School offices will be open on time but students will not have classes, APS said. The last school day for students was Wednesday, Jan. 20.
The last time APS students had this many days off in a row as a result of weather? During the “Snowmageddon” blizzard of 2010.
Students also have a scheduled off day on Monday, due to a teacher grade preparation day. There are no plans to change that, said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
According to Bellavia, so far there is no need for makeup days.
“This year’s calendar included 181 instructional days for elementary, middle and high school students,” he said. “The state requires that students receive either 180 days or 990 hours of instructional time. Based on instructional hours, the first 10 days lost (or the equivalent of 10 school days) will not need to be made up.”
APS Operations Update for Fri, Jan. 29, 2016: All APS Schools Closed; Offices Open on Time
— Arlington Schools (@APSVirginia) January 28, 2016
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will be closed Thursday due to an anticipated icy morning commute and remaining snow and hazardous driving on neighborhood streets.
The school system made the announcement around 5:30 p.m.
Students are now entering their second week off; schools have been closed since last Thursday. Students have a scheduled off day on Monday due to a teacher grade preparation day.
Arlington County announced tonight that it has completed initial plow passes on all county roads, making at least one drivable lane in residential areas.
All APS schools will be closed tomorrow and offices will be open on time. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time.
We apologize that today’s notice is later than earlier this week, but we wanted to take more time to assess the situation across the County. Like you, we want to open schools as soon as possible to resume instruction. We still recognize, however, that there are still challenges with snow throughout the community in many neighborhoods. As a result, we have decided to close again tomorrow and our offices will be open on time. Please be assured that APS will open schools as soon as conditions improve. Thank you for your patience and understanding this week.
Students last attended classes this past Wednesday, Jan. 20, before schools were closed on Thursday due to Wednesday night’s snowfall and traffic disaster. Schools remained closed Friday, in anticipation of the weekend blizzard, and have remained closed since.
School offices will be closed Tuesday, but may reopen Wednesday, APS said.
“Essential employees should report as scheduled,” the school system said. “School officials will announce the status of operations for buildings and offices on Tuesday afternoon.”
The proof is in the pudding! Parks with game winner! 42-41 over Marshall – Boom! pic.twitter.com/OO4C5vqvWZ
— Wakefield Athletics (@WakeAthletics) January 13, 2016
A three-point shot with time expiring gave the Wakefield boys varsity basketball team the win at home over Marshall last night.
Trailing 35-41 with 3:28 to go, the Warriors’ defense stepped up and the team battled back to 39-41. With just seconds on the clock, Deng Nhial received an inbound pass and then fired it to Halil Parks, who was standing just beyond the three point line.
Parks drained the three with a jump shot for the game-winner, sending teammates and fans storming onto the court to celebrate the victory.
Tannia Talento announced her candidacy at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.
A first-generation immigrant from Guatemala, Talento and her husband, Gary, currently have two children in Washington-Lee High School.
From a fundraising page:
Tannia knows firsthand how important education is to ensuring children have the brightest future possible. That is why she is extremely involved in Arlington’s public schools. Tannia has served on the Math Citizens Advisory Committee, the ESOL/HILT Citizens Advisory Committee, the Superintendent’s Master Planning Working Group, and on the Advisory Council on Instruction as a Vice Chair. Some of her most recent work includes the Facilities Study Committee and serving on the Career Center Parent Advisory Committee. Now she is running for School Board to make sure all of Arlington’s students have a fair shot at a world class education.
From a press release:
Local school activist and community leader Tannia Talento announced her candidacy to become and Arlington School Board Member tonight at the Arlington Democratic Committee Meeting.
Talento, a first-generation American, spoke before a large crowd of local Democratic activists tonight announcing her campaign to replace Emma Violand Sanchez, who is retiring at the end of 2016, on the School Board.
In her remarks, Talento explained her personal story, having had to help care for her family during high school, and make sure that her siblings were cared for when their mother became seriously ill. Talento had to drop out of high school to care for her family, later earning her high school diploma through an alternative program, and working her way up to become a legal secretary at one of the world’s largest corporate law firms.
Talento spoke about her drive to achieve educational success in the face of adversity and her desire to see every student reach graduation day without experiencing the adversity she faced.
“I believe that we can ensure that every one of our students will make it to graduation day educated to the highest standards and prepared for their future so that no student in Arlington has to live a version of my story,” Talento said.
