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by Bridget Reed Morawski April 25, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Some members of the Washington-Lee High School Parent-Teacher Association are concerned that the Arlington School Board may re-purpose the adjacent Arlington Education Center into an elementary school instead of adding high school seats, as was previously decided.

The concern stems from a working session on April 12 centered on the Arlington Public Schools Capital Improvement Plan, in which School Board members briefly discussed the costs of potentially converting the Education Center into elementary school space rather than up to 800 high school seats.

John Chadwick, Arlington Public Schools assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said that the cost determination was done in anticipation of the possible need for swing space in the future, to make sure the numbers are correct from the get-go.

The Washington-Lee PTA circulated an email last week noting that changing the Arlington Education Center plans would make it “extremely likely that boundaries will be redrawn.” If a boundary re-working were to occur, it could knock some Washington-Lee families out of the school’s district, the PTA stated.

At the April 12 working session, School Board members Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento both voiced concern about confusion within the community about actions that the School Board may take.

“I’m very concerned that we have two months to make this decision,” said Van Doren at the working session. “This is a compacted time frame and a very complex set of decisions… I’m worried that we need to take the community along as we make that set of decisions.”

Talento added that the Board “cannot be vague” about its future plans, and that the community should be kept apprised of the entire process, even just casual discussions about future facility repurposing. She noted that many families might have already tuned out of school planning discussions because they assumed that nothing would change dramatically, which could cause confusion for those just hearing about a possible Education Center plan change. In fact, Talento said that she herself is unclear on where the Board stands on the matter at this point, and she asked for direction.

“I’m happy to consider, if we’re reconsidering the use, I just need to know and we need the community know that we’re reconsidering,” Talento said.

The email from the WLHS-PTA added that if a re-worked Education Center plan were to come to fruition, the future of and use guidelines for certain facilities — like sports fields and the planetarium — is an open question.

More from the PTA’s email:

In June 2017, the School Board voted to create 500-600 high school seats at the site of the Ed Center building, next to W-L by the planetarium and to create 700-800 high school seats at the Career Center. While the program details for the Ed Center site was not decided at that time, there was a strong possibility that they would have been added as an expansion of WL. If this occurs, W-L would likely get additional benefits such as a black box theater (which YHS and WHS have today, but we don’t) and the capacity to expand our IB program to offer it to any Arlington student who wants it. (Note: For the freshman class entering W-L in 2018, we could accept less than half the students who applied.)

During the April 12 School Board work session, it was revealed that APS staff has been working to determine costs for using the Ed Center site as a Middle School or an Elementary School and to move ALL the new high school seats to a comprehensive neighborhood school at the Career Center school. If this actually happens, it is extremely likely that boundaries will be redrawn such that some W-L families will no longer be in the W-L district. Furthermore, it is not known whether W-L students who can currently take advantage of classes offered at the Career Center would still be allowed to do so. There are questions about facilities such as fields – will we have to give up some of our sports fields to be used by a Middle or Elementary School? What other ramifications are there if a MS or ES is built at this site? Will the planetarium remain or will that be destroyed to make room for parking, a playground, or something else?

It is urgent that W-L’s community be aware of this possible change in plans because the timeline for finalizing decisions is extremely short, and the board is bypassing the typical community engagement process to which we are accustomed. The school board vote to finalize its decision is June 21.

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by Alex Koma April 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) The Arlington School Board could soon change which students are allowed to attend Nottingham Elementary School, and some parents are pushing back on the proposal.

Arlington Public Schools staffers see Nottingham as a candidate to become an “option school,” meaning that students from around the county would be able to attend the Northwest Arlington school, and it would offer specialized programs. APS also is considering converting three other schools to option schools as it re-examines attendance boundaries ahead of opening two new elementary schools over the next three years.

Right now, only students living in a set area near Nottingham can attend the school, and some in the community hope to keep it that way. An online petition created by a user known as “Nottingham Community” on April 19 is urging the board to spurn a recommendation from school staffers and maintain Nottingham’s status as a “neighborhood school.”

