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by ARLnow.com — February 12, 2016 at 2:25 pm 0

Ahead of tonight’s potentially disruptive snow, Arlington Public Schools has cancelled all evening activities.

From APS:

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for icy road conditions today from 5pm to 11pm and encourages everyone to adjust their travel plans during this time. As a result of the forecast for rush hour this evening, all APS Late Athletic Buses as well as all APS evening activities are cancelled for today.  Tonight’s Summer Activities Fair is also canceled and will be held next Friday, Feb. 19. The APS Extended Day Program will close at the regular time, but parents are encouraged to pick up their children earlier if possible.

The cancelled activities include athletic events, like tonight’s scheduled Wakefield High School basketball games and senior night.

https://twitter.com/WakeAthletics/status/698221328172711937

Also tonight, Arlington County community centers will be closing at 5 p.m. That and other cancellations from the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation:

  • The Summer Camp Fair scheduled at Thomas Jefferson Community Center tonight at 6 p.m. is canceled.
  • All community centers (joint use and standalone) will close for the evening at 5 p.m.
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips and nature center programs in all buildings with start times of 4 p.m. or later are canceled.
  • All Sports activities, leagues and instructional programs are canceled for this evening.
  • DPR Elementary and Teen After-school Programs will close at 5 p.m.
  • All other events and activities scheduled after 5 p.m. this evening are canceled.
  • All synthetic fields are closed for this evening.
  • Powhatan Springs Skate park closed after 5 p.m.

The snow is currently not expected to start falling in Arlington until around 8 p.m. From the Capital Weather Gang:

by Tim Regan — February 5, 2016 at 3:50 pm 0

APS Enrollment Report screenshot 2

The number of PreK-12 students enrolled in Arlington Public Schools is expected to surpass 30,000 in 2022 after steadily rising for years, according to APS in its newly released enrollment report.

School officials say 25,238 students were enrolled as of Sept. 30, 2015, the first time since 1969 that APS has reached the 25,000 student milestone. By 2017, the school projects 27,491 students will have enrolled, an increase of 4.5 percent over the previous year. And steady growth continues from there: The school says its student body will grow by at least 2.5 percent until the 2021-2022 school year, when it’s expected to surpass 30,700 students.

According to APS, the total number of enrolled students “has risen at an unprecedented high growth pattern since 2008.” Since fall 2005, the number of students has grown by more than 6,800 students, an increase of about 37 percent.

Growth will likely slow to 1.7 percent by 2023 and continue to wane thereafter, APS adds. By 2026, the school’s student body is projected to grow only by 0.6 percent and reach an enrollment total of 32,807.

Overall, the school expects to add nearly 7,600 students between now and 2026.

APS Enrollment Report screenshot alternative projectionsThough all other alternative projections put the school over 30,000 students by 2024 at the latest, APS says it’s possible that the number of enrolled students could shrink instead of grow by that time. One projection says the school could lose 1,181 students between 2021 and 2025. But the school cautions that such alternative projections “are not statistical confidence limits, but instead represent judgments made by planning staff as to reasonable upper and lower bounds.”

Among the factors used to project school enrollment was historic birth rates in Arlington County, which are used to project the number of future incoming kindergarten students.

APS Enrollment Report screenshot birth dataAn average of 2,800 live births per year were recorded in Arlington between 2004 to 2008. Between 2009 and 2013, a period APS refers to as “the wave,” about 3,100 births on average were recorded each year. As children born during “the wave” grow up, they’re expected to crowd schools as they advance through elementary, middle and high school.

In response, APS has in the past undertaken several actions to mitigate school crowding, like hiring 387 new teachers last summer and utilizing trailer classrooms.

Among the steps being taken by APS to add more capacity for the growing student body are adding an elementary school at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School site, expanding Abingdon Elementary in Fairlington and building the new Stratford Middle School while moving the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program to Rosslyn.

Graphs via APS Enrollment Report

by ARLnow.com — February 5, 2016 at 11:05 am 0

Students going back to school (file photo)Arlington Public Schools will soon no longer be sending paper flyers home in students’ backpacks.

The so-called backpack mail for parents of elementary and middle school students is being phased out in favor of an electronic system, following a successful pilot program, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

The system, called Peachjar, is specifically designed for schools. It sends electronic flyers to parents’ email inboxes, thus cutting costs and staff time that would otherwise be spent making paper copies and distributing them.

The new system is being rolled out to all elementary and middle schools “over the next few weeks,” Bellavia said.

Families can request that they keep receiving paper copies and paper flyers will be posted on school bulletin boards. Otherwise, there are a number of options for electronic delivery.

