APS Mulling Ways to Handle Student Boom — With the number of students in Arlington Public Schools expected to surge from 23,500 to nearly 30,000, school officials say they’re going to have to make “some tough choices.” Among the ways the school system might accommodate the extra students: “increasing class sizes, extending the school day, year-round schooling, installation of many more relocatable classrooms, and increasing the number of ‘virtual’ classes.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Latino Students Explore Careers — Some 200 Latino students from around Arlington attended a leadership conference at George Mason University on Friday. The conference, now in its 21st year, features Latino professionals talking about how they pursued their education and careers. [Washington Post]
Wardian Wins Marathon, Competes in Another — Prolific local marathon runner Michael Wardian won the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio marathon the Sunday before last. That same day, the 39-year-old flew to Las Vegas and competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas marathon, where he placed 10th. [Runners World]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Metro Weekend Service Adjustments — Due to work on the Metrorail system, trains on the Orange and Blue Lines will run every 24 minutes this weekend. The altered schedule begins at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, and runs through closing on Sunday, November 24. [WMATA]
Metro Sign Upgrades on the Way — By the end of the winter, Metrorail riders should notice a number of upgrades to the electronic signs announcing train arrivals. Some improvements include making the display crisper so it’s easier to read from a distance and temporarily stopping service advisories from scrolling on the screens when trains are arriving. [Washington Post]
ART System Expansion — At its meeting on Tuesday (November 19), the County Board approved a plan to expand the ART bus system within the next year. Two lines will be added and one line will have service later into the evening. [Sun Gazette]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six students at Arlington Career Center won first place for the video they submitted to the Virginia School Boards Association student video contest. High school students were challenged to create a 30 second video for the theme “What’s Super About Public Schools.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Rosslyn Apartment Building to Sell for $220 Million — The JBG Cos. has reached a deal to sell its new Sedona Slate apartments in Rosslyn for $220 million. The company spent about $150 million to develop the two-building apartment project, which had a ribbon cutting ceremony in June. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Competition to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools (APS) announced a competition for data analysts to help the school system prevent students from dropping out. Analysts will help APS identify trends and hopefully will find ways to flag students who could use more one-on-one time with counselors. Assistant Superintendent for Information Services Raj Adusumilli told ARLnow.com the winning team of analysts likely will be announced by the end of this winter. Although no firm date is in place for finishing the data analysis, the school system anticipates being able to use the gathered information by about February 2014 in order to help students make class choices for next year. [Washington Post, Arlington Public Schools]
Opera Singer Wins Talent Competition — Opera singer Garrick Jordan won first place in the second annual “Arlington’s Got Talent” competition. Jordan beat out six other competitors on Sunday (November 18) at Clarendon Ballroom. [Sun Gazette]
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools held its annual Walk and Bike to School Day today (Wednesday), encouraging the tens of thousands of students in the system to avoid driving or busing to school.
Every APS school participated in the event, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, and three local farms donated apples that were distributed to six different schools.
The school system also held reading events at two schools, and students were encouraged to bring in books for a book swap.
Photos courtesy of Arlington Public Schools
Plans for the new school have been in the works for some time, and the Arlington School Board unanimously approved a conceptual design in February. Although a number of concerns from the community have arisen during the planning process, county staff recommends Board approval for the use permit.
One issue that previously prompted a meeting is the traffic impact a new school would have on the surrounding area. A study indicates traffic impacts only occur during a 15 to 20 minute “peak” period during school arrival and departure times. It is therefore suggested that the two schools stagger their start/end times to reduce this traffic impact, with Williamsburg having an earlier start time than the new school. Staff believes the new school’s parking lot has been adequately designed to prevent long lines of waiting cars from spilling into the neighboring streets during drop off and pick up times.
