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Workers lowered signage today (Friday) from the now-former Giant supermarket in the Lyon Village Shopping Center.

Several passersby watched with interest as the team unscrewed the letters G-I-A-N-T from the storefront at 3115 Langston Blvd. One visitor, apparently a would-be customer, walked up to the grocery store’s closed entrance and peered inside before returning to her car and driving away.

“Can you believe it?” another pedestrian asked in disbelief.

Thursday was the last day in business for the 60-year-old supermarket. One person who emailed ARLnow described a tearful affair.

“My husband was at the Starbucks there and he said people were crying,” the tipster said.

The closure, announced last month, casts uncertainty over the future of the shopping center at the busy intersection of Langston Blvd and Spout Run Parkway. Even the work crew’s foreman was curious about the strip mall’s fate, asking a reporter what will replace the anchor store.

A brief statement from the owner of the plaza — which is home to The Italian Store, Big Wheel Bikes, a CVS and a Starbucks, among other retail tenants — yielded few answers.

“We are exploring a number of options but have nothing to share at this time,” BMC Property Group President Christopher Jones said.

The county, however, has a long-term vision for the shopping center as an “activity hub” that could support a mixed-use redevelopment with 12-15 story apartment buildings. A rendering from the Langston Boulevard Area Plan, adopted by the Arlington County Board in November, depicts an apartment building rising over a grocery store near the busy intersection.

In the more immediate future, a Cold Stone Creamery is expected to open in a standalone building in the shopping center sometime after May.

Signs outside the Giant today encouraged customers to visit another of the company’s stores about a mile away, at 3450 Washington Blvd in Virginia Square.

An earlier statement from Giant said store employees were given the chance to transfer to other locations.

“In the normal course of evaluating our business and local trade areas, we determined that we can adequately serve this community through several other nearby Giant Food locations as well as our online services Giant Pickup and delivery,” the company said. “While closing this location, we remain committed to meeting the needs of our customers and providing them the best service.”

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AI-related jobs in the D.C. area vs. Bay Area (courtesy of JLL)

The D.C. area has surpassed the Bay Area in AI-related job postings, according to a recent report.

These new jobs are a clear sign of how the emerging technology is already impacting Arlington and its neighbors, per a Tuesday report by the real estate company JLL.

The report predicts the region’s numerous data centers will have to undergo AI-focused upgrades to meet industry requirements and notes there is already a surge in AI lobbying in response to potential regulations.

“While the Bay Area has long been known as a hotbed for AI product development, tech companies are navigating economic uncertainties by scaling back on their workforce,” the report says. It says the D.C. metro area had 1,110 AI-related postings as of December, a notch above 1,076 in the Bay.

“Meanwhile, Metro DC’s tech ecosystem is less susceptible to market fluctuations, stabilized by federal spending and government contracts,” JLL wrote.

Of these jobs, only 155 list Arlington as their location, however, JLL Researcher Kate Paine chalks this up to its proximity to D.C. She tells ARLnow that many Arlington employers recruit from out of state and often list the location as “Washington, D.C.”

“There is nuance in the data and the way jobs are posted that might not accurately reflect the reality,” Paine said.

Farther out, there are more AI-related job postings, or 437, in Fairfax County and the city of Fairfax.

The report says the D.C. area has several industries driving demand for AI specialists, including defense, health care and finance — sectors that are well-represented in Arlington’s startup scene.

While the D.C. area and the Bay are in close competition, New York City, the region with the next-highest AI labor demand, comes in a distant third with 574 job postings.

Beyond creating jobs, AI is expected to impact the region’s data centers. Northern Virginia has more data centers than anywhere else in the world and — while last year saw a surge in data center leasing — JLL says these centers still need to adapt to meet AI-specific requirements, including higher power consumption.

“As the largest data center market in the world by a magnitude of 3x, Northern Virginia will be at the international epicenter of the AI-fueled demand curve in the near-term and long-term,” the JLL report says.

Northern Virginia data centers (photo courtesy of JLL)

AI lobbying is also on the rise as lawmakers — including Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer — try to pass a slew of laws regulating the industry. The number of entities seeking to influence AI policy ballooned in 2023 — from 129 in the first quarter of that year to 335 in the second quarter, according to JLL.

“The future of AI will undoubtedly hinge on the regulatory environment, which is unknown territory currently,” the report says. “Further complicating the legal landscape [are] the numerous copyright disputes making their way through the judicial system. As a result, lobbying firms are racing to represent the industry.”