“Parents can access the flyers via weekly email notifications they receive, by checking the school’s website, or accessing flyers on the APS Mobile App,” said Bellavia. “Families like the Peachjar option because electronic copies stay online for at least 30 days, and are linked directly to the organization’s website where they can access more information or directly sign up for programs electronically, which is more convenient than keeping track of paper copies and following up on advertised services.”

The pilot program took place at six elementary schools and one middle school last fall and of the families surveyed about it, 86 percent said they wanted to keep the new system instead of returning to backpack mail, according to APS. Nonprofit organizations and PTAs also participate in backpack mail and APS received an enthusiastic response from them.

“More than 100 nonprofit organizations who participate in our backpack mail program were surveyed, and only one respondent indicated a desire to return to backpack mail,” said Bellavia. “APS, schools and PTAs can use the service for free, and nonprofit organizations pay a nominal fee that is less costly than making copies, to distribute their flyers electronically to families. Our PTAs are excited about the service because they can use it for free to distribute their flyers, saving time and the expense of printing paper copies.”

“This program supports the APS commitment to its core value of sustainability, and many families, community members and staff have urged APS to find a paperless (environmentally friendly) alternative to backpack mail,” Bellavia noted.

High schools do not have backpack mail and thus are not slated to get the new system. After the jump, a video about Peachjar.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — February 1, 2016 at 10:45 am 0

Six-foot high mountains of snow in the Taylor Elementary school zone (file photo)Arlington Public Schools students are off today due to a scheduled teacher grade preparation day. It’s the eighth consecutive weekday off for APS students, who’ve enjoyed one snow day after another since Thursday, Jan. 21.

Care-free snow days, however, could eventually become a thing of the past.

APS is likely, in the near future, to consider the idea of having students “telecommute” from home when school is cancelled. They would do so from their school-issued computers — APS is in the process of outfitting every high school student with a Macbook Air and every second- through eighth-grader with an iPad.

Once every second-grade student and up has a laptop or iPad, teachers could assign homework, reading and online lessons remotely and students could complete it from the comfort of their own homes. Theoretically, at least — some policy changes would be needed, particularly when it comes to expectations for teachers. There’s also the question of whether all APS teachers and families have internet access at home.

“For students, it will be explored in the future once all students have devices,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com. “For teachers, this will require some policy changes which will probably be discussed in the future as well.”

File photo

by ARLnow.com — January 28, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

Arlington Public Schools logo(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will be closed Friday, for the seventh weekday in a row.

School offices will be open on time but students will not have classes, APS said. The last school day for students was Wednesday, Jan. 20.

The last time APS students had this many days off in a row as a result of weather? During the “Snowmageddon” blizzard of 2010.

Students also have a scheduled off day on Monday, due to a teacher grade preparation day. There are no plans to change that, said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

According to Bellavia, so far there is no need for makeup days.

“This year’s calendar included 181 instructional days for elementary, middle and high school students,” he said. “The state requires that students receive either 180 days or 990 hours of instructional time. Based on instructional hours, the first 10 days lost (or the equivalent of 10 school days) will not need to be made up.”

by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2016 at 5:40 pm 0

Arlington Public Schools logo(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will be closed Thursday due to an anticipated icy morning commute and remaining snow and hazardous driving on neighborhood streets.

The school system made the announcement around 5:30 p.m.

Students are now entering their second week off; schools have been closed since last Thursday. Students have a scheduled off day on Monday due to a teacher grade preparation day.

Arlington County announced tonight that it has completed initial plow passes on all county roads, making at least one drivable lane in residential areas.

From APS:

All APS schools will be closed tomorrow and offices will be open on time. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time.

We apologize that today’s notice is later than earlier this week, but we wanted to take more time to assess the situation across the County.  Like you, we want to open schools as soon as possible to resume instruction.  We still recognize, however, that there are still challenges with snow throughout the community in many neighborhoods.  As a result, we have decided to close again tomorrow and our offices will be open on time.  Please be assured that APS will open schools as soon as conditions improve.  Thank you for your patience and understanding this week.

by ARLnow.com — January 25, 2016 at 3:10 pm 0

Snowy school bus in January 2015Arlington Public Schools will remain closed Wednesday, the school system announced this afternoon.

Students last attended classes this past Wednesday, Jan. 20, before schools were closed on Thursday due to Wednesday night’s snowfall and traffic disaster. Schools remained closed Friday, in anticipation of the weekend blizzard, and have remained closed since.

School offices will be closed Tuesday, but may reopen Wednesday, APS said.

