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(Updated 1:10 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is applying to the state for more than $15.6 million in federal funds to tackle pandemic-era learning loss.

The school system says it would use the money to provide more specialized instruction, before- and after-school tutoring and expanded summer school offerings.

This money would add to the $18.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds APS was allotted in April of this year.

“Every state received funds to distribute to school divisions as they saw fit,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said in a Nov. 16 School Board meeting. “We have heard from [the Virginia Department of Education] that school divisions, all of them, will receive some [money] if they apply.”

Applications were due last week, and the funds can be used through September 2024.

“We should know in January what funds APS may be awarded to support this work,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “We should know what grant funds we were awarded by the end of January.”

APS’s possible spending plan if it receives new grant funding (via APS)

Earlier this year, APS said that it would use the $18.9 million in ARPA funding it was allotted to balance the 2022 budget, which included paying for assessments, summer school, 12 reading and math coaches and a new Director of English Learners.

The bulk — $10.5 million — went to the new Virtual Learning Program, which had a bumpy start and today serves 630 children from diverse background. Of those students, 77% are Black, Hispanic or Asian, 60% are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, and 39% are English Learners, according to APS.

None of these expenses, however, increases instructional time for children, which is what parent advocacy group Arlington Parents for Education says the money should have been spent on. The organization formed last year to advocate for full-time, in-person learning while APS was remote, and now focuses on learning loss and ARPA spending.

The group had a lukewarm response to the additional instructional time outlined in the grant application.

“While any funds tied to additional instruction time are welcome, this application will likely be too little, too late. The state ESSER funding will not fund any new instruction until at least fall of 2022 and is expressly tied to providing expanded summer school, before and after school instruction, and tutoring,” APE said. “It is disappointing that APS must again (as with the reopening of schools in spring) be led by the state to do what it already has the resources to do and should already be doing, which is to provide more instructional time.”

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Work began yesterday (Wednesday) on the long-delayed Ballston Beaver Pond remediation project — but no busy beavers will be involved.

The $4.2 million, 18-month project approved by the County Board this summer will retrofit the pond, originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. Today, sediment in the pond prevents detention, and it instead has become home to abundant wildlife, including beavers, according to a county report.

The project, expected to wrap up in July 2023, aims to improve stormwater retention and the wildlife habitat by restoring native plant species and adding habitat features. There will be a new observation platform with educational signage, seating and a reconstructed trail with bike racks.

Arlington County says the new two-acre wetland area will provide stormwater treatment to 460 acres of land in the Lubber Run watershed, and “is among the County’s most effective opportunities to achieve its water quality objectives and meet its regulatory requirements.”

This month, the construction contractor will be setting up the site, county project manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow. Excavation will begin next year.

“From now until the end of the year, neighbors will see the contractor bringing in equipment and setting up the boundaries of the construction area,” she said. “In the new year, neighbors will begin to see dump trucks full of sediment removed from the pond leaving the site.”

Public access will be limited as well. The grass area within the park will be off-limits, as it will be used for construction. A bike and pedestrian detour will reroute trail users from Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail and along the south side of the pond.

The detour will be in place for the entirety of construction, Winquist says.

A bicycle detour around the Ballston Beaver Pond construction project (via Arlington County)

The project is divided into a few phases, as work can only occur on one half of the pond at a time, Winquist said.

First, workers will remove sediment from and re-grade a half of the pond while removing invasive plants.

After the second half of the pond receives the same treatment, construction will begin on a new observation platform, trail upgrades, native species planting and new habitat features, including basking stations for turtles, she said.

The project is a long time in coming.

After community engagement in 2011-12, the project was paused in 2013 until the necessary easements were obtained from property owners. A redesigned project with new permits went to the public in January 2019, but “COVID-19 and related budget concerns” again delayed the project, the report says.

Still, those nearby welcome the pond redo, according to the report.

“The community continues to be very supportive of the project and it is highly anticipated by Ballston area residents and businesses,” it said.

But once beaver baffles are installed to discourage these critters from returning — and damming the pond again, which could compromise water quality — the wetland area will need a new name.

“This beautiful natural area needs a name that fits its unique space,” says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Martha Holland.

Next year, the county plans to ask the community for name ideas and provide an opportunity to comment on a list of potential names.

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Kids on a car ride at the county fair (staff photo)

The Arlington County Fair will be returning to Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds in 2022, the county parks department tells ARLnow.