Throughout the planning process, the Rock Spring Civic Association had joined other members of the community in expressing concern over the plan to use the neighborhood’s street parking near the schools. However, county staff still recommends reducing the number of on-site spaces for the entire campus from 258 to 209 due to the availability of on-street parking. This goes along with the County Board’s approval of changes to the Zoning Ordinance in February to allow schools and recreational facilities to reduce the number of on-site parking spaces.
Another issue has been the proposal to re-construct the athletic fields on the campus, with two of them becoming synthetic turf fields with lighting. The idea prompted community members to create dueling petitions earlier this year. County staff recommends moving forward with the installation of the fields, but not with the lighting. Staff members recommend a County Board review of the use permit one year after the fields open (approximately September 2016) to see whether lighting is necessary.
Arlington Public Schools released its 2013 Standards of Learning (SOL) test results in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) release of the statewide results. Although Arlington students performed better than their peers in most categories, they joined students across the state in a significant drop in English reading scores.
Arlington’s Grade 8 English reading pass rate this year is 77 percent, compared with 71 percent for all of Virginia. However, Arlington’s 8th graders scored a 90 percent pass rate last year.
A likely explanation for the local and statewide drop in English scores is the introduction of a more rigorous exam. The VDOE’s website says:
“The English and science SOL tests students took during 2012-2013 were the first to reflect the increased rigor of revised standards adopted in these subject areas by the Board of Education in 2010. Last year also marked the debut of online SOL writing tests, although all schools participated in a statewide field test of the assessments during 2011-2012. As expected, pass rates on the new tests were lower than in 2011-2012 on the now-retired assessments based on the 2002 English SOL and 2003 Science SOL.”
After reviewing the results, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said, “As we continue to focus on the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan, these results serve as a barometer for our work and progress at this point. It is clear that our instructional team is working to meet these higher standards to ensure that our students master the new, more challenging expectations. While work remains to ensure that all students are succeeding at all levels, these results are encouraging.”
Last year, similar drops were seen on math scores with the implementation of a more difficult math test. Math scores held relatively steady this year, with 8th graders scoring 67 percent, compared with 68 last year. This year’s 8th graders around the state scored 61 percent.
Ft. Myer Alarm System Test Today — In conjunction with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Operations, the Department of State will test an alarm system on Summerall Field on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base at 2:30 p.m. today. Residents near the area can expect to hear high noise levels. For more information call 703-696-0573.
September Start Date for Ashlawn Addition Construction — A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for 5:30 p.m. on September 6 for construction on the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School. Construction on the three level addition is expected to take about two years. The new portion will add about 26,000 square feet to the existing 69,000 square foot school building, allowing the capacity to grow from 524 students to about 680. [Sun Gazette]
Grants for Non-profits — Arlington County is accepting grant proposals from non-profit organizations that help residents with physical and/or sensory disabilities. Projects should increase or maintain independence and community integration for residents with disabilities through empowerment focused services. The 2015-2016 Regional Grants to Disability Groups Application Packet can be found online. Grant proposals are due by September 30. [Arlington County]
Arlington Mill Community Center Modifications Approved — The County Board approved modifications to the Arlington Mill Community Center project that are being called safety and utility upgrades. The county will use already approved project reserve funds for improvements such as parking garage security doors, an in-building wireless system antenna to aid first responder communication and a revised design for the intersection at 9th Street S. and Arlington Mill Drive. As reported last week, a Pan American Bakery and Café will open in the structure. Construction is on track to finish by early August, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 28. [Arlington County]
Arlington Receives Funding to Fight Childhood Obesity — The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has granted more than $36,000 to the county to fight childhood obesity and promote healthy living. This is the second year of a two-year grant. The money will help continue to fund community gardens, healthy school vending machine options and active recess. [Arlington County]
