Starting this year, incoming freshmen in Virginia high schools will need to take at least one class online in order to graduate, as a result of a law passed by the General Assembly last spring.
Arlington Public Schools has been offering online classes for some time now — last year, APS offered 25 classes, mostly foreign languages like Arabic, Chinese and Japanese — but the portfolio of offerings will need to greatly expand to accommodate the new state law.
With less than a month to go until the school year, APS Director of Instructional and Innovative Techonologies Pat Teske said the decisions on which classes to offer online and how many are still being made.
“We’re looking at programs we want to offer to build a program,” Teske said. “We’re looking at it as more than just a graduation requirement.”
About 400 students took online classes last year, Teske said, many of whom took classes not in APS’ portfolio, but offered by Northern Virginia Community College and other institutions. The state Department of Education maintains a list of approved online educators, but before APS allows students to take any classes, school staff vets the educator for county standards.
While the rollout of the state policy takes place, some may be questioning whether forcing students to take an online class is a good idea. Brittany O’Grady, a recent graduate of Washington-Lee High School, took English 12 online as a way to get college credit simultaneously.
“I would have learned better in a classroom environment,” O’Grady said in an email. “I really enjoy making connections with people. The material becomes more engaging. Looking at a computer screen and learning the confusing material on my own was absolutely exhausting and not fun. I just wanted to get the class over with.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell argued when pushing for the law that it prepares high school students for the modern marketplace. Teske said so much business is done online — and so many colleges offer and/or require online classes — that the requirement is a logical one. The program will be called Virtual@APS, Teske said, and she and her staff have been working long hours trying to put it in place.
“The way of the business world today, you do online collaborations, online projects,” Teske said. “You have to be an effective online learner and collaborator… You can’t go to college today without taking many online classes. There are online degrees as well. We’re really giving our kids the skills they need to be productive beyond the 12th grade.”
This article was written by Maddy Berner
“I was looking at choosing colleges and I wasn’t sure of about that level of intensity,” she said. “I felt like I needed more time to figure that out.”
This fall, Parker-Simkin will begin a year-long journey with Global Citizen Year, a gap-year program that allows students to do service work in a developing country before college. Parker-Simkin will spend what would be her freshman year of college in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, in the city of Florianópolis. The recent Washington-Lee graduate has already started a blog about her experiences.
She writes in her first blog post: “After reading a friend’s Global Citizen Year blog posts over the course of his term, I decided to apply to the program. It seemed like a perfect intersection of self-discovery, adventure, and service. I am excited to be going to the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil.”
Global Citizen Year is a non-profit organization that aims to create a different kind of educational pathway for its recruits. The program selects a diverse group of high school graduates and sends them to communities in Africa and Latin America. Through their own immersion and hands-on training, the students help the communities’ education efforts, as well as gain their own entrepreneurial experience and self-awareness.
In 2008, founder Abby Falik pitched the idea for the program to a Harvard Business School startup competition. A year later, the program launched with 11 participants. In just four years, Global Citizen Year has grown to include more than 200 alumni.
And in a year, when she finishes the program and heads off to college (school as yet undetermined), Parker-Simkin will be one of those alumni.
Parker-Simkin said she initially chose the GCY program because of its service- and community-oriented agenda, something she’s used to. In Arlington, she volunteered at the Central Library and Arlington Food Assistance Program.
“I like that it’s not just sending kids to go fix problems,” she said. “I think it’s good that it’s very community-based.”
After a week of training in California later this month, Parker-Simkin will head to Florianópolis and stay with a host family. She said she’s never traveled extensively before, and is excited about the new experiences and culture that await her. She said she’s been learning Portugese all summer, and can’t wait to further her knowledge of it.
But mostly, she’s thrilled about her upcoming service work and helping those in her new Brazilian community.
“It’s going to be exciting to do something really big,” she said.
Photo courtesy Libby Parker-Simkin
Fall practices for Arlington’s high school football teams began Monday, officially ending the summer for fall sports athletes. In about three weeks (August 29), defending National District champs Yorktown will open play. One month from today — Sept. 6 — will be the opening night of the season for Washington-Lee and Wakefield.
Those who want to get the chance to see one of the best football teams in the country should head to Bishop O’Connell on Oct. 26 to watch the team play Maryland’s Good Counsel. The date many in Arlington will want to circle on their calendars will be Nov. 8, the last game of the regular season, when Washington-Lee takes on Yorktown.
Below are the football schedules for each of the Arlington high schools.
