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by Ethan Rothstein — December 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm 2,779 0

Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board voted last night to move the H-B Woodlawn program from its home on Vacation Lane to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.

The Wilson School, which preservationists launched a petition to save last year, will be torn down and replaced with an estimated 775-seat facility house H-B Woodlawn, the Stratford program, and other, smaller programs that had been housed in the Stratford building.

The demolition and new facility will cost an estimated $80.2 million and be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

As part of the School Board’s goal of building 1,300 new middle school seats by 2019, it will be constructing a $29.2 million renovation of the Stratford building and convert it into a neighborhood middle school with 1,000-seat capacity.

Arlington Public Schools staff will also determine which sites to recommend spending up to $16.6 million on renovating or building additions for 300 more middle school seats. Where those seats will be, according to APS staff, will be decided “no later than the next” Capital Improvement Plan process.

The plan the School Board approved is similar to the one endorsed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month. They elected the plan over building a neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site and building a middle school at the Reed/Westover building.

School Board Chair James Lander and Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said they opposed building a neighborhood school in Rosslyn two months ago.

“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez said at the time. Lander said the site is “not one that would be my first option.”

School Board member Abby Raphael, who said at that same meeting that she would be open to seeing a neighborhood school at the Wilson site, voted against the motion.

“I myself believe that a 1,300-seat, or even 1,000-seat, neighborhood school at the Wilson School was the best option for us,” Raphael said. “We have students in that area, it is a growing neighborhood, many students would have been able to walk to that school, it would have been one project, and it would have been cost effective.”

During a community meeting on the middle school capacity options in October, parents expressed support for using the Wilson School as a facility.

“I don’t know what should go in there, but I think that [the Wilson School] needs to be considered,” Ponappa Paleyanda, who lives near the site in the North Highlands neighborhood, said at the time. “It’s urban, and we live in an urban setting. It would give kids the ability to be put in settings they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in school.”

The motion carried 3-1, with Lander, Violand-Sanchez and Nancy Van Doren voting in support.

“I think the vast majority of this, we have a consensus on, and I think we should all take a breath and realize we’ve done really, really well here,” Van Doren said, emphasizing the lengthy community process and a final decision that appears to bring “1,300 secondary school seats, within budget, on time, by 2019.”

The School Board’s decision will be disappointing to preservationists, who have argued that the 104-year-old Wilson School is historic in nature and should be preserved.

by Peter Rousselot — December 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,022 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotIn a Nov. 13 column, I urged Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County government to collaborate in thinking way outside the box in selecting sites for new school facilities.

Today, I urge them to be similarly creative and flexible in designing those new facilities.

Our neighbor, Fairfax County, has provided an example of such creativity and flexibility with the September opening of a new elementary school in vacant office space at Bailey’s crossroads. “As we continue to be a fast-growing school system and property becomes harder to come by, we will have to think differently” about school design, said Superintendent Karen Garza. “Vertical buildings will be part of our plan throughout the county.”

With roughly one-tenth the land area of Fairfax, Arlington must place even greater emphasis on vertical facilities. There are many obstacles to overcome, but we must come together as a community to overcome them.

Arlington need not re-invent the wheel on this issue. For example, several years ago, the state of Maryland prepared a study on vertical public school design. In a 14-page report, the Maryland study team summarized:

  • its methodology
  • the problems and issues it encountered, and
  • a series of possible solutions

The Maryland study team included public and private sector representatives from across the state. Many other localities in the U.S. (e.g., Los Angeles) and all over the world are planning vertical schools. Via AECOM:

Vertical schools are already being successfully designed and delivered…, including the Hampden Gurney primary school in London. … [T]his school [is] to be constructed over 6 levels on a space-restricted site. Incorporating a playground on the roof with play decks on intermediate floors, schools like this are set to inform the design process for similar schools in Australia.

So what’s driving the growth of these schools as opposed to more conventionally designed ones? … Population growth is seeing young families settle in high-density areas, attracted by associated lifestyle benefits that also make the “traditional” school design model harder to achieve.

Sound familiar?

Vertical schools are just one example of the kind of flexibility and creativity Arlington needs in order to address the design issues presented by the school capacity crisis. A whole host of other issues need to be on the table, for example: how existing space within current school facilities could be re-designed in order to be more effectively utilized.

Since incremental funds to address the school capacity crisis deserve the highest priority in our County budget, a portion of our community resources should be devoted to innovative school facility design.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm 2,512 0

APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy gives his FY 2015 budget briefingThe H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.

Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.

If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school – by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.

The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.

Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3″ option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.

The "SWE3" middle school expansion option, which Superintendent Patrick Murphy is recommending to the School BoardThe other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.

Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.

The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.

by Ethan Rothstein — November 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm 2,365 0

Randolph Elementary School (photo via Arlington Public Schools(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Although a final decision has not been made on where more elementary school seats will go in South Arlington, the options have now been narrowed to two.

First, a plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a project which has come under criticism for its reduction of the green space next to the TJ Community Center.

Second, a plan for building $54 million of expansions onto Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. The Arlington School Board approved the expansion plan at its meeting last night as the alternative to the TJ plan. Whichever option is built is expected to open by September 2018.

The Board will vote in January on which option it will move forward with. Arlington voters approved $50.25 million toward the new elementary school seat plan on Tuesday as part of the $106 million school bond package.

Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said last night that there could be measures APS takes to bring the two expansions closer to the $50.25 million budget.

Two parents spoke out last night against the plan to expand Barcroft and Randolph, telling the School Board they should focus expansion efforts on schools that don’t lag far behind the rest of the school system in state testing. School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez echoed those parents’ concerns, and was the lone vote against the alternative plan.

“When we look at adding more seats, we keep on talking about seats. We’re not talking many times about students,” she said. “We’re not talking about instructional programs and options we have before us. The part of the county where Barcroft sits and Randolph sits, we have serious instruction issues when we have low achievement of Latino, African-American, students with disabilities, low-income students not perfomrming as they should. We have a problem.”

The other School Board members countered with the fact that APS capacity issues will affect every building in the school system, and performance issues can be addressed during expansion. School Board member Abby Raphael suggested that concerns about the schools’ performance are being overblown.

“Barcroft is a wonderful school. Students are achieving, there’s a wonderful staff. Of course we can do more,” she said. “Because of our growing enrollment, our elementary schools are going to reach 725 students, and we’re running out of land. Ideally, we’d love to have a number of very small elementary schools, but we just simply don’t have the land and the money to achieve that.”

The School Board’s “preferred plan” remains building a new elementary school next to TJ, but that plan is opposed by community group Friends of TJ Park. The group says the new school would reduce crucial parkland, including the community garden. TJ Middle School students spoke up at a School Board meeting last month to advocate for keeping the garden.

Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park at Arlington County Board's meeting 07/1914“I am so proud to work in the TJ Garden and seeing it every morning reminds me of how important it is to our community and school in Arlington,” seventh-grader Lucy Robinson said. “If the TJ garden were separated from the school, fewer people would go there and be involved. The TJ community would be hurt by this. Please leave our garden in its current location.”

The TJ plan would add 725 seats with the new school, while the two expansions would add a total of about 500 seats, according to APS estimates. The disparity may make the decision clearer after APS released its new set of student growth projections last night.

APS Director of Facilities Planning Lionel White told the School Board that APS figures to grow by 19 percent, or 4,957 students, in the next five years. According to the district’s projection model, APS will hit 30,000 students in 2020. Because of this growth, APS is considering refining elementary school boundaries for next fall.

“This year we had our highest kindergarten class on record, 2,196,” White told the Board. “Next year we’re anticipating [more than] 2,200.”

Many of the students affected by the school district’s boundary changes will be attending the new elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School. Last night the School Board approved the school’s name: Discovery Elementary School.

“When you go into successful schools, they use language like ‘discovery’ and ‘creativity’ to spark inspiration in the children,” School Board Chair James Lander said. “The fact that Discovery is the recommended name really pleases me.”

Photo (top) via Arlington Public Schools

by Ethan Rothstein — November 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm 2,716 0

Reed/Westover building (photo via Google Maps)(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.

The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.

A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.

The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.

Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.

Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.

A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.

According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”

In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.

