The class of 2015 had a 92.8 percent graduation rate, 0.8 percent higher than the previous year. The on-time graduation rate has increased 8.1 percent over the past six years, according to APS.
The rate is 2.3 percent higher than the state average of 90.5 percent, APS said.
“The increases in the on-time graduation rate and the proportions of graduates earning advanced diplomas is notable given the more strenuous requirements for earning a diploma in Virginia,” APS said in a press release.
Students receiving diplomas this year had to complete an economic and personal finance course, the first time Virginia had this requirement.
“The students who graduated in May and June began high school just as the commonwealth was introducing challenging, new assessments in mathematics, English and science,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said in a statement.
Of the students who graduated this year, 68.5 percent of them graduated with an advanced or International Baccalaureate diploma, 17 percent higher than the state average of 51.5 percent. The average number of students graduating with advanced or IB diplomas has also increased 7.3 percent over the past six years, from 61.2 percent in 2009.
“While I am pleased that our graduation rates have continued to rise, I am especially excited to see that more and more of our students also have challenged themselves to earn advanced or IB diplomas. This expands the options for their academic and personal pursuits after graduation,” said APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
While graduation and advanced diploma rates have increased, the number of students dropping out of school increased, as well. The rate jumped up from 3.8 percent in 2014 to 4.2 percent in 2015.
Although the rate increased, the dropout rate has decreased since 2009, when the rate was 11.9 percent. The rate is under the Virginia average of 5.2 percent.
Patrick Henry Elementary School has been recognized as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School, the only public elementary school in Northern Virginia to receive the honor this year.
Arlington Public School officials announced its Blue Ribbon status today in front of the student body, teachers, parents and members of the Arlington School Board. Children and faculty wore blue ribbons to mark the occasion.
“We are very proud of you [the students], of the teachers, of the staff members,” said School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez. “And I wanted to tell the teachers and the staff that you are making a different in the children’s lives.”
Patrick Henry joins 334 other schools receiving Blue Ribbon status in 2015, including 11 schools — six public, five private — in Virginia.
“I am so excited that our students, staff, and families are being recognized for their hard work and dedication to academic excellence,” said Andrea Frye, who has been the principal of Patrick Henry for two years. “Our Patrick Henry team and students are living the school motto of doing their personal best all year and I am so proud that they are being honored for those efforts by being selected as a National Blue Ribbon school.”
The school received the Blue Ribbon in the category of high performance, Frye said. To be chosen as a Blue Ribbon school for high performance, Patrick Henry had to be in Virginia’s top 15 percent of elementary schools, based on test scores.
“One thing we know about Patrick Henry is they have consistently high academic performance, and that tells me one thing. You are working very hard, and that is excellent quality I want you to build on. This school is consistent, teachers and staff, thank you for that,” said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Frye said she thinks the school was chosen as a Blue Ribbon school because of its teachers, who work together to help students develop as individuals, instead of focusing solely on academically.
“I think the adult-child relationship that happens at Patrick Henry is unique,” Frye said.
Teachers at the school are kind and make learning fun, said a group of fourth graders, with one adding that they never give out homework that is too long.
“All the teachers are nice, but at the same time, the teachers want us to learn,” said fourth-grader Colby Ames.
The school will display two banners to mark the achievement — the official Blue Ribbon banner from Department of Education and one that celebrates everyone who helped make the school Blue Ribbon worthy, Frye said. Children and teachers will be putting their names on cut-out blue handprints that will hang around the second banner, she added.
Patrick Henry is located at 701 S. Highland Street, near Columbia Pike. The school is diverse from a socioeconomic standpoint, with about 37 percent of the student body receiving free or reduced-cost lunches.
According to a new report from Arlington Public Schools, the relocatable classrooms have been deemed the best solution to address overcapacity at the two North Arlington schools.
“In light of all of the opportunities and constraints associated with the options under consideration as well as the community feedback that has been received, APS Instruction and Facilities staff has determined that the use of on-site relocatable classrooms is the most effective, flexible, and least disruptive approach to address interim capacity needs at Swanson and Williamsburg middle schools through 2019,” APS said in the report.
APS plans to have 18 trailers in place at Williamsburg and 14 at Swanson, as an temporary solution to overcrowding until the middle school at the site of the former Stratford Junior High is built in 2019, APS said.