APS Hiring Hundreds of Staff Members – More than 260 full time and part time employees have been hired ahead of the Arlington Public Schools 2013-2014 year. That’s about two-thirds of the more than 350 open slots APS aims to fill. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy expects to be fully staffed by the beginning of the school year. [Sun Gazette]
Alexandria Approves BRT Station Design — Alexandria approved the design for its Route 1 Bus Rapid Transitway stations. The seven stations include real-time bus arrival displays and will cost about $200,000 apiece. Construction of the bus dedicated lanes in the middle of Route 1 began in July 2012 and is expected to finish late this year, with the line becoming operational early next year. The BRT will eventually cover a five mile stretch to connect the Braddock Road Metro station with the Pentagon City metro station. The Arlington portion of the line is expected to open in summer or fall of 2014. [Del Ray Patch]
Father of Deceased Skateboarder Found Dead — Friends and family of 18-year-old John Malvar — a Washington-Lee High School student who died following a skateboarding accident — were supposed to gather at a memorial service for the teen on Saturday, but his father never showed up. Several friends visited the man’s apartment and had a maintenance man unlock the door, where they found George Malvar dead on his bed of natural causes. After learning of George Malvar’s death, the friends and family decided to continue on with the memorial service for his son. [Washington Post]
Snake Causes Power Outage — More than 10,000 Arlington and Alexandria residents experienced a power outage on Saturday night and Dominion says it was caused by a snake. The reptile apparently slithered into some electrical equipment and knocked out electricity at a substation on Four Mile Run. Power was restored by Sunday morning. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Christopher Skillman
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.
Earlier this year, when Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy unveiled his proposed schools budget, he coined a new phrase to describe school expenditures which he was NOT proposing. He called them “unfunded investments”. George Orwell would have tingled with admiration.
Among Dr. Murphy’s unfunded investments was any money to start foreign language instruction at any Arlington elementary school that is not already offering such instruction. Acknowledging the inequity of the current situation in which some elementary schools offer this instruction while others do not, Dr. Murphy polished his Orwellian credentials by calling these unfunded foreign language programs “lighthouses to places we need to be going”.
Let’s acknowledge right up front that in a schools budget currently exceeding $500,000,000, there are areas in which savings could be achieved and should be achieved. Let’s also accept Dr. Murphy’s estimate that it currently costs about $450,000 per school to add a foreign language program to each of the nine elementary schools that currently lack one. In Arlington’s current budget environment, the best that could be hoped for is that this instruction could be phased in over several years. There is no sign, however, that any such gradual phasing is actually going to occur.
Parents at Tuckahoe Elementary are mounting a last ditch petition drive to ask the County Board to provide such a program in their school. In their petition, the Tuckahoe parents state:
“Tuckahoe students are being denied the important educational opportunity of learning a second language at an early age. 13 out of 22 Arlington elementary schools have this opportunity, including nearby schools such as McKinley, Jamestown, Ashlawn, and Glebe.”
These Tuckahoe parents may not succeed this year, but by taking their case directly to the County Board they have found the right target. It is the misplaced spending priorities of the County Board, not those of the School Board, that are primarily responsible for the unfair and inequitable situation in which these Tuckahoe parents now find themselves.
As I wrote last week, excessive and extravagant spending by the County Board on projects like the Artisphere, the Aquatic Center, the Clarendon dog park, and the Columbia Pike streetcar are directly impacting the ability of Superintendent Patrick Murphy to honor promises to the schools’ community to expand elementary foreign language instruction.
The County Board has dropped a black curtain over the beacon that might otherwise shine from Dr. Murphy’s lighthouse.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School (STM) are taking part in what has been dubbed “Mission Possible.” It’s a rare opportunity build a satellite and launch it into orbit.
According to an article published this week by Satnews.com, students will get assistance from a NASA Mission Manager in building a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite used for space research. The satellite will collect data to be used for school research in math and science.
STM computer teacher Melissa Pore is helping to manage the project. She said yesterday was the official kick off and construction should begin in about two weeks.
“The really unique part about it is making the projects tie in to what’s already expected in the classroom, and giving that real world simulation for the kids,” Pore said. “Every student will have a part and will touch a piece of the hardware, whether they’re screwing in a bolt or putting together an onboard camera, they will all have a part.”
