70°Mostly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com — March 29, 2017 at 11:25 am 0

A new petition is calling for Arlington Public Schools to discontinue its program of giving each elementary school student an iPad for educational use, but some parents are critical of the iPad critics.

The Change.org petition has just over 150 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

“Parents, teachers, pediatricians, librarians, art therapists, poets, doctors and taxpayers of Arlington County are asking that APS discontinue immediately the current 1:1 iPad program within APS elementary schools for grades K-5,” the petition says. “The 1:1/Digital Learning/Personalized programs, which put a personal iPads in the hand of elementary school children, over the past three years has not only cost millions for devices, staffing and infrastructure, but it has put children into a social experiment that is likely to harm their physical and social-emotional well-being.”

The petition calls for giving parents the ability to opt-out of iPads for their children and wants APS to send parents “a waiver to explicitly list the potential risks of iPad usage not limited to attention issues, screen addiction, blue light effects on eyesight, Wi-Fi radiation, and effects on reading acquisition.”

But some parents are pushing back against the petition, supporting the use of iPads and questioning the scientific basis of the “risks” listed in the petition. In one local neighborhood Facebook group, it has sparked a debate dozens of comments long, with most in favor of keeping the iPad program as-is.

“You [have] got to be kidding me! What are you using to post this?” a parent said in response to a post critical of student iPad use. “How do you expect your kids to be exposed to digital world and be prepared how to handle it when they are out of your wings. While I’m against screen time for my kids 24/7 some exposure is pretty useful if we want to keep up with the rest of the world.”

One parent called the iPads “extremely beneficial” to her child, while another said her kids — one labeled as gifted and the other as having learning disabilities — have both “been engaged in learning in exciting ways.”

Those in support of the iPad program are being asked to counter the voices against the program by providing positive feedback on the APS website.

by ARLnow.com — March 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

A naming process is underway for a new elementary school being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

The new school will be home to students of what is now Patrick Henry Elementary, which will in turn house the Montessori program currently at Drew Model School.

While Patrick Henry is being considered for the name of the new elementary school, which is set to open in September 2019, Arlington Public Schools has formed a naming committee to consider other name recommendations.

The committee is encouraging stakeholders to weigh in on the name via an online Community Input Form, which was published late last week.

“We are asking each Patrick Henry Elementary School parent and staff to fill out the appropriate survey,” a page on the Patrick Henry PTA website says. “Our timeline is short, so we hope you can do it soon. It should not take more than 5 minutes.”

The survey notes that while Patrick Henry was a Founding Father and Virginia’s first (and sixth) governor — remembered for his “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech — he was also a plantation owner and slave owner.

It asks respondents to consider the importance of “maintaining the current name in recognition of Patrick Henry” or, alternatively, “selecting a new name that reflects the diversity of the student body,” among other questions.

The committee is expected to submit its naming recommendation to Arlington Public Schools later this spring.

by Chris Teale — March 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

The Stratford School building in Cherrydale will expand as it transitions to a middle school.

The County Board unanimously approved a plan Saturday to add 40,000 square feet to the school, which currently houses the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. The addition will include a new library, an auxiliary gym, classrooms, science labs and other teaching spaces and a new student common area.

A design for the 1,000-seat middle school was first approved last year by the County Board.

Also in 2016, the County Board designated the school as a local historic district. In 1959, when Stratford was previously a middle school, it was the first Virginia public school to be integrated.

“This plan ensures that Stratford School building, perhaps Arlington’s most significant local historic designation so far, will be preserved — and will be adapted to serve the changing needs of our growing student population,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said. “We have to meet our county’s current needs while remembering and honoring the important role Stratford played in 1959, when it became the first public school in the commonwealth to be integrated.”

Ben Bergen, assistant director of design and construction for schools, said Superintendent Patrick Murphy has formed a group to discuss an “interpretive experience” to recognize the school’s history.