APS is using relocatable classrooms at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools because the trailers allow the school to maintain grade-level communities. Grade-level communities allow schools to group classrooms by grade, which increases student interaction with peers and teachers, APS said.
Each trailer costs about $300,000. The new trailers can stand against 90 mile an hour wind and are equipped with bathrooms and water fountains.
“Relocatable classrooms offer the same technology and similar configuration as regular classrooms, and they provide access to water and bathrooms,” APS said. “The staffing and quality of instruction expected from APS schools remain at the same level for both relocatable and traditional classrooms.”
No student would have all their classes during the day in relocatable trailers, the report notes.
“If a grade-level community is located in relocatable classrooms, there are multiple opportunities for students to move to and from the main building throughout the day. For example, students transition to the field space or the gym for physical education, to another classroom for electives, and to the cafeteria for lunch,” APS said.
APS has formed “school-based facilities committees” at Swanson and Williamsburg to evaluate the effectiveness of the trailers while they are at the middle schools.
“These planning groups are actively collaborating with APS staff and school administrators to determine the most appropriate and effective use of the additional relocatable classrooms, given the unique physical and programmatic attributes of each school community,” APS said.
While Williamsburg and Swanson are not the only middle schools facing capacity issues, they are the two with the greatest need.
“All middle schools are projected to be at or over capacity by 2019 and as a result APS will need to address capacity issues at Kenmore, Thomas Jefferson and Gunston in the coming years,” APS said.
As of earlier this year, APS was planning to add six trailers at Kenmore, four at Thomas Jefferson and 13 at Gunston Middle Schools.
The addition includes 12 classrooms, as well as a new gymnasium, entrance plaza and outdoor instructional area. With this, the total building capacity will be brought from 589 to 725 students. The school’s enrollment is currently 630 students, with some of the excess student population served by four classroom trailers, according to a press release.
There will be a new bus loop and changes to the site’s existing parking configuration. The Board approved also approved a use permit that will allow school staff to park at the nearby Farlington Villages Community Center.
The approved plan includes extensive stormwater runoff management, which is aimed to reduce impact on the school’s neighbors. The existing building requires major building system upgrades, as well, including an updated HVAC system, electrical and plumbing improvements and new interior furnishings.
“This expansion breathes new life into an elementary school that opened its doors in Fairlington in 1950,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Back then, Abingdon helped relieve overcrowding at Fairlington Elementary. Now, so many decades later, we are partnering with Arlington Public Schools to expand Abingdon to once again serve burgeoning enrollment in this part of the County. There has been robust community conversation about this latest expansion of Abingdon. When completed in 2017, it will serve the community well for years to come.”
The school’s expansion comes as part of the School Board’s FY2015-FY 2024 Capital Improvement Plan, which was adopted in 2014. The plan includes funding for over 1,000 elementary school seats, including the 136 seats that will be added at Abingdon, as well as others at McKinley Elementary School, and a new elementary school to be determined in South Arlington by FY 2019, in order to accommodate increased enrollment.
Abingdon Elementary was completed in 1950 and expanded in 1964, 1970 and 1990. The public review for the addition has taken place over the last 11 months, and included review by the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC), Environmental and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), Transportation Commission, and Planning Commission.
Not all neighbors support the plan, however. Some have expressed concerns about the loss of trees and potential for noisy construction traffic as a result of the project.
Arlington’s PreK-12 student population has risen by more than 3,000 since the start of school in 2013. At the beginning of this school year, APS counted 25,307 enrolled students.
APS’ PreK-12 student enrollment was 25,307 at the beginning of the school year, up from 23,179 at the time last year, according to figures cited by Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy at a School Board meeting last week.
The official fall enrollment numbers, however, are not counted until Sept. 30. APS is projecting 25,678 students as of Sept. 30, up 4.7 percent from the 24,529 enrolled on Sept. 30, 2014.
APS had 2,636 teachers employed on the first day of school this year, up from 2,493 last year. APS said it hired 387 new teachers over the summer, to keep up with enrollment and teacher retirements.
Meanwhile, APS continues to utilize trailer classrooms to accommodate the additional students, while planning and building new schools and additions to existing schools. The new Discovery Elementary next to Williamsburg Middle School opened its doors to students for the first time last week.