The petition, which currently boasts more than 500 signatures, notes that roughly 82 percent of Nottingham’s student body is eligible to walk to school, but converting the school to an option facility would require expanding the bus program to bring in students from other parts of the county.

“Nottingham is tucked away in an upper corner of the county and inside a neighborhood making traveling to and from other parts of the county cumbersome, with potentially very long bus rides,” the petition reads. “Option schools should be centrally located to allow equal access from all parts of the county.”

APS officials stressed at an April 12 School Board work session that other factors are at play in their analysis of Nottingham. For example, they noted that if students are bused to Nottingham from other parts of the county, many existing Nottingham students could be redistributed and walk to other nearby schools — Tuckahoe and Discovery Elementary Schools — instead.

Lisa Stengle, the APS director of planning and evaluation, pointed out that APS may run into trouble drawing new school boundaries in the area once a new elementary school opens at the Reed School site in Westover. APS is currently planning to open that building in 2021, and Stengle believes converting Nottingham to an option school could ease the process of divvying up students in the region.

“Otherwise, we may be developing these boundaries that go long and narrow down the county, which requires lots of buses,” Stengle told the board.

Stengle added that APS is projecting that northwest Arlington’s student population will continue growing rapidly in the coming years, which could put even more of a strain on Nottingham if it remains a neighborhood school.

She added that no final determination has been made about which other schools will be recommended to the School Board for conversion to option schools, although Claremont, Carlin Springs and Arlington Science Focus are strongly being considered. County staff plan to release a full draft list of recommendations for neighborhood and option school designations next week, on April 30, then collect community feedback through May 10. APS staff plan to release final recommendations this fall.

“This is really saying that every neighborhood school is at play, but every option school is as well,” said School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen. “It’s really equalizing the stress we’re feeling across the community.”

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com April 24, 2018 at 12:25 pm 0

Arlington County firefighters are investigating light smoke that filled a classroom at Taylor Elementary School around lunchtime today.

A large fire department response was dispatched to the school at 2600 N. Stuart Street. Students and staff have been evacuated, according to scanner traffic.

No fire or flames have been found and firefighters are investigating work on the roof as a possible cause, according to radio traffic. Police are blocking off roads around the school.

by Alex Koma April 24, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

The Arlington School Board could soon overhaul the school division’s policy governing how students use electronic devices in classrooms.

Arlington Public Schools officials presented a new version of technology “acceptable use” guidelines for the board to consider on April 19. The policy would create a new set of standards around how students use their own devices in schools, as well as equipment provided by APS.

Though APS has long relied on guidelines governing how students and teachers can use electronic devices and the internet, school staff are in the midst of a wholesale revision of those policies to keep up with advances in technology.

The proposed acceptable use policy for students stipulates that the use of devices is a “privilege, not a right,” and lays out the division’s process for handling incidents where students use electronic devices in inappropriate ways.

“In essence, if you can’t do something off of technology, you can’t do it in technology,” Tara Nattrass, Arlington’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, told the board.

The proposed policy also sets limits on how APS can collect student data through electronic devices. Specifically, the document bars APS from collecting “unnecessary personal information by means of its website” and directs the division to only take in data “only to the extent necessary to serve its constituents and the community.”

However, the policy does still allow school officials to archive, read and monitor any content generated on APS-owned devices or networks.

Nattrass stressed to the board that this acceptable use policy does not address issues like screen time limits for younger students or the use of devices at home. However, she noted that officials do plan to release more information on those issues later this summer, and some on the board heartily encouraged Nattrass to keep the community apprised of that process.

“I need to know when the rest of this is going to get done and where this is going to be,” said school board member Nancy Van Doren.

The board is set to vote on the draft policy on May 3.

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by Bridget Reed Morawski April 19, 2018 at 5:45 pm 0

The Arlington School Board will hear an update on student rights and the partnership between schools and the Arlington County Police Department at tonight’s (April 19) meeting.