The school’s athletic field will be re-graded and rebuilt. Arlington Public Schools staff agreed to try redesigning the field to meet Ultimate Frisbee requirements, as in current plans it is too short for that sport. H-B Woodlawn currently offers an Ultimate Frisbee program for its students.

The H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs are set relocate to the redeveloping Wilson School site in Rosslyn, starting in 2019.

Bergen said construction should begin early next year, with the major work being done in the summers of 2018 and 2019. H-B Woodlawn students will stay in the building during construction, while the Stratford program will move into temporary buildings.

School Board chairwoman Nancy Van Doren said once finished, the new Stratford School will be a facility everyone can be proud of.

“We broke so many new boundaries with this, and I think we’re going to end up with a fabulous, fabulous project,” she said.

by Chris Teale — March 13, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

Williamsburg Middle School (photo via APS)After his whereabouts became a source of gossip among parents, Arlington Public Schools announced Monday that Gordon Laurie, principal of Williamsburg Middle School, has resigned.

Tipsters reported that Laurie had not been seen in school since February 24, and that earlier this morning they spotted that his office had been cleaned out. The tipsters mentioned that rumors were swirling about the reason for his departure.

In a letter this afternoon to Williamsburg parents, students and staff, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said Laurie has resigned for personal reasons after 15 years with APS. An APS spokesman did not elaborate on the exact reasons behind Laurie’s resignation.

“After working closely with the exceptional and dedicated Williamsburg Middle School staff to put programs in place that helped students reach new levels of achievement, I am excited about completing my dissertation in pursuit of my doctoral degree,” Laurie wrote in a letter to parents.

Connie Skelton, a retired superintendent of instruction at APS and former Williamsburg teacher, will fill in as acting principal for the rest of the school year. Murphy and APS staff will begin the search for a new principal in the near future.

“Connie is an exceptional school leader who is very familiar with our instructional and administrative framework, and will work closely with the Williamsburg team to ensure a smooth transition in leadership while continuing to provide excellent support for the students, families and staff,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy’s full letter is below:

Dear Williamsburg Families, Students and Staff,

I am writing to share with you that Mr. Gordon Laurie, Williamsburg Middle School Principal, has resigned from the Arlington Public Schools for personal reasons.  In his letter Mr. Laurie wrote, “After working closely with the exceptional and dedicated Williamsburg Middle School Staff to put programs in place that helped students reach new levels of achievement, I am excited about completing my dissertation in pursuit of my doctoral degree.”

I want to thank Mr. Laurie for his 15 years of service to APS and wish him the best in his academic and future professional pursuits.

For the balance of the 2016-17 school year, Connie Skelton, retired APS assistant superintendent of Instruction and a former Williamsburg teacher, has agreed to fill in as the acting principal for the remainder of the school year. Connie is an exceptional school leader who is very familiar with our instructional and administrative framework, and will work closely with the Williamsburg team to ensure a smooth transition in leadership while continuing to provide excellent support for the students, families and staff.

We know that changes in the middle of a school year can be challenging so all of us are committed to providing any added support that may be needed, and we will work to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone in the school community. In the coming weeks, Dr. Kristi Murphy, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, will join me to begin a process to select another strong leader for the school community.  I look forward to your participation in that effort.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
Superintendent

by ARLnow.com — March 1, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

APS Extended Day registration issue“Server issues” prevented parents from registering for the Arlington Public Schools Extended Day program last night.

Extended Day registration opens at midnight on March 1, meaning that those fighting for a spot in the popular program stayed up late trying to register — until APS finally notified parents that it was closing the registration indefinitely until the problems can be fixed.

The issues occurred less than 12 hours after the Arlington County website went down due to technical issues that affected numerous sites around the web on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the Extended Day glitch was related.

From a post on the APS Facebook page, published after 1 a.m.:

At this time we are aware of the server issues preventing families from registering for Extended Day services.

We are working to have the issues resolved as quickly as possible.