Talento has lived in Arlington with her family for 12 years and has spent the last 5 years working her way through the school committees and commissions. From her time on those committees, she believes that Arlington Public Schools has the opportunity and the necessity to better advocate for children of all walks of life.
“As a School Board Member, I will advocate for every child to ensure that their needs are met and that they are prepared for life beyond high school,” Talento said.
Retiring School Board Member Dr. Emma Violand Sanchez introduced Tannia Talento before her remarks and highlighted Talento’s service to APS and its students.
“Her work in our schools has been towards the advancement of students of all walks of life, and ensuring that every one of our children has a shot at success in our schools and beyond,” Dr. Violand Sanchez said. “I believe Tannia’s vision is what we need in Arlington… I am proud to support her candidacy.”
Talento is running for the Democratic Endorsement, which will be determined through a “firehouse primary,” or open caucus. The caucus will be held on two dates, Thursday May 19th from 7pm to 9pm at Drew Model School and Saturday May 21st from 11am to 7pm at Washington-Lee High School.
Photo via Facebook
Update at 10:45 a.m. — The Thomas Jefferson site has been approved. From Arlington County:
At its Dec. 15 Recessed County Board Meeting, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to approve the use of the northwest portion of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Community Center site (currently a parking lot) as the site for a new south Arlington elementary school. the Board’s action came in response to the Arlington Public School Board’s request that the site be approved.
The Board also directed the Acting County Manager to “expeditiously initiate the public facilities review committee process with participation by all appropriate stakeholder groups, building on the site analysis, including placement and impact mitigation, already done by the Thomas Jefferson working group.”
Earlier: After a year of back-and-forth over choosing a site for a new South Arlington elementary school, the County Board is expected to reconsider the land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School for the project.
The Thomas Jefferson site is the final item on tonight’s recessed meeting agenda.
The County Board originally rejected the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on the county-owned land, following objections from a vocal group of residents who expressed concern about parkland and traffic. As part of the rejection, the Board agreed to reconsider the request if APS took adequate time and measures to analyze other potential sites.
The South Arlington Working Group was established in June for that purpose.
The group’s work was finished earlier this fall. It considered approximately 20 different potential sites, choosing Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Gunston Middle School/Oakridge Elementary School and Drew Model Elementary as the finalists.
In its most recent report, the group once again preferred the Thomas Jefferson site. The School Board, which voted on Dec. 3 to select the TJ site, is asking the County Board to do the same so that the proposed project could be completed in time for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.
The County Manager is now also recommending the Board approve the TJ site for the school, which would then be subject to use permit approval, design adoption and other planning processes.
The Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park group, however, says it’s still “concerned” about an elementary school on the TJ site, despite steps taken to mitigate negative impacts on the park, which is adjacent to the middle school.
“We ask that if you select this location for a new elementary school, you commit to fully funding necessary improvements and ensuring the community continues to have full access to park and recreation assets at Thomas Jefferson Park,” the group said in a letter to the County Board.
Funding and specific plans for the elementary school project have not been finalized. However, when the Superintendent first proposed a new elementary school in his 2015-24 Capital Improvement Plan, the plan said the school would cost $50 million and have 725 seats.
SafeBAE is a virtual organization that is focused on students by raising awareness about sexual assault and educating them about their rights under Title IX to prevent dating violence. Its programs are designed to give students resources and skills to advocate for consent and safe relationship education.
During Saturday’s program, attendees will hear the stories of four students who were assaulted and how they now work with the organization toward social change. All of the speakers were victims of rape, some of whose stories made national news.
Other panelists include legal experts and members of the School Board.
The event is open to members of the APS community and their families. Tickets are free and available online, but donations are also accepted.
Photo via Facebook/SafeBAE
Yorktown High School will offer the Preliminary SAT in the spring for students with disabilities as part of an agreement resolving a complaint made by a Yorktown parent to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Typically taken by high school sophomores and juniors, the PSAT is a practice test for the SAT. Those with do exceptionally well could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program and win college tuition money.
Michelle Buehlmann filed the federal complaint in early October after her daughter was unable to take the PSAT earlier this fall.
Her daughter is a sophomore with a 504 Plan, an education plan for students who have disabilities but do not require special education services. In order for her to take the test, special accommodations that followed her 504 would need to be approved by the College Board, which coordinates the PSAT.
