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On Oct. 28, attend Arlington’s biggest civil rights and social justice event of the year — virtually.

Arlington’s branch of the NAACP presents the 2021 Virtual Freedom Fund Banquet and Awards Ceremony, which will kick off at 7 p.m.

Following a short gathering, Leon W. Russell, chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, will present the opening remarks. A keynote address from Marilyn J. Mosby, state’s attorney for Baltimore, is to follow.

Awards and $2,000 in donations will be presented throughout the event.

For kids 17 and under, tickets are $20. General admission costs $30. There are also sponsorship opportunities available. You can purchase tickets online or print and mail a registration form. Zoom links are sent three days before the event.

If you can’t attend, you can always make a donation instead!

Learn more about the upcoming event at ArlingtonNAACP.com.

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A multi-year project to improve transit along Columbia Pike has been delayed by design problems associated with the proposed bus shelters.

As a result, the first eight of 23 new transit stations, which the Department of Environmental Services was aiming to deliver this spring, will likely be installed next spring. In the meantime, temporary shelters have been installed at these locations, and bus service is set to return to half of them tomorrow (Friday).

The new stations comprise a $16.9 million project to transform the Pike into a “transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly ‘Main Street,'” according to the county. The County Board approved the upgrades in the summer of 2018 as part of the 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.

“New stations will make transit along the Pike easier, safer, more attractive and accessible — encouraging more people to use it,” the project webpage said.

The bus stop project dates back to the since-nixed plan for a Columbia Pike streetcar. A prototype stop, at the corner of the Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, made national headlines after ARLnow revealed that it cost more than $1 million.

A map of completed, under-construction and planned changes to Columbia Pike for improved bus transit and multimodal experience (via Arlington County)

More recently, the station work has been stalled by structural flaws discovered with the bus shelters specially designed for the project, which feature a kit-of-parts design intended to cut down on costs compared to the custom-made $1 million “Super Stop.”

“Last November, our shelter fabricator, Future Systems, built a prototype of the shelter and identified stability issues with it,” said DES spokesman Eric Balliet. “After the design was revised, there were still concerns about its construct-ability and stability. These design issues were causing project costs to increase and further delays in delivery of the first stations.”

DES has opted to install prefabricated shelters from the same manufacturer, a decision supported by the County Board, which directed the department to finish these eight stations by the end of summer 2022. Choosing the prefabricated shelters will allow DES to finish those stations in spring 2022 instead of spring 2023, and will save more than $7 million, according to a recent report.

“Kit of parts” bus shelter vs. prefabricated bus shelter (via Arlington County)

“By the end of the year, we expect to receive the final shelter drawings from Future Systems, to be followed in early 2022 with a Notice to Proceed for production and delivery of the first eight station shelters,” Balliet said. “Installation of shelters and amenities for the first eight stations is expected in spring 2022.”

The prefabricated shelters maintain some of the original shelter’s features — glass finishing, protection against bad weather and real-time bus arrival displays — and will have equivalent or more seating. The shelters are also shallower, giving pedestrians more room.

When finished, the stations will be accessible to people with disabilities and will have platforms that can fit two buses.

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Ed Talk is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Arlington is the home of the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, and of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, which comprises three main installations that were combined during the last round of Base Realignment and Closure: Fort Myer (Army), Henderson Hall (Marines), and Fort McNair (Army). Many of the students living on and off JBMHH attend Arlington Public Schools.

The Virginia Purple Star Designation is awarded to military-friendly schools that have demonstrated a major commitment to students and families connected to our nation’s military. Disappointingly, despite its proximity to the heart of the military, only one APS school (Discovery Elementary) earned the Purple Star designation in 2019-2020. None has earned it for 2020-2021. By contrast, 34 Fairfax County public schools and 21 Prince William County public schools earned the Purple Star designation between 2018-2021. In the other military mecca, 59 Virginia Beach City public schools and 11 Norfolk public schools earned the Purple Star designation between 2018-2021.

To qualify for the Purple Star designation, a school must have a staff point of contact for military students and families who, (i) serves as the liaison between the military family and the school; (ii) completes two online Virginia Department of Education training modules titled “Supporting Our Military-Connected Children in School Settings: Moving them from Risk to Resilience;” and (iii) conducts school-wide professional development that informs staff of the unique needs of and supports available to military-connected students.