In order to allow all families the opportunity to register successfully, we temporarily suspended registration for Summer 2017 and School Year 2017-2018 until further notice.

We will provide an update tomorrow via APS School Talk and our website.

We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

Here’s what one self-described “angry parent” said about the snafu, in an email to ARLnow.com:

If you haven’t heard, APS’ early registration system broke down last night. Registration began at midnight. If you don’t get in, you don’t get a slot for your child/children in the fall.

Every year, at midnight on March 1, working parents are forced to take part in this cruel system that requires them to stay up til midnight and beyond.

I was up until 2 trying to get on before giving up. So I’m at work today with only 4 hours of sleep. (APS expects me to deliver my daughter to school on time the next day.)

APS sent out a notice at 1:30 a.m. saying they will have to do it all over again.

I hope this incident sheds light on an unnecessarily cruel system that forces parents, who obviously have jobs to go to or they wouldn’t need aftercare, to stay up half the night hitting refresh buttons to make sure they have affordable aftercare.

“Please open registration at a reasonable hour,” another parent said in response to the APS Facebook post.

by Chris Teale — February 28, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

A car and an Arlington County school bus carrying students collided Tuesday afternoon near Upton Hill Regional Park.

A red SUV and the school bus collided just after 3 p.m. at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and Patrick Henry Drive. Neither vehicle appeared to sustain much damage other than a few small dents and scratches.

A police officer at the scene told ARLnow.com the crash was “very minor.”

Four police cruisers arrived at the scene and closed one lane of traffic behind the two vehicles. All other traffic proceeded as normal. Another school bus arrived around 3:30 p.m. to pick up the students, who remained on the bus after the crash.

by Tim Regan — February 23, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

Dozens of students, teachers and community members spoke at the Feb. 16 Arlington School Board meeting, many voicing concern about incidents of intolerance at Yorktown High School.

The 41-person turnout for public comments “might be a record,” according to School Board Vice Chair Dr. Barbara Kanninen. Many of the speakers addressed the ongoing controversy over signs in classrooms, which some say are politically motivated, and allegations of discrimination at the school.

One by one, students clad in shirts emblazoned with some of the signs’ slogans — such as “We Are Yorktown” and “Facts Are Not Political” — weighed in on reports of bullying and harassment.

“Yorktown has a problem. There is no denying it,” said one student. “Since November, we have seen a dramatic rise in incidents of racism, homophobia and hate.”

Yorktown administrators have done little to combat that rise, instead choosing to “run and hide” instead of facing controversies, he alleged.

“The reason that we’re all here tonight is in many ways the the fault of the Yorktown administration,” he continued. “The first wave of hate was in November, and after those incidents, nothing happened.”

Another student told the room about how school officials made her take down a “Black Lives Matter” sign after parents complained earlier this month. The student alleged that, after taking down the sign, she and some of her friends were subjected to racist remarks from their peers.

“Why are there so many incidents at Yorktown at which kids feel empowered to carry out such actions?” she asked. “How do you think minority children feel every day going to a school in which their culture is disrespected and deemed insignificant?”

One student, a sophomore, complained that students “are not allowed to use gay in posters… which makes it seem that it’s not okay to be gay.”

“Some people still eat lunch in the bathroom and they cry,” the student continued. “You might not agree with them, but you should accept them for who they are.”

The speakers also included some teachers, who voiced concern over recent incidents.

“In the past month, a Sudanese student asked me if he could keep coming to school. A Muslim student told me that her family has decided that they will move to Canada. A Honduran student reported that he’d been asked by another student if his bags were packed because he was going to be deported,” one teacher said. “I posted signs on my walls and in my hallway windows to let my students know I stand by them and for them.”

The public comment period lasted more than an hour and fifteen minutes. After it concluded, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said that the alleged bullying and discrimination “will not be tolerated” and vowed to put an end to it.

“I’m stepping up. This is not acceptable,” he said, to applause from the crowd. “Our goal continues to be to provide the best learning environment for every child, regardless of their personal belief, race, religion, ethnicity or gender.”