Applying for those accommodations is typically a responsibility taken on by the schools.
Buehlmann said once she realized Yorktown hadn’t applied and hadn’t informed her or her husband they would have to apply themselves, she filed the complaint.
“When I became aware that the school made the decision just to not apply and not tell us, I told them it wasn’t right and decided to file,” she explained. “It really was an honest misunderstanding and I’m sure a lot of it was miscommunication, but now we’re making sure something is done.”
Yesterday morning, Buehlmann and APS came to an early complaint resolution agreement in a meeting facilitated by the DOE. The agreement includes provisions for both Yorktown and the County to address this issue.
Not only will Yorktown administer the PSAT again in the spring for students with disabilities, but it also agreed to notify students and their parents about the test this week. In addition, the school will help them apply to the College Board for accommodations, a process that must be completed by Dec. 15.
In the long term, APS agreed to notify parents of 8th, 9th and 10th grade students with disabilities about the process to request accommodations by May 1 every year. They also agreed to train county school counseling staff on this application process.
Buehlmann said she was pleased with the complaint process overall and the final agreement they reached.
“Everyone handled the situation very well, and both agencies got their job done efficiently and effectively,” she said. “I think it’s a great example of how a large bureaucracy like the DOE and a big institution like APS can work well with parents to get a job done.”
An Arlington Public Schools spokesman declined to comment.
The Arlington School Board approved the proposed design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale at its meeting Monday night.
The project includes an addition to and renovation of the existing building at 4100 N. Vacation Lane. The building is currently home to the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, which will be moving to the new Wilson School in Rosslyn once both projects are complete.
Specific features of the Stratford project include:
- 1,000-student middle school
- 35,000 square foot addition, minimum
- 144 parking spaces
- One-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive
- Traffic and safety improvements on N. Vacation Lane
- Pedestrian crossing on Old Dominion Drive
The approved addition will be built on the west side of the building and is three stories tall. According to a news release, all renovations will keep the historic existing building in tact, including its south facade.
Architects also provided a second driveway option for the school if VDOT does not approve an exit on Old Dominion Drive.
Funding available for the project ranges from $31.3 million to $36.3 million. The School Board is expected to approve a schematic design in February.
The school system has opposed a push by preservationists to designate Stratford a local historic district, saying it would cause delays and drive up costs. In 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.
Stratford Middle School is expected to open in Sept. 2019.
Photos via APS/Quinn Evans Architects
APS says it has disabled wireless internet access for student-owned devices during school hours, due to excessive web traffic on APS’ network — mostly from smartphones.
“Over the past two years APS has seen a massive increase in the use of mobile technologies,” said Linda Erdos, Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations. “Staff and students at some schools are increasingly wanting to connect personal cell phones or other mobile devices to the APS Wi-Fi network. As a result, there have been periods where the demand for access to the network has exceeded the APS capacity, resulting in slow internet performance for all users, particularly for classroom use.”
“To restore network integrity, APS has temporarily removed Wi-Fi access for the lowest priority devices, preventing student-owned devices from connecting to the APS wireless network between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.,” Erdos continued. Students tell us the new policy has been in place for nearly a month.
APS is in the “final stages” of a procurement process that will build more bandwidth into the APS network, Erdos said. When that added bandwidth is in place — APS is hoping the work is complete by December — student-owned phones and other devices will be allowed back on the network.
“It has been decided that we will allow student-owned devices back on the network once the increased capacity is in place and we have tested it to ensure there are no problems,” said Erdos. “I just can’t give an exact date.”
Students, meanwhile, are none too pleased with the lack of internet access. Cell phone service is spotty within schools, students say, and those without school-issued laptops and tablets — which are still allowed on the network — say they need internet access to complete school work at a time when APS is emphasizing technology in classrooms and removing computer labs.
Diana, a Yorktown High School student, wrote the following to explain that internet access is now an educational need, not just a means to slacking off in class.
Technology is seen as a very important part of curriculums and education in APS, which is why students should access to Wi-Fi.
Many places in Yorktown do not even have service so using cellular data is not always an option if students have to use their phones to do schoolwork, which as a senior I frequently have to do. Students can no longer log into Wi-Fi with personal laptops but students who are freshman and sophomores still can log in through their MacBooks since they are APS issued. This puts juniors and seniors at a disadvantage.
