the issue scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Washington-Lee High School auditorium.
Photo via Google Maps
Development Exacerbating Metro’s Capacity Problem — New development near Metro stations, including a nearly-completed office tower and planned apartment tower in Rosslyn, is expected to further tax the already-busy Metrorail system. Also adding to Metro’s capacity woes, particularly along the Blue and Orange lines: new riders who will be coming aboard along the soon-to-open Silver Line. [Washington Post]
Nearly 1,000 Brave Rain for E-CARE Event – Nearly 1,000 people braved cold and rain to recycle hazardous household materials, electronics and other items on Saturday’s biannual E-CARE event. About 34.6 tons of hazardous materials and 15 tons of electronics were dropped off, according to Arlington officials. That compares to 41.5 tons of hazardous materials and 11.5 tons of electronics last fall.
No Room in Arlington for New High School — There’s no place to put a fourth high school in Arlington. That’s the conclusion reached by Arlington Public Schools staff, which has been studying options for increasing the school system’s capacity on the high school level. Despite the fact that Arlington’s high schools are all recently built or renovated, they’re all either over or approaching capacity as the student population continues to grow. [Sun Gazette, Arlington Public Schools]
‘Monkeys With Typewriters’ at Artisphere — A local writing group called Monkeys With Typewriters meets weekly at Artisphere. The group includes writers working on novels and other projects. [Ode Street Tribune]
Flickr pool photo by eschweik
Need evidence that more and more young families are putting down roots in Arlington, beyond the rapid growth in school enrollment? Just look to Virginia Hospital Center.
The hospital, at 1701 N. George Mason Drive, completed a four-year-long renovation of its maternity ward earlier this year, adding beds and capacity to keep up with rising demand. But the number of births at the hospital continues to grow.
In the last five years, the hospital has gone from delivering 3,700 infants in 2008 to a projected 5,000-plus in 2013. In that time, the hospital’s Women & Infant Health Center has added 10 beds, formed a partnership with National Children’s Hospital to expand its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and reorganized the Labor and Delivery unit to add additional capacity.
The growth in birth rate “has been pretty substantial for our size,” Adrian Stanton, Virginia Hospital Center’s vice president of public affairs, said. To accommodate the expansion, some administrative offices were moved to the hospital’s Carlin Springs Road campus.
“Years ago, this was [considered to be] a mature market,” Stanton said. But that has changed, and hospital leaders still aren’t sure how much bigger the Arlington baby boom will get.
“There isn’t a desire to move west or south as there had been. There’s more of an appeal to the Arlington area for young families,” he said. “I think we are struggling with the question, how much will Arlington continue to grow? Where is the growth going to be? I’m looking at the schools’ numbers, the planning departments numbers to try to figure it out.”
Stanton said there is still some room to grow for the maternity unit, but any expansion has to be done “in place,” since there are no plans for major construction projects on the horizon. The hospital’s unsolved problem is akin to Arlington’s high schools, which have all completed renovations in the last couple of years but remain overcrowded.
Stanton has identified one possible source of the upward trend in births, noting anecdotally that many families seem to want three children, as opposed to last generation’s average of two and a quarter children per household.
In addition to childbirth, another area of significant growth for Virginia Hospital Center has been joint replacement. The bulk of the joint replacement patients: active baby boomers in their 50s and 60s. Could the growth in joint replacements and childbirths be linked?
Asked whether it was perhaps the “echo boom” generation — the children of post-World War II baby boomers — who were accounting for the growth in births locally, Stanton wasn’t sure. But he did say that the baby boom generation in general has impacted hospital planning.
“As the baby boomers move through the system, they dictate a lot of what happens in society,” he said.
This article was written by Audrey Batcheller
All three Arlington high schools have recently been rebuilt, but it appears they are already over capacity. Washington-Lee has seen its enrollment rise by 30 percent in the last six years, and this increase can be partially attributed to the abundance of transfers coming to the school for the International Baccalaureate diploma program. Washington-Lee is the only high school in the county that offers this program, so many transfer students apply to participate in the competitive diploma program. Yorktown and Wakefield have also seen steady increases in their enrollment, and Wakefield students will begin studying in their new facility this coming school year.
Although many schools have been labeled as “over capacity,” they continue to operate quite functionally with a few minor alterations. At Washington-Lee, rooms formerly used as teachers’ lounges, old computer labs, and offices are now occupied by desks and smart boards to be used as functioning classrooms.
Despite being harder to find as a new student, or adding to the commute between classes, these classrooms have proved to be easy solutions to accommodate the need for space. These changes, in most cases, are harmless and don’t have a negative impact on the students, but in a few cases, students have suffered.