Murphy turned the floor over to Cintia Johnson, an assistant superintendent, to share some of the steps that APS has already taken.

“We have had the opportunity to meet with the administrative team at Yorktown and begin the steps to designing an action plan that is intended to continue to show a commitment to the positive community as well as the climate of both dignity and respect for each and every student,” she said.

Dr. Brenda Wilks, another assistant superintendent at APS, said the school plans to host student-led forums where students’ voices will be heard. The first such meeting was held earlier that day, she said, and had approximately 130 in attendance.

School Board member Reid Goldstein, who attended the forum, said it was “articulate and honest.”

“I’m delighted that students… felt deeply, thought maturely, stood up for their convictions and spoke eloquently,” he said.

James Lander, another School Board member who attended the forum, said the school’s priority to create a safe environment for students was paramount.

“I will reiterate the sense of commitment that this board has to the safety of all students,” he said. “If any student comes to school and doesn’t feel safe, that is our issue to deal with, and we will deal with it accordingly.”

School Board member Tannia Talento applauded the many students who had “the courage to come up here and speak to us today about such challenging conversations.”

“It is so hard to tell your story, to tell your pain, to tell your fears, to tell your stance, especially if it’s an unpopular one,” she said. “I’m proud of you guys having these conversations, and of our teachers. This is what America is.”

Talento continued: “I am a daughter of immigrant parents. I am fearful for our immigrant community here in our country. The one thing I remind myself every day is you guys showed me tonight, that in this country, we have freedom of speech.”

by Tim Regan — February 17, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) A co-op child care center for Arlington Public School employees has plans to move to a new space in Ballston, possibly splitting it up from a special needs program it has long integrated with.

The Children’s School’s board of directors this week signed a letter of intent to relocate its program to 4420 N. Fairfax Drive for the 2017-2018 school year.

The relocation could separate the center from the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together at the Reed School building in Westover for more than 20 years.

The move comes months after a plan from APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building. Under the proposal, both The Children’s School and the Integration Station would likely have been displaced from their current home.

“APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit,” TCS board member Alec Strong said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS and Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help.”

The prospect of separating the daycare and integration program has worried many parents whose kids are enrolled in them. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting earlier this month.

“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent at that meeting. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”

In a statement given to ARLnow.com on Feb. 3, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.

“While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options,” the statement reads. “APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”

Read a release from TCS about the move below:

The Children’s School Board of Directors signed a letter of intent yesterday to relocate its program to a new location in Arlington for the 2017-2018 school year. This follows confirmation at a School Board meeting two weeks ago that Arlington Public Schools does not have any space during planned renovations of the Reed School for the non-profit program, which has served pre-school aged children of APS teachers since 1987, and special needs students in the Integration Station program for more than 20 years.

In a statement to ARLnow.com, APS said: “While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”

The TCS Board of Directors maintains that APS has never offered any space or location to TCS. “APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit. Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS & Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help,” said TCS Board Member Alec Strong.

In a January 30, 2017 letter to concerned Integration Station parents, many of who spoke at the School Board meeting in support of the two programs remaining together, TCS Director Naseera Maqsood said:

“As of Friday, January 27, 2017, we were informed (by Assistant Superintendent Leslie Peterson) in very clear terms that we need to find a new location. We were informed that there is no space at the Madison Community Center (technically an Arlington County property) and that no Arlington Public School grounds have enough space for us to put relocatables (trailers). Arlington County has also indicated that there is no space for us to use relocatables.”

“We want desperately to keep all of our children together,” Maqsood added. “As educators, we are committed to having our students in integrated classrooms. We will ensure that any space we seek to lease or buy will have room for the Integration Station students. Ultimately though, the decision to keep our programs together is in the hands of Arlington Public Schools, not The Children’s School.”

