The feline family recently took up residence on the school’s roof, apparently after the cat climbed a tree to get there.
Both APS and AWLA want to get the cat and kittens down from the roof, but are still formulating a plan for how to do it.
“We think that the mother cat is feral, and we want to capture the kittens while they are young enough to be socialized,” said AWLA’s Susan Sherman. “Once the kittens are old enough to get down from the roof on their own, they will likely be too old to socialize.”
Sherman said an AWLA animal control officer has been to the school “several times” to talk to officials from the school and the attached Gunston Community Center. One sticking point is deciding who’s going to go up on the roof. School workers don’t want to get attacked by the cat and animal control officers don’t want to play Spiderman.
“We offered to assist the school facilities people to set a humane trap on the roof, but they said the mother cat might attack them,” Sherman explained. “Our officers do not climb up on roofs. The part of the roof the cats are on is flat, and we requested access from classroom windows but the school facilities person told us the windows cannot be unscrewed or removed.”
“We are working on a plan to capture the kittens as soon as possible but want to do it in a way that is safe for the cats and people,” she said.
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) The Reed School building in Westover may be tapped as the site of a new elementary school.
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has included a $45-63 million renovation of the building, to create a new 725-seat elementary school, in his proposed FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The school would help to alleviate what’s currently projected to be — without further building — a 1,387 elementary seat deficit countywide.
The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School, a co-op child care center for APS employees, and the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to integrate with The Children’s School students. The Westover Branch Library is also located in the building but is not expected to be displaced by the new school.
Some Westover residents are organizing on Facebook to speak out against the plan at the School Board’s public CIP hearing, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 19. They say APS is planning a choice elementary school for the site — and thus would be busing in students from around the county. While seeming to accept the inevitability of changes to the Reed site, one of the few APS-owned pieces of land suitable for a new school, residents say they would prefer any new facility be a neighborhood school, open to local students.
Some residents have suggested that the newly county-purchased Buck site, across from Washington-Lee High School could instead be a good location for a choice school.
In 2014, more than 1,000 people signed an online petition opposing a proposal to move the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program to the Reed site. At the time, APS staff described Reed as “underutilized.” Ultimately, the Wilson School site in Rosslyn was selected as H-B Woodlawn’s future home.
Dr. Murphy’s CIP identifies Rosslyn-Ballston corridor elementary capacity and countywide high school capacity as APS’ most pressing capacity problems.
The CIP also includes:
- Two 200-seat elementary school additions
- Two minor modification projects to add new 60 seats apiece to Gunston and Kenmore middle schools
- Modifications to add 300 seats apiece to Wakefield and Yorktown high schools
- A 600-seat facility for the Arlington Tech secondary program
If the CIP is approved by the School Board, work on the new Westover elementary school could start as soon as 2017.
Lucas Mendes, a 5’5″, 125 lbs. senior at Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, has been named the 2016 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Mendes was presented with his award from Gatorade by former pro soccer player and current ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman at Washington-Lee on Tuesday. (A video of the presentation is above.)
From Mendes’ profile on the Gatorade Player of the Year website:
At the time of his selection, Mendes had scored 10 goals and passed for five assists in his first year playing high school soccer after previously playing with D.C. United in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Ranked as the No. 24 recruit in the Class of 2016 by College Soccer News, he attended a training camp with the U.S. Soccer Under-20 Men’s National Team in January.
A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he has volunteered locally as a youth soccer coach. He has also donated his time to the Color of Leadership Conference, where he served as a mentor and participated in workshops to help middle school students of color discover and utilize resources to achieve their personal goals.
Mendes has accepted a full-ride scholarship from the University of Virginia, according to a press release from Arlington Public Schools (below, after the jump).
Last year, Oakridge Elementary parents used donations and sponsorships to buy pedal desks, standup desks and yoga ball chairs to help fidgety kids learn while staying active.
Now, parents are back trying to raise money to expand the program, which received both local and some national attention.
On Tuesdays this month, starting tomorrow, the Oakridge PTA is hosting four evening fitness programs for adults, featuring local fitness and wellness businesses like SpecOps Fitness and Mind Your Body Oasis.
“These adult May fitness classes are one of two fundraising efforts we are currently doing to raise additional funds for the kinesthetic equipment,” explained Dana Dougherty, a mother of three and substitute teacher. “All donations will go toward our mission, all classes are sponsored by the individuals teaching.”