When the Mac computer lab at Washington-Lee was converted to a classroom, the Macs were relocated to the library. This computer lab had been used primarily by the broadcast journalism class for video production, and when the computers moved, the students attempted to transition into the new spacel, but lost access to the library after several noise complaints from the librarians.
With only two Mac desktop computers and one Mac laptop available for video production, members of the class have been significantly inconvenienced and the class had to adjust its methods of production due to the loss of their workspace. Some teachers are equally inconvenienced by being forced to share a classroom with another teacher or having to teach in two different locations where they must cart their belongings and instructional materials back and forth.
These changes are still insufficient, however, in providing enough classroom space and Washington-Lee will see the addition of four new trailers next to the school this coming school year, bringing their total to six.
Students are allotted six minutes in between classes to pass from period to period, and the trip outside to the trailers can be completed in that time, but bad weather is always a possibility that students face when venturing to their outside classes.
The first two trailers are located in the side parking lot next to the Arlington Planetarium which is located directly next to the school. The next four being added to the school’s facilities will be placed beside the school on what was previously used as a practice field.
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) On Tuesday, five “relocatable classroom” trailers were placed on a field next to Washington-Lee High School and the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices. The trailers are part of a continuing effort to keep up with rising enrollment at county schools — an effort that may lead to new high school boundary changes.
The new trailers at Washington-Lee will be grouped together to form four classrooms, plus common spaces like bathrooms. They’re located in front of the W-L swimming pool, a short distance away from existing trailer classrooms at a nearby parking lot.
APS spent some $2.2 million to buy 20 additional relocatable classrooms this past fiscal year. The new FY 2014 budget, which is up for School Board approval Thursday night, is expected to include $1.9 million for 24 new trailers.
The trailers are necessary to deal with a burgeoning school population. Washington-Lee, which was renovated in 2009, is projected to be at 109.1 percent capacity next school year, with 2,023 students enrolled.
While new elementary schools and elementary school additions are on the way to relieve crowding, no such plans are in place at the high school level — only a vague commitment in the school system’s capital improvement plan to start adding permanent middle and high school capacity 5 years from now. In the meantime, that may portend high school boundary changes, since Arlington’s other high schools have some capacity to spare.
Yorktown High School, also recently renovated, was projected (as of Nov. 2012) to be at 97.5 percent capacity next school year, with 1,815 students. And the new Wakefield High School, expected to open in time for the new school year with space for more than 1,900 students, will only be at about 75 percent capacity with 1,460 students.
(The H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, a “choice” school without boundaries, is projected at 99.7 percent capacity with 389 high school students.)
Shifting students from Washington-Lee to Wakefield, should it come to pass, promises to be a contentious process, thanks in part to the big difference in regional school rankings (W-L ranked #10 and Wakefield ranked #62 according to the Washington Post “Challenge Index.) For now, however, APS says there’s no firm plan to change high school boundaries.
“The School Board has said that all boundaries need to be looked at in the coming years because projections continue to change,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “However there is no timetable as of yet.”
Shifting boundaries will not be a panacea, however. By the 2018-2019 school year, Wakefield is projected to be at 100 percent capacity, while Yorktown is projected to be at 122.4 percent of capacity and Washington-Lee at 137.9 percent capacity.
On Thursday, the Arlington School Board unanimously approved the conceptual design of the new elementary school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus in north Arlington.
The 93,578 square foot school will include 28 classrooms, a gymnasium, library, art room, media center, innovation lab, dining room and green roofs. It has a projected capacity of 630 students, to help address the capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools.
The school will cost about $35 million to build, with construction slated to start in January 2014 and wrap up in time for the start of the school year in the summer of 2015.
The Williamsburg elementary school is one of five elementary school building projects approved in the latest APS capital improvement plan. On Feb. 21, the School Board is expected to vote on the conceptual design for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School.
Some residents in nearby McLean have expressed concern about traffic impacts from the new school.
School Enrollment Surging – Enrollment in Arlington Public Schools is now projected to increase from 22,657 pre-K to 12th grade students today to 30,777 students by the 2023-24 school year. The projections suggest that enrollment will near 27,000 by the 2017-18 school year, breaking the previous record for APS enrollment. [Sun Gazette]
Ukrainian Mayor Presents Library With Sculpture – Viktor Anushkevychus, the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, Arlington’s sister city in Ukraine, presented Arlington Central Library with a metal sculpture of a tree yesterday. [Arlington Public Library]
Libby Garvey Looking for New Assistant — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is seeking a new aide in the County Board office, after her previous aide left for a new position in the county. “If you know of anyone who might be interested in the position, please encourage them to check out the announcement and apply,” she said in a recent email to supporters. The full-time job pays between $39,062 and $63,523, plus benefits. [Arlington County]
Model Bootcamp Coming to Pentagon City — A “bootcamp” for wanna-be models is coming to the Pentagon City mall on Saturday. From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will host a promotional event for “The Face,” a new modeling competition show on the Oxygen network. Participants will be put through a “casting session” that will include a short photo shoot; in the end, they’ll be emailed an animated GIF of photos from the shoot. [Oxygen]
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.