“We continue to hope and work towards some miracle that will allow us to remain on APS or Arlington County grounds, and to continue providing more than 150 affordable childcare positions to Arlington teachers and parents,” Maqsood added. “We believe this aligns with our shared values, legacy and the desires of the Arlington County electorate.”

Fairfax Drive photo via Google Maps

by Tim Regan — February 16, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

Screenshot via Yorktown HS video(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Yorktown High School principal Dr. Ray Pasi is retiring at the end of the school year.

Pasi announced his plans in a recent email to parents.

“As you might imagine, this has not been an easy decision to make,” he wrote in his email. “I have given it serious thought, however, and after 20 years here in Arlington as the Yorktown principal, and nine years as a principal elsewhere before coming here, I believe the time is right.”

Yorktown is currently in the midst of an ongoing controversy over signs that some say are political, though Pasi’s announcement does not reference it. He says the decision was made “several weeks ago.”

Pasi shared the news with the school’s faculty members during a meeting yesterday afternoon.

The full letter is below.

Dear Yorktown Families:

I wanted to let you know that several weeks ago, I informed our school Superintendent, Dr. Murphy, that I plan to retire at the end of this school year. I informed the faculty of my decision at a meeting this afternoon and wanted to share the news with all of you, as well.

As you might imagine, this has not been an easy decision to make. I have given it serious thought, however, and after 20 years here in Arlington as the Yorktown principal, and nine years as a principal elsewhere before coming here, I believe the time is right.

Yorktown has been an amazing and wonderful school community, and it will be hard to leave when the time comes. I have enjoyed being part of such worthwhile work here, and have been grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many students, faculty, staff and parents on a wide range of projects over the years. I have admired and appreciated our collective commitment to make Yorktown the kind of school where students have the opportunity to grow and flourish. This work is never complete, but I am proud of the many successes and progress we have achieved together along the way.

I want to thank the School Board, Dr. Murphy, my past and present colleagues throughout APS, and most especially everyone here at Yorktown. In the coming weeks, Dr. Murphy will begin working with the PTA to discuss the process to select the next Yorktown principal.

Over the remaining months of this school year, and through our last day in June, I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the success of all our students.

With gratitude and continued best wishes,

Ray Pasi, Principal

Screeenshot via Yorktown High School

by Tim Regan — February 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm 0

Arlington County’s new public high school could end up at one of nine proposed sites.

Arlington Public Schools is scheduled to hold a joint meeting with its Advisory Committee on Instruction (ACI) and Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital (FAC) programs tonight (Wednesday) to share options in consideration for the new school. The meeting, to be held at the Syphax Center at 7 p.m., is part of a four-month process to determine the instructional focus of the school.

To be discussed at tonight’s meeting: where to build a new high school in a county where land and open space is at a premium and many schools are overcrowded. As part of its Capital Improvement Plan, APS is planning to build 1,300 new high school seats in time for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

A new report from the FAC council identifies nine potential APS-owned sites for the new high school seats, divided between “tier 1” and less feasible, more complex “tier 2” options.

“This analysis was completed between January and February of 2017 and because of this short timeframe, focuses on APS-owned properties,” the report says. “In developing the list of properties to consider the group received input formally and informally from community members and referenced established documents from the South Arlington Working Group, the Community Facilities Study, etc.”

The tier one site options are:

