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.
Same-Sex Marriages Could Crowd Clerk’s Office — Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson estimates that the approximately 3,750 annual marriage certificates his office issues annually could spike 30-40 percent if the U.S. Supreme Court allows same-sex marriage nationwide, ending Virginia’s prohibition. [InsideNoVa]
Zoobean Raises Another $400,000 — Fresh off of its appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, Rosslyn-based kids’ book-and app-curation service Zoobean has raised another $400,000 from investors. [Washington Business Journal]
Principal Candidate Announced for New Elementary School — Williamsburg Middle School assistant principal Dr. Erin Russo has been named as a candidate to be the principal of a new elementary school being built on the Williamsburg campus. [Arlington Public Schools]
Historic Arlington Home Profiled — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark explores the history of the Birchland home, built in 1897 and located near the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Williamsburg Boulevard. The land the home sits on was once used in the Civil War defense of Washington. [Falls Church News-Press]
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Dozens of students who will be attending the new elementary school at Williamsburg Middle School’s campus participated in the new school’s groundbreaking yesterday afternoon.
The approximately 97,000-square-foot elementary school is planned to open before the 2015 school year. The school is planned to be one of the few schools in the country to be energy neutral, meaning the energy it generates with solar panels and other sources will be enough to completely power the school.
“We won’t be relying on Dominion Power,” Arlington Public Schools Director of Facilities Planning Scott Prisco said during the groundbreaking ceremony, held in the Williamsburg gymnasium. “It’s important to show the idea of sustainable design… can look absolutely stellar.”
The new school doesn’t have a name yet — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that will come after a principal is hired and there is community outreach to settle on the proper name — but Superintendent Patrick Murphy tried to imbue upon the future students that they were becoming a part of history.
“When you’re my age or even older, you can reflect on that you were a part of this groundbreaking for this school,” he said to the dozens of children in attendance.
The construction is expected to cost about $35 million, for a total school cost of $46.5 million. Prisco said yesterday that the project is within budget so far. School Board Chair Abby Raphael beamed when discussing the process of getting the school built and approved.
“It was a really positive boundary process, and that doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “The school is not just a building, it’s a community.”
The Arlington School Board approved the final design and budget for the $46.5 million elementary school adjacent to Williamsburg Middle School on Thursday.
The 28-classroom building, at the corner of N. Harrison Street and 36th Street, will have a 630-student capacity and is being built to help alleviate elementary school overcrowding in North Arlington.
The 97,000-square-foot elementary school is projected to open in September 2015. It will have a high-school-sized gym floor, three music spaces, two art rooms, a library, and, according to Arlington Public Schools “will be a net-zero energy ready building with a LEED silver or higher energy certification.”
The current design is slightly different than the one approved last February, which called for a 93,578 square foot building with 28 classrooms, although the capacity is unchanged from previous plans. There will be a synthetic turf field built as well, but the County Board won’t make a decision on lighting the field until 2015 after residents of the Rock Spring Civic Association protested installing the lights in the neighborhood.
School and county officials heralded the new school’s approval in statements issued Friday morning.
“The community should be proud of this school and what it represents,” said School Board Chair Abby Raphael. “It is the product of hard work and collaboration between APS, our County colleagues and the entire community, and will provide more seats for more students in a new and exciting learning environment.”