The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — October 10, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,443 0

Eerie sky over the Clarendon Metro station (Photo courtesy @ClarendonScene)

County Government Open on Columbus Day — Even though it’s a federal holiday, Arlington County government offices will be open for Columbus Day on Monday. Courts, DMV offices, the Sheriff’s Office and other state-related offices will be closed. Arlington Public Schools will be closed for a teacher work day. [Arlington County]

Antique Plane Fly-Over — About 30 World War II-era planes will be flying over the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery around 12:30 p.m. today 11:55 a.m. Saturday. [WTOP]

Higher Charges for DCA Passengers? — Reagan National Airport is expected to have its traffic increase by another two million passengers next year, while overtaking both Dulles and BWI in passengers by the end of this year. To help keep up with the growth, and perhaps encourage use of the recently-upgraded Dulles International Airport instead, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering an increase of the passenger fee at DCA from $4.50 to $8.50. [WTOP]

Metrorail Ridership Continues to Slide — Ridership on Metrorail is continuing its five-year-slide. Ridership has slipped from a high of 225 million annual trips in 2009 to just over 200 million annual trips now. A shrinking federal workforce, increased telecommuting and increased bike and bus commuting are said to be the main drivers of the decrease. [Washington City Paper]

Office Buildings as Schools — Converting older office buildings into schools is increasingly being eyed as a two-fold solution to office vacancies and a school capacity crunch in Northern Virginia. In Falls Church, a five-story office building was converted into an elementary school — although a full gymnasium has yet to be built. [Washington Post]

‘Historic’ Garage Move Considered — Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will meet on Wednesday and consider a proposal to move a “historic garage” from county property onto the now privately-owned Fraber House site in Cherrydale. Preservationists might not be thrilled about the move, which would also require the removal of an oak tree. “Historic preservation advocates had wanted the county to draw the historic district line around the garage so that this wouldn’t have to happen… oh well,” one tipster told ARLnow.com. [PDF]

Photo courtesy @ClarendonScene

by Ethan Rothstein — October 3, 2014 at 11:25 am 4,747 0

Arlington Public Schools’ capacity crisis is only getting worse, and members of the community are clamoring for good solutions fast.

APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said the school system grew by 1,200 students in the 2014-2015 school year, 400 more than APS had projected. That’s the equivalent of two full elementary schools, Chadwick said.

The growth means that initial APS projections of seat deficits will need to be revised. With last year’s numbers, APS projected having 960 more middle school students than seats in the 2018-2019 school year; once projections with this year’s numbers are calculated, that figure is likely to reach over 1,000.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented rate of enrollment growth,” Chadwick told a crowd of more than 100 parents and residents at Williamsburg Middle School last night. “Determining the location of those seats is a really challenging process, but we have to make decisions. If enrollment continues to grow as projected, we’re going to look at many more sites for new schools and renovations before we’re through.”

At the heart of the discussion during last night’s community meeting is the School Board’s impending decision to try to add 1,300 middle school seats in North Arlington by some combination of building additions and renovations to existing APS properties, or constructing a new school at the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.

Other options on the table include:

  • Building additions onto the Stratford school site on Vacation Lane, which currently houses the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, to form a new neighborhood middle school. Stratford and H-B Woodlawn would be moved the Reed-Westover site with additions and renovations.
  • Expanding both the Stratford and Reed-Westover buildings and constructing an addition onto an existing middle school.
  • Moving H-B Woodlawn and Stratford to the Wilson School site and constructing a new neighborhood middle school at the Stratford building.

“Our goal is try to get secondary seats as soon as possible to alleviate what we see as imminent future crowding in our schools,” Lionel White, APS director of facilities planning, said.

Many residents and parents have complained that APS has faltered in both informing and seeking input from the community, but last night’s meeting was viewed by some as a significant step toward alleviating the crisis.

“I think for the first time, everyone’s realizing we’re wasting too much time and we’ve got to get more seats,” said Emma Baker, a parent of two Jamestown Elementary School students. “We need to start building now.”

Baker had attended previous meetings between staff and parents, and she said last night was the first time she felt everyone was actively trying to reach the best decision, instead of hemming and hawing. “It’s a very different tone,” she said.

Jamestown teacher and mother of two Megan Kalchbrenner said the option of building additions onto four existing middle schools is “not an option” — staff generally agreed, saying it would cost $16.5 million over budget and wouldn’t be an optimal long-term solution.

“What I want to know is what are they going to do for kids in the next two years?” Kalchbrenner asked. “We have capacity issues today.”

Last year, there were eight “relocatable classrooms” — classrooms in trailers adjacent to schools — at Williamsburg, four at Swanson and one at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Chadwick said the interim plan before major construction is still being developed, and he couldn’t reveal any concrete solutions.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — September 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm 1,300 0

McKinley Elementary School (photo via Arlington Public Schools)McKinley Elementary School will grow by about 241 seats thanks to a $20.5 million expansion approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting on Saturday.