The decision comes after the Arlington County Fair Board deliberated a change of scenery for the event for more than a year. Thomas Jefferson’s fields and community center space at 3501 2nd Street S. has been home to the fair for 45 years.

After hearing that a majority of folks did not support relocating the fair, and taking a closer look at the fair board’s preferred alternate location — Long Bridge Park — board members decided Thomas Jefferson is the best location.

“The 2022 Arlington County Fair will be held at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park (TJ),” said Laura Barragan, a Department of Parks and Recreation special events manager and spokeswoman. “Contributing factors for the site selection include that the community has enjoyed the fair at TJ for 45 years [and] 60% of the nearly 1,600 respondents of the site location public engagement preferred keeping the Fair at TJ.”

She added that “further review of the Long Bridge Park location indicated that it would not be able to accommodate the number and variety of rides the County Fair Board desires.”

Barragan directed further questions to the fair board, which was not immediately available to comment on the decision and whether it will remain at TJ beyond 2022.

In addition to Long Bridge, Arlington County considered multiple sites — including Virginia Highlands Park near Crystal City and Quincy Park near Ballston — but the board only expressed interest in Long Bridge.

One reason we’re told the fair board mulled the move was that fixing damage to the grass fields, which become muddy and rutted in the rain, is a problem for the county. The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central, but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.

After County Board approval in September, a project is currently underway to replace the upper field at the TJ site with artificial turf. The field is expected to remain closed until mid-2022, but should reopen in time for the fair’s return.

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The Arlington School Board during the Nov. 16 meeting (via APS)

The Arlington School Board will vote on boundary changes tomorrow (Thursday) targeting two overcapacity schools in South Arlington.

This fall, Superintendent Francisco Durán launched a “limited” fall 2021 boundary process to relieve overcrowding at Abingdon Elementary School, Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School.

The newest version of the plan postpones changes to Abingdon, where enrollment is currently manageable for next year, according to Durán. Students would have been moved from the school in Fairlington to Charles R. Drew Elementary School in nearby Green Valley, echoing a similar proposal in 2018 that became controversial.

Gunston and Wakefield are still over-capacity, so some planning units will be moved to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Washington-Liberty High School.

“The proposed changes are manageable among the identified schools that we’ve talked about and we’ve engaged with. The planning units included in this process should not need to be moved again in the next few years, and this limited process provides some additional to understand enrollment fluctuations we’re seeing caused by the pandemic, and any shifts in projects we may see,” he said during the Nov. 16 School Board meeting.

APS also proposes to change which neighborhood schools feed into Arlington’s Spanish-immersion schools, following previous boundary changes and the relocation of one immersion program, Key School.

“We want to make sure access to immersion schools is convenient to families and students nearest the location,” Durán said.

Relief for Gunston and Wakefield

The boundary changes for Gunston and Jefferson will reassign 140 third- to fifth-graders while the Wakefield and W-L changes will reassign 162 students.

The changes will impact the Penrose, Foxcroft Heights, Arlington View and Columbia Heights neighborhoods.

The proposal to move Wakefield students to W-L comes as the latter is about to unveil a new wing of the school — the former Education Center administrative offices — with room for up to 600 students.

APS says the extra space at the Education Center will provide enrollment relief for Wakefield and cut down on W-L’s waitlist for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

“The number of applicants to the IB Lottery and number on the waitlist has increased each year over the last four years,” according to the 2021 boundary process website.

APS may consider targeted transfers from Wakefield to Yorktown if forthcoming enrollment projections for 2022-23 suggest unmanageable levels at Wakefield — even with the boundary adjustment.

The new high school boundaries would reverse moves made in 2016 to address overcrowding at W-L, but those who were moved away from W-L in 2017 will not be moved back.

In 2017, APS redirected Boulevard Manor kids from W-L to Yorktown High School. Students say when they graduate from Kenmore Middle School and head to Yorktown, they lose many of their middle school friends. To avoid that, they apply for W-L’s IB program or for a neighborhood transfer.

“I can make new friends, but the point is that it’s completely reasonable that I want to go to high school with my friends — just like all the middle schoolers in Arlington,” said Kenmore eighth-grader Xavier Anderson, during the Nov. 16 meeting.

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(Updated 10:40 a.m. on 12/1/21) A new outpost of JINYA Ramen Bar is coming to Ballston Quarter as soon as March, according to a local restaurant group.

The restaurant appears to replace Spanish tapas restaurant and soccer-watching venue Copa Kitchen & Bar, which closed earlier this month in a space adjacent to the Quarter Market food hall.