The board will consider a memorandum of understanding that details the ways by which Arlington Public Schools and ACPD intends to “foster relations of mutual respect and understanding in order to build a positive and safe school environment.” Police officers are embedded in schools full time via the department’s School Resource Officer unit.

The document goes on to note that “the vast majority of student misconduct can be best addressed through classroom and in-school strategies,” and enumerates the difference between school discipline and law enforcement matters.

School administrators and teachers are responsible for school discipline. SROs are expected to be familiar with the school division code of student conduct, the rules of individual schools, and their application in day-to-day practice, SROs should not be involved with the enforcement of school rules or disciplinary infractions that are not violations of law. However, SROs may remind students of school rules or disciplinary infractions with prior approval from school administrators.

Consequences of student misconduct should be effective, developmentally appropriate, and fair. Interventions and school sanctions should help students learn from their mistakes and address root causes of misconduct. School administrators will consider alternatives to suspensions and law enforcement officials may consider alternatives to referrals to juvenile court services and arrests for student violations of law.

The [School-Law Enforcement Partnership] shall operate in a manner to ensure children with disabilities receive appropriate behavioral interventions and supports.

Also discussed are policies relating to sharing information about students, interviews and investigations, and searches.

A “student rights draft” has been drafted and is part of the presentation. In an effort to “empower students,” it describes the rights that students have and what interactions are and are not permitted between a student and law enforcement.

The police department previously published a pamphlet for students with “tips for interacting with law enforcement.” Advice includes “do not walk away from officers when they are trying to talk to you” and “if you are at a party where alcohol is present and the police arrive, do not run away and do not hide.”

by ARLnow.com April 13, 2018 at 4:30 pm 0

Police and medics responded to Williamsburg Middle School Friday afternoon after a student suffered a serious medical emergency.

“There was a medical emergency in a 6th period class and CPR was performed,” an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed. “The student was transported to the hospital and was accompanied by an assistant principal.”

So far there’s no word as to the cause of the medical emergency nor the student’s current condition.

by Anna Merod April 5, 2018 at 9:50 am 0

A community conversation regarding sex and violence is set to be held today (Thursday) at Yorktown High School.

The event, scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s Patriot Hall, will kick off Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Arlington.

Entitled “#MeToo: What Men, Boys, and Everyone Need to Know,” the event will feature nationally recognized scholar and activist Jackson Katz as the keynote speaker. Katz is also the co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), an organization that has been running gender violence, sexual harassment and bullying prevention programs for more than 20 years.

Almost 50 percent of Arlington Public School female students in grades 8, 10 and 12 report that they have been sexually harassed while at school, according to the Arlington 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Other community leaders will also be in attendance, including Arlington Chief of Police Jay Farr, County Board Chair Katie Crisol and Theo Stamos, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. Middle and high school students as well as adults are encouraged to attend.

Arlington’s Project PEACE is hosting the event in partnership with INOVA Fairfax Hospital and Arlington Public Schools. Project PEACE, which stands for Partnering to End Abuse in the Community for Everyone, is a community educational initiative to end domestic and sexual violence in the county.

Photo via APS

by Anna Merod April 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

At least 500 Wakefield High School students are scheduled learn how to give hands-on CPR on Thursday.

The event is part of the “Hands2Hearts” initiative which seeks to help every adult working or living in Arlington to learn hands-only CPR.

The initiative is sponsored by the Arlington County Fire Department and Virginia Hospital Center. Organizers will spend 30 minutes teaching students how to recognize a cardiac arrest victim while teaching them how to potentially save their lives through hands-only CPR.

Students will also be taught how to treat a choking victim and use an automated external defibrillator. Students reached out to ACFD and VHC to bring the event to school.

by ARLnow.com April 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm 0

The principal of Patrick Henry Elementary School died unexpectedly over the weekend.

Parents were informed this morning of Annie Turner’s passing. The cause of death “is unknown at this time,” according to the email.

“This morning, a support team of administrators, psychologists, counselors, and social workers from Arlington Public Schools joined our Henry team to provide counseling and support to the staff and students,” the email noted. “Counselors will be available today and throughout the days ahead for those who need additional support with this news.”