“Essential employees should report as scheduled,” the school system said. “School officials will announce the status of operations for buildings and offices on Tuesday afternoon.”

by ARLnow.com — January 13, 2016 at 9:25 am 0

A three-point shot with time expiring gave the Wakefield boys varsity basketball team the win at home over Marshall last night.

Wakefield logoTrailing 35-41 with 3:28 to go, the Warriors’ defense stepped up and the team battled back to 39-41. With just seconds on the clock, Deng Nhial received an inbound pass and then fired it to Halil Parks, who was standing just beyond the three point line.

Parks drained the three with a jump shot for the game-winner, sending teammates and fans storming onto the court to celebrate the victory.

Wakefield improved to 14-0, and is now ranked No. 10 in the region by the Washington Post. The Post has a full recap of the game.

by ARLnow.com — January 7, 2016 at 9:45 am 0

Tannia Talento (photo via Facebook)(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) A self-described local school activist is running to replace retiring Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.

Tannia Talento announced her candidacy at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.

A first-generation immigrant from Guatemala, Talento and her husband, Gary, currently have two children in Washington-Lee High School.

From a fundraising page:

Tannia knows firsthand how important education is to ensuring children have the brightest future possible. That is why she is extremely involved in Arlington’s public schools. Tannia has served on the Math Citizens Advisory Committee, the ESOL/HILT Citizens Advisory Committee, the Superintendent’s Master Planning Working Group, and on the Advisory Council on Instruction as a Vice Chair. Some of her most recent work includes the Facilities Study Committee and serving on the Career Center Parent Advisory Committee. Now she is running for School Board to make sure all of Arlington’s students have a fair shot at a world class education.

From a press release:

Local school activist and community leader Tannia Talento announced her candidacy to become and Arlington School Board Member tonight at the Arlington Democratic Committee Meeting.

Talento, a first-generation American, spoke before a large crowd of local Democratic activists tonight announcing her campaign to replace Emma Violand Sanchez, who is retiring at the end of 2016, on the School Board.

In her remarks, Talento explained her personal story, having had to help care for her family during high school, and make sure that her siblings were cared for when their mother became seriously ill. Talento had to drop out of high school to care for her family, later earning her high school diploma through an alternative program, and working her way up to become a legal secretary at one of the world’s largest corporate law firms.

Talento spoke about her drive to achieve educational success in the face of adversity and her desire to see every student reach graduation day without experiencing the adversity she faced.

“I believe that we can ensure that every one of our students will make it to graduation day educated to the highest standards and prepared for their future so that no student in Arlington has to live a version of my story,” Talento said.

Talento has lived in Arlington with her family for 12 years and has spent the last 5 years working her way through the school committees and commissions. From her time on those committees, she believes that Arlington Public Schools has the opportunity and the necessity to better advocate for children of all walks of life.

“As a School Board Member, I will advocate for every child to ensure that their needs are met and that they are prepared for life beyond high school,” Talento said.

Retiring School Board Member Dr. Emma Violand Sanchez introduced Tannia Talento before her remarks and highlighted Talento’s service to APS and its students.

“Her work in our schools has been towards the advancement of students of all walks of life, and ensuring that every one of our children has a shot at success in our schools and beyond,” Dr. Violand Sanchez said. “I believe Tannia’s vision is what we need in Arlington… I am proud to support her candidacy.”

Talento is running for the Democratic Endorsement, which will be determined through a “firehouse primary,” or open caucus. The caucus will be held on two dates, Thursday May 19th from 7pm to 9pm at Drew Model School and Saturday May 21st from 11am to 7pm at Washington-Lee High School.

Photo via Facebook

by Jennifer Currier — December 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

New elementary school near Thomas Jefferson (via APS)

Update at 10:45 a.m. — The Thomas Jefferson site has been approved. From Arlington County:

At its Dec. 15 Recessed County Board Meeting, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to approve the use of the northwest portion of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Community Center site (currently a parking lot) as the site for a new south Arlington elementary school. the Board’s action came in response to the Arlington Public School Board’s request that the site be approved.

The Board also directed the Acting County Manager to “expeditiously initiate the public facilities review committee process with participation by all appropriate stakeholder groups, building on the site analysis, including placement and impact mitigation, already done by the Thomas Jefferson working group.”

Earlier: After a year of back-and-forth over choosing a site for a new South Arlington elementary school, the County Board is expected to reconsider the land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School for the project.

The Thomas Jefferson site is the final item on tonight’s recessed meeting agenda.

The County Board originally rejected the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on the county-owned land, following objections from a vocal group of residents who expressed concern about parkland and traffic. As part of the rejection, the Board agreed to reconsider the request if APS took adequate time and measures to analyze other potential sites.