Next Monday, the Arlington County Board is expected to vote on use permits that would allow a 30,000 square foot addition to Abingdon Elementary School, in Fairlington. The addition, which is expected to cost up to $29 million, would provide space for an additional 136 students, bringing enrollment capacity to 725 from 589.
Some Fairlington residents, however, have expressed opposition to the plan.
“The plan is extend the school toward a steep hill that is home to fox, deer [and] raccoons which means knocking down 125 trees (77 of which they say are dead — which is also home to the aforementioned),” one resident said in an email to ARLnow.com over the weekend.
A community meeting on the plan is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. tonight, at the school.
The boy, a junior, was found dead on the roof of his home Friday afternoon, suffering an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He was a running back on the Warriors football team. Friends and acquaintances are remembering the boy on Twitter, offering prayers and memories of a classmate with an infectious smile.
At this time, ARLnow.com is not identifying the deceased.
If you’re having thoughts of suicide, the Arlington-based CrisisLink hotline is available 24/7, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The department’s 2015 back to school safety campaign includes both enforcement and outreach to drivers, students and parents.
In addition to the traffic enforcement by police and by by the new stop arm cameras on Arlington school buses, ACPD has placed electronic roadside message boards around the county “reminding citizens of the start of school and to drive safely,” according to a press release.
“The Arlington County Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of all students and motorists,” said Police Chief Jay Farr, in an Arlington Public Schools-produced public service announcement video.
“We would like to remind everyone to be extra careful this year,” Farr continue. “Share the road with buses, pedestrians and bicyclists. Remember, buses are now equipped with stop arm cameras… it’s never okay to pass a school bus with the stop light out.”
ACPD has issued several back-to-school safety tips. For drivers:
- “Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times”
- “Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road”
- “Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school”
- “Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers”
- “Have all vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts”
The police department’s safety tips for students and pedestrians:
- “Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light”
- “Look before you cross and follow the direction of school crossing guards”
- “Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths, never along the side of a road”
APS reported Thursday that its average SAT score in 2015 rose 27 points, to 1,680. The average score on the ACT, another standardized test, also rose.
“I am extremely proud of these results and appreciate the team effort and close collaboration by everyone to support our students,” Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said in a press release. “In recent years, we have focused on academic planning through our Aspire2Excellence efforts, and it is clear that our students are stretching themselves in their academic choices as they move toward future college and career pursuits.”
Over the past five years, APS SAT scores have increased 18 points in reading, 16 points in writing and 18 points in math.
The average APS SAT test score of 1,680 well exceeded the Virginia average of 1,533 and the U.S. average of 1,490. Results for black, hispanic and white students “exceed the peers in Virginia by large margins,” APS noted.
The results stand in contrast to another major local school system, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. The average SAT score for Montgomery County students dropped 21 points in 2015, Bethesda Magazine reported.
“I applaud and recognize the commitment of our teachers and school leaders,” Murphy said of Arlington’s test results. “I appreciate the critical support that is provided by our families to ensure that all students excel and realize their full potential.”
Arlington students can now sign up for an after-school running program that helps build character.
Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia aims to help girls in third through eighth grades become more confident while also preparing them for a 5K run.
Registration is open until Sept. 21 and costs $175 to participate.
There are discounts for military families and families with two or more children participating. There are also discounted fees for girls on the reduced and free meal program at school, said Christine Denny, the program manager for Girls on the Run NOVA.
Girls on the Run NOVA currently has teams at Arlington Science Focus Elementary, Ashlawn Elementary, Barcroft Elementary, Discovery Elementary, Drew Model, Jamestown Elementary, Key Elementary, Long Branch Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Nottingham Elementary, Patrick Henry Elementary, Taylor Elementary, Tuckahoe Elementary and Kenmore Middle Schools.
Girls at other Arlington schools can also start a team at their school.
The 10-week program has a structured curriculum that includes running and student-led activities that help girls build character skills and confidence, Denny said. Coaches are there to help facilitate conversations.
The program is not just about training for the 5K and girls do not run during the entire session.
“The character building is a much more important aspect,” she said.
Programs are broken down by age. “Girls on the Run” is for third through fifth graders, and the girls discuss life events and the challenges facing them, according to the program’s website.
“We start by helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them. We then look at the importance of teamwork and healthy relationships. And, finally, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world,” the website said.