Companies, nonprofits, universities, trade groups and other organizations reported spending $569 million in federal AI lobbying during the first three quarters of last year, the report estimates.

The region’s place as a lead location for people with AI backgrounds has been several years in the making. In the last five years, AI-related job postings in the D.C. area have more than tripled, JLL found in a fall 2023 report.

While recent years have seen companies such as Amazon establish major presences in Arlington, the fall report noted that the Pentagon is also investing huge amounts of money into AI.

The Department of Defense requested $1.8 billion in its 2024 budget for capabilities, workforce development and data management efforts related to the rapidly developing technology. And that’s not to mention demand from the intelligence community.

JLL found that nearly half of all AI-related positions in the D.C. area required clearance for top secret or sensitive compartmented information, as of last fall.

Only 15% of AI job postings in the region were remote — potentially good news for places like Arlington, which is adapting to an economic landscape in which many remote workers have been leaving for places with lower costs of living.

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This week, Arlington County recognized a handful of public facilities projects and privately developed apartment and office buildings for their sleek designs.

Top projects in honored in the biannual DESIGNArlington competition received “The Excellence Award.” Others were recognized with “Merit Awards” and “Honorable Mentions” for promoting county goals “in affordable housing, biophilic design, public art, historic preservation, or education.”

“Thank you to the jurors who took the time to review submissions and select our winners,” Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis said in a county announcement. “These projects truly showcase the best of Arlington.”

Architectural, planning and design professionals judged the contest.

The Excellence Award winners are:

  • Lubber Run Community Center (Arlington Forest) — “With architecture rooted in its sense of place, this net-zero energy building features recreation areas, covered gathering spaces, connections to nature trails, and open space.”
  • 1770 Crystal Drive (Crystal City) — “This 1970s-era, concrete building transformed into an engaging, vibrant National Landing anchor — including floor-to-ceiling glass, a new curtain wall system, and metal grid expression.”
  • Clarendon West (Clarendon) — “Three residential buildings introduce new life into the neighborhood and transition between the Wilson Boulevard commercial district to Lyon Village’s single-family homes.”

Merit Awards, meanwhile, went to:

  • Pierce Condominiums (Rosslyn) — “This residential tower’s glass and stone exterior showcases a bright and airy structure dubbed the Lantern, with contrasting dark brick.”
  • Cardinal Elementary School (Westover) — “The design optimizes use of the existing building while seamlessly combining new construction to achieve a dynamic educational facility.”
  • U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial Comfort Station (Rosslyn) — “This new facility for visitors to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial intentionally occupies a small piece of the landscape — maintaining direct views as well as providing a comfortable and respectful experience.”
  • Centro (Columbia Pike) — “Developed using the Columbia Pike Form Based Code, this luxury apartment building includes ground-floor retail, below-grade parking, and is designed around a public plaza with native plantings — enhancing the area for the entire neighborhood.”
  • Fire Lines (Rosslyn) — “A façade enhancement for Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn, this stainless steel and bronze sculpture represents a powerful spray of water and improves the pedestrian experience without impeding the functionality of the station.”
  • Crystal City Water Park (Crystal City) — “A Crystal City public space renovation that’s already proven to be popular – this project activates the streetscape and public space with vibrant retail kiosks, restaurants, and other site improvements.”

Some Honorable Mention recipients include Jennie Dean Park in Shirlington and Ruthie’s All Day restaurant in Arlington Heights.

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Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (via Arlington County/YouTube)

The Arlington County Board is considering a potential property tax hike that could be even higher than what County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed.

Board members yesterday (Tuesday) voted 5-0 to advertise hearings on a maximum property tax rate of $1.038 per $100 of assessed value, a 2.5 cent increase from 2023. That is 1 cent higher than the increase of 1.5 cents that Schwartz proposed in his $1.62 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2025.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said she hopes to whittle down the possible tax hike during upcoming budget discussions. She introduced the motion to add a penny because Arlington Public Schools still does not know how much state funding it will receive.

In the worst-case scenario, Garvey said APS could have a substantial budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty this year when it comes to budgeting,” Garvey said in a statement. “I’m very concerned about our schools and whether the state will do the right thing and provide the level of expected funding — or if the state will leave APS short millions on top of the cuts already made. Hopefully, the state will come through, and this extra penny will not be needed.”

Schwartz’s proposed budget already includes $10 million in additional funding to APS to help close a projected $30-35 million budget gap. Superintendent Francisco Durán is scheduled to present APS’s proposed 2025 budget tomorrow (Thursday).