“We have had incredibly positive feedback from parents, students and teachers — they want more!” she told ARLnow.com. “Depending on the funds raised, we will look at adding pieces the teachers would like to add. You can see tons of different options at www.kidsfit.com… there are several great options under kinesthetic classroom desks.”
Money for the initiative will also be raised at the PTA’s Spring Fling on May 22, where teachers and administrators will be dunked for the cause.
“We will have a dunk tank with favorite teachers, principal and perhaps even a school board member participating,” said Dougherty.
Those are some of the highlights from the $582 million Fiscal Year 2017 budget adopted by the Arlington School Board on Thursday night.
- A step increase for all eligible employees ($7.6 million)
- An increase of 1.75% for eligible employees at the top of the salary scale or on a longevity step ($2.4 million)
- An increase in the minimum wage to $14.50 per hour ($150,000)
- An increase in School Board salaries ($14,760)
- Implementation of a parental leave benefit of two weeks of paid leave ($0.5 million)
- An increase in the Live Where You Work program to provide additional grants as well as the implementation of rental assistance grants (similar to the County’s program) at a cost of $68,700
Arlington Public Schools issued the following press release about the budget’s adoption.
The Arlington School Board adopted its FY 2017 final budget at last night’s meeting. The approved budget totals $581,941,859 which includes an additional $2,042,993 in ongoing County funds and an additional $1,336,437 from the Future Budget Years Reserve. The additional County and Future Budget Years Reserve funds closed the funding gap to ensure a balanced budget was adopted.
“We worked closely as a Board with our staff and advocated to our County colleagues to make certain that APS has the funding that is necessary to meet the needs of our growing school division,” stated School Board Chair Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez. “The Board has also invested in additional areas that will meet the instructional needs of our students, support the whole child and provide the necessary staff to ensure all students can succeed.”
The School Board has designated that all of the additional funds be used to invest in instructional support, infrastructure, and staff needed to continue progress toward achieving strategic goals of the school division.
The School Board’s adopted FY17 Budget also included staff compensation increases totaling $10.2 million, including a step increase for all eligible employees, an increase of 1.75% for eligible employees at the top of the salary scale or on longevity steps, and implementation of two weeks of paid parental leave.
“It is critical that APS offers competitive staff compensation and benefits to ensure that we continue to retain and attract the most talented employees to work here,” said Dr. Violand-Sanchez. “We are proud to provide, for the first time, two weeks of paid parental leave, to enhance our “Live Where You Work” assistance for our employees, and to raise the minimum wage to $14.50 an hour. Our APS educators are a crucial factor in our students’ success.”
The FY 2017 budget designates APS operating funds for July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017.
Arlington Public Schools says around 40 more employees have been victims of a data breach that compromised employee tax information.
That’s in addition to the 28 employees APS said were affected last week.
APS said an unknown party or parties were able to login to APS’ secure data system, STARS, via use of “personally identifiable information… from an unknown source.”
Employees were given the latest update on the data breach Wednesday afternoon, said Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.
APS is taking steps to better secure its systems, employees were told.
In addition to the steps we took last week to contract with cybersecurity experts to assist with our on-going investigation, we have put in place several more precautions to protect all employees’ personal information.
1. We have changed the STARS password for all accounts that may have been compromised.
2. We have disabled the “self-service password reset” feature in STARS. Now, if you need to reset your password, you need to call the Help Desk at x2847.
3. We also have added a new requirement for logging into STARS with a device that is outside of the APS network. The system will now require you to provide your APS network username and password first before you can log into STARS.
With the help of the outside organizations and experts that we have hired, our entire team in the Department of Information Services continues to focus on the ongoing investigation. In addition, we have obtained the services of an outside cybersecurity expert to advise us on additional steps that can be taken to further ensure our network security. We have also contracted with an outside organization to perform regular security audits of our network in the future.
Shortly after our first article on the data breach was published last week, a tipster told ARLnow.com that the problem was bigger than APS had admitted.
What the ‘announcement’ did not say was that multiple APS employees have been informed by the IRS in the last two weeks that fraudulent returns for 2015 have been filed with their name and social security number along with that of their spouses and children, information beyond W2 information. This is beyond the supposedly 28 employees breached by the exposure of their W2s.