For sixth through eighth graders, girls are given the option between “Girls on Track” and “Heart and Sole.” The “Girls on Track” program is a more mature program that discusses issues like cyberbullying, drugs, eating disorders and relationships. “Heart and Sole” breaks the girls down into smaller teams in order to encourage more team bonding, according to the website.
“We’re trying to build a complete girl,” Denny said.
The Arlington School Board quietly and unanimously approved the raise at its Aug. 13 meeting. Labeled “Superintendent Salary Adjustment,” with no associated report online, the item was approved without further discussion as part of the Board’s consent agenda.
Murphy’s annual salary will increase by two percent, from $223,242.50 to $227,707.35, as a result of the vote. Murphy oversees a school system with more than 25,000 students and a $556 million annual budget.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Ashlawn Elementary School is facing a lack of faculty parking after its parking contract with the Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association was not renewed this year.
The contract between Dominion Hills and Ashlawn allowed the school to lease parking spaces in the pool’s parking lot.
Without the renewed contract, Ashlawn Elementary School is facing a shortage of parking with 30 spots for 130 faculty members, according to a PTA statement from Ashlawn PTA President Carlin Schwartz. Currently, teachers are being told to park at the Powhatan Springs Park (6020 Wilson Blvd) and walk over to the school.
“As you can imagine, this will be burdensome to our staff,” Schwartz said.
The decision to not renew the contract was a “difficult” decision, according to a statement from the Board of Directors at Dominion Hills. Trash in the parking lot, delays in payment, increased traffic in the parking lot and “an inordinate amount of time spent by our Resident Manager attempting to enforce the terms of the agreement,” were among the Board’s reasons for not renewing the contract.
The pool also needed the parking lot spaces for the last four weeks of the pool season, which overlap with the beginning of the school year. The frequent use of the lot was also causing wear and tear damage, and the pool was using funds to resurface the lot instead of using them for maintenance of the pool, according to the statement.
“A large part of our decision came down to the fact that we are in the swim club business, not the parking lot business. As such, we need to focus our energies on safety issues, grounds maintenance and infrastructure related to that — a huge year-round task,” the Board of Directors said.
Arlington Public Schools and Ashlawn President Judy Apostolico-Buck asked Dominion Hills to reconsider, but the Board of Directors did not overturn its decision, according to the PTA statement.
“It is unfortunate that APS did not plan for sufficient parking for Ashlawn Elementary School. We strive to be good neighbors with Ashlawn, and have been, particularly through its construction period,” the Board of Directors said. “However, a renewal of the prior parking agreement is not in the best interests of DHARA.”
Schwartz and the PTA parents are encouraging Ashlawn families to call or email the school board with any concerns or questions. Suggestions for parking can be emailed to Schwartz or Apostolico-Buck.
“Ashlawn families, staff and neighbors have been incredibly patient, gracious and supportive through the many challenges that the construction process has created and it is greatly appreciated. I hope we can face this newest challenge with the same with mindset,” Schwartz said.
Ashlawn Elementary was not notified about trash issues in the parking lot, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.
The idea behind the new building was to use space as effectively as possible, and the project team and architects behind the new school kept the needs of both programs in mind with the new design, said Sean Franklin, a designer with BIG, one of the architecture firms behind the project.
“What we really wanted to do was foster an environment of sharing between these programs,” Franklin said during a Aug. 13 School Board meeting, where the new design plans were unveiled.
The new Wilson School will have a main entrance on Wilson Blvd, with a separate entrance on 18th Street for Stratford program students to allow them to more easily access the building. The Stratford Program will have the majority of the space of the lowest level, while H-B Woodlawn will have classrooms on the first through fifth floors. There will be shared spaces throughout the building.
Stratford Program Principal Karen Gerry said that she is working with H-B Woodlawn Principal Casey Robinson to identify spaces in the Wilson School that they could share, including a new multipurpose room, a black box theatre, cafeteria and library.
“Casey and I believe this will allow for more collaboration between H-B and Stratford staff and H-B and Stratford students, and that’s a win-win for all of us,” she said.
The new school will also feature fanning terraces, which will allow for open spaces for both recreation and learning. The terraces will each be designed differently, depending on the classrooms on the same level, Franklin said.