Ballston Quarter will be JINYA’s fifth location the D.C. area, with others located in Merrifield’s Mosaic District, Reston Town Center, 14th Street NW in D.C. and the Pike & Rose shopping center in North Bethesda. In total, the chain has 42 locations in the U.S. and Canada with multiple new locations in the pipeline, according to the company.

More from a press release:

Introducing a new JINYA Ramen Bar location in the DMV Area, expected to open in March 2022 in Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203). At JINYA, experience ramen for the first time on this side of the Pacific like it was meant to be – with thick, rich broth in perfect balance with handmade noodles.

JINYA is ramen culture, where the relationship between broth and noodles is serious but delicious business. From the water we use to prepare our broths – we only use FUJI which is 99.9 percent free from impurities – to the special aging process that our noodles undergo before they’re cooked and served, we’re crazy about ramen and pay meticulous attention to everything that goes into your bowl. You’ll quickly see why at JINYA we say, “No ramen, no life.”

Ramen and Japanese Whisky are at the heart of our menu. Besides our Tonkatsu Ramen, Spicy Chicken Ramen and Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen, guests will have a range of chef curated pairings of spirits and beer to experience with their favorite JINYA offerings. Each pairing ranges in price from $16- $24. See below for a full list:

  • Toki Highball with Brussel Sprouts Tempura – $17.5
  • NIKKA from the Barrel with Takoyaki Octopus Ball – $18
  • SAPPORO with Karage Crispy Chicken – $17
  • HIBIKI Harmony with JINYA bun – $16

In addition to dining in, customers can order for takeout and delivery online, over the phone and through Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and Doordash.

The restaurant group behind the Ballston JINYA location, Harvest Eats LLC, is linked to local restaurateur Sam Shoja, who owned Emilie’s in D.C. — now a Mexican restaurant under his ownership — and, according to Eater, other Washington area franchises of JINYA. Shoja also previously owned a stake in Ballston Quarter eatery Hot Lola’s.

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(Updated 2:45 p.m.) With Thanksgiving over, Arlington is gearing up for Chanukah and Christmas.

This week, folks can enjoy cozy foods and drinks and festive lights while getting in a spot of holiday shopping. To see some Christmas magic, head to Alexandria for a performance of The Nutcracker.

Some of the local event highlights for Nov. 29 through Dec. 5 are below. Submit your event to our event calendar by filling out this event submission form at least two weeks in advance.

Tuesday, Nov. 30

Light Up Arlington — Clarendon Menorah Lighting*
Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington (1307 N. Highland Street)
Time: 6-7 p.m.

Enjoy latkes, hot cocoa and donuts while watching the lighting of a 9-foot Menorah at this community celebration of the festival of lights. Admission is free for this event, but registration is required as capacity is limited.

Thursday, Dec. 2

Chanukah on Ice 2021*
Pentagon Row Ice Rink (1201 S. Joyce Street)
Time: 6-8 p.m.

Can’t attend the Light Up Arlington celebration? Chabad Lubavitch has another event on the calendar this week. On Thursday, there will be skating at the Pentagon Row outdoor rink, with latkes, kosher hot dogs and donuts to eat and the lighting of a 6-foot Menorah. This event is $13, including skate rental, and food is sold separately.

Light up the Village at Shirlington
Village at Shirlington (4280 Campbell Ave)
Time: 6-8:30 p.m.

Sip, stroll and shop around The Village while enjoying performances from Signature Theatre and caroling from Obbligato Music and Bishop O’Connell High School, as well as horse and carriage rides and an appearance from Santa.

Friday, Dec. 3

19th Annual Artful Weekend at Fort C. F. Smith Park*
Fort C. F. Smith Park (2411 24th Street N.)
Time: 3-8 p.m.

Get your holiday shopping in at the historic Hendry House, where Gallery Underground will be featuring more than 30 Arlington-based artists. Their works — from paintings, ceramics and sculpture to jewelry, glasswork and artist’s cards — will be available for purchase. There will be an opening reception Friday night at 6 p.m., and the show will run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Saturday, Dec. 4

30 Minute Hit Arlington Open House*
30 Minute Hit Arlington (4001 9th Street N., #105)
Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A new, women-only, high-intensity gym in Ballston is hosting an open house for the whole family. Moms can learn about the circuit workouts while kids can get their face painted and do crafts. There will also be food and music.

