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The Right Note: Eyes On APS

The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, members should receive a superintendent’s update on the reopening plan for the fall. As of now, it looks like APS will continue to move toward full in-person learning when schools open their doors again in August. Classrooms will be at normal capacity with an all-virtual, but no hybrid, option.

The CDC last week said vaccinated students and teachers could safely attend school without masks. Absent updated guidance, however, all APS students and personnel will still be required to wear masks while indoors.

While mask wearing will certainly be a controversial topic, it would be interesting to learn the status of enrollments for the fall. Across the country, there are reports that school districts are not returning to pre-pandemic levels of enrollment. Some parents who moved their children to homeschooling and private schools will simply not return. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the schools are hosting enrollment block parties to counteract the enrollment decline.

Last fall, Arlington saw an official enrollment decrease of 1,125 students after they had predicted an increase of 1,122. APS should have a realistic projection at this point of the summer based on the levels of kindergarten enrollments as well as if students who left the district last year are re-enrolling now.

The superintendent will undoubtedly paint a rosy scenario of “anticipations” when it comes to enrollment, if he reports on it at all. However, holding steady or a second straight decrease in the student count should certainly impact budget decisions for this year and into the future as spending approaches $25,000 per student.

One thing that will not be in the schools this fall are the school resource officers (SROs). In June, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously to remove the SROs from school buildings, becoming the second Northern Virginia jurisdiction to do so. This decision was made after a working group was quickly brought together to “study” the issue. The final report was short on rationale and data, but few politicos around the county doubted this would be the ultimate outcome.

Now every parent will be left to rely on hope that no incident occurs that could have been stopped, or mitigated, by the on campus presence of an officer.

Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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