Turner, who has degrees from the University of Virginia and George Mason University, first joined Arlington Public Schools as a physical education teacher at Jamestown Elementary in 1986, according to her school biography. She became principal of Patrick Henry in 2014.

Turner is married and enjoyed “vacationing, exercising and walking together and attending sporting events and concerts” with her husband, the biography said.

The letter to parents and school staff is below.

Dear Henry Students, Staff and Families:

It is with great sadness that we are writing to let you know that Annie Turner, principal of Patrick Henry Elementary School, died unexpectedly on Saturday morning.  The exact cause is unknown at this time.

We know that this is a shock for everyone in our school and the community, and ask that you join us to remember and celebrate Annie’s life. On behalf of the Turner family, we also ask that you to respect their privacy during this difficult time as they grieve their sudden loss.

It is very difficult for all of us to face the death of anyone close to us. This morning, a support team of administrators, psychologists, counselors, and social workers from Arlington Public Schools joined our Henry team to provide counseling and support to the staff and students. Counselors will be available today and throughout the days ahead for those who need additional support with this news.

Your child may be coming home with questions and worries about this loss. Although we cannot predict how any child may react, we will work to be sensitive and aware of the common reactions experienced by grieving children. We also are enclosing some suggestions that may be helpful to you as you discuss Ms. Turner’s death in the days ahead. Please feel free to contact the school if you have an issue you would like to discuss.

I know you join us in extending our heartfelt sympathy to Annie Turner’s family. When we receive word about funeral arrangements, we will share the information with you. […]

Sincerely,

Cameron Snyder, Assistant Principal
Dr. Patrick Murphy, Superintendent

by ARLnow.com March 29, 2018 at 11:15 am 0

A social studies teacher popped the question to a fellow educator at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington yesterday, and the proposal was captured on video.

The couple, John Whittaker and Lisa Moynihan, met when they were both teaching at the private school, which is also known by the acronym DJO. That culminated in a moment Wednesday afternoon that gave “new meaning to ‘student engagement,'” in the words of one of their colleagues.

Moynihan recounted what happened.

“It was a total surprise to me — John, who taught at DJO last year but is currently teaching at Visitation, had coordinated with some of our friends and colleagues to help him pull it off,” she wrote. “Many of our former students were there to witness it all. It was such a special moment, because as he said in his proposal, O’Connell is where we met and fell in love.”

Students cheered as Moynihan tearfully said “yes.”

There was also something special about the ring, which is not seen clearly in the video. Whittaker had arranged to propose with the ring Moynihan’s grandfather gave to her grandmother just before he went off to enlist during World War II.

The newly-engaged couple plans to get married at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame in the summer of 2019.

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 27, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

Some Arlington Public Schools parents are unhappy with proposed budget cuts that would lead to fewer weekly world language instructional hours.

The proposed 2019 APS budget includes a number of reductions that aim to resolve the “$16 million in reductions this year in the face of our continuing growing enrollment needs,” wrote APS assistant superintendent Linda Erdos in an email to ARLnow.

The budget proposal includes the following FLES, or Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools, teacher reductions:

€The planning factor formula for FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools) teachers is changed. This results in a reduction of 11.5 FLES teacher positions as follows: a 0.50 reduction each at Abington, Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Ashlawn, Barrett, Drew, Carlin Springs, Henry, Jamestown, Long Branch, McKinley, Discovery, Nottingham, Oakridge, Randolph, Taylor and Tuckahoe and a 1.0 reduction each at Glebe, Claremont, and Key. The new planning factor allocates a 0.5 teacher up to 100 students, a 1.0 teacher for 101 to 215 students, a 1.5 teacher for 216 to 340 students, a 2.0 teacher for 341 to 470 students, 2.5 teachers for 471 to 610 students, and 3.0 teachers for 611 to 770 students, and 3.5 teachers for 771 to 930 students.

Instructional time would be reduced alongside the staff reductions.

