Arlington Public Schools is conducting a survey about its upcoming 2020-2021 school year calendar, and a pre-Labor Day start date is on the table.
The Virginia General Assembly earlier this year voted to do away with a rule — dubbed the Kings Dominion law and supported by tourism boosters — that restricted school systems from starting classes before Labor Day.
Now, APS is asking parents, staff, students and community members about three new potential school calendars for next year, two of which are before Labor Day. All three options, below, include a 10 day winter break and a 5 day spring break.
- Option 1: Aug. 27-June 17
- Option 2: Sept. 8-June 25
- Option 3: Aug. 25-June 15 (similar to Fairfax County)
More from an APS email to parents:
APS is in the early process of preparing the draft for the 2020-21 school year calendar. The Virginia Legislature recently gave control of calendars back to school divisions which means that school divisions could start before Labor Day. APS invites families and staff to provide input on whether to start school before or after Labor Day. There are three draft versions of a calendar available to review, two of which begin school prior to Labor Day. The online calendar survey is available through Nov. 22 and responses will help inform the final recommendation that will be presented for the School Board’s approval in January 2020.
During a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, school officials proposed moving the majority of McKinley Elementary School students to the new Reed Elementary School, among other switches.
The Arlington School Board is expected to take action on one of two final proposals during its meeting on February 6, 2020. If approved, it would take effect for the 2021-22 school year, per APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
“Some of our schools can’t manage the student’s lunch time, we have students who eat lunch as early as 10 a.m. and as late as 2 p.m.,” said Lisa Stengle, executive director for the APS Department of Planning and Evaluation.
“We like to keep kids together. The more we can keep groups of kids together, the better,” she said.
The first proposal idea APS shared with parents would mean:
- The majority of current McKinley students would move to Reed.
- The Arlington Traditional School (ATS) program would move to the McKinley building.
- Key Immersion School would move to the Arlington Traditional School building.
- The Key building would become a neighborhood school.
According to officials, 40% of McKinley students live in the Reed School walk zone, meaning more students who are currently riding the bus would have the option to walk to school. In addition, it would provide 100 additional seats for new ATS students.
The second proposal calls for the same McKinley, Reed, and ATS switches, plus:
- Campbell Elementary School moving to the ATS building
- Key, along with its immersion program, would move to the Carlin Springs Elementary School building
- The majority of students at Carlin Springs would move to the Campbell Elementary School building
- Campbell building becomes a neighborhood school
- The Key building becomes a neighborhood school
Both plans are expected to affect some 20-30% of Arlington elementary school students.
“[Moving schools allows] APS to use all schools to maximum capacity, keep together as many students in each school community as possible, and keep as many students as possible walking to their neighborhood schools,” officials said in a press release.
The proposals are a larger part of the APS Elementary School Planning Project, which calls for the planning of capacity solutions as Arlington’s elementary student population is expected to exceed 30,000 by 2023 — with significant growth in the Rosslyn, Ballston, and Columbia Pike areas.
The fiscal impact of either proposal remains to be determined, according to APS Transportation Planning Director Kristen Haldeman.
Alternatively, per the planning website, if APS chooses to only redraw elementary school zoning districts without moving schools, it would affect up to 41 percent of Arlington’s elementary school population and incur additional transportation costs.
In addition, Spengle noted the county will need to build up to three new elementary schools by 2029 in order to accommodate growth, including in and around Pentagon City.
The school system will spend the next several months collecting community feedback before the School Board makes a final decision, with public meetings on:
- November 5: An online information session on APS Engage in English and Spanish
- November 5-24: An online community questionnaire at APS Engage
- November 15 and 22: “Friday Facebook Live” sessions with new FAQs answered.
Several community forums are also scheduled for December, plus a School Board public hearing on January 30 at 7 p.m. in the Syphax Education Center.
A new Arlington Public Schools policy now requires adults to chaperone younger students at high school games.
The new policy was announced in an email to parents last week, and applies to students in 8th Grade or below looking to attending after-school sporting events. It also requires students to show their school IDs to staff at the games.