In addition, the school must maintain a student-led transition program to include a student transition team coordinator. This program should provide peer support for newly enrolled and withdrawing students to include those that are military-connected. Finally, the school must maintain links to an APS division-wide page dedicated to military student and family supports that includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Clear and concise information on the enrollment and remote registration process for persons to whom public schools shall be free, including enrollment of military children living in temporary housing
  • Information on educational records requests and transfers
  • Information on gifted services, advanced academic programs and application deadlines, graduation requirements, diploma options, and home instruction
  • Information on the Compact Rules and their application under the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children
  • Information on Special Education services and parental rights, including parental consent
  • Other important information such as Impact Aid Student-Parent Survey (Impact Aid programs and grants are designed to assist local school districts that enroll federally connected students), PTA membership, school advisory committees, participation in extracurricular activities and local community support

In addition to the aforementioned site-based requirements, APS would need to assign a central office staff member to be the contact for the school-based liaison and military families and complete at least one of the following:

  • Division-wide professional development regarding special considerations for military students and families or
  • The School Board passes a resolution publicizing the school division’s support for military students and families or
  • The school division hosts a military recognition event designed to demonstrate a military-friendly culture across the school division community

The average child in a military family will move six to nine times during a school career. That’s an average of three times more frequently than non-military families. The majority of moves occur over the summer months, even as late as August. A number of military families shared the following challenges with me:

  • Missed deadlines for Extended Day, resulting in a childcare crisis
  • Missed opportunities for desired electives. APS doesn’t allow students to select their electives or classes until fully registered, so electives may be unavailable
  • Missed deadlines for high school sports tryouts and/or missed leadership opportunities on sports teams and clubs. No reciprocity for prior experience
  • Although SB 775 allows incoming military students to fully register for school based on the zone the family intends to reside in (with documentation provided within 120 days), some APS families have been asked to meet onerous requests for documentation before registering their children
  • Lack of social-emotional supports: (i) No dedicated counselors equipped to support students with issues of deployment, combat, PTSD, etc.; (ii) no cohorting of military peers to support each other; and (iii) no special recognition or celebration of military students for Month of the Military Child
  • Having to start over with a new Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. No reciprocity given for an IEP or 504 from the last school district
  • Difficulty keeping track of (or meeting) the additional classes/credits needed for an advanced diploma
  • Enduring additional disruptive school changes with boundary changes or program moves while on temporary orders

Many of these challenges could be resolved if APS was a Purple Star school district to better support the children whose parents are laying their lives on the line for us. Let’s do better by our military families.

Symone Walker is a federal attorney and an APS parent. She is Vice President of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC), serves on the Commonwealth Attorney’s Community Advisory Board, and is an Executive Committee Member of the Arlington NAACP and Co-Chair of the NAACP Education Committee. Symone is a former candidate for the Arlington school board.

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(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Floodwaters have receded after Columbia Pike was blocked at S. Greenbrier Street around 3:30 this afternoon.

At least one car was stuck in the high water, near the 55 Hundred apartments, just west of the county line, prompting a water rescue operation. Other traffic could be seen turning around.

Firefighters successfully rescued the driver of the vehicle that was stuck, according to scanner traffic.

Reports of flooding came as the National Weather Service issued a new Flood Warning for the county. Just before 4 p.m., a Flash Flood Warning was also issued.

From NWS:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* FLOOD WARNING…

* UNTIL 930 PM EDT THURSDAY.

* AT 321 PM EDT, DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED HEAVY RAIN DUE TO THUNDERSTORMS. FLOODING IS ONGOING OR EXPECTED TO BEGIN SHORTLY IN THE WARNED AREA. BETWEEN 1 AND 1.5 INCHES OF RAIN HAVE FALLEN.

* SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE… ARLINGTON… ALEXANDRIA… BETHESDA… RESTON… ANNANDALE… SPRINGFIELD… FORT WASHINGTON… FAIRFAX… LANGLEY PARK… FORT HUNT… VIENNA… GROVETON… FALLS CHURCH… HUNTINGTON… CORAL HILLS… BLADENSBURG… MANTUA… PIMMIT HILLS… NATIONAL HARBOR… ROSSLYN…

ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 1 TO 2 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN THE WARNED AREA.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS. MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN VEHICLES.

In addition to the Pike flooding, high standing water was reported along I-395.

Previously, NWS issued a Flash Flood Watch for the area, effective until 9 p.m.

The rain has already cancelled at least one local event, a pop-up jazz performance in Rosslyn.

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Arlington will be sure to continue our four-year reign as the Fittest City in the USA with the opening of a new 8,000 sq. ft. fitness center in the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center. With an open area for cardio and weights, a group exercise room, locker rooms for men, women and families, two wet classrooms and a robust class schedule, the center will meet all your fitness needs.

Better yet, Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center also gets you access to the only 50-meter pool in NOVA, an indoor sprayground and to all of the County’s Community Center Fitness Facilities. Memberships start at $360 for six months; daily, 10-visit and 25-visit passes also available. Free parking available for members, punch pass holders and class members. Learn more and sign up at visitlongbridge.us, or come on by for a tour and to sign up.