The South Arlington Working Group was established in June for that purpose.

The group’s work was finished earlier this fall. It considered approximately 20 different potential sites, choosing Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Gunston Middle School/Oakridge Elementary School and Drew Model Elementary as the finalists.

In its most recent report, the group once again preferred the Thomas Jefferson site. The School Board, which voted on Dec. 3 to select the TJ site, is asking the County Board to do the same so that the proposed project could be completed in time for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

The County Manager is now also recommending the Board approve the TJ site for the school, which would then be subject to use permit approval, design adoption and other planning processes.

The Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park group, however, says it’s still “concerned” about an elementary school on the TJ site, despite steps taken to mitigate negative impacts on the park, which is adjacent to the middle school.

“We ask that if you select this location for a new elementary school, you commit to fully funding necessary improvements and ensuring the community continues to have full access to park and recreation assets at Thomas Jefferson Park,” the group said in a letter to the County Board.

 

Funding and specific plans for the elementary school project have not been finalized. However, when the Superintendent first proposed a new elementary school in his 2015-24 Capital Improvement Plan, the plan said the school would cost $50 million and have 725 seats.

by Jennifer Currier — December 8, 2015 at 12:15 pm 0

APS Host SafeBAE (via Facebook:SafeBAE)A survivor-driven program on preventing and responding to sexual violence in middle and high schools across the country is coming to Arlington this weekend.

Arlington Public Schools is hosting the SafeBAE (Before Anyone Else) National Summit at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) this Saturday, Dec. 12 from 2-4 p.m.

SafeBAE is a virtual organization that is focused on students by raising awareness about sexual assault and educating them about their rights under Title IX to prevent dating violence. Its programs are designed to give students resources and skills to advocate for consent and safe relationship education.

During Saturday’s program, attendees will hear the stories of four students who were assaulted and how they now work with the organization toward social change. All of the speakers were victims of rape, some of whose stories made national news.

Other panelists include legal experts and members of the School Board.

The event is open to members of the APS community and their families. Tickets are free and available online, but donations are also accepted.

Photo via Facebook/SafeBAE

by Jennifer Currier — December 1, 2015 at 6:00 pm 0

Test Taking (file photo)Yorktown High School will offer the Preliminary SAT in the spring for students with disabilities as part of an agreement resolving a complaint made by a Yorktown parent to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Typically taken by high school sophomores and juniors, the PSAT is a practice test for the SAT. Those with do exceptionally well could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program and win college tuition money.

Michelle Buehlmann filed the federal complaint in early October after her daughter was unable to take the PSAT earlier this fall.

Her daughter is a sophomore with a 504 Plan, an education plan for students who have disabilities but do not require special education services. In order for her to take the test, special accommodations that followed her 504 would need to be approved by the College Board, which coordinates the PSAT.

Applying for those accommodations is typically a responsibility taken on by the schools.

Buehlmann said once she realized Yorktown hadn’t applied and hadn’t informed her or her husband they would have to apply themselves, she filed the complaint.

“When I became aware that the school made the decision just to not apply and not tell us, I told them it wasn’t right and decided to file,” she explained. “It really was an honest misunderstanding and I’m sure a lot of it was miscommunication, but now we’re making sure something is done.”

Yesterday morning, Buehlmann and APS came to an early complaint resolution agreement in a meeting facilitated by the DOE. The agreement includes provisions for both Yorktown and the County to address this issue.

Not only will Yorktown administer the PSAT again in the spring for students with disabilities, but it also agreed to notify students and their parents about the test this week. In addition, the school will help them apply to the College Board for accommodations, a process that must be completed by Dec. 15.

In the long term, APS agreed to notify parents of 8th, 9th and 10th grade students with disabilities about the process to request accommodations by May 1 every year. They also agreed to train county school counseling staff on this application process.

Buehlmann said she was pleased with the complaint process overall and the final agreement they reached.

“Everyone handled the situation very well, and both agencies got their job done efficiently and effectively,” she said. “I think it’s a great example of how a large bureaucracy like the DOE and a big institution like APS can work well with parents to get a job done.”

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman declined to comment.

File photo

by Jennifer Currier — November 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

The Arlington School Board approved the proposed design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale at its meeting Monday night.

The project includes an addition to and renovation of the existing building at 4100 N. Vacation Lane. The building is currently home to the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, which will be moving to the new Wilson School in Rosslyn once both projects are complete.

