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Peter’s Take: How APS Should Reopen Fully In-Person

Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

APS has promised a return to “as close to pre-pandemic normal as possible” for Fall 2021,  but the details regarding what “in-person” really means have not been revealed.

Will the pandemic-era Plexiglas barriers, 10-foot distancing at recess, untouched libraries and art rooms, and no group work remain? What about the expansive quarantine policies, shortened days, and no aftercare that extend time out of school?

August 30, 2021 — the best of Sept 1, 2019

“In-person learning offers our young people the best opportunity to develop their passions, bond with their peers, and thrive. Let’s safely get our schools re-opened.” US Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona, April 27, 2021.

APS MUST provide five FULL length days with a teacher in the room for all students who choose it in the 2021-2022 school year. Children should be able to collaborate with and learn from each other, touch materials, and play together without restrictions.

APS must ensure that the full range of its programs are in-person and active in Fall 2021, including enrichment classes, sports with fans, and in-person after school and evening activities, many of which are some children’s only chance to feel successful outside the academic environment.

Having school as normal as possible is also the best route to helping children feel comfortable returning to normal life and to send the message that school is SAFE. In particular, APS should hold in-person open houses in August so that children can see the building and spend time in their classrooms to be comfortable.

Coming together to address the impact of the pandemic

The Arlington community must come together to address the disproportionate impact of pandemic education, particularly among our most vulnerable populations.

APS’s own statistics at the elementary, middle and high school levels establish that “Black and Hispanic students, English-language learning students, and students with disabilities are experiencing the deepest drops.”

This crisis should be addressed using Federal Recovery Act and local funding. APS must:

The current shortened elementary day and expansive quarantine policies exacerbates this year’s childcare crisis. APS must update its quarantine policy to reflect  CDC guidance, offer a full school day and aftercare to prevent additional childcare crises and lost learning time in Fall 2021.

“We cannot undo the past, but we can recover in a way that is truly different than the inequitable system we should leave behind.” Dr. Pedro Noguera USC Education School Dean, March 31, 2021

Restore a healthy screen-use balance–particularly for our youngest learners

APS must restore a healthy screen-use balance. Excessive screen time damages children’s mental and physical health at all age levels, but particularly for our youngest learners.

In 2019 — the last full year before APS shut down in-person learning — APS had decided to end its 1:1 digital device program for students in K-2. This was welcome news to parents who were insisting on less school time iPads and the bulk of their classroom time “personally interacting with others, manipulating objects, playing and exploring outdoors, and doing art and science projects.” But in this year’s operating budget, APS reversed course and funded a 1:1 device program for K-2.

Beginning with the Fall 2021 semester, APS must restore its 2019 practice of eliminating the 1:1 program in K-2 classrooms.

APS should pledge now also to eliminate 1:1 sequentially in grades 3-5 for in-person classrooms by the end of the 2024-2025 school year.

School Board accountability and responsibility

Access to a free, quality public education is a Constitutional right in Virginia. Voting by elected officials is a fundamental element of representative democracy and critical to sustaining open dialogue. But APS’s School Board has not taken a single vote on any aspect of Return to School. The Arlington School Board should vote this month on the Superintendent’s reopening plans for summer and Fall 2021, take every opportunity to ask questions, and push for a return to normal.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC, a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

This notice announces the availability of the FONSI to implement the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update.

For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

Submit your own Announcement here.

The 3rd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference will feature Thomas Silverstein, renowned Fair Housing expert and Associate Director of the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Come hear the latest news about fair housing enforcement, policy, and programs within Arlington County, Virginia, and across the country! Our expert panelists and guest speakers include fair housing advocates, elected officials, and government officials tasked with advancing housing equity at the local, state, and federal level.

Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

We’ll have updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule, a panel discussion of fair housing progress at the General Assembly and across Virginia, and a panel of local experts discussing the progress Arlington has made and what remains to be done.
Please RSVP in advance to ensure you receive your free lunch at the conference. Free and open to the public.

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Submit your own Announcement here.

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“The Secret Garden”

The St. Andrew’s Players Present “The Secret Garden”

Adapted from the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett by Erin Detrick

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