Here’s what the same tipster said earlier this week.
In a follow up to your story of a week ago. In addition to the 28 employees, there are over 90 APS employees who have been impacted by a data breach with many having fraudulent tax returns filed using their names and social security numbers along with their dependents.
Said APS: “We will continue our investigation of the most recent event and update everyone if we obtain additional information.”
(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) More than two dozen Arlington Public Schools employees have had their social security numbers and tax information compromised in a data breach, according to a memo sent to APS employees Monday.
The breach exposed the W-2 tax forms of 28 APS employees, the school system said. APS issues around 7,000 W-2 forms to employees annually, according to Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.
The breach occurred on a third-party server and there is no evidence that APS’ own systems were compromised, the memo says. However, APS has notified the FBI about the incident.
More than 40 companies reported attacks that compromised employee W-2 data during the first quarter of this year, according to news reports.
The memo to employees is below.
Recently, the staff in our Information Services Department was notified that files of W-2 tax forms for 28 APS employees were discovered to have been stored by an unknown party on an out-of-state organization’s server that had been hacked.
After reviewing the circumstances and the contents of the 28 files, at this time we believe that the W-2s were generated individually through the “employee self-service” feature of our STARS ERP system. We have not found any indication or evidence at this time to indicate that this represents a breach of APS the data systems. Currently, we believe that this is a limited incident.
Human Resources staff has contacted the 28 staff members directly to inform them of this discovery, and to provide them with some guidance to help them address the situation.
We have heard recent news reports that this has happened to other individuals in our region and throughout the country, particularly right now as we are at the conclusion of the federal tax filing period. Therefore, APS is taking several steps that are in line with our standard data practices. They will also assist us with our continued investigations, and will help to ensure that our data continues to be protected.
- First, we have contacted the FBI and notified them about this incident.
- We have also contacted the AT&T Cybersecurity Unit and they are performing a complete threat assessment for all of our APS systems.
- Finally, while we will continue to collaborate with the FBI and all parties who are investigating this incident, we have also hired Dr. Naren Kodali, who is an information security expert, to consult on our APS data security systems. Dr. Kodali is a highly-qualified and well-known professional in the field of cyber-security as well and is a professor of Information Security at George Mason University, and has also served as the Dean of Computer Information Systems at other universities.
In addition, as a precaution, we are providing all APS staff with recommendations of best practices that everyone should take to safeguard your personal information online, both at work and at home. Those tips have been posted online in the Staff Central section of the APS website.
Arlington Public Schools will be taking some steps soon to address a rocky outdoor play area at Claremont Immersion Elementary School.
As we reported Tuesday, parents complained about the condition of the fields around the Claremont playground, posting photos of bare, rocky ground and other hazards.
Unlike a previous effort, this time around parents appear to have succeeded in getting the school system to take action.
“After several Claremont parents and I contacted APS about the schoolyard conditions at Claremont Immersion, APS responded within 24 hours,” Melissa Schwaber told ARLnow.com. “They indicated that they are already working on some short term fixes to the schoolyard, while also working with Arlington County Parks and Recreation to identify more sustainable long term solutions.”
“I was gratified to hear such a positive response so quickly from APS, and am optimistic they will follow through on these commitments,” Schwaber added.
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said school facilities staff plans to remove the rocks, plant new grass and put down mulch in a portion of the field, in addition to extending one of the playgrounds by adding mulch. So far, there’s no estimate for when that work will take place.
McKinley Elementary School, in Arlington’s Madison Manor neighborhood, will open the next school year 131 percent over capacity due to construction delays, school officials told parents this week.
McKinley is in the midst of a $22 million expansion project that was approved in 2014. The expansion will add 241 seats to the school, which opened this school year with a capacity of 443 and an already-burgeoning enrollment just north of 600 students.
APS is adjusting school boundaries to move students from Glebe and Tuckahoe elementary schools, which are both also well over capacity, to McKinley this fall. The idea was to balance capacity utilization across the schools, taking advantage of McKinley’s expansion.
There’s only one problem: the expansion, which was to wrap up this summer, is now not expected to be completed until November or December. And APS is moving forward with its boundary adjustments regardless, bringing a projected student body of 712 to McKinley in the fall.
In a presentation to parents and the community, APS said its contractor encountered a number of unexpected problems, including the discovery of an underground spring, old building footings and undocumented utility lines.