“We are asking that any students in 8th grade or younger be accompanied by an adult for admission to any Arlington high school sporting event,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.
From the APS email to families:
Based on growing attendance at our games as student enrollment has increased, APS is taking precautions to ensure that all spectators have a safe, enjoyable experience at all high school athletic events. Moving forward, any students in 8th grade or younger must be accompanied by an adult for admission to any Arlington high school sporting event. The adult accompanying the student or a group of students needs to be in attendance as a point of contact for the duration of the event. This allows APS staff to respond appropriately if issues arise among younger students who are unfamiliar to high school staff, and can help ensure a safe environment for students and families who are there to enjoy the game.
Families with questions are asked to reach out to their Director of Student Activities at Wakefield, Washington-Liberty or Yorktown high schools.
“As a school division, we take great pride in our school spirit and encourage student and fan participation,” the APS email shared with ARLnow reads. “We also expect our students and fans to use sound judgement and demonstrate appropriate behavior that presents a positive viewing experience for all.”
The new policy comes about a month after the school began requiring all visitors to show identification and log their visit in a database.
Photo via @WakeAthletics/Twitter
Dorothy Hamm Middle School has been open for less than a year, but the girls soccer team is already Arlington County champions, thanks to a group of enthusiastic players and Arlington County Police Department’s Detective Tiffanie Heggerty.
Heggerty has worked as a School Resource Officer in the county for four years, currently serving both Hamm and Taylor Elementary School.
This year, Heggerty decided to pursue a new after-school activity — coaching soccer at Hamm.
“I thought it would be another great way to connect with students,” Heggerty said.
For the 2019-20 school year, Hamm students were pulled from nearby Williamsburg Middle School and Swanson Middle School. The team’s first season meant organizing a group of brand new teammates and practicing at a school still under construction.
“Finding places to practice took some creative effort,” Heggerty said. “Ms. Dabney, our Activities Coordinator, helped us get practice space at other schools, and we used the baseball field at the school when possible.”
Despite some setbacks, the team worked its way to an undefeated season (7-0-1).
“New team, new school, new coach, and we all had so much fun doing it,” said Heggerty. “Having a team that all got along, and played so well together is more than I could have hoped for, so winning on top of that is the icing on the cake.”
Now, Heggerty is coaching the boys soccer team at the middle school, and is hoping she’ll have similar success.
“The best part of being the School Resource Officer and coach is that I get to see my players throughout the day, and they bring their friends along to talk to me,” she said.
“This has helped me connect with more and more kids. Now adding the boys season beginning this week, when I walk the halls, I hear, ‘Hey Coach,’ and I know that they see me and not just my uniform.”
Across the county, many SROs volunteer their time as coaches of sports teams.
“ACPD is proud of the work the SROs do in their roles as officers, as well as through their work as coaches, mentors and advisors to students in Arlington outside the school day,” said ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark.
“One of our goals as a school division is to make sure that every student has at least one trusted adult that they can talk to,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, pointing to the recent 2017 collaboration program between APS and ACPD, ACPD & APS Cares.
“Because our SROs interact with our students on a daily basis, they can be that one trusted adult that students can talk with.”
Photo via ACPD
Starting next year, Arlington Public Schools will incorporate cloud-based learning curriculum from Amazon Web Services into the classroom.
AWS Educate is the e-commerce giant’s K-12 initiative, designed to get students comfortable with the basics of cloud computing and artificial intelligence tools.
The service is available online at a fee for all educators and interested students 14 years or older. However, in late September, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) announced a partnership with AWS Educate across select Virginia universities, community colleges, and four K-12 school districts in the state, including APS.
For the participating Virginia K-12 schools, including in Arlington, AWS Educate is expected to be incorporated as either a dual enrollment system with a participating community college or university, or as a resource utilized in exiting STEM classes.
Earlier this month APS staff met with officials from Amazon and Northern Virginia Community College to discuss the best way to introduce the curriculum into the 2020-21 school year.