Submit your own Community Post here.

Me, My Body & Alcohol — A Group for Women

Are you a successful woman quietly suffering because of your drinking? Is it starting to adversely affect how you feel day-to-day, your relationships or work? Me, My Body and Alcohol is an ongoing online therapeutic group of 8 women looking to really invest in themselves and better understand their drinking and options available for them to feel better.

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Three Arlington County parks — Thomas Jefferson Park, Towers Park and Marcey Road Park — could see substantial upgrades over the next year.

Contracts to improve the amenities at these three facilities are teed up for County Board approval this Saturday. The projects were all approved in the summer of 2018 as part of the 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.

If passed, the natural-grass upper field at the Thomas Jefferson Park (3501 2nd Street S.), which hosts the Arlington County Fair, will be redone with synthetic turf.

As part of the $1.1 million project, the field will get spectator seating, signage, site furnishings and new landscaping, as well as athletic equipment and a long jump area. There will be accessibility and stormwater management improvements. The field’s existing lighting will remain.

“The conversion should not impact the County Fair if it remains at TJ,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “The County is looking into investing in a turf cover to protect the field at TJ and possibly at other synthetic turf fields.”

But Arlington County Fair organizers are considering moving the event to Long Bridge Park.

During community outreach about the turf project, conducted in the winter of 2019-20, residents indicated “a strong desire to keep the County Fair at Thomas Jefferson Park,” according to a staff report. The county is once more accepting feedback on the potential move.

In the report, the parks department responded to safety concerns about synthetic turf and pointed to Arlington County Public Health’s Synthetic Turf FAQ.

“At this time, all independent studies report that ‘the preponderance of evidence shows no negative health effects associated with crumb rubber in synthetic turf,'” the report said.

Construction would take about six months.

Over at Towers Park, at 801 S. Scott Street near Columbia Pike, the existing playground for 2 to 5-year-olds, last replaced in 2000, would be razed. A new playground for 2 to 5-year-olds and another for 5 to 12-year-olds will be installed elsewhere, as the current structure falls in a resource protection area that will be reforested.

If approved, that project could start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and finish in the second quarter of 2022. There will be stormwater management work and new walkways, fencing, signage, site furnishings and landscaping.

The project was delayed by the pandemic and over-budget bids, per a board report. After a first round of bids came back too high, the report said DPR “value-engineered the play equipment selection” and rebid the project this June. All the bids were still over-budget, but the county negotiated the lowest bid to $825,000.

Finally, at Marcey Road Park, located 2722 N. Marcey Road near Military Road, the basketball court, the three tennis courts, the parking lot and picnic shelter will be replaced. The park will get new LED court lighting and furnishings, as well as drainage, stormwater management and landscaping work.

“The outdoor amenities for this park are past their life expectancy and are in need of replacement,” a county report said. “Community feedback indicated the desire for more seating opportunities and trash receptacles, a larger basketball court, a larger picnic area with shade, improved tennis court practice wall, improved accessibility and preservation of as many trees as possible.”

Every bid was over-budget, and the lowest was a non-negotiable $1.3 million, the report said. That project is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and finish in the third quarter of 2022.

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Michelle Cann (courtesy of Alexandria Symphony Orchestra)

Under the direction of Maestro James Ross, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) launches the 2021-2022 season on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 3 at 3 p.m.

ASO presents two giants from the symphonic repertoire: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Described as a “compelling, sparkling virtuoso,” Michelle Cann will grace the ASO stage with Gershwin’s Rhapsody. The concert also features Copland’s inspired Fanfare for the Common Man and Umoja by Valerie Coleman, recently commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Ms. Cann appears by arrangement with the Curtis Institute of Music.

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra is committed to providing a safe concert environment. The concerts will be presented with no intermission. Audience members, musicians, staff and volunteers will be required to wear a mask during performances. ASO is also requiring all attendees, musicians, volunteers and staff be fully vaccinated.

Adult prices start at $20, $5 for youth and $15 for students. Military, senior and group discounts are also available. You can purchase tickets online.

This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq., Doran Shemin, Esq. and Laura Lorenzo, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted a year and a half (so far!) which is just enough time for our immigration bureaucracy to take vigorous and decisive action. Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for most green card applicants.

It’s a sensible policy, but we’re really tired of this pandemic.