“Staff will work out the model and schedules with principals so it’s equitable for all elementary schools,” wrote Erdos.

One Arlington parent, Kelly Alexis, emailed those she referred to as “Friends of FLES,” imploring that they take time to support the program by contacting School Board members themselves and asking for more information as to how this cut was agreed upon.

Alexis also sent the following email to School Board members regarding the potential reduction:

Dear School Board Members,

I am certain that all of you share the goal of providing equitable and quality education to our elementary school children, though I do not see a unified vision.

Looking at the proposed cuts that include FLES, Arts and more, and hearing School Board members question the need for such programs, it is clear to me there is no unified vision or focus on instruction for our youngest learners and as a whole for APS. When the need for FLES is questioned even though APS has set as a strategic goal to have APS students proficient in two languages upon graduation we have an instructional management issue.

More cuts in instruction will not solve this problem, ignoring the need for ES students to have exposure to World Language will not improve test scores.

What is the School Board’s instructional vision? The Superintendents proposed budget’s FY19 Elementary School priorities are disturbing and miss the “whole child”, social and emotional well being and World Language completely, how does that even happen?* As a county we can easily put ourselves in the position to pit program against program though it will take a School Board with vision and fortitude to stick with its own strategic goals meeting the essential and basic needs of our students and ensuring that program are delivered with consistency and equity.

APS or School Board members must be able to explain to the community how they have evaluated every proposed budget addition or budget cut against that vision, and how they have arrived at each of their decisions in the context of that vision. You cannot continue to cut staff and access to language instruction without communicating how these actions “refine” and I assume improve (how?) World Language delivery as stated in the budget.

We cannot throw out or reduce programs such as FLES due to arbitrary questions without looking at the facts. Putting FLES against recess is ridiculous and short sighted, why not provide both? If we are going to throw out programs due to inconsistent feedback and program delivery then 1:1 should be at the top of the list. Lets review the data and look at the best practies set forth by ACTFL and see how we measure up to meet the needs of our World Language goals.

We must provide APS students appropriate resources to ensure safe learning environments, strong social emotional supports and instruction that is developmentally appropriate and evidence based. We know early exposure to language provides tremendous learning benefits, its proven with years of study. World Language acquisition is a vital skill and early exposure is essential.

We know that many APS programs are not perfect, though I feel APS is not trying hard enough and this budget process is showing true colors on priorities – SOL’s and devices in young hands prevail while humanities and Art take a back seat.

Our youngest learners deserve better and APS owes us an explanation NOW, before you cut staff and vital instructional programs through this budget process, of what your vision is in regards to FLES, 1:1 and instruction overall that does not involve an SOL test score.

Thank you for your time,
Kelly Alexis

The School Board has one remaining work session to discuss and make changes to the proposed budget, on Tuesday, April 3. The School Board is set to adopt the proposed budget at the School Board meeting on Thursday, April 5.

File photo

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 26, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

The Arlington School Board viewed the proposed concept design for a new elementary school in Westover last week.

With a desired opening date of September 2021, the 725-seat elementary school at the Reed School site has a total project cost estimate of $55.1 million, which is about $6 million more than what was approved by the School Board on June 16, 2016.

A chart underlining funding sources noted that the $6 million extra would come from a “to be determined” source, though staff requested that cost cutting measures be explored to bring the cost back down to the initial $49 million. Construction funding for the elementary school is set to be put to a bond referendum for voters in November.

The existing structure, according to a School Board document, is “appropriate for early childhood program” but has several issues to be addressed, including an “inefficient layout,” “visibility/security,” and the fact that it is “space constrained for older students.”

The “recommended scheme” allows for the lowest total energy use per square foot, classroom transition times, required parking, and loss of open space, and “keeps the most site amenities.” Downsides to the concept design, noted officials, included “minor utility relocation” and constructing a “four-story building next to a two-story building and homes.”

The project will expand the existing Reed School, at 1644 N. McKinley Road, that currently houses The Children’s School, the Westover Branch Library, and the Integration Station, a pre-K student program for those with disabilities.