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6: Home vs. Marshall
Sept. 12: Home vs. George Mason
Sept. 20: Away vs. Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 27: Home vs. Edison
Oct. 4: Home vs. Hayfield Secondary
Oct. 11: Away vs. Falls Church
Oct. 18: Away vs. Yorktown
Oct. 25: Away vs. J.E.B. Stuart
Nov. 1: Home vs. Washington-Lee
Nov. 8: Away vs. Mt. Vernon
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6: Away vs. McLean
Sept. 12: Home vs. South Lakes
Sept. 20: Home vs. J.E.B. Stuart
Sept. 27: Away vs. Hayfield Secondary
Oct. 4: Home vs. Falls Church
Oct. 11: Away vs. Mt. Vernon
Oct. 18: Home vs. Edison
Oct. 25: Home vs. Centreville
Nov. 1: Away vs. Wakefield
Nov. 8: Away vs. Yorktown
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 29: Home vs. Coolidge
Sept. 6: Away vs. Langley
Sept. 20: Away vs. Edison
Sept. 27: Home vs. Falls Church
Oct. 4: Away vs. J.E.B. Stuart
Oct. 11: Home vs. Hayfield Secondary
Oct. 18: Home vs. Wakefield
Oct. 25: Home vs. Chantilly
Nov. 1: Away vs. Mt. Vernon
Nov. 8: Home vs. Washington-Lee
All games at 2:00 p.m.
Aug. 24: Away vs. McDonogh
Aug. 31: Home vs. Paul VI
Sept. 7: Away vs. Bishop Ireton
Sept. 13: Away vs. St. Christopher’s
Sept. 21: Home vs. Archbishop Carroll
Sept. 28: Away vs. St. John’s
Oct. 5: Away vs. DeMatha (2:30 p.m.)
Oct. 12: Home vs. Gonzaga
Oct. 26: Home vs. Good Counsel
Nov. 2: Home vs. Bishop McNamara
This article was co-written by Audrey Batcheller
The athletic departments of Arlington schools have been aware that this shakeup was coming, but now that the plan is finalized and the 2013-14 school year is quickly approaching, many are wondering what exactly this means for their teams.
Virginia high schools had previously been organized by districts that were grouped by proximity. These districts were then classified based on enrollment size. The highly populated schools were in Group AAA, schools with average populations were in Group AA, and the smallest schools were in Group A. All three Arlington high schools were members of the AAA National District of the Northern Region.
While the National District is staying intact for regular season play, the playoff system is getting a major overhaul. The three statewide groups are being split into six, the smallest schools in Group 1A and the biggest in Group 6A.
Each group will crown its own state champion in each sport, except lacrosse, which will now crown two state championships as opposed to the one, unified championship given out since it became a VHSL-sanctioned sport in 2006.
Washington-Lee and Yorktown will continue to play the state’s biggest schools in Group 6A and will be joining National District rival Hayfield as part of Conference 6. Wakefield, with several hundred fewer students, will be in Conference 13 with the other local Group 5A schools.
“The reclassification offers those schools with a smaller student enrollment a fair shot at playing similar sized schools,” Noel Deskins, the Director of Student Activities at Wakefield High School, said in an email.
Bishop O’Connell High School is not affected by the reclassification because it is not a member of the VHSL. O’Connell competes against the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
Previously, the regular season was followed by a three-round, single elimination district playoff, where teams would compete against schools within their district for the title of district champions. The top four teams from each district then advanced to a Regional tournament, where the top two teams would advance to an eight team state championship.
Now, with the introduction of the conferences a new playoff system has developed. The playoffs start off similarly to the previous procedure, but schools will now be competing to be conference champions. After the conference playoffs have concluded, only the top two teams will advance to the regional tournament and the state tournament now will consist of only four teams.
Football is the only exception; the conference playoffs are bypassed and the top 16 teams will go straight into regional playoffs. Wakefield, which ended last season winless, will no longer play in the Northern Region with Yorktown and Washington-Lee — renamed the 6A North Region — instead, they will be in the 5A North Region.
Football is the sport perhaps least affected by the reclassification. Because teams can only play just one game a week, they were already divided into six divisions for state tournaments. Last year, Yorktown went undefeated until it fell to Stone Bridge in Ashburn in the Northern Region championship.
All three high schools will match up against each other and the rest of the National District during the regular season in an effort to maintain rivalry games.
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
Hundreds gathered on the lawn at Washington-Lee High School on Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil to remember John Malvar, who died in a skateboarding accident on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old had been holding on to a truck while skateboarding, but fell and hit his head. He died from injuries sustained during that fall, which included significant head trauma and cardiac arrest.
At the student organized vigil, tables were set up around the perimeter with candles and ribbons for attendees. Students cried, hugged and comforted each other, while others passed around water jugs for donations to cover the family’s expenses. Some also laid items — such as flowers and skateboards — at a makeshift memorial along the stage.
As attendees passed the flames from candle to candle at the vigil, members of the school’s choir sang “Lean on Me.” Speakers focused on John as a skateboarding enthusiast, member of the swim team and overall kind individual. Speaker after speaker noted Malvar’s positive attitude and frequent encouragement of others.