If adopted in April, a 2.5-cent increase would cause the typical Arlington homeowner to pay an additional $472 in taxes, based on the average home value of $824,700, per a county press release. That’s in addition to rising fees for stormwater management, waste collection and other services.

In total, the average Arlington homeowner would see their total fees and taxes increase by $582 if the Board adopts the 2.5-cent tax rate increase, the county says.

Arlington County held its property tax rate steady during the pandemic, though rising property assessments caused the average homeowner to pay some 4-5% more annually anyway.

Board members noted that a higher advertised tax rate will allow for more flexibility in discussions about funding for housing, mental health and public safety, with a focus on the county’s detention facility.

“I think there’s just too much unknown at this particular moment for us to box ourselves in,” said Board member Maureen Coffey.

The Board can still choose to adopt a lower rate, but not a higher one.

Rising taxes and property values are also expected to put upward pressure on rents, as apartment assessments are expected to increase by an average of 6.6%, or $215 per unit.

The proposed $1.62 billion budget would eliminate 33 county staff positions — many that are currently vacant — in various departments, saving about $10 million, according to Schwartz. The budget includes a 4.75% salary increase for all non-union county employees.

There is also additional funding for teen programs intended to help combat the teen opioid crisis, mental health and substance abuse programs, affordable housing and eviction prevention and environmental initiatives.

Arlington’s police and fire unions have called for further tax increases to fund raises for first responders and reverse staffing declines, particularly in the police department.

The Board will conduct a series of budget work sessions in March, followed by a pair of public hearings on the budget and the tax rate on April 2 and 4, respectively. The final budget adoption vote is scheduled for Saturday, April 20.

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Construction on the planned pickleball courts for the Walter Reed Community Center is expected to begin by the end of this year.

The Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced the next steps for the hotly contested project and unveiled 90% complete designs last week. The project is set to go out for bid this spring and a contract is expected to go to the Arlington County Board for approval in the summer.

Work is on track to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, per the announcement.

“Thank you to all who provided feedback throughout the engagement process,” the county said.

The final project design differs only slightly from revised plans that the county announced in November. The county now plans to remove six trees and made minor revisions to its plans for the parking lot at Walter Reed.

The November proposal called for:

  • increasing the distance between future courts near 16th Street S. and residential homes to a distance of about 170 feet
  • adding acoustic fencing to both sets of courts and landscaping in between
  • adding a deck to protect a large existing tree and provide respite space
  • improving circulation for people with disabilities
  • increasing parking spaces by four
  • resurfacing the basketball courts

Pickleball proponents and neighbors irked by the infamous “pickleball pop” have been at loggerheads over plans for the Walter Reed Community Center since 2022.

That is when county officials announced plans to build dedicated pickleball courts at the community center, replacing part of the park’s wooded area along with an existing tennis court that has been co-opted for pickleball.

Residents living near the courts have sought relief from the thwack of pickleballs striking paddles and fiercely opposed plans to further encourage the sport at Walter Reed. They have threatened legal action and distributed fliers with allegations of players bullying children around “hijacked” tennis and basketball courts.

In addition to installing acoustic fencing to soften noise levels, the county had considered pausing the project, putting the question to community members last spring.

“Respondents were slightly more in favor of continuing the project, though it should be noted that respondents who identified as players are more in favor of continuing and those self-identifying as neighbors were more in favor of pausing,” Dept. of Parks and Recreation planning director Erik Beach said in November.

The survey drew skepticism from residents such as Columbia Heights Civic Association President Ron Haddox, who argued that it circulated in pro-pickleball online forums nationally and internationally. He argued that this “calls into question the genuineness of at least some portion of the feedback received.”

An additional round of feedback took place in November and December.

Of the 228 comments provided, the most common refrain, from 69 commenters, was that the final plan does not include enough pickleball courts, followed by 47 people who said the county should keep pickleball on the basketball court. The third most-popular comment type, with 42 mentions, was “looks good/like the compromise.”

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Gold’s Gym in Ballston (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Looser parking requirements could encourage more gyms and shops to fill Arlington’s commercial real estate vacancies, the county believes.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously voted to have staff research possible changes to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance and advertise requests to amend it. In addition to slashing parking minimums for gyms, the county is considering whether to allow parking lots to designate more spaces for compact cars.

Public hearings about these requirements are scheduled to take place in April. The county argues some of the regulations — set decades ago — may be outdated and an aggravating factor for Arlington’s rising commercial vacancy rate.