Washington-Liberty H.S. Annual Holiday Bazaar*
Washington-Liberty High School (1301 N. Stafford Street)
Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The covered parking decks next to Washington-Liberty High School will be transformed into a holiday market with many vendors selling jewelry, crafts, clothing and more, as well as the school’s student clubs and activities fundraising booths. Admission and parking are free, and there will be food and drink to purchase.

The Nutcracker — Metropolitan School of the Arts*
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center (4915 E. Campus Drive, Alexandria)
Time: 12-1:30 p.m.

Metropolitan School of the Arts will be performing this classic holiday ballet, featuring more than 120 performers. Discounted rates are available for Girls Scouts.

Accessory Dwelling Open House and Tour*
(Address available after registration)
Time: 1-3 p.m.

Curious to know more about what Accessory Dwelling Units can look like? Backyard.Homes will be opening up one of its newest ADUs in Arlington for tours of the unit, which is not for sale or rent, on Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 5

Alternative Christmas Market*
First Presbyterian Church (601 N. Vermont Street)
Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Find fabulous goods from local charities and international co-ops to give to friends and family on Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.

* denotes sponsored listing

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

OxiWear, an Arlington-based company developing a wearable oxygen monitoring device, has raised a pre-seed funding round of $1.25 million, exceeding its goal of $750,000.

This funding will allow the medical- and sports-technology startup to finish developing its product and start beta testing it before releasing the device by mid-year 2022.

OxiWear was started by Shavini Fernando, who lives with severe pulmonary hypertension: a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood through the lungs. It leaves her vulnerable to sudden and undetected drops in oxygen, known as silent hypoxia.

Rather than let the disease rule her life, she decided to develop an ear-wearable pulse oximeter that offers 24-hour, continuous oxygen monitoring and low-oxygen alerting. She invented the device in Georgetown University’s maker’s hub while a graduate student.

“OxiWear is a product that I developed to help patients like me — those living with pulmonary hypertension,” Fernando said. “Through our research, we learned that there is a larger market for oxygen monitoring including elite athletes, high-altitude travelers and patients with diseases such as [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], sleep apnea and COVID-19.”

OxiWear founder Shavini Fernando (courtesy of Shavini Fernando)

The ear is one of the most accurate body parts for measuring oxygen saturation levels and detecting when they begin to drop, according to the company.

But the device is not just suitable for those prone to silent hypoxia. Performance athletes and high-altitude travelers can use it to receive non-intrusive and accurate oxygen monitoring 24 hours a day, according to the company.

In anticipation of launching the product next year, OxiWear is meeting with the Food and Drug Administration to earn its medical device designation and is participating in the leAD Sports & Health Tech accelerator program.

Leading the pre-seed round was GAP Funds, an investment program of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation — formerly CIT — that previously invested in the company this summer.

“OxiWear is a game changer for those affected by the complications of pulmonary hypertension, and could be the difference between safety and danger,” said Tom Weithman, VIPC’s Managing Director of GAP Funds.

The startup received re-investments from previous supporters Ted Leonsis and The Paul & Rose Carter Foundation.

“I’ve been a proud, early supporter of Shavini and her life-saving work and I congratulate her on not only meeting her pre-seed funding round target — but decisively beating it,” Leonsis said. “It’s a testament to how in-demand her product is and how smartly she has built her company around it. I expect she will only continue to grow, and I happily stand by her to offer advice whenever she needs it.”

Paul Caicedo, Future Communities Capital, Gaingels, Halcyon Fund, Hourglass Venture Partners, TiE’s D.C. and Boston chapters and Tysons Angel Group funded this round.

Halcyon Fund is tied to a flagship residency fellowship for entrepreneurs at Georgetown, the Washington Business Journal reports. The fund has been building up an investment strategy, including an angel investment network and a microloan fund, with the goal of improving access to capital for women and people of color starting their own companies.

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The Crossing Clarendon (staff photo)

There are some signs of movement forward for the luxury fitness gym Life Time, which is slated to come to Clarendon in 2023.

In mid-December, the County Board is slated to hold a public hearing to consider allowing retail use — and, therefore, fitness activities — inside an office building in The Crossing Clarendon. The Board approved the hearing earlier this month.

Regency Centers, which owns The Crossing (formerly known as “Market Common”), is asking the county to permit retail on the third floor of The Loft office building (1440 N. Edgewood Street) that Life Time is looking to lease. The change would allow the gym to take over the office building and turn it into a 113,000-square foot, multi-story, high-end gym with a host of amenities.

Life Time proposes using all four levels of the newly renovated building. There will be a spa and dressing rooms in the basement, a lobby and small retail space for food and drinks on the first floor, gym space on the second and third floors and a co-working space for gym members and independent users on the fourth floor.