“In this time of sadness and grief, it is important to remember that John was always the kind of person who was smiling and looking for the best in life no matter the circumstances,” said student Daniel Sharp, Jr.
Malvar was in Rob Summers’ anthropology class this year, and clearly left his mark on his teacher.
“I used to call John, ‘Big John.’ It wasn’t because of his stature, it was because of his heart. You never heard John saying anything negative or bad about a person, about the day, about what we were trying to learn. John had the most unique attitude of positivity,” said Summers. “John had that ear to ear grin and those eyes that always looked at you and told you no matter what was going on, there was another way to look at it.”
Similar to nearly all the other speakers, student Nicolas Suarez choked up while at the podium. He spoke of the times spent skateboarding and swimming with his good friend, and the enormous impact Malvar had on his life.
“I’m sure we can all say he was truly one of a kind. I can genuinely say that John was one of the most honest and caring souls I’ve ever met,” said Suarez. “He taught me so much about perseverance, honesty and most importantly above all, integrity. I think it’s safe to say that John embodied all aspects of what integrity means. John was a good friend of mine. His footprints on my life will forever guide me in the right direction.”
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Students at Washington-Lee High School have joined together to organize a candlelight vigil for classmate John Malvar, who was killed in a skateboarding accident yesterday (Tuesday).
18-year-old Malvar had been skateboarding while holding on to the back of a truck driven by a 17-year-old friend. He sustained significant head trauma and went into cardiac arrest after falling to the ground.
The vigil will take place tonight at 8:30 on the Quincy Street side of school, in the green space near the new softball field, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. Students organized the vigil and sat down with the school’s principal this morning to finalize details. Attendees are encouraged to walk or carpool due to lack of parking for all the people expected to attend.
According to Washington-Lee PTA President Kathi Driggs, as of 6:30 a.m. more than 700 students had signed up to attend the vigil. Attendees have been asked to wear black to the ceremony. Driggs also said that donations for the family are being accepted at the school.
Washington-Lee High School Principal Gregg Robertson issued the following statement today:
“Yesterday, Washington-Lee lost an incredible young man. I know things like that are often said of individuals that pass away; however for John, it could not be a truer statement. I will never see a brighter smile than that of John Malvar. He was thrilled last week when he received his perfect attendance award. I think that is very telling of his determination and dedication to himself and others. I’m very proud of the Washington-Lee community during this difficult time. Students in particular are coming together to celebrate John’s life and the contributions he made to his fellow classmates and to our school. In the coming days and weeks, all of us will remember John’s life in many ways. John will always remain close to our hearts and be remembered for the caring, outstanding young man he was.”
Malvar was supposed to graduate later this month. Right now, it’s unclear whether there will be any further vigils or a special recognition of Malvar at the graduation ceremony.
“I think the students, staff and administrators are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened,” said Bellavia.
Pierce Queen Apartments Too Costly for Tax Credits? — The Virginia Housing Development Authority has flagged the Pierce Queen Apartments project in Ft. Myer Heights as being too expensive for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The units must remain at $350,000 each to receive credit, but the Pierce Queen units come in at $402,000. The project developers asked for a little more than $2 million in tax credits. VHDA is still examining the request and will make its final decision on June 5. [Arlington Mercury]
DOD Renews Lease in Crystal City – The Department of Defense decided to renew its lease at 2530 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The agency was expected to stay in the more than 550,000 square foot space due to money being tight within the federal government. [GlobeSt]
High School Tournament Roundup — In high school sports, the Washington-Lee boys tennis team defeated the Robinson Rams in a quarterfinal match, but lost to Langley in the region semifinals. Yorktown boys and girls lacrosse teams lost in their second rounds of tournaments. Yorktown sophomore Luke Maxwell finished his season undefeated and won the National District singles tennis tournament without dropping a set. [Northern Virginia Sports]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Arlington County police are asking for help identifying three suspects who allegedly stole credit cards and cell phones from from the locker rooms of two high school pools.
The suspects were caught on surveillance camera at a CVS in northwest Washington where police say they used their victims’ credit cards.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department’s Burglary/Larceny Unit is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying three suspect that were involved in larcenies that took place in local aquatic center locker rooms.
On the morning of March 30, 2013, a victim was swimming at the Washington and Lee High School Aquatics Center and had his belongings stolen from his locker in the locker room. In this incident, the victim found that his lock had been cut, and also discovered that his iPhone 4 and credit cards were among the missing items. Later that same day, a victim was swimming at Yorktown High School Aquatics Center and had his wallet stolen from his locker room locker. The victim’s lock, Blackberry phone, cash, and credit cards were among the items stolen. Credit cards stolen from both aquatic centers were used at a CVS in NW, Washington, D.C. by the three suspects in the attached photographs.