For instance, Arlington fitness centers must offer five times more parking spaces per square foot of floor area than other retail or service businesses. This is more restrictive than requirements in Alexandria and Fairfax County and, according to a report, a holdover of transportation patterns from the 1960s.

“The minimum parking ratio for athletic and health clubs is a standard set decades ago and does not reflect current land use and development patterns, public transportation access or regulations in Arlington,” the report says.

County staff noted that many potential office tenants look for nearby fitness facilities when selecting a location. Fitness centers also tend to attract establishments such as spas and physical therapy centers.

“Minimum parking ratios… can derail an athletic or health club from filling high demand, ideally located vacant space,” the report says.

The document also argues that the county should reconsider a 2002 regulation that disallows compact car spaces in areas “that were assumed to have a high turnover.” This includes retail stores, grocery stores and medical and health care facilities, as well as anywhere “where there is likely to be a large number of elderly [people].”

“Staff believes this prohibition is worth reexamining,” the report says.

Finally, another county report argues that loosening off-street parking requirements could help some shopping centers and small commercial sites attract new tenants. It notes that current parking regulations, as well as insufficient shared parking within commercial and mixed-use districts, can create barriers for businesses.

“This is especially true when multiple businesses are required to use the available parking on-site with limited capacity,” the document says. “Expanded shared parking regulations can be an effective measure to help address similar on-site parking deficiencies.”

All of these initiatives are part of a larger effort to combat Arlington’s high commercial vacancy rate. In another bid to boost Arlington’s commercial resiliency, the Board authorized public hearings for April about whether to loosen restrictions on large media screens in outdoor areas.

Later this year, the Board is expected to discuss guidance on office-to-apartment conversions as well as potentially simplifying the major and minor site plan amendment process, which landowners must navigate when repurposing or renovating large development projects.

Within the next several months, Board members are also expected to consider plans to facilitate changes of use within existing buildings and adopt a more flexible ordinance around signage.

Other possible ordinance changes concern storage uses at office buildings as well as the process for repurposing underutilized parking spaces.

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Arlington police officers (staff photo by James Jarvis)

The Arlington County Board is considering whether to authorize county-run firearm buyback events.

Buybacks would provide residents with cash, gift cards, vouchers or other payment in exchange for guns, according to a proposed ordinance. The voluntary events would be open to residents of Arlington and Falls Church.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday authorized a request to advertise the potential amendment to the county code. The item is scheduled to return to the Board for discussion on March 16.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to create a safer community and prevent firearm violence by creating a mechanism by which citizens can surrender unwanted or unneeded firearms,” the ordinance says.

The change would give the County Manager the authority to establish a buyback program. Police officers would oversee buyback events and Arlington’s chief of police would be responsible for destroying the guns.

Each event would require 15 officers, each of whom would receive $75 per hour in overtime pay, according to a county report.

The county could enter into agreements with private entities to fund or sponsor this program.

“The County may issue receipts, certificates or vouchers in exchange for surrendered firearms, which may be accepted or exchanged for things of value by any entity wishing to sponsor or otherwise participate in the firearms buyback program,” the proposed amendment says.

People could ask that a dealer auction off their firearm instead of destroying it but the county could deny this request. Machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and sawed-off rifles would not be destroyed, nor would firearms that federal law prohibits transferring.

The ordinance notes that the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America collaborated with county officials on this initiative. The group did not respond to a request for comment.

Gun buybacks are a well-established concept both regionally and nationally.

Last year in Prince George’s County, two mega-churches sponsored a buyback program in collaboration with the county police department. The Interfaith GVP Network likewise is scheduled to sponsor an event next month in Montgomery County.

Buyback events also took place in Richmond last year and in 2022.

These events, which date back at least to the 1960s, often allow people to hand over both legal and illegal guns with no questions asked. Empirical evidence for their effectiveness is limited but proponents argue that any effort to curb violence by removing unwanted guns from a community is worthwhile.

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For Five Coffee Roasters’ Rosslyn location was already bustling with activity just hours after opening its doors for the first time on Friday.

“I’m so excited!” customer Laura Durie exclaimed to a companion as she looked at the coffee shop’s menu. “Look, they have an omelet!”

Durie has been walking past the 1735 N. Lynn Street location every day for work, eagerly awaiting its opening. But she didn’t know the spacious, two-story café sold food until she walked in.

“We have a lot of coffee shops, but this is just gorgeous,” she told ARLnow as she waited for her drip coffee.