“At this time, we do not have a finalized course list,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Courses may or may not be dual enrolled. We need to see from the community college what their requirements are for the teacher before we can give dual enrollment or college credit.”
Northern Virginia Community College was the first area organization to partner with AWS Educate, rolling out a cloud-based degree program in 2018.
On the recent Virginia partnership, Ken Eisner, head of AWS Educate, said “in this way, students can learn about the tech concepts behind things like online gaming and expand their knowledge with more in-depth challenges on concepts like variables and big data. We’re excited to work with school divisions across northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth to meet students and educators where they are and open up big opportunities in the cloud.”
Additional area school districts and universities partnering with AWS Educate include:
- Fairfax County Public Schools
- Arlington County Public Schools
- Alexandria City Public Schools
- Loudoun County Public Schools
- Northern Virginia Community College
- George Mason University
- Virginia Tech
- Virginia Commonwealth University
Jeff Covel really wanted to go to a World Series game. A fan since the Expos came to town and became the Nationals, going to a World Series game was a “bucket list” dream.
The retiree and Nottingham Elementary crossing guard of 6 years made a sign saying “Need World Series Tickets” and placed it near his post at N. Ohio Street and 29th Street N.
Unbeknownst to Covel, who was lauded as one of Virginia’s most outstanding crossing guards in 2015, parents in a Facebook group decided to raise money to buy Jeff two tickets to Saturday’s Game 4 at Nationals Park. Within 24 hours they raised enough to purchase two tickets.
Colleen Wright, one of the organizers, presented the tickets this morning to Covel, surrounded by other parents and school children.
“He’s just so great with the kids, learning everyone’s name and always greeting everybody with a smile,” Wright said.
Staff video by Jay Westcott
(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) As the development plans stack up for Crystal City and Pentagon City, the need for a new school could be growing.
As plans progress for Amazon’s second headquarters, developer JBG Smith has submitted its own plans to the county proposing to build thousands of additional apartments (and potentially condos) in the area, to help house the tens of thousands expected to one day work at HQ2.
JBG Smith’s plans for Crystal City and the Pentagon City area so far include adding:
- About 1,000 new housing units at the RiverHouse development
- 790 units in two new structures at 1900 Crystal Drive
- 762 units in its towers planned on S. Bell Street
- 752 units at its two connected, V-shaped towers planned for 2525 Crystal Drive
- 645 units along 23rd Street S.
While apartment buildings catering to younger workers are unlikely to generate an abundance of students — in 2015 it was reported that the entire 1,670-unit Riverhouse complex in Pentagon City only housed 30 Oakridge students — the redevelopment plans are still raising an eyebrow among those monitoring school capacity issues.
Local officials tell ARLnow that there are no specific plans in the works for building a new school to accommodate new students in the area. There has been past discussion, however, of Vornado (now JBG Smith) providing a site for a new school.
“As of this moment, [Arlington’s planning department] has not had any discussions with JBG Smith about any of their pending applications regarding providing a school site,” a county spokeswoman when asked whether there are current school-related discussions with the developer.
In an interview with the Washington Business Journal, Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said that in exchange for approving the massive developments, the county could ask JBG Smith for a package of “truly transformative community benefit improvements.”
Dorsey did not immediately respond to a request by ARLnow to clarify what might be included in such a package.
“APS has discussed an elementary school in that area in the past,” said school spokesman Frank Bellavia, when asked if Arlington Public Schools was considering adding a new school to the area.
“Specifically, the South Arlington Working Group had identified the Aurora Highlands neighborhood,” which is adjacent to Pentagon City and Crystal City, as a potential site, Bellavia said Thursday. “We are in the process of working through our future seat needs and will most likely need elementary seats in that neighborhood.”
Prior to its merger with JBG Smith, Vornado had given APS a tour of vacant office space it owned nearby which could be converted into a school.
APS will be updating its facilities plan in early 2020 as part of the county’s 2021-30 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), according to Bellavia.
A spokeswoman for JBG Smith said the developer is “working with the County but it’s too early to discuss the community benefits package.”
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Marymount University President Irma Becerra isn’t slowing down.