Suspect one is described as a black female, wearing black pants, a blue jacket, and a baseball cap while using the credit cards. Suspect two is described as a black female, wearing dark pants, a red hooded sweatshirt, and had a short style haircut. Suspect three is described as a black male with glasses, wearing camouflage pants and a t-shirt with a unique graphic. These subjects have been seen together at the Wakefield High School Aquatics Center in recent weeks, but it is unknown if anything was stolen at that time.
If anyone has information on the whereabouts of this individual, please contact Detective James Stone of the Arlington County Police Department’s Burglary/Larceny Unit at 703.228.4245 or at Jstone@arlingtonva.us. To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
Photos courtesy ACPD
The new Washington-Lee High School softball field will open for its first game on Monday.
The $1 million field, under construction since last summer, is located on the corner of Washington Blvd and N. Quincy Street. It was built after parents of softball players threatened to file a Title IX complaint if the school system did not upgrade the no-frills field they were using at the time to include the same amenities of the boys baseball field.
The new softball field has “seating for 280 people, lighting, a press box and a removable fence so that the space can serve multiple uses,” according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.
(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.
Prom is supposed to be the night of a teen girl’s dreams, but the high cost of dresses prevents some from attending the event. The Washington-Lee High School PTA is holding a drive to make sure every girl can afford to attend prom.
The “Formals for Five” event collects new and gently used dresses, jewelry and other prom accessories that will be sold for $5 to Arlington high school students. Proceeds go to the Washington-Lee PTA.
Donations can be made until April 20, and the sale takes place from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School on April 23 and 24.
Drop off bins are located at the following Arlington locations:
- 430 N. Kenmore Street
- 3806 S. 16th Street
- 5850 N. 26th Street
- 1101 S. Quinn Street
- 346 N. Kensington Street
- 3510 N. Pershing Drive
- Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) Main Office
Organizers are also seeking sponsors for the event. Sponsorship helps with the purchase of clothing racks, donation bins and refreshments at the event. To become a sponsor or to volunteer for either day of the event, email email@example.com.
The forum, titled “Preventing Another Newtown: A Conversation on Gun Violence in America,” will feature a panel of experts on gun policy, public safety and mental health issues.
The following guests are slated to attend: Omar Samaha with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, retired ATF Special Agent David Chipman, Josh Horwitz with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, City of Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook, Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and former counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee Karen Marangi.
“From Virginia Tech to Newtown, gun violence has become far too common. Each day, 32 Americans are killed with a firearm. We must improve our laws to prevent the continuation of this horrific trend,” Moran said. “This forum is an opportunity to bring together a diverse panel of experts who will share their thoughts on a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Northern Virginians concerned over gun-related violence are invited to join the conversation.”
Members of the public are welcome to attend the forum, which will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on March 11 in the Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) auditorium.
(Updated at 10:05 a.m. on 1/17/13) Arlington County will host its 44th Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday, Jan. 20.
The event is being held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street). It will feature live music and dance, spoken word, a volunteer fair, and an “Arlington During the Civil Rights Era” photo gallery.
The keynote speaker will be Lehigh University Professor and Hip Hop Scholars, LLC founder James Braxton Peterson. Among the acts scheduled to perform are Grammy-nominated Progressive Hip-Hop artist Christylez Bacon and international dance collective Urban Artistry.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday, is Monday, Jan. 21.
Glee Star to Visit W-L Today — Glee star Lauren Potter and Best Buddies founder Anthony Shriver will be visiting Washington-Lee High School’s Best Buddies chapter at 3:00 p.m. today (Friday). “The Washington-Lee chapter of Best Buddies was ranked number one among DC-MD-VA chapters based on the quality of friendships, student leadership and dedication to the Best Buddies mission,” according to Arlington Public Schools. Potter, who has Down syndrome, is best known for her role as Becky Jackson on the hit Fox TV series.
Chef Beats Out ‘Chief’ in Culinary Competition — Eventide Chef Adam Barnett emerged as the big winner in the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s “Chiefs vs. Chefs” cooking competition between professional restaurant chefs and amateur firehouse cooks. AFAC hopes to turn the fundraiser into an annual event. [Sun Gazette]
Violent Crime Down in ACPD’s First District — Violent crime is down 15 percent in Arlington’s first police district, which encompasses much of North Arlington, minus Lyon Village, Clarendon, Courthouse and Rosslyn, according to police. The number of rapes are up, however; all of the instances involved a known suspect, not a random attacker. [Patch]
Pike Neighborhoods Plan Wins Award — The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which aims to transform Columbia Pike into a more urban and walkable community while maintaining affordable housing, has won an award from the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA). The plan won the “2012 Benjamin Banneker Award for Outstanding Social Commitment and Community” for demonstrating “sustained commitment to reach beyond the traditional scope of planning, particularly advancing social objectives.” [Arlington County]