The café, which replaces the Chopt that occupied the location after a Starbucks closed in early 2021, sells pastries, stuffed cookies and breakfast and lunch items in addition to coffee. Additionally, unlike other For Five locations, it will transform on the weekends into a bar with beer, wine and cocktails.

Dusan Sokica, director of operations at For Five, said customers were waiting outside the coffee shop when it opened at 7 a.m. on Friday. He was doing the payroll at another location when the business’s owner called him that morning.

“’Where are you?’” he recalled the owner asking him. “’Why are you not here? The line is out of the door, man!’”

By around 10 a.m., customers had begun to occupy many of the booths in the coffee shop’s upper floor. Sokica expects even bigger crowds on other days of the week, when more people go to work in person.

“This was supposed to be, today, a little, soft opening, but it seems more like it’s a grand opening,” the operations director said.

At 4,316 square feet, the Rosslyn café is the biggest location yet for the New York City-based coffee company. Initially predicted to open in early 2022, the business is about a mile from For Five’s Courthouse location, which opened in 2020.

Asked for his coffee recommendations, Sokica encouraged customers to try the shop’s signature blend. Also popular are the freddo cappuccino and freddo espresso — nods to the founders’ Greek heritage that Sokica thinks will be especially in demand in the spring and summer.

Meanwhile, Durie, who grew up in Texas, is excited to try a dish that reminds her of home.

“I’m definitely going to be back and I’m definitely going to get the huevos rancheros,” she said.

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An Arlington Water, Sewer and Streets crew (via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services)

The Arlington County Board could approve a new sewer plan for the first time in 22 years tomorrow (Saturday).

The proposed Sanitary Sewer Collection System Plan is designed to prepare the county for continued growth through 2045. Despite the surge in development planned for the county over the next two decades, the plan does not call for expanding Arlington’s current sewer infrastructure.

Instead, according to a county report, the most substantial change would be an increase in how often the county cleans out small-diameter sanitary sewers. Flushing pipes of 12 inches in diameter and less every five years would cost $330,000 annually, increasing the average household’s water bill by about $2.11 each year.

The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on the proposed plan at a meeting tomorrow morning.

The reason the county does not need more sewer lines, according to a staff presentation to the Planning Commission last week, is that plumbing fixtures and appliances have become more efficient over time. Every day, Arlington uses about 5 million gallons of water less than when the county approved the current sewer plan in 2002.

This is despite the fact that the county has about 46,000 more residents than it did 22 years ago.

“The trends are going the right way,” Planning Commissioner James Lantelme said last week. “We’re using less water.”

Population growth between now and 2045 is expected to increase Arlington’s water usage by about 27%, or 6 million gallons per day, according to the presentation. This is still less than the county used in the late 1990s.

Arlington’s water usage vs. population growth over time (courtesy Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services)

At about 20 million gallons per day, the county currently uses about as much water as it did in the 1960s, when it had 73,000 fewer people.

“Adding additional neighbors to our county is something that we can support,” Lantelme said. “Our infrastructure is robust enough that we can add all these people comfortably and safely.”

Arlington’s water-use projections contrast with allegations from some residents that the county lacks the infrastructure to keep up with projected growth. For instance, a lawsuit filed last April claims that the county violated state law in passing its Missing Middle zoning code changes without fully considering possible impacts on infrastructure, including sewer systems.

In March 2023, the Arlington County Board approved changes to the zoning code allowing up to 6-unit dwellings on lots previously zoned only for single-family homes. The Board also approved a set of limitations intended to control the pace and impact of development, including parking minimums, permit caps and tree planting requirements.

But Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods, a group that issued a press release on behalf of the plaintiffs, claims that was not enough.

“State law requires that zoning ordinances consider needs for transportation, schools, parks, recreation, and public spaces, as well as the conservation of natural resources,” the statement said. “The law also requires consideration of a locality’s comprehensive plan, which addresses stormwater, sanitary sewer, water distribution and more.”

While the revised sewer plan does not recommend expanding current infrastructure, it calls for continued improvement projects such as relining the county’s existing pipes, many of which are between 75 and 100 years old. The county has been working on relining projects for a number of years and so far has relined 58% of the sanitary sewer system, according to the county report.

Photo (top) via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services/Flickr

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Workers installing solar panels (via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services/Flickr)

A proposed county contract aims to incentivize Arlington residents to resume buying as many solar panels as they once did.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is set to consider whether to approve an agreement with Solar United Neighbors (SUN), which runs the Capital Area Solar Switch program, a co-op that provides financial incentives to people who buy solar panels from local vendors.