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 23, 2018 at 3:55 pm 0

The Arlington School Board reviewed the design and proposed construction contract for the Stratford School building renovation at its meeting last night (March 22).

In a presentation, Arlington Public Schools staff said that the guaranteed maximum price of the renovation and three-story addition — which will prepare the building to host a new neighborhood middle school as the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program moves to Rosslyn — “exceeded previous estimates by several million dollars.” A vote to approve the revised price ceiling is slated for next month.

“Much of the overage was because market escalation has outpaced the rate included in design estimates – consequences of unexpected increases in material costs and subcontractor labor shortages,” the presentation said.

The price ceiling submission was $4.68 million over the target value, according to the presentation, or about 17 percent over. The new project total is approximately $39.15 million.

To keep costs down, APS refined estimated soft costs, underwent selective rebidding, and undertook value engineering and scope reductions. The interior design and suggested roofing materials were modified to find low-to-no-impact ways to cut costs, the document stated.

Over 160 separate items were evaluated to find ways to cut costs for the project while making the smallest impact on teaching, learning, and “community improvements discussed during the public process.”

Other potential savings were found but would require undesirable revisions, including the elimination of an arts and technology suite and new gymnasium bleachers, among other educational amenities deemed necessary.

Most of the funding for the $39 million project will come from school bonds, but $2.3 million will come from the county government under a joint funding agreement.

The project may also be eligible for a Virginia Historic Tax Credit of between $1.5-2 million, which would be used to replenish APS’ capital reserve, according to the presentation. The Stratford School was the first Virginia public school to integrate.

Construction at the site, which is expected to add 310 seats for a total of 1,000 seats, is set to begin in April. Officials are expecting to welcome students for the first day of school in September 2019.

Screenshots via Arlington School Board

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 22, 2018 at 4:50 pm 0

An open air market is coming to Barrett Elementary School in Buckingham, pending an Arlington School Board vote on its license agreement tonight.

The market would be run by Field To Table, Inc., the same nonprofit that operates the Westover Farmers Market, and would pay an annual fee of $200 to use the property.

Proposed operating hours are 8 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays from April to November, with the nonprofit being responsible for premise clean up by 1 p.m. School board document do not list the exact start date of the market.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s office has recommended that the school board approve the license agreement at its monthly meeting tonight (March 22).

The market is expected to be called the Lubber Run Farmers Market which, according to a newsletter for the Arlington Forest neighborhood, will “avoid some of the negatives of other suggested names.”

Additional volunteers are being sought to help out with the market, the newsletter says, adding that it will be “an exciting addition to the neighborhood community bringing together residents from Arlington Forest and neighboring areas to enjoy shopping for fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, bread and so on.”

Vendors for a farmers market at Barrett are not yet listed, but current vendors at the Westover Farmers Market include Baltimore’s Dimitri Olive Farms, Woodbridge’s Gina’s Pacific Jams and Jellies, and Arlington’s Mormor Crepes.

File photo

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 21, 2018 at 9:15 pm 0

(Updated at 10 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools’ classes and offices will open two hours late tomorrow (March 22) as the county cleans up from the winter storm that left at least four inches of snow in the area today.

The delay comes after the Virginia Department of Transportation warned of overnight refreezing of melting water.

From APS spokesperson Darryl Johnson:

All APS schools and offices will open two hours late on Thursday, March 22. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled. Essential employees and food service workers should report to work at their regularly scheduled time. All other employees should report to work two hours past their usual start time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics.

Also Thursday, Metrobuses and Arlington Transit buses will start the morning with limited service. From WMATA:

Metrobus will begin Thursday, March 22, on a light snow plan with snow detours in effect on a route-by-route basis where hilly terrain or narrow streets may be problematic for buses.

MetroAccess paratransit service for riders with disabilities will be restored on Thursday. Customers may experience delays and service impacts due to road conditions.

Metrorail will open tomorrow at 5 a.m. with normal weekday service on all rail lines.

File photo

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