“The addition of new community facilities, such as an elementary school, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we are pleased that, through a collaborative process with APS, we were able to jointly fund a number of community amenities that will benefit students and residents of all ages,” said County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The additional amenities include two synthetic turf fields, a larger gym, and emergency preparedness infrastructure, including enhanced public safety communications. “
BBQ Competition to Film in Arlington? — A production company from New York is apparently scouting locations in Arlington for the filming of a BBQ competition show. The show would then air on network television. [Falls Church News-Press]
APS to Discuss Williamsburg Plans — Arlington Public Schools will be holding two meetings to discuss plans to build a new elementary school at the Williamsburg Middle School site. The meetings will be held on Nov. 13 and 14. The school is expected to open by September 2015. [Arlington Public Schools]
Eternal Flame Restored at Arlington Cemetery — The eternal flame at the President John F. Kennedy gravesite has been restored following several months of repairs. A temporary flame was installed during the repairs. The flame was transferred back to the permanent burner on Tuesday. [Military Times]
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
Library Sets Another Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library has set another summer youth reading record. This summer, 8,079 students participated and read more than 32,000 books, up from 7,415 participants and 30,000 books in 2012. [Arlington Public Library]
‘Arlington’s Got Talent’ Seeks Contestants — Leadership Arlington is seeking local acts for its annual “Arlington’s Got Talent” show. The event will take place on Nov. 18. Video submissions from performers are due by Oct. 28. [Leadership Arlington]
Neighbors Peeved With Turf Choice – Some residents around Williamsburg Middle School are upset with the choice of turf on the fields that are being built along with a new elementary school. The fields will have artificial turf instead of Bermuda grass. “Not since Custer, have people been ambushed this badly,” one resident told the County Board, about the choice. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington is #3 County to Work In — Arlington has been named the No. 3 county in the U.S. in which to work. The rating is based on Arlington’s low unemployment rate, low commute time and high median income. Loudoun County ranked No. 2 and Williams County, North Dakota, which is in the midst of an oil boom, ranked No. 1. [Nerd Wallet]
Whitlow’s Filled With ‘Old Stuff’ — If you recently sat at a table at Whitlow’s on Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd), chances are you either sat on a pew from St. Patrick’s Cathedral or in a chair from the old Arlington courthouse. If you sat at the bar, you likely rested your beer on a former bowling lane. Much of the interior is recycled from various places around the D.C. area and beyond. [Preservation Arlington]
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the permit to build a $35 million elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus last night (Tuesday).
In a separate vote, the board voted unanimously to delay a decision to install lighting until 2015, when it will form a working group of community members for a full discussion on the potential for lighting the synthetic turf fields.
The lighting on the turf fields was the sticking point for many of the two dozen speakers during Saturday’s board meeting. Several members of the Rock Spring Civic Association spoke against lighting the fields, and condemned the County Board for not following its own procedures in considering the lighting.
“I was always told, follow the process,” Sharon Levin said. “Come to the meetings, there will be county representatives there, everyone will have a chance to give their input, and this is what I did for a year. I attended over 20 meetings and now the county has not upheld their end of the bargain. You guys have changed at the last minute. We never had the discussion about these fields. It was never part of this program. We were told repeatedly that we were not going to have synthetic fields and lighting.”
The board approved the design with synthetic fields, but lights will not be installed on the fields, which members of the School Board and the community said would be more in line with their wishes. County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the decision to introduce the lighting late in the process came from staff hesitancy.
“The fact is we never had a conversation with the public about the lighting, and I think we should have a conversation with the public about the lighting,” she said Tuesday. “I do not think that staff completely understood that synthetic fields should be part of the conversation.”
The open space around Williamsburg Middle School, which Rock Spring Civic Association Executive Board member Kevin Scott called “a center of our neighborhood,” will be reduced to make room for the 28-classroom, 96,805-square-foot elementary school.
“We like that open space, we know that’s going to be changed no matter what we do,” Scott said, “but we don’t want that to extend to after dark.”
In the spring, neighbors of the school and members of the Arlington Soccer Association launched dueling petitions regarding the lighting issue, with the ASA in favor of installing lights. ASA members contend that the lights’ impact could be greatly mitigated by shortening the hours they are turned on and installing plant buffers, among other strategies.
“The lighting isn’t a surprise issue… it was always foreseeable that the county could add that as a use permit condition,” said Ronald Molteni, the vice president of the ASA, at Saturday’s meeting. “Field turf is a necessity and…lights should go with it. Our young people need places to have positive outlets for the energy of use, especially during the evening hours.”
Arlington Public Schools has said it does not have room in the budget to install lighting around the fields, but, after the working groups in 2015, the County Board could decide to dip into its own budget to install lights.
The board also approved the reduction of parking spaces required for the school from 258 to 209; a strategy to try to reduce the traffic impacts to the community, but one that wasn’t met with unanimous community support.
“We’ve been told that reducing the number of parking spots is a good thing, but of course it’s pushing cars onto the neighborhood streets, and that’s problematic,” said Lincoln Oliphant, who lives on 36th Street N.
The school, which will be at the corner of N. Harrison and 36th Streets, will serve approximately 630 students. Construction is expected to begin January 2014 and the school is projected to open in time for the 2015-2016 school year.