Those problems are delaying the expected substantial completion of “Phase 3” of the expansion project — a three-story addition with a number of classrooms and other facilities — until late November.
To bridge the gap, over the summer APS will be re-installing a “six-plex” classroom trailer complex that it had removed over spring break, to allow for the installation of an underground storm water management system. APS was able to meet capacity needs without the trailers thanks to the completion of “Phase 2” — a one-story addition with four new classrooms — over the winter.
A few concerned parents have emailed ARLnow.com about the construction snafu, concerned about APS proceeding with the boundary changes. However, APS’ numbers show that capacity utilization will actually be slightly lower even without the Phase 3 addition.
McKinley was 136.6 percent over capacity when it opened last fall, according to APS. It is projected to be 131.1 percent over capacity when it opens this fall, thanks to a 100-student boost in capacity via the completed expansion work.
Once classes move into the three-story addition over winter break, the school will be 104 percent over capacity: a capacity of 684 for 712 students. That compares to the projected 112.4 percent capacity level at Glebe Elementary and 107.5 percent at Tuckahoe Elementary.
“APS believes that moving the students from Tuckahoe and Glebe to McKinley as planned this fall provides the best continuity of instruction and relieves crowding at both Tuckahoe and Glebe,” Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick told ARLnow.com.
Parents are also concerned about a lack of recreation space for students at McKinley. A new gymnasium won’t be ready until Phase 3 is completed and the fields around the school are now not expected to be restored post-construction until April 2017. This fall, physical education classes will take place in a trailer in the school’s parking lot.
An open field next to Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington is now being used by the school’s relocatable classroom trailers, ahead of an expansion and renovation of the school.
The trailers were recently relocated to the field, next to a playground and on top of a paved loop that’s often used by those learning to ride a bike. About a dozen trees around the field have also been cut down.
According to a construction bidding document, part of the field will also soon be used as a temporary parking lot.
The changes are connected to the expansion and renovation of Abingdon, which was approved last year and is expected to wrap up in 2017.
“The relocatable classrooms have been moved onto the site in preparation for the upcoming construction project,” said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “The existing field will be used for relocatable classrooms and temporary classrooms and then restored at the end of the construction project.”
“In accordance with the approved Use Permit and as agreed upon by the County, some trees were removed prior to the start of construction, prior to April 1 and before birds and animals start nesting in them,” Bellavia added.
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) George Mason University’s Arlington-based law school has been renamed after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
GMU agreed to rename the law school, based in the Virginia Square neighborhood, after receiving two donations for a total of $30 million, the largest combined gift in university history. Of the $30 million, $20 million came from an anonymous donor, via the Federalist Society, and $10 million was donated by the Charles Koch Foundation.
GMU’s Board of Visitors voted in favor of the new name this afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported. Scalia, a McLean resident, passed away in his sleep on Feb. 13 while visiting a Texas ranch.
After the jump, the press release from George Mason University announcing the new name.
Miller will be joining other K-12 teachers on a team at the Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica. The team will be researching high-energy neutrinos.
Miller will “experience first-hand what it is like to conduct scientific research in some of the most remote locations on earth,” and will then be able to use that experience to help engage her students back in Arlington.
“While on field expeditions, teachers and researchers will share their experiences with scientists, educators, communities, and students of all ages through the use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, PolarConnect real-time presentations from the field, and online learning resources,” noted a press release. “After the field experience, teachers and researchers will continue to share their experiences with the public and create instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology to classrooms.”
The expedition is being managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) and funded by the National Science Foundation;
As Arlington Public Schools continues to grapple with ever-increasing enrollment, the school system is continuing to add relocatable classroom trailers to over-capacity schools.
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy included $2.6 million in his proposed budget for the purchase of relocatable classrooms next school year. As the trailers are parked outside of schools, there is increasing concern about the loss of open, recreational space.
At Arlington Science Focus School, near Virginia Square, the PTA recently expressed concern that two additional relocatables, slated to be added next school year, would have to be placed on the school’s blacktop — thus resulting in the loss of a recess and phys ed area. (Four relocatables are already placed on a field outside the school.)
The PTA, working with APS, came up with a solution already at place at some other schools: a “six-plex” modular school unit that houses six classrooms and a common space, not unlike this one. The consolidated unit would cut down on the amount of open space taken up.