“The idea is that they’ll each have their own identity tied to something that’s inside the classroom. So if the classroom has a theme, it’ll carry on to the terraces,” he said.
Connecting the terraces is a central staircase that will be wide enough to also use as a learning space and to supervise students in the tall building, she said.
“Day lighting” was also an important part of the new designs, Gerry said. The new classrooms, which will be larger than existing classrooms, will be designed to allow in more daylight, which “decreases sensory input to heighten
The total cost for the new school will be about $100 million, about $20 million more than the original cost, according to the design plans. Additional costs came from parking needs, elevation factors and market prices.
The current design calls for 92 underground parking space, at a cost of $5.7 million.
Arlington Public Schools will be examining ways to reduce costs without compromising learning in the next steps of the design process, according to the plans.
Drew Model Elementary School Principal Darryl Evans has resigned, citing family reasons and a desire to seek a job closer to home.
Evans led Drew Model for one year after coming to the school in the summer of 2014 after former principal Jacqueline Smith retired following a driving-under-the-influence arrest.
“I spoke with Mr. Evans yesterday and I hope you will join me in wishing him well in his next endeavors, both personally and professionally,” Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy wrote in a note to Drew Model families (below, after the jump).
APS has not yet released a plan for hiring a new principal, Murphy said. For the time being, APS staff will work with assistant principals Catharina Genove and Wendy Pilch to help the school get ready for the next school year while a new principal is sought. School is back in session on Sept. 8.
“We will continue to work together to ensure that Drew provides an excellent instructional program for our students,” Murphy said in the statement.
Drew Model serves the Nauck area and has about 502 students in kindergarten through fifth grade — 642 including pre-Kindergarten programs — with more than half requiring free or reduced meals.
Last May, the school’s PTA held its first Spring Fair in order to close a $22,000 funding gap. Last year, the school struggled with test scores, ARLnow.com reported. In 2014, the school was performing at an average of 23 percent lower than the county average on third through fifth grade Standard of Learning Exams.
APS did not have any information on how Evans’ departure will affect the school at this time.
Parents and teachers at Barrett Elementary have started a weekly outdoor library to encourage kids to keep reading during their vacation.
The program, Barret Book Blast, was created by the Family and Community Engagement committee at Barrett Elementary as a way to combat the seemingly inevitable “summer slide” in reading comprehension.
The outdoor library can be found every Friday from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. outside of the Gates of Ballston Community Center (4108 4th Street N.). At the weekly event, which is run by Barrett Elementary teachers on an entirely volunteer basis, neighborhood kids can check out up to three books or listen to a librarian from Arlington Public Library read some stories.
Barrett Elementary teacher Emily Sonenshine estimates that on June 19, the program’s second week, almost 65 children came by to check out books and visit their teachers. Sonenshine added that attendance at the weekly checkout hour has been consistently on the rise.
This Friday will mark the program’s fourth week. Sonenshine says the events are scheduled to continue through the summer, ending Aug. 28.
Photos courtesy Emily Sonenshine and Jen Flores
Despite budget cuts, Arlington Public Schools may get to keep its mobile app after all.
The school system originally planned to cut the app on July 1, in order to shrink its budget. The app cost about $12,000 a year to maintain, said Linda Erdos, APS assistant superintendent.
The app, which launched two years ago, allowed parents to view messages from APS’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts and gave them quick links to APS sites like the Family Access Center, MySchool Bucks, the APS directory and lunch menus.
“The app was intended for those who prefer the convenience of receiving and checking information and notifications on their mobile device through a single application,” Erdos said.
APS was ready to stop the app when fate intervened: Parent Link, the company that built the app, was bought by Blackboard, a company that provides an online platform for assignments, grades and communication between students and teachers. Blackboard, APS recently found out, was willing to give them a sweet deal.
“Because we are already a customer with Blackboard for School Talk and these other educational web-based solutions, Blackboard has offered to include the app into our current contract for APS School Talk as an added feature at no cost to APS,” Erdos said.
APS is still waiting confirmation from Blackboard before announcing that the app will continue, Erdos said.
If the contract does go through, the app will not look any different.
“Blackboard won’t do anything different with the app,” she said. “Based on what they have proposed, since Blackboard now owns Parent Link, they will continue to support the availability of our app, and will support APS staff if changes are needed.”
Photo via screenshot