Green card applicants have always had to undergo medical examinations as part of the application process — indeed, our current procedure is an outgrowth of the famous Ellis Island medical screenings. In its modern form, these examinations are conducted by specially certified doctors in the United States, called Designated Civil Surgeons. (Are you reading this just for the useful tips? Here’s the link to finding a Designated Civil Surgeon near you.) The Department of State likewise has selected a few doctors in each country to perform immigration-related medical examinations for applicants abroad.

These exams aim to confirm that the applicant does not have any communicable diseases like tuberculosis, drug or alcohol dependency issues, or mental illnesses that pose a danger to themselves or society at large.

The medical exams also include confirming that the applicant has had required U.S. vaccinations. If the applicant has not received those vaccinations, the applicant must receive the vaccines to receive his or her green card. These vaccines include the polio, varicella (chicken pox), mumps and influenza vaccines.

On Sept. 14, USCIS announced that green card applicants inside the United States must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the medical examiner can complete the required medical exam beginning on Oct. 1. Therefore, if an applicant intends on completing her medical exam after Oct. 1, she must show that she has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Likewise, the Department of State will begin requiring the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Oct. 1. Importantly, there are various acceptable COVID-19 vaccines. The three “big” vaccines available in the United States are acceptable, along with vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization.

However, there are also exceptions to the vaccination requirement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the physician instructions to explain appropriate circumstances under which the applicant may be excused from receiving the vaccine or when the doctor should note that completing the vaccine requirement is impossible.

For example, the physician may note in the medical examination that the applicant cannot or should not receive the vaccine because it is not age appropriate, it is contraindicated for that individual, or an approved vaccine is not routinely available in the area.

Additionally, applicants may request a waiver based on religious or moral convictions. This waiver is not new; it has been available to applicants who object to other vaccinations as well. If the applicant simply refuses the vaccine and does not receive a waiver, the applicant will be deemed inadmissible (barred) from entering the United States.

As always, we’re glad to respond to questions from readers.

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The four final logo design recommendations are in, meaning the process of picking a new logo to adorn county flags, vehicles and stationery is nearly over.

This Saturday, the County Board is slated to choose a logo that will replace the current logo and seal, depicting Arlington House, the plantation house of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at what is now Arlington National Cemetery.

In the summer of 2020, the Arlington branch of the NAACP called on the county to ditch the “divisive and racist” logo, given its connection to slavery, and in December 2020 the County Board voted to kick off a process for choosing a new one.

This spring, the panel winnowed more than 250 submissions down to five that elicited some strong, negative feedback. Hearing the dissatisfaction, the County Board asked the panel to try again while allowing more time for people to submit potential logos for consideration.

The four going before the County Board this weekend include the top two from the second round of submissions as well as two from the first batch. In the second voting round, folks consistently voted for blue logos depicting the county’s geography and bridges, a departure from the colorful logos centering the county name (and possibly featuring abstract bridges).

But the logo that got the most community votes is not the Logo Review Panel’s first choice. Here’s how 16,082 survey respondents ranked their top three choices from the second round of voting:

The top five vote-getting logo designs (via Arlington County)

It turns out that bridges, although a common motif, caused some controversy.

The third logo, which depicts the Key Bridge, was nixed because “it came to the attention of the logo panel late in the process that Francis Scott Key was a slaveowner,” a county report said.

The county report did not say why the Logo Review Panel switched the first- and second-ranked logos — favoring a two-color design that abstractly depicts the geography of Arlington, D.C. and the Potomac River — but it did explain why the panel decided to keep the more generic bridge.

The panel determined the other bridge “was not based on a specific bridge, and was meant to signify ‘connection, and the open arch welcomes the future and encourages diversity and opportunity,'” the county report said.

References to the Key Bridge came to the fore during the second round of voting in part because local designers were asked to avoid federal monuments and state symbols, as the panel decided they did not represent what makes Arlington distinct.

Those who wish to speak at Saturday’s meeting about the logo choices can register to do so. Once the County Board chooses a design, it will consider a timeline for phasing out the current logo and seal. That will happen in stages as time and maintenance schedules allow.

“The new County logo will be introduced in all electronic media as quickly as time permits,” the report said. “Replacement of the logo on all vehicles, signs, and other materials will take place as materials are replaced over the coming years… Replacements of logos that appear on free standing signs and entrances to our buildings will be done within current building maintenance budgets over the course of time.”

So far, the costs for consultants, trademark-related fees and outreach during this process total $50,000, the county staff report said.

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Are you a successful woman quietly suffering because of your drinking? Is it starting to adversely affect how you feel day-to-day, your relationships or work?

Me, My Body and Alcohol is an ongoing online therapeutic group of 8 women looking to really invest in themselves and better understand their drinking and options available for them to feel better. More importantly, we foster a genuine connection so you can share your joys and challenges and gain support.

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