The expansion will add a 33,040-square-foot addition in the northeast corner of the school, at 1030 N. McKinley Road, and smaller additions in the southwest corner and at the main entrance to the school. The project is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

An expansion of this size would, according to the county’s Zoning Ordinance, necessitate that Arlington Public Schools add 108 parking spaces. But because open space and a number of mature trees surround McKinley, the County Board approved plans to add just 20 spaces to the existing 36 spaces. Even those 20 spaces were the source of controversy; the county’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission recommended adding no spaces and instead using street parking to accommodate the additional staff and parent vehicles.

Advocates from the school and community who were a part of the planning process, including McKinley Principal Colin Brown, spoke in favor of adding the 20 spaces.

“I’ve said from the start that we enjoy a fantastic day-to-day relationship with the neighbors and the community,” Brown told the Board. “At this point, the neighborhood is able to handle the volume of staff and parents parking on the street given the current capacity of the parking lot. We’re at a tipping point. We need to maintain a fine and delicate balance.”

Ultimately, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended keeping the 20 spaces in the plan, and the County Board approved it unanimously. Only three members of the general public spoke, two of whom, School Board candidate Audrey Clement and Jim Hurysz, decried APS’ inability to expand schools “up, not out,” which would save green space. Despite that opposition, County Board Chair Jay Fisette marveled at the lack of animosity toward the plan, which marked the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School.

“I think it is quite a testament to this process that we had three speakers,” he said. “This is one of the easiest things I’ve seen to come before the Board.”

To make way for the school expansion, 78 trees will be removed – 12 of which are gingko trees that will be transplanted elsewhere in the county. Nearly 150 trees will be planted once construction is complete, according to APS Director of Design and Construction Scott Prisco.

“We feel strongly this is a sensitive approach to the neighbors, and it will meet our needs as a school system,” Prisco said.

In total, the expansion will mean a net increase of 32,250 square feet and include 10 new classrooms, two art rooms, two music rooms and expand the gymnasium to have enough space for the entire, expanded school. The expansion will also add a stage. Construction will include pedestrian improvements on N. McKinley Road and 11th Street N.

Photo via APS

by ARLnow.com — September 5, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,020 0

Sunrise at the Iwo Jima memorial (Flickr pool by Mike Darnay)

APS Enrollment Still Rising — This fall, Pre-K through 12 enrollment in Arlington Public Schools is expected to rise to 23,956 students, up from 23,316 last year and 22,657 two years ago. Despite accommodating more students, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said the first day of school was “a big success.” [InsideNova]

Letter From Arlington to Mrs. Wilson — Arlington County wrote to President Woodrow Wilson’s widow in 1926 to ask permission to name a new school in her late husband’s memory. The resulting Wilson School is located at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The school building may be torn down in the near future to make way for a new school, to help Arlington Public Schools add more capacity. [Preservation Arlington]

APS Has Football Concussion Plan — Arlington Public Schools has implemented a system-wide concussion management plan for high school football players. In addition, APS is the lone school system in the area to report changing over to only the highest-rated concussion-preventing helmets over the summer. [WUSA9 -- Warning: Auto-play video with audio on]

D.C. Discusses Bike Ban on Streetcar Path — The District of Columbia is considering banning bicycles in the streetcar guideway on H Street NE. Instead, cyclists would be encouraged to utilize bike routes on road parallel to H Street, even though some complain that those roads are in poor condition for bicycling. [NBC Washington -- Warning: Auto-play video with audio on]

Flickr pool photo by Mike Darnay

by ARLnow.com — June 25, 2014 at 11:15 am 2,525 0

Arlington County school busesSome north Arlington elementary school parents are asking the County Board to spur the Arlington School Board to action on a new middle school.

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.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 13, 2014 at 9:10 am 1,312 0

View of Four Mile Run near Carlin Springs Road

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]

by Ethan Rothstein — February 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm 1,580 0

South Arlington parents protesting School Board capacity plansMore 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.

Thank you!

Photo via Change.org

by Ethan Rothstein — February 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm 3,917 0

H-B Woodlawn (via Google Maps)(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

by ARLnow.com — October 15, 2013 at 8:00 am 1,956 0

Abandoned dam along Donaldson Run (Flickr pool photo by eschweik)

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

by Ethan Rothstein — July 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm 2,090 0

Exterior of Virginia Hospital Center's maternity wardNeed 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.

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