Arlington School Planetarium to Close

by ARLnow.com February 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm 3,851 2 Comments

Arlington Public Schools will close the David M. Brown Planetarium under superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget.

Dr. Murphy says the school system, facing a $12.8 million budget deficit, cannot afford the nearly half million dollars worth of mechanical upgrades needed to keep the 40-year-old planetarium open.

The planetarium is named after David Brown, a Yorktown High School graduate who perished in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Dr. Murphy says the science wing at Yorktown High will be named in Mr. Brown’s honor after the planetarium closes.

The space now used by the planetarium will likely be converted into another educational-use facility. APS needs to use all the space at its disposal given its burgeoning student body, Dr. Murphy said.

  • The Arlington Planetarium has been neglected by the county for 20 years; suddenly, without warning and without consulting the public, there has been a push by the new superintendent to close this facility. My father and I began volunteering at the planetarium when I was 6 years old. Eighteen years later, the facilities are in perfect working condition, albeit outdated. Despite being outdated, the planetarium offers a fully immersive experience for students who live in an area where the stars are rarely seen because of light obstruction. The county should embrace an astronomical gem if it is serious about science and mathematics education in the school system.

    Moreover, I do not understand the rationale behind the School Board’s decision to close this facility after neglecting it for so long. As a former volunteer and operator at this facility, I can assure you that it can operate as is, without upgrades, at least until the recession and budget shortfall have passed.

    What also needs to be considered is that the Arlington Planetarium has been serving students and the public with astronomy and science education outreach for generations, it is the last remaining public planetarium in Northern Virginia, and it provides students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to be inspired about science. Not everyone has access to computer technology and the Internet, as the School Board has cited in letters to the public regarding substitutions for the Arlington Planetarium. You can open up Starry Night astronomy software on a computer screen and teach children about astronomy. However, to capture the imagination of that child, place them in a room full of stars—a fully immersive experience that has inspired generations of Arlingtonians to become astronomers, astronauts, astronomy enthusiasts, and science educators.

  • Dex

    Indie-Rockers Join Forces to Save Arlington Planetarium

    On Saturday, October 9th, four area bands will unite for an evening of
    ambient instrumentals, dark shoe-gaze, and energetic post-punk rock to
    benefit the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium.

    The Arlington County School Board has proposed closing the Planetarium
    unless significant funds can be raised for upgrades and continued
    operations. The Planetarium is a resource for science education in
    Arlington County and has provided services for over forty years to
    students and the greater Arlington community.

    Brought together by this common cause, Cobra Collective (
    http://www.myspace.com/cobracollective) will headline the evening, preceded by
    indie-rockers Bellman Barker (www.bellmanbarker.com), shoe-gaze
    specialists Screen Vinyl Image (www.screenvinylimage.com), with ambient
    instrumentals from Sansyou (www.myspace.com/sansyoumusic) opening the
    show. Tickets are available from the State Theatre in advance.


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