Google Docs is widely used at Yorktown and at APS and I use for typing up many notes and papers including for my independent study. Not having access to the Wi-Fi to be able to use Google Docs or just the Wi-Fi in general for my independent study can hinder my success in the class.
Yorktown did have two computer labs with laptops but those laptops were taken away and now those two places are just empty classrooms. Junior and Senior teachers are limited to just computers at the library to bring their class to or request a computer cart. These teachers can no longer tell students to pull out their phones to do something since they just don’t have the access to do so with no Wi-Fi while the underclassmen just use their MacBooks and don’t have to worry about a reliable internet connection.
On Twitter, other students were less reserved with their assessment of the situation, offering comments like:
- “@APSVirginia @YorktownHS I’m dropping out of school if the wifi doesn’t get fixed”
- “Turn on the f-cking wifi @APSVirginia”
- “@APSVirginia has enough money to give thousands of MacBooks to freshmen and sophomores but can’t give the rest of us wifi?”
- “@APSVirginia GIVE US BACK OUR WIFI THIS IS NOT NORTH KOREA”
The Virginia governor will be speaking to students at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) about career paths in cybersecurity tomorrow, Oct. 28, from 1:15-3 p.m.
McAuliffe will be joined by a panel of cyber security professionals who will talk about the different jobs in cybersecurity as well as the resources students need to pursue a career.
“The nation is in need of a strong cybersecurity workforce. The demand for skilled cyber professionals is at an all-time high, and will only increase as our country and world grow more dependent on cyber and information technology,” Arlington Public Schools said in a statement.
The panelists will talk about the average day of a cybersecurity specialist, what interested them in a cyber career and how they got their start. They will also perform a Wi-Fi Watering Hole attack demonstration.
The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015.
Working group chairman Greg Greeley presented the latest analysis to the County Board and Arlington School Board during a joint working session yesterday (Thursday). Arlington Public Schools is aiming to open a new school by 2019 in order to handle a 925 seat deficit.
The working group analyzed about 20 different locations, included those owned solely by Arlington Public Schools, solely by the county, jointly by APS and the County and privately owned. From there, the group narrowed it down to three finalists: Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Gunston Middle School/Oakridge Elementary School and Drew Model Elementary School.
With each site, the working group looked out how the new elementary school would fit on the property. Of the three sites, the working group preferred the Thomas Jefferson site.
In January, the County Board scuttled the school system’s plan to build an elementary school on the TJ site, following vocal protests from residents concerns about the impact to adjacent parkland.
County Board member John Vihstadt echoed those concerns, and brought up a proposal that he said could preserve the parkland while still getting the school built nearby.
Vihstadt introduced a letter from Snell Properties, which owns the Dominion Arms complex at 333 S. Glebe Road, offering APS land for a school free of charge, in exchange for the ability to build a new development with more density.
The Sun Gazette has more about the proposal and the mixed reaction to it.
“Without getting into the pros and cons, the merits and demerits of this potential new location, I, for one, am certainly interested in the pursuit of looking at this, completely scouring the pros and cons of whether this is an option or not. We are making a decision for 50 years,” Vihstadt said.
At the time of the working session between the two boards, not all members had read the letter, including School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez and Superintendent Patrick Murphy, who voiced concerns about the potential for delaying the opening of a new school past 2019.
“Some of the concerns I think is we have a process in place and we have to respect the process. The South Arlington working group has done a fabulous job, and I would hate to see something new come into play and derail and delay given the 2019 timeline,” Murphy said.
Vihstadt asked the working group and School Board about possible alternatives to find at least 725 new seats, a request made previously by the County Board in January.
The School Board looked at additions to Barcroft and other elementary schools but they would not add enough seats, said Violand-Sánchez. School Board member Abby Raphael also raised concerns over the costs of additions versus a new school.
“Clearly additions are not as cost effective as a new school. Given the limited funding that we have for capital. I would be very surprised if we had to go back to what we called plan B,” Raphael said. “And I kind of find it inconceivable that we’re not going to reach agreement on a new site for a school in south Arlington. We have to. We have to the seats in the fall of 2019.”
A full report from the working group on potential South Arlington school sites is due to the County Board in November.
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.