Specific features of the Stratford project include:

  • 1,000-student middle school
  • 35,000 square foot addition, minimum
  • 144 parking spaces
  • One-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive
  • Traffic and safety improvements on N. Vacation Lane
  • Pedestrian crossing on Old Dominion Drive

The approved addition will be built on the west side of the building and is three stories tall. According to a news release, all renovations will keep the historic existing building in tact, including its south facade.

Architects also provided a second driveway option for the school if VDOT does not approve an exit on Old Dominion Drive.

Funding available for the project ranges from $31.3 million to $36.3 million. The School Board is expected to approve a schematic design in February.

The school system has opposed a push by preservationists to designate Stratford a local historic district, saying it would cause delays and drive up costs. In 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.

Stratford Middle School is expected to open in Sept. 2019.

Photos via APS/Quinn Evans Architects

by ARLnow.com — October 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

Apple Macbook Air laptopA temporary change in Arlington Public Schools’ Wi-Fi policy has some students steamed.

APS says it has disabled wireless internet access for student-owned devices during school hours, due to excessive web traffic on APS’ network — mostly from smartphones.

“Over the past two years APS has seen a massive increase in the use of mobile technologies,” said Linda Erdos, Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations. “Staff and students at some schools are increasingly wanting to connect personal cell phones or other mobile devices to the APS Wi-Fi network. As a result, there have been periods where the demand for access to the network has exceeded the APS capacity, resulting in slow internet performance for all users, particularly for classroom use.”

“To restore network integrity, APS has temporarily removed Wi-Fi access for the lowest priority devices, preventing student-owned devices from connecting to the APS wireless network between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.,” Erdos continued. Students tell us the new policy has been in place for nearly a month.

APS is in the “final stages” of a procurement process that will build more bandwidth into the APS network, Erdos said. When that added bandwidth is in place — APS is hoping the work is complete by December — student-owned phones and other devices will be allowed back on the network.

“It has been decided that we will allow student-owned devices back on the network once the increased capacity is in place and we have tested it to ensure there are no problems,” said Erdos. “I just can’t give an exact date.”

Students, meanwhile, are none too pleased with the lack of internet access. Cell phone service is spotty within schools, students say, and those without school-issued laptops and tablets — which are still allowed on the network — say they need internet access to complete school work at a time when APS is emphasizing technology in classrooms and removing computer labs.

Diana, a Yorktown High School student, wrote the following to explain that internet access is now an educational need, not just a means to slacking off in class.

Technology is seen as a very important part of curriculums and education in APS, which is why students should access to Wi-Fi.

Many places in Yorktown do not even have service so using cellular data is not always an option if students have to use their phones to do schoolwork, which as a senior I frequently have to do. Students can no longer log into Wi-Fi with personal laptops but students who are freshman and sophomores still can log in through their MacBooks since they are APS issued. This puts juniors and seniors at a disadvantage.

Google Docs is widely used at Yorktown and at APS and I use for typing up many notes and papers including for my independent study. Not having access to the Wi-Fi to be able to use Google Docs or just the Wi-Fi in general for my independent study can hinder my success in the class.

Yorktown did have two computer labs with laptops but those laptops were taken away and now those two places are just empty classrooms. Junior and Senior teachers are limited to just computers at the library to bring their class to or request a computer cart. These teachers can no longer tell students to pull out their phones to do something since they just don’t have the access to do so with no Wi-Fi while the underclassmen just use their MacBooks and don’t have to worry about a reliable internet connection.

On Twitter, other students were less reserved with their assessment of the situation, offering comments like:

  • “@APSVirginia @YorktownHS I’m dropping out of school if the wifi doesn’t get fixed”
  • “Turn on the f-cking wifi @APSVirginia”
  • “@APSVirginia has enough money to give thousands of MacBooks to freshmen and sophomores but can’t give the rest of us wifi?”
  • “@APSVirginia GIVE US BACK OUR WIFI THIS IS NOT NORTH KOREA”

by Heather Mongilio — October 27, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

Terry McAuliffe speaks in front of Arlington DemocratsGov. Terry McAuliffe is going back to high school.

The Virginia governor will be speaking to students at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) about career paths in cybersecurity tomorrow, Oct. 28, from 1:15-3 p.m.

McAuliffe will be joined by a panel of cyber security professionals who will talk about the different jobs in cybersecurity as well as the resources students need to pursue a career.

“The nation is in need of a strong cybersecurity workforce. The demand for skilled cyber professionals is at an all-time high, and will only increase as our country and world grow more dependent on cyber and information technology,” Arlington Public Schools said in a statement.

The panelists will talk about the average day of a cybersecurity specialist, what interested them in a cyber career and how they got their start. They will also perform a Wi-Fi Watering Hole attack demonstration.

The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015.

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