There are already five “six-plexes” in Arlington: two at McKinley Elementary and one each at Claremont, Oakridge and Taylor elementary schools.
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia says the school system works with schools, parents and neighbors to figure out the best way to place relocatables at schools. But the need for the modular classrooms, he said, points to the need for APS to continue building new schools and school additions expeditiously.
“We work with school leadership and the neighboring community to find the best location for the relocatables,” Bellavia said. “This is why we need more seats for more students.”
After the jump: the letter from the Science Focus PTA to parents.
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington Democrats will have four School Board candidates to choose from at an endorsement caucus in May.
The “unassembled caucus” — also referred to as a “firehouse primary,” with an instant run-off voting process used to determine the winners — will be held over two days:
- Thursday, May 19 from 7-9 p.m. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.)
- Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street)
There are two School Board seats in contention, one of which is up for grabs with the retirement of School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez. The candidates vying for the Democratic endorsement are:
Prior to the caucus, a candidate debate will be held at the Arlington County Democratic Committee monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6 at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).
While a school budget battle rages in Fairfax County, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy quietly rolled out his budget proposal last night.
Murphy’s budget, which he presented at Thursday’s School Board meeting, calls for a 3.9 percent spending increase over the 2015-2016 school budget. That compares to the 6 percent increase sought by Fairfax County Public Schools, which is also experience growing pains from increased student enrollment.
The proposed, $579.4 million budget includes $10.8 million to handle a projected 4.5 percent growth in student enrollment next school year, $9.6 million for a staff “step increase” in salary, an extra $3 million for infrastructure maintenance and $750,000 for the launch of Arlington Tech, a new environment-and-engineering-focused technical education program at the Arlington Career Center.
Also included: $4.4 million for various instructional and student support initiatives, like new social studies textbooks, an additional substance abuse counselor and three next elementary-level gifted program teachers.
Most of the budget — 59.3 percent — goes to teacher and staff salaries. Murphy said the school system found some “efficiencies” this year by changing some of its salary and health care options for new employees.
APS is expecting enrollment to grow by 1,135 students next school year — it currently stands just above 25,000 — and to exceed 30,000 by 2021. The money in Murphy’s proposed budget would fund new teachers, new instructional materials, two new school buses and includes $2.6 million for new trailer classrooms, called “relocatables” by APS.
Class sizes would remain the same under the proposed budget. The cost per pupil will increase, from $18,616 this year to $18,893.
There is no increase in budget this year for the APS’ 1:1 technology initiative, which provides laptops for each high school student and iPads for students at lower grade levels starting in second grade. The technology rollout will be complete in 2017. From FY 2018-2020, the instructional technology budget is expected to rise a cumulative $9.3 million, due mostly to enrollment growth and the renewal of APS’ technology lease agreement.
Murphy’s budget this year projects a $1.9 million deficit between revenues and expenditures, despite the use of $11.3 million in one-time reserve funds. Thanks to prudent budgeting, administrators said, APS currently has $65.2 million across its various reserve funds.
Debt service amounts to 8.1 percent of the proposed budget — $46.7 million. That’s a slight, 3 percent increase over the current fiscal year. Administrators said that even though APS continues to take on new debt to build and renovate schools, it’s benefiting from the retirement of older debt. APS will begin its capital improvement planning process in June. By law, debt service may not exceed 10 percent of the APS budget.
While declining to make direct comparisons to Fairfax County, Murphy thanked Arlington County leaders for being “committed to maintaining excellence” at APS and credited the county’s diversified tax base — which is evenly split between commercial and residential — for helping to keep the school systems’ finances stable.
“Here in Arlington we believe in public education,” he said. “We have the support of the entire community.”
In terms of budgeting, “the strength of our tax base here and how we manage our money is, I think, our biggest strength,” said Murphy.
“We are very fortunate to live in a community that is committed to providing students with an exceptional public education,” Murphy said in a statement. “As enrollment continues to rise significantly, we want to maintain the assets that have made us an outstanding school division, including dedicated and highly-qualified teachers with small class sizes, healthy and safe spaces that nurture student learning; addressing the individual needs of the whole child; and providing multiple pathways for students to achieve success.”
Following public hearings, the School Board will reveal its proposed budget in April and adopt its final budget in May.