One of the things the satellite is expected to do is to take wide angle photos of small asteroids, of Earth and of St. Thomas More Cathedral School.
More than 60 high schools and universities participate in the CubeSat program, but STM would be the country’s first Pre-K through 8th grade elementary school to participate. The goal is to launch the CubeSat in late 2014.
STM received a donation of $10,000 to assist with the satellite launch from ATK Space Systems. The school has also received equipment such as solar panels and cameras from space industry donors. Anyone interested in donating additional resources or time to the project should contact Melissa Pore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CubeSat photo via Wikipedia
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Rep. Jim Moran (D) spent the morning reading to first graders at Barcroft Elementary School and talking with them about autism.
After meeting with some students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Moran read the first graders a story about everyone being different and how everyone’s differences should be celebrated. He explained that autism is another difference, just one that can’t be seen.
“Nobody is the same as everybody else, which is wonderful! Some children have different challenges,” Moran told the children. “Some children have autism. Autism is a challenge that affects the way our brains work. So some children have different ways their brain works.”
One of the students noted his brother has autism, to which Moran responded, “So he’s different and special and wonderful.”
Moran also talked to the students about the “AUTISM Educators Act,” a bill he is re-introducing to request funding for training educators how best to work with students with autism. Barcroft is one of the schools currently offering special services for students with autism, and training all staff members how to work with students with ASD. It is considered a model for other schools across the country.
“We’re going to try to teach other teachers around the country how to be as good of teachers as you have at Barcroft Elementary,” Moran told the students. “We’re going to use Barcroft Elementary as a model for other schools to learn from.”
The bill would establish a five-year pilot program to provide the special training for teachers and school staff. There would also be a focus on recruitment and retention of trained personnel and implementation of a program for parental support and involvement.
“I actually think this bill is going to become law. This is one that I think is going to make an enormous difference in the classrooms around the country that have children on the autistic spectrum,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This is going to be groundbreaking legislation. I know it’s going to be bipartisan, I already have Republican sponsors. So I think we’re going to get it passed in the House, and I’m confident we’ll get it passed in the Senate as well. It’s going to become law all because the parents in the Arlington school system worked with the superintendent and the principals and the teachers and the teacher aides to make it happen in a way that other school systems can learn from.”
Moran is requesting up to $5 million for the pilot program and could ask for more once the program expands around the nation. We’re told the funds will come from existing teacher development accounts.
APS to Benefit from State STEM Funding — Arlington Public Schools will be getting a boost from the Virginia Department of Education’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grants. A $247,000 grant to George Mason University will provide support to 90 educators in seven school districts, including Arlington. Additionally, a $250,000 grant shared by four colleges and universities will support 76 teachers in 45 school districts, including Arlington. [Sun Gazette]
Public Hearing for School Boundary Changes — On Wednesday, the Arlington School Board will host a public hearing on the recommendations for boundary changes. Last month, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presented his recommendations for boundary changes. The hearing will take place at the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 3).
JBM-HH Works with County to Reduce Use of Energy — The Directorate of Public Works at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH) has been working with Arlington County to share information about energy use and conservation. Although the two entities aren’t sharing policy yet, they’re sharing information about a community plan to reduce the use of energy. [U.S. Army]
Election Officials Seek Funding for Scanners — County election officials hope the County Board approves funding for bar code scanners that could speed up voter check-in at the polls. The scanners would read the codes on voters’ drivers’ licenses and voting cards, which would more quickly bring up residents’ information. A final County Board decision might not happen until the end of the fiscal year. [Sun Gazette]
Local Woman to Appear on Jeopardy! — Arlington resident Mary Jo Shoop will compete tonight on America’s popular quiz show, Jeopardy! During her time taping the show, Shoop was able to meet and get photos with host Alex Trebek. The episode will air tonight (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. on ABC 7 (WJLA).