  1. APS Education Center at Washington-Lee High School: Either expand the existing high school or build a new one on the Ed Center site, which is used by APS administration.
    • Pros: Existing high school-sized facilities on the site.
    • Cons: Adding 1,300 students would make W-L the largest APS school at 3,500 students and increase the use of W-L fields and facilities by around 50 percent.
  2. Gunston Middle School: Add a 1,300 seat high school to the Gunston campus or move the middle school to another site and expand the current building to house 1,300 high school students.
    • Pros: The new school could create a neighborhood high school for the southeast quadrant of the county and wouldn’t necessarily displace the middle school.
    • Cons: Adding seats at Gunston may limit the availability of the neighborhood’s community programs and may result in the relocation of the community center.
  3. Kenmore Middle School: Construct a new separate high school building on the site or move Kenmore to another location and expand the existing middle school to create a new option or comprehensive high school.
    • Pros: The property is in south Arlington and therefore could be zoned as a comprehensive high school with its own district or a option high school. The area is also student-dense and walkable.
    • Cons: The site may not have room for a comprehensive high school and its amenities, like as a football field, track, or baseball field.
  4. Wakefield High School: Either add on to the existing high school, or build a new high school on the 32.8 acre campus.
    • Pros: The site could accommodate 1,300 new students and minimize impact on existing students.
    • Cons: This would create a “majority minority” concentration of students in the southern portion of Arlington County that “could be politically sensitive without significant redistricting,” planners said.

The tier two options are:

  1. Arlington Traditional School: Convert and expand the site’s buildings to accommodate 1,300 new high school students, potentially potentially moving or closing the elementary school.
    • Pros: The site is somewhat centrally located and houses one of the smaller programs in the county, meaning fewer students impacted.
    • Cons: This plan requires a major conversion from an elementary school to high school, which would mean expanding and updating the existing facility, up to a “complete tear-down.”
  2. Career Center/Patrick Henry Elementary School: This option would develop a master plan for the site, which would expand Arlington Tech and add a 1,300 seat high school, potentially by replacing the Patrick Henry building. Another scenario is to build a new elementary school to house the Montessori program and replace lost facility at Patrick Henry.
    • Pros: Co-location of multiple high school programs could allow for ebb and flow of enrollment at the various programs.
    • Cons: The plan could mean 2,500 students use the site every day, “clearly intensifying the use of what would be the smallest high school.”
  3. Drew Model School: The plan would add a new high school on the 8.4 acre campus.
    • Pros: The site would serve an underserved part of Arlington and “could create a new group of potential walkers for a zoned school.”
    • Cons: The existing facility is half on park land, complicating the plan. The school also “has deep history with the neighborhood,” planners said.
  4. Hoffman-Boston Elementary School: Update and expand the school building and relocate the elementary school seats.
    • Pros: Hoffman-Boston was originally built as a high school, so demolition wouldn’t be necessary. Columbia Pike also has “strong transit options.”
    • Cons: The conversion would require renovation of existing facilities and an addition.
  5. Reed School site: A new high school would be built at the side of the Reed School or a new elementary school would be built to house the Arlington Traditional School in conjunction with the ATS high school option.
    • Pros: The new school would be located in a walkable community near shops that would benefit from increased foot traffic. The school would also be located in an area where a significant high school-age population is projected.
    • Cons: The Reed campus is too small for a 1,300-student school in similar scope to other nearby high schools and there are potential historic preservation issues due to the 1938 building.

Should the new high school displace an existing elementary or middle school or other APS program, the FAC council identified a number of sites for the displaced programs to go, including:

  • Reed School
  • APS Education Center
  • Virginia Hospital Center urgent care site on Carlin Springs Road, which is in consideration for a land swap between VHC and the county
  • Wakefield High School campus
  • Aurora Hills Community Center / Virginia Highlands Park
  • Gunston Middle School

The various options are all likely to garner opposition from parents and members of the community, but an Arlington resident involved in the creation of the report emphasized that it is early in the process, that any option is going to be “imperfect” and some shared sacrifice may be needed.

“The report is just a starting point for discussion with the instruction advisors and staff for APS,” the resident said. “It is important that we all have a common understanding of what could be done or what would be needed to move forward with certain proposals… Anything you can do to promote discussion as the community hopefully finds consensus or at least an understanding to accept and support APS going forward, would be an invaluable service.”

by ARLnow.com — February 14, 2017 at 5:45 pm 0

Screen capture of controversial sign at YorktownOn Tuesday afternoon, Yorktown High School principal Dr. Ray Pasi sent a letter to students and families regarding the ongoing sign controversy at the school.