A county report argues that the county’s failure to enter into such an agreement last year caused a precipitous drop in solar installations.

“Until 2023, Arlington County was first, regionally and supra-regionally, in program performance,” the report says, noting that 401 residents registered for Solar Switch in 2022 and 26% had panels installed.

That all changed last year after SUN asked participating counties to enter into memorandums of understanding with the company, pledging to work with SUN to conduct public outreach about the program.

“Absent a full MOU, SUN advised that its ability to provide full outreach, marketing, and promotional services would be limited,” the report says. “In 2023, execution of an MOU with SUN did not occur.”

This had consequences for Arlington.

While program registrations surged in Maryland’s Montgomery and Frederick counties, which signed MOUs with the company, Arlington’s numbers slumped. Just 148 residents registered for the co-op last year — and of these, only 11, or 7%, went through with actually installing solar panels.

“Arlington County’s active participation with SUN’s annual solar co-op ‘Capital Area Solar Switch’ directly impacts the resulting number of rooftop PV solar that is installed on residential roofs in the County each year,” the report says. “In 2023, however, the marketing, outreach and promotional support to the County from SUN was [minimal]… While the County conducted promotions to educate residents and promote the solar co-op, SUN focused its time and resources where MOUs were in place and diverted their services and resources to those jurisdictions.”

Under the proposed memorandum of understanding, the county would agree to provide information about Solar Switch on its website, in blog posts and on its newsletter. The county would also agree to share social media posts, help with a “public launch” of the program and allow the company to use the county logo on some materials.

The contract notes that this is not a joint venture but rather, “an agreement between the Parties with the goal of furthering their respective missions.” The agreement would expire Dec. 31 unless the parties extended it.

Arlington’s Community Energy Plan seeks to have all of the county’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2035, with the goal of becoming fully carbon neutral by 2050.

That effort will require more significant buy-in from residents, advocates say, as all Arlington County operations have relied on renewable energy since early 2023. More than 80% of that power comes from offsets generated by the Arlington-Amazon solar panel farm in Pittsylvania County, which opened in 2022.

Photo via Arlington DES/Flickr

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Chris Woolfe, chair of the Educational Technology Advisory Committee (via APS)

A newly formed committee says it aims to learn more about how Arlington Public Schools students use their school-provided devices both in and out of the classroom.

The Educational Technology Advisory Committee, which formed last year, consists of parents, technology specialists and APS personnel. One of their top priorities is determining the educational impacts of the iPads and MacBooks that APS provides all students.

“I think parents are really interested to know, how are they used, and how is it helping our children?” committee Chair Chris Woolfe told the Arlington School Board yesterday evening (Tuesday) during a work session.

Of particular interest, according to a committee progress report, is the degree to which devices are distracting students in class as well as any connection between device usage and academic performance.

“Our immediate goal is to gather student iPad & MacBook usage data,” the report says. “This would help inform all of our decisions moving forward and these kinds of analytics are standard in the industry now.”

Some parents have raised concerns about APS’s one-to-one device program, which previously only provided devices to students in grades 3-12 but expanded in 2020 to include K-2 students. School Board watchdog group Arlington Parents for Education in September 2022 called for a more thorough examination of how effectively iPads and MacBooks help children learn.

While a polarizing issue for parents, some students have pointed out that the devices can make it easier for them to organize their schoolwork and find information.

School Board member Mary Kadera argued on Tuesday that the school system has an obligation to provide parents with more information about school-issued technology.

“We have to. We just have to,” Kadera said. “As a parent, I am continually frustrated by the fact that I have so little visibility on what my kids are actually doing on their APS-issued devices.”

A 2019 study found that Arlington students were spending substantial portions of their school days using electronic devices: about 40% for elementary-aged students and 53% and 58%, respectively, for middle and high school students.

In addition to learning more about device usage, the Educational Technology Advisory Committee wants to reconsider the effects of accessories such as headphones. These are often necessary to avoid disrupting other students but they are one of the pricier items on school supply lists.

The advisory committee intends to make specific recommendations about school-issued devices only once it has collected and reviewed usage data.

Its February progress report notes that this is “a unique cultural moment,” with students learning in ways that are very different from how their parents were taught. Ultimately, the committee says it aims to represent the views of APS and parents, even when they may be at odds.

“This committee allows bidirectional communication between our school system and our parents,” the progress report says. “We aim to help parents better understand how tech is used at APS which hopefully may ease some anxiety. We also aim to help APS better understand how tech impacts students from a parents’ perspective, so that we can make necessary course corrections.”

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