APS Requests $0.005 Tax Rate Increase — (Updated at 10:00 a.m.) — Thursday night’s School Board meeting began with the announcement that the schools have asked the county for a one-half of one cent increase in the tax rate, which adds up to about $3 million. The funds would cover shortfalls in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget of $520 million. APS Board Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez said the spring 2013 enrollment figures were higher than expected, prompting the need for more county money. [Arlington Mercury]
School Board Appoints Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations — John Chadwick was named the new Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations at last night’s (March 21) School Board meeting. He has served as the interim assistant superintendent since Feb. 1, and has served as the APS Director of Design and Construction since 2011. “John is a calm and reassuring leader as he has worked to collaborate with staff and the community on initiatives such as our recently-adopted ten-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). He has also been an adept manager for all of our recent capital improvement projects, including the construction at Yorktown and Wakefield and the planning of a new elementary school to be built on the Williamsburg site and the addition at Ashlawn,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. “John’s leadership over the past two years for our ‘More Seats for More Students’ deliberations, as well as his support for the work of our new Multimodal Transportation Committee and our many other collaborative efforts with the Arlington County Government have been a tremendous asset to APS.”
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The recommended changes are detailed in a memo that also lists two alternative plans. The intent is to ease school overcrowding and to assign students to a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The shuffle will affect students at seven elementary schools in North Arlington — Ashlawn, Glebe, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor and Tuckahoe.
The major changes will involve moving around 900 students in the following ways:
- Reassign 67 students from McKinley to Ashlawn
- Reassign 56 students from Glebe to McKinley
- Reassign 164 students from Jamestown to the new school at Williamsburg
- Reassign 71 students from Taylor to Jamestown
- Reassign 347 students from Nottigham to the new school at Williamsburg
- Reassign 146 students from Tuckahoe to Nottingham
- Reassign 49 students from Taylor to the new school at Williamsburg
“We went through a process of community meetings starting this past fall. There was lots of input and lots of options,” said APS Transition Facilities Planning Consultant Meg Tuccillo. “The superintendent examined the input he received, and the need to address capacity, and determined that this recommendation met that need.”
The plan also includes recommendations for grandfathering that would also need to be approved by the School Board. The ideas especially apply to fifth graders so they don’t have to move for their final year of elementary school. Siblings of fifth graders also would not have to move immediately. The grandfathering recommendations are as follows:
- Rising fifth graders and concurrently enrolled younger siblings (grades K-4 as of June 2015) may choose to remain at their current school for the 2015-16 school year only. Transportation will continue for current bus riders for that year.
- A student attending either Immersion School, in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved from one Immersion School group to another Immersion School group, may remain at their current Immersion School through fifth grade with transportation provided by APS.
- A student attending Arlington Science Focus in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved to the New Elementary School #1, may remain at ASFS through fifth grade with transportation provided by APS.
APS reports that its staff has participated in more than 40 community meetings since the beginning of the boundary changing process. Two additional public meetings will take place in April, and the School Board is scheduled to give a final vote on May 16. If approved at that time, the changes will go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year. An exception would be made for students reassigned to McKinley. Those students would be delayed a year and instead would switch schools in time for the 2016-2017 school year, when McKinley’s expansion is expected to be completed.
Changes have been approved for parking regulations at the county’s schools and recreational facilities.
At its meeting on Saturday (February 23), the County Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance, which was necessary in order to modify parking regulations for elementary and middle schools and noncommercial recreational facilities. The amendments allow the Board to change the number of required parking spaces at the facilities, which it previously was not permitted to do.
The approved revisions reduce the number of spaces needed at elementary and middle schools. Additionally, the Board now has the ability to alter requirements at individual sites and to locate a portion of the parking spaces off-site.
County staff members have been looking into parking requirements since the issue arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, the new school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and the planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. Parking demand at all the sites in question was deemed less than what was required by the Zoning Ordinance.
“With APS expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand.”
All schools and public facilities must also submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to ensure the sites do not build excessive amounts of parking, and that strategies to reduce the demand for parking are examined.