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The Arlington School Board approved new elementary school boundaries Thursday night, wrapping up an eight month community process.
The School Board unanimously adopted “Variation B” of Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s recommended boundaries (left). The new boundaries will help distribute students to a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus (see below) as well as to additions at Ashlawn and McKinley elementary schools.
The new schools and additions (there will also be a new choice elementary school near Kenmore Middle School and an addition to Arlington Traditional School) are being undertaken to provide an additional 1,875 seats of capacity by 2017 for Arlington burgeoning student population.
“Variation B” will shift elementary school boundaries and result in the reassignment of 900 students. The changes will take effect for the 2015-2016 school year.
- 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
The School Board also approved the following grandfathering provisions:
- “Rising 5th 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 be provided for these students who remain at their school and who are eligible for bus transportation as of September 2015.”
- “Because the effective date of students moving to McKinley is September 2016, grandfathering for rising 5th graders and concurrently enrolled younger siblings (grades K-4 as of June 2016) will be in effect for the 2016-17 school year and will follow the procedures in paragraph a.”
- “A student currently attending Claremont or Key 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 his or her current Immersion School through 5th grade with transportation provided by APS.”
- “A student currently 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 5th grade with transportation provided by APS.”
The School Board also directed Dr. Murphy “to recommend whether rising K-4 students residing in planning units reassigned to existing schools will be eligible to enroll in their newly assigned elementary school prior to School Year 2015 if seating space is available.”
On Saturday, the County Board will consider a use permit for a 26,160 square foot addition to Ashlawn Elementary School.
Construction on the addition is expected to begin this summer and wrap up by the summer of 2014. It will add 12 rooms, including 9 classrooms, at a cost of about $12 million, according to a project web page.
Meanwhile, at its Thursday meeting, the School Board unanimously approved a schematic design for the new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus.
The new school will cost just over $43 million, according to an APS press release, with construction slated to start in January 2014 and wrap up in time for the start of the school year in the summer of 2015.
Parents of Arlington youth soccer players and residents who live near Williamsburg Middle School have created dueling petitions — for and against a proposal to install lighting and new soccer fields at the school.
The field and lighting proposal was floated as an optional part of the Arlington Public Schools plan to build a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The design of the school was approved in February and construction is expected to begin next year.
The proposal involves the construction of two synthetic turf fields next to the school, with lighting installed for the field farthest from the surrounding neighborhood. Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says the school system currently doesn’t have the money necessary for the synthetic fields and lighting — about $2 million — so supporters are hoping to convince Arlington County to pay for the project.
A group of neighbors, however, has created a Change.org petition calling for the County Board to nix the field lighting component.
“We, as registered voters in Arlington County, strongly oppose the installation of sport field lighting on any of the soccer fields on the Williamsburg Middle/Elementary school property,” the petition says. “The neighborhood surrounding Williamsburg will be heavily impacted by evening traffic, light intrusion, noise and parking impacts.”
So far, the neighbors’ petition has attracted 125 online signatures.
The Arlington Soccer Association, meanwhile, has created its own Change.org petition, which has gathered 1,085 signatures so far. The association says the fields, and the lighting, will help meet growing demand for youth soccer in Arlington.
“We, the undersigned, support placing a lighted synthetic rectangular athletic field on the grounds of Williamsburg Middle School,” the petition says. “The Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation estimates that a lighted synthetic field can sustain five times the overall use of an unlighted grass field.”
“We are sensitive to the concerns of the local community,” the petition continues. “We believe that a lighted field at WMS should be limited to youth sports programming and have a curfew of 9:30 p.m.”
The fight is similar to the acrimonious battle over lighting proposed for the Bishop O’Connell High School baseball and football fields. After nearly 75 speakers weighed in on the O’Connell lighting proposal at a County Board meeting in 2011, the Board rejected the plan,
Before any possible County Board consideration, the Arlington Soccer Association is hoping to convince neighbors that a lighted field will not result in the light pollution, noise and traffic that many fear. The group wrote the following letter (after the jump) as a response to concerns expressed on the email listserv of a local civic association.
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.
On Thursday, the Arlington School Board unanimously approved the conceptual design of the new elementary school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus in north Arlington.
The 93,578 square foot school will include 28 classrooms, a gymnasium, library, art room, media center, innovation lab, dining room and green roofs. It has a projected capacity of 630 students, to help address the capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools.