While the “Patriots Know” signs remain up in classrooms, according to an Arlington Public Schools spokesman, Pasi apologized for the “distress” the issue — which has received national attention from conservative media — may have caused.

“We sincerely regret any distress this may have caused our students, parents or anyone in the Yorktown community,” Pasi wrote. “We want our focus to continue to be instruction, while at the same time providing a safe and supportive environment for discussion, consistent with the YHS and APS mission, vision and core values.”

Pasi said that Yorktown has adopted sign policies in place at other Arlington high schools, although he did not elaborate on the specifics of those policies nor their application to the current controversy.

The full letter is below.

For many years, Yorktown High School’s philosophy and goal has been to work deliberately, daily and collectively on fostering respect for ALL. Our long standing social-emotional learning (SEL) and ROCS (Respect for Others, Community and Self) programs are designed to help foster a positive, respectful school climate for ALL. It’s a feature of our educational program we take seriously and have worked on each day. We want every student here to feel valued, supported and respected.

We all know that we live in a challenging and sometimes difficult political climate. With that, many schools (including Yorktown) are dealing with new situations and issues. Here at Yorktown, one of those issues has been signs that have been posted with good intentions that some members of our community have supported while others have taken exception to for one reason or another.

We sincerely regret any distress this may have caused our students, parents or anyone in the Yorktown community. We want our focus to continue to be instruction, while at the same time providing a safe and supportive environment for discussion, consistent with the YHS and APS mission, vision and core values.

Last year, some APS high schools experienced a few difficulties with how and when students could post signs equitably because so many student clubs and organizations were interested in promoting their activities and events. To help provide clarity, a set of procedures and guidelines for posting materials in high schools were developed by a team of high school staff that is also consistent with the APS Printed Materials Policy.

While this was not a concern for Yorktown at that time, last week we experienced confusion over how to determine what should be posted. Moving forward, we have decided to use the same guidelines and process here at Yorktown that the other APS high schools are following so that all high schools are approaching these decisions in a uniform way.

On Friday, I met with teachers and many of our students to discuss this and we have revised our processes to be consistent with the other high schools.  We also will be meeting with representatives of each YHS student organization so that everyone knows and understands our process as we move forward.

In the future, there may be differences of opinions on one issue or another. We need to recognize that it is in the best interest of our entire community that we work together to create our future.  That comes through cooperation and understanding our similarities as well as accepting our differences.  We will continue to strive to create a school climate that is inclusive and supportive of all students.

by ARLnow.com — February 14, 2017 at 11:20 am 0

The controversy over a sign posted by teachers at Yorktown High School has taken an even bigger national stage.

Yorktown senior John Piper was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s prime time show on Fox News last night, discussing why the seemingly innocuous sign was actually “political propaganda.”

Screen capture of controversial sign at YorktownPiper says he and his parents talked to to school administrators, the Arlington School Board and local radio station WMAL about why the signs are “obviously” political, especially given the current political climate. But after being told the signs would be coming down, Piper says administrators “changed their minds” and the signs remained.

Tipsters tell ARLnow.com that those inquiring about the decision to keep the signs were sent a letter to the School Board from a Yorktown physics teacher objecting to the removal (posted below, after the jump).

Carlson called the signs “the sneakiest type of propaganda… propaganda passing itself off as obvious observations.” He asked Piper if anyone at the school thinks that science “is not real.”

“No,” Piper replied, adding that he and fellow members of the Yorktown Republican club also believe in diversity despite implications to the contrary given their opposition to the signs.

A similar sign about conservative values — like the Second Amendment right to bear arms — would not be allowed at Yorktown, Piper guessed.

“There’s a serious double standard here,” Piper said. “Conservative values would not be accepted on the walls of the school, especially in the way they’re doing them. They would see through that easily.”

This is not the only sign controversy brewing at Yorktown. A Black Lives Matter banner at the school was removed late last week, according to a tipster. High school principals, we’re told, have been meeting “to set policy for putting signs up in the future.”