The third floor, set for gym use, comprises more than 18% of The Loft’s total square footage. That is significant enough to require a “major” site plan amendment and Planning Commission and County Board approvals, according to a county report.

Typically, that involves a four-month-long review process, but county staff instead support a one-month hearing schedule, according to the report. It says staff have found no problems with this change, which is supported by planning recommendations for this part of Clarendon.

“Staff finds that a shorter review period is warranted as it does not require any structural additions or significant alterations to the building design as approved under the site plan and community stakeholders have responded to staff outreach to confirm that there are no objections to advertisement of this amendment,” according to the report.

A spokesman for the property owner said there are “no changes to report” on the work done to move the project along.

“The design is being worked on concurrent with the amendment process,” he said. “All permits are on schedule.”

Up until this year, an Equinox gym was expected to move in. In February, Regency Centers sued Equinox, alleging breach of contract.

In total, the building has eight retail spaces on the ground floor, of which three are vacant. Tatte Bakery & Cafe opened in September, and dog daycare and boarding facility District Dogs could be coming next spring. Other forthcoming retailers include a a laser skincare facility and an under-construction tattoo parlor.

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) A three-story, county-owned group home in Douglas Park is set for demolition early next year.

In its place, Arlington County will oversee the construction of an environmentally friendly home for six adults with disabilities, at a total cost of more than $5 million.

Built in 1924, the house at 1212 S. Irving Street has undergone several renovations and has operated as a group home since the mid-1970s, according to a county report. Today, the 3,800-square foot, seven-bedroom house accommodates five individuals.

But the county says the house needs to be rebuilt.

“This existing residence is aged and in deteriorating condition and will be demolished and replaced with a new two-story family home of approximately 3,000 [square feet],” according to the project page.

The $4 million construction contract for the net-zero group home was approved by the County Board in October. Demolition could begin in January 2022, as could the installation of a geothermal well field that will power the home’s heating and cooling systems, says Claudia Pors, a Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman.

“Right now the contractor (MCN Build) doesn’t want to begin demolition of the current structure until they have materials to build the new home, and demolition isn’t anticipated to begin for another 6-8 weeks,” she said.

The new home will have six bedrooms, including accessible bathrooms and closets, an area for staff and accessible communal living spaces with built-in furnishings and appliances, per the county report. It will be equipped with various audio-visual technologies to support individuals with complex medical support needs.

“Upon completion, the new home will provide a primary and permanent residence for up to six adults with developmental disabilities,” the report said. “It will be constructed to meet the changing needs of the residents across their lifespans, regardless of physical and behavioral support needs.”

Arlington’s Department of Human Services will operate and maintain the house, while a contracted residential provider will have the primary responsibility for caring for residents.

The new 1212 S. Irving Street will be a net-zero energy residence, meaning it generates as much energy as it consumes. It will also be the county’s first Viridiant Net-Zero certified building, Pors said.

“Some of the construction features include an airtight building envelope and high-performance windows and doors that prevent outdoor air from coming in, or loss of conditioned air; less than 50% of impervious area on the property, so stormwater can be absorbed by the ground naturally; and landscaping with non-invasive species,” she said.

Solar panels and geothermal systems will power the building, while energy recovery ventilators will recover heat or cold air, she said. The interior will also feature LED lighting, low-flow plumbing features and Energy Star appliances.

The project is $900,000 over budget, according to the report.

“The total project budget for the 1212 S. Irving St. Group Home project is $5,205,735,” the report says. “This amount is $900,000 over budget, due to the current unstable market conditions, longer construction duration from lagging supply deliveries, and the addition of a sixth bedroom and a kitchenette to satisfy DHS current programming requirements. The construction cost was over a $1 million more than the independent cost estimate received in November 2020.”

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Prompted by two critical crashes in two weeks, Arlington County is taking a look at a common thread between them: alleys.

Last week in Westover, a car struck a toddler, who is now recovering from serious injuries, while exiting an alley onto N. Longfellow Street. Neighbors say the alley is frequented by cyclists and pedestrians, including students from nearby schools, but has dangerous blind spots.

Two weeks ago in Green Valley, a motorcyclist — who witnesses say exited the 23rd Street S. alley at a high speed — died while trying to avoid hitting a school bus. Instead, he flew off his motorcycle and into the bus, which had children onboard.