The school will cost about $35 million to build, with construction slated to start in January 2014 and wrap up in time for the start of the school year in the summer of 2015.
The Williamsburg elementary school is one of five elementary school building projects approved in the latest APS capital improvement plan. On Feb. 21, the School Board is expected to vote on the conceptual design for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School.
Some residents in nearby McLean have expressed concern about traffic impacts from the new school.
Additional Funding Request for New Elementary School Plan — On Thursday (Febraury 7), School Board members will be asked to approve additional funding for the architectural firm working on the new school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The project has gone over its expected three month time frame because of resident concerns voiced during the process of devising a concept design, so nearly $121,000 is being requested to compensate the firm for its additional two months of work. [Sun Gazette]
Move to Establish Virginia Currency — A measure advanced in the Virginia House of Delegates that could bring the state closer to adopting its own currency. Del. Robert G. Marshall proposed the idea three years ago of studying whether the state should adopt its own currency to protect it from what he believes is an out of control banking system. Although states do not have the constitutional authority to print money, Marshall suggested a loophole may exist allowing states to make silver and gold coins. [Washington Post]
Residents Concerned About Traffic Crossover — In a letter to the editor, a resident tells the Sun Gazette about safety fears regarding a traffic median on S. Walter Reed Drive. Residents of the Concord Mews Condominium say they have contacted the county about the placement and size of the median, which they say has caused many near collisions. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
Park Police Seeking Hit and Run Info — The U.S. Park Police is asking for the public’s help with providing information about an early morning hit and run on Monday. Around 5:45 a.m. on December 31, a driver was involved in an accident with a motorcyclist while traveling on the Memorial Bridge. The motorcyclist is being treated for a serious leg injury and other non-life threatening injuries. Police need help finding the other driver involved. The person was said to be in a brown minivan, which may have damage along the front driver’s side. Call the U.S. Park Police tip line at 202-610-8737 or U.S. Park Police Dispatch at 202-610-7500 with any info.
Avant Bard Needs New Theater — WSC Avant Bard has spent the past two years as the resident theater company at Artisphere, but now the performance group is looking for a new home. Avant Bard has not been operating under an official lease at Artisphere, and received the news last month that it needs to find a new space before its play season begins in May. The county now wants to use the stages at Artisphere for shorter running productions. [Washington Post]
APS Holding Meetings about New Williamsburg School — Public meetings begin next week regarding the new elementary school that will be built on the Williamsburg Middle School site. There will be a work session next Wednesday, January 9, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg auditorium. On January 14, the public will get a chance to look at the concept designs from 6:00-8:00 p.m., and on January 17, the School Board and County Board will engage in a work session about the plan following a project presentation. Residents are welcome to attend all meetings. [Arlington Public Schools]
As part of its plan to reduce school overcrowding, APS is planning a new 90,000 square foot, 3-4 story, 600 seat neighborhood elementary school on the Williamsburg campus. The school is projected to cost $35 million to build and construction should last from Jan. 2014 to Summer 2015.
Toole Design Group, a transportation consultant hired by Arlington Public Schools, will present the results of a Traffic Impact Study at a community meeting scheduled from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the Williamsburg Middle School auditorium. The meeting is open to the public.
The consultant is also working on parking issues related to the new school and the proposed expansion of Williamsburg Middle School itself. The changes may result in 570 additional parking spaces on the site, according to a recent community presentation.
APS Names New Williamsburg Principal — The Arlington School Board has appointed Dr. Ann McCarty as the new principal of Williamsburg Middle School. McCarty, who has been a middle school principal in Falls Church, replaces Kathleen Francis, who was shown the door in February after sending a lengthy resignation letter to parents. The letter was harshly critical of Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. [Arlington Public Schools]
Remembering Desegregation in Arlington – A town hall was held earlier this week to discuss the legacy of desegregation in Arlington. Stratford Junior High — now H-B Woodlawn — became the first school to integrate in Virginia in 1959. [WAMU]
William J. O’Donnell Obituary — Arlington resident William J. O’Donnell, NASA’s chief spokesman during the Gemini and Apollo programs, died last month at the age of 86. O’Donnell was a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, one of the costliest battles of the war for the U.S. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool by Mark C. White