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.
Update at 7:45 p.m. — Arlington School Board Chair Abby Raphael has responded, in writing, to the PTA letter.
The Jamestown Elementary School PTA has fired off an angry letter to county officials after new relocatable classroom trailers were placed in a field near the school’s playground.
The PTA says the community was not consulted about the placement of the trailers, and that the loss of green space will be detrimental to the school.
“This lack of communication on the County’s part is disrespectful, rude, and flies in the face of the Arlington tradition of ‘respectful dialogue,’” the Jamestown PTA said in a letter addressed to the Arlington County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy and the Arlington County Board.
The incident is similar to another recent controversy, in which parents at Tuckahoe Elementary School protested the placement of classroom trailers on the school’s playground blacktop. The temporary trailers have become increasingly necessary as Arlington Public Schools deals with a capacity crisis.
The PTA is requesting a meeting with the school board “before we are faced with a fait accompli.” See the complete PTA letter, after the jump.
Residents of Glencarlyn already have two schools in their neighborhood — Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School — but they say a proposal to add a third school to the existing campus, part of the plan to address the capacity crisis at Arlington Public Schools, goes too far.
In a letter sent to the Arlington School Board yesterday, the Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association asks the board to consider alternative sites for the proposed 600 students capacity magnet elementary school. The association cites concerns about “traffic, safety, parking and loss of [an] important recreational area” as reasons why the school shouldn’t be built or, at the very least, should be built in a way that minimizes negative impacts.
Along with the letter to the school board, Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association president Peter Olivere sent a letter to the editors of ARLnow.com, the Arlington Mercury and the Sun Gazette.
The Glencarlyn community is very concerned about the process and potential adverse consequences of the Arlington Public School’s (APS) Capacity Planning Process. The process appears to be driven by the APS’s desire to identify specific construction projects prior to placing a bond referendum before the public in November 2012. At the beginning of the Capacity Planning Process, the School Board committed to including the effect on Neighborhood Resources as a criteria for site selection. To date, the process has effectively excluded the affected neighborhoods from participation. The result is that APS has failed to incorporate the impact on neighborhoods in any meaningful way.
The School Board needs to recognize that the construction of new schools will have a significantly larger community impact than the replacement or expansion of an existing building. Given APS’s experience with late and costly modifications to approved capital improvement plans and past criticism of its ability to address legitimate concerns raised by affected communities, Glencarlyn believes the not including neighborhood input prior to deciding locations will undermine public support and confidence in APS’s ability to address future capacity needs.
Glencarlyn is requesting the School Board to refrain from selecting new school sites until additional alternatives have been considered and outreach efforts with the affected communities have resulted in plans to mitigate major concerns. For the Glencarlyn community the major concerns are traffic, safety, parking and loss of important recreational area. We believe there is adequate precedent for the Board to proceed with a bond referendum without tying it to site specific capital improvements.
The Arlington Montessori Action Committee (AMAC), a six year old group of parents and educators, has launched a campaign to convince Arlington Public Schools to build a brand new school devoted to Montessori education.
As part of its ongoing capacity planning process, APS has been narrowing down its options for keeping up with rising enrollment at schools countywide. The options for adding capacity include building new schools and making additions to existing schools.
Montessori advocates have seized upon an APS proposal to build a new PreK-8 countywide magnet school between Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School. AMAC says the school would be ideal for a central Montessori “choice” program, hosting between 600 and 750 Montessori students either from PreK-5 or PreK-8. Currently, there are almost 600 PreK-8 students in 31 Montessori classrooms at schools across Arlington, with hundreds more on waiting lists, according to AMAC.
By drawing Montessori students away from already-crowded schools, the new Montessori choice school could efficiently help mitigate the school system’s looming capacity crisis, AMAC says. The group created a PowerPoint presentation to make their case.
In addition to helping relieve the capacity crunch, advocates say Montessori programs have educational benefits. AMAC cites the county-wide Montessori program at Drew Model Elementary as proof that a Montessori education can “[close] the achievement gap for minority students.”