With the 2019-20 school year underway and 455 students moved into the new upscale apartments at the newly-acquired “Rixey” building in Ballston, part of a $250 million investment in Marymount’s expanded Ballston presence, Becerra is continuing to push her Strategic Plan to double the Catholic university’s in size by 2024.
Becerra and Marymount are in the beginning planning phases of a project to repurpose buildings on the main campus to add capacity for an additional 3,000 students. She is also working on a capital investment plan to increase the university’s endowment nearly sixfold — from $43 million to $250 million.
Eventually, Becerra said, Marymount will have to build additional buildings for student housing if the university wants to reach its eventual goal of 10,000 enrolled students. As of last fall, there were 3,418 students in both graduate and undergraduate programs.
“Some of the growth will be fully online, and others will be through hybrid programs that will require less physical time on campus,” Becerra said. “We don’t anticipate an issue, but more buildings will probably come in the latter part of the next five years.”
As for the cost that comes with doubling a university size, Becerra said funding “would come through a combination of initiatives from corporations and private foundations and the launch of a new capital campaign and government funding.”
Within the next few years, she hopes the school will establish itself as a top producer of highly-competitive talent for all Arlington businesses, from Amazon to local startups.
With Amazon’s HQ2 being staffed up, there is a particular focus on technology at Marymount. Earlier this year Marymount recently hired tech-oriented entrepreneur Jonathan Aberman as interim dean of its business school. And a new artificial intelligence curriculum is being incorporated into every major “from arts to biology.”
In addition to doubling the university’s size, Becerra is seeking to raise its national profile. That effort is bearing some fruit, particularly with Marymount jumping more than 20 spots in its U.S. News and World Report rankings. At the same time, she wants to maintain the school’s local feel and connection.
“We’re Arlington’s only headquartered university, and we’d like to think of ourselves as ‘Arlington’s University,'” Becerra said. “There’s a significance to be headquartered here, and between [being] instrumental to changing the Ballston experience, we have a number of proposals of how we’re going to work with local employers in the area and how we can help support the workforce needs in the community.”
Classes are expected to go on as usual at Washington-Liberty High School on Monday after a threatening message on social media prompted a police investigation over the weekend.
A tipster tells ARLnow.com that the social media message in question was an Instagram account that said “don’t come to school on Monday.” That tip could not be immediately confirmed.
In an email to parents Sunday night, school officials said that Arlington County Police “determined there is and was no direct threat to the safety of the students and employees of Washington-Liberty High School.”
The full email is below.
Earlier today (Oct. 6, 2019), Wshington-Liberty High School and Arlington Public Schools became aware of and alerted Arlington County Police Department to a social media account that contained concerning language. The Police Department has investigated the post, identified the individuals involved and determined there is and was no direct threat to the safety of the students and employees of Washington-Liberty High School.
Arlington Public Schools takes the report of threats and concerning language/behavior seriously. Students who make concerning comments of a threatening nature can face disciplinary action to include suspension, alternative school placement, and up to a recommendation for expulsion. The safety of our students, employees, and visitors is always a top priority and we want to remind all families that if they “see something, say something.”
We encourage all families to also review our webpage dedicated to threat assessment located at https://www.apsva.us/emergency-management/threat-assessment/. Students and families can take in a 15 minute training from the University of Virginia Curry School of Education as part of the Youth Violence Project. This training program is designed for all students ages 12 and up and parents to learn about the threat assessment process, what are concerning behaviors and how using threat assessment can help prevent violence in our schools.
In the event that your student raises questions about the social media account, we wanted to share this information with you. If you have any concerns or questions about the incident, please feel free to contact Principal Dr. Gregg Robertson during normal school hours at [email protected]
The Arlington County Police Department is reminding drivers to expect more kids and parents walking and biking to school tomorrow.
Wednesday is Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day, a yearly “international celebration that encourages students to walk or bike to school while teaching them about the health, environmental and transportation benefits of walking and biking,” according to Arlington Public Schools.