Update at 5:50 p.m. — On Tuesday afternoon, Yorktown principal Dr. Ray Pasi sent a letter to students and families regarding the sign issue.

The letter from the teacher regarding the “Patriots Know” signs, after the jump.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — February 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm 0

FCC logoAn FCC commissioner is questioning an Arlington Public Schools plan to build a backup fiber optic network with the help of federal funds.

Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, a Republican appointed by President Obama, says the APS plan, first reported by ARLnow.com, is an example of wasteful “overbuilding” under the federal E-rate program.

E-rate is funded via Universal Service Fund fees and is intended to make “telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries in America.”

O’Rielly, however, said in a Feb. 10 letter that APS using E-rate to pay for half the costs of building a backup system — when a county-run fiber system and Comcast connections are available — is “troubling.”

“As an initial matter, I do not believe that our rules permit funding for backup networks,” O’Rielly writes. “Regardless, I see absolutely no justification for using E-rate funds for such a purpose. Instead, any universal service funding for broadband deployment should be targeted… to underserved communities most in need of support.”

by ARLnow.com — February 13, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

Glebe Elementary School (photo via Facebook)

Glebe Elementary students were bused to Washington-Lee High School this morning after a power outage closed the school.

The school sent the following letter to families.

Dear Glebe Families:

Power went out at Glebe Elementary School this morning due to high winds. There is no estimate as to when power will be restored, so students are being bused to Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St.) for the remainder of the day. Students will continue instruction at W-L and lunch will be provided.

Students in Extended Day will remain at Washington-Lee until they can be picked up. If possible, families of students in Extended Day are encouraged to pick up their students early. To pick up your child, please go to the main office (Door 1) at Washington-Lee. A staff member will be there to assist you. Students who ride the bus will be transported from Washington-Lee to their normal bus stop.

We apologize for the inconvenience.
Sincerely,

Jaime Borg
Principal

Forecasters say strong wind gusts will continue through the afternoon, though the worst of the wind is over.

by ARLnow.com — February 10, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Arlington Public Schools administration buildingArlington County will be getting a new public high school within the next five-and-a-half years.

That’s according to the Arlington Public Schools website, which details a planning process that will soon be kicking off for the new school.

A four-month process is planned to determine the instructional focus of the school, concluding in June with a staff recommendation to the School Board. Via APS:

By September 2022, APS will open the doors to a new high school.

Beginning in February 2017, we will launch a community engagement process to determine the instructional focus for the new high school.  The process will include:

  • February 15: Joint ACI and FAC meeting to share options considered for location and instruction
  • February-March: Community Survey
  • March 30 and April 4: Community Meetings
  • May: School Board work session to review options
  • June: Staff recommendation to the School Board

It has not yet been determined whether the new high school will be a specialized choice school, like Arlington Tech or H-B Woodlawn, or a comprehensive, community high school like Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown.

“That’s what we’re working to decide — it will be decided in the coming months with feedback from the community process and looking at available options, budget, etc.,” Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos tells ARLnow.com.

Also this month, APS will begin the design and construction planning process, which will determine the location of the school, the architect, the design and the construction firm. The location and architect is expected to be selected later this year, while the design will be finalized in 2019. Construction is expected to start in 2020 and wrap up by August 2022.

The new high school is being built as part of the school system’s latest Capital Improvement Plan, which was approved last year and calls for 1,300 new high school seats by the fall of 2022.

“The 2017-26 Capital Improvement Plan, which the School Board adopted on June 16, 2016, included $146.71 million funding for 1,300 new high school seats to be completed in time for the start of school in 2022,” notes the APS website.

A petition launched last year called on APS to build a new high school rather than just staggering schedules and adding seats to Arlington’s existing high schools, as was under consideration.

APS is encouraging those with questions or suggestions about the new high school to email them at  [email protected].

×

Subscribe to our mailing list