A team that includes Arlington County police, Virginia State Police, transportation engineers, public health representatives and a representative from the County Manager’s office will be evaluating these crashes, while county transportation engineers will be looking at other local alleys to find improvements, says Katie O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Services.

“As part of our Vision Zero Action Plan, we regularly review and evaluate critical crashes to identify actionable items that we can implement and respond to quickly,” O’Brien said. “In addition to reviewing this terrible incident [in Westover], the team is taking a systematic examination of alleys throughout the County to improve safety given the recent tragic crash that also occurred at an alley on 23rd Street S.”

The toddler from Westover remains hospitalized but is recovering, says Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The child, who was pulled from under the striking car before first responders arrived on scene, suffered serious injuries including, reportedly, a fractured skull.

Meanwhile, the body of the 26-year-old Alexandria man who died in the motorcycle crash will be transported overseas for his funeral.

Both crashes remain active and ongoing investigations, Savage said, adding that there are no additional details to provide.

Blind spots add peril to Westover alley  

In Westover, neighbors say the alley where the crash occurred is frequented by students headed to Swanson Middle School and folks on bikes and with strollers, who use a hole in the fence at the end of the alley to get to school or to the Custis Trail.

“It’s actually a more trafficked area than it might appear to be,” said one neighbor, Stefanie Cruz.

But it has blind spots for drivers. Where it intersects with N. Longfellow Street, there’s a large hedge to the right and a house to the left that neighbors say can obscure oncoming pedestrians, playing kids and traffic.

“It’s a dangerous alley, and it’s been a dangerous alley, and I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention to that,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it took something like this to make the alley safer.”

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Students listen to a speaker during a walkout from Yorktown High School (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A petition calling on Arlington Public Schools to ramp up education on sexual misconduct and healthy relationships has netted more than 31,000 signatures.

The petition targets Yorktown High School, where in October a homecoming football game was marred by “unacceptable behavior” by a group of students. Several Yorktown students reportedly harassed fellow students with sexual language, and one student told police she was inappropriately touched.

These events in part sparked walkouts at YHS and other high schools in APS across the county a few weeks later.

“To put in plainly, Yorktown has a problem with sexual misconduct,” said the petition authors, who are members of the Teen Network Board, a county- and APS-appointed teen advocacy group. “We are two of many concerned students who want to change the way the system works to handle issues such as sexual harassment and assault in schools.”

The student authors propose introducing two prevention and awareness programs at Yorktown, and possibly throughout APS. They call on YHS to “hold students accountable for their actions in schools” and to make reporting sexual assault and harassment to administrators easier.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 31,600 people had signed the petition. In an update to the petition on Friday, the authors said exceeding 20,000 signatures was “absolutely amazing,” as their initial goal was around 1,000-2,000 signatures.

In the update, the authors said they were meeting with Yorktown administrators Monday (yesterday) to discuss implementing their proposals at YHS. They said they reached out to Superintendent Francisco Durán and the School Board to discuss making the changes at a county level.

“Arlington Public Schools is aware of the petition, and we fully support and stand with our students against sexual harassment and assault in our schools and community,” Durán said in a statement sent to ARLnow. “We are also open and committed to the exploration of additional ways we can support students at Yorktown High School, and across the division.”

Together, APS and Yorktown staff and student members of the Teen Network Board will review current practices and consider their recommendations, as well as any additional steps needed to ensure every student feels safe, accepted and respected at school, he said.

Specifically, the petition recommends introducing Coaching Boys into Men and safeBAE. The first is a prevention-based education program for male athletes in which coaches educate players on how to have healthy relationships and be leaders in the community. The second would “spread awareness” about sexual misconduct and healthy relationships to the general student body.

“A lot of sexual misconduct in schools is caused by ignorance; often students don’t know what they’re doing is wrong. Education is key in preventing assault and harassment,” the petition said. “We want to make our community a safe and positive place for all students.”

Currently, Yorktown partners with several outside educational and advocacy organizations, such as Doorways and Project PEACE, that target intimate partner violence, according to Durán. The school holds assemblies to educate and support students and the Students Against Sexual Assault Club works to de-stigmatize and educate their peers about sexual assault.

He affirmed that Yorktown follows APS policy and procedures for responding to reported incidents of harassment or assault. He said all complaints are followed up on “with appropriate actions to prevent the behavior from happening again and provide the needed supports to students.”

“We encourage students to report incidents to a teacher, counselor, administrator or parent,” he said. “If a Yorktown student does not feel comfortable reporting in person, we encourage them to use the anonymous Student Safety Reporting form found on the Yorktown homepage.”

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