More from APS:
Held annually on the first Wednesday in October, Walk and Bike to School Day also helps to raise community awareness about the importance of pedestrian and bicycle safety education, safe routes to schools, well-maintained walkways, and traffic calming in our neighborhoods and around our schools.
APS schools and students are encouraged to walk the walk all year long by adopting weekly walking and biking promotions like “Walking Wednesdays” and “Foot Fridays,” supporting formation of Walking School Buses, Bike Trains and other creative commutes, and sharing important pedestrian and bike safety information for all ages. […]
Arlington Public Schools celebrated Walk and Bike to School Day 2018 on Wednesday, October 10. All 37 schools and programs took part, contributing to a record-breaking 364 events across Virginia, second only to California.
“Drivers can expect to see increased pedestrian and bicyclist traffic” on Wednesday, Arlington County Police said last week. “Remember: our students rely on all of us to keep them safe. Slow down, avoid distractions and proceed with care and caution.”
More from ACPD:
Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day is on Wednesday, October 2! Drivers can expect to see increased pedestrian and bicyclist traffic. Remember: our students rely on all of us to keep them safe. Slow down, avoid distractions and proceed with care and caution. #APSWalk2School pic.twitter.com/Jy0NnVw617
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 27, 2019
Tomorrow is Bike, Walk & Roll to School Day and our Crossing Guards will be out helping ensure our student arrive & depart safely from school! If you're looking for a rewarding career that makes a difference, consider becoming a school crossing guard! https://t.co/U4HfvoxeAB https://t.co/4NZgwvRyAk
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) October 1, 2019
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools has established separate review and planning committees to kick off the design phase of its $185 million Arlington Career Center expansion project.
The Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) and the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC) will meet ten times before March 2020, when the Arlington School Board is set to act on a concept design.
The expansion is slated to create 800 new high school seats at the Career Center by 2025, plus an additional 250 Arlington Tech seats — for a total of 600 seats at the high school program — by Sept. 2021. The Career Center will go from 1,100 seats now to to 1,900 seats by 2025, according to APS.
After years of deliberation from the School Board and the County Board, the completed Career Center will include:
- A high school-sized gym/assembly space
- A Performing Arts Center complete with a theater, black box theater, and music classroom
- A cafeteria and multi-use space
- A multi-use outdoor synthetic turf field
- A 400 to 500 space parking garage
- The replacement, enhancement and/or expansion of existing Career Technical Education programs
The athletic field and parking is projected to be complete by the 2023-24 school year, while the performing arts center should be finished by 2025-26 school year. Despite the large increase in its student body, which will help to alleviate a capacity crunch at Arlington’s high schools, the Arlington Career Center will be an option school and not a comprehensive high school.
Total cost for the Career Center expansion is budgeted at $185 million, plus an additional $13 million for the Arlington Tech expansion.
The BLPC will serve as the primary line of communication between community stakeholders and the School Board. During a project update during Tuesday’s County Board meeting, Board member Katie Cristol said that the School Board has asked BLPC to look for low-cost construction alternatives during the design process.
Meanwhile, the mission of the PFRC is to ensure the project properly utilizes the limited available land at the Career Center site near Columbia Pike, working as a direct line of advice and input with the County Board and County Manager.
The two committees held an introductory meeting on September 17, with the next scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 2.
“This has a very significant budgetary implication in the Arlington Public Schools Capital Improvement Plan, and it’s because of the number of amenities that are coming along with these seats,” said Cristol.
Construction will not impede on the adjacent, recently-opened Montessori Public School of Arlington — formerly home to Patrick Henry Elementary — according to an APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. A member from the Montessori school will serve on the BPLC.
The Career Center recently moved eight new trailers onto its grounds to accommodate more than 150 new students who joined for the 2019-20 school year. Contrary to initial reports, the trailers do not intrude on the space used for the Career Center’s Animal Science Program, Bellavia said.
An open community meeting is scheduled to review the new, proposed Career Center designs. The meeting is set to take place on January 22, 2020, in the Arlington Career Center Commons (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) beginning at 7 p.m.