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by Tim Regan — February 3, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

A plan to build a new educational facility at the Reed School in Westover has some parents worried for the future of a daycare and special needs program there.

Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced a renovation project to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building in Westover.

The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School , a co-op child care center for APS employees, and 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 for more than 20 years.

But the longtime collaboration may soon come to an end. Under the proposal, The Children’s Center and the Integration Station could be moved out of the building and separated from one another. Arlington Public Schools hasn’t yet announced a home for either one.

The possibility of separating the daycare and integration program has worried some parents whose kids are enrolled in both. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting Thursday evening.

“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. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”

One parent fought back tears as she urged School Board to keep the two programs under the same roof. She described how her son, who is autistic, benefitted from the Integration Station.

“Had he not received the level of special integration care from the staff, I’m sure he would not be where he is right now, which is attending a typical school surrounded by typical kids,” the parent said.

She continued: “Without TCS, the Integration Station is no longer possible and much of its value is lost…  We ask that the board take concrete steps toward ensuring that the children’s school can continue to serve both the staff and the students of the Integration Station.”

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

Everyone in Arlington knows that APS is facing a period of unprecedented enrollment growth that is creating significant demands on school capacity. Providing seats for the growing number of students in APS has stretched the capacity of our schools and our school sites. APS is working closely with the County and The Children’s School to explore viable options for relocation. To date, TCS wants to continue to pursue additional options beyond those that have been identified.

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.

by ARLnow.com — February 2, 2017 at 11:35 am 0

APS high school enrollment slide

Arlington Public Schools has hired a consultant to review its high school enrollment projections.

The consultant, Dr. Richard Grip, previously worked on the Arlington Community Facilities study. He will be studying the way APS projected enrollment during its recent high school boundary change process.

“To ensure our methodology follow best practices, we have hired an external statistician who will review the projections and methods used,” said APS Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos. “The November projections will be updated in March, which is our standard practice, to finalize the budget for next year.”

The move comes as parents are questioning a slide from a recent School Board meeting (above) that seemingly shows overcrowding at Yorktown following the controversial boundary changes, which shifted students from overcrowded Washington-Lee to the somewhat less crowded Yorktown and Wakefield.

“The projected attendance numbers used during the redistricting process were wrong,” said an email that has been circulating among parents, which was forwarded to ARLnow.com. “APS staff underestimated the number of students who will be attending Yorktown in 2020/21 and now Yorktown is projected to be over capacity by about 700 students… apparently a new consultant has been hired to re-do the projections.”

Erdos, however, says that is not the case. The slide, she says, shows two different things: enrollment projections bef0re boundary changes and the total number of students in each of the three high school zones. But the latter numbers, shown in the right column, include students who attend magnet/choice schools like H-B Woodlawn and the new Arlington Tech program, and thus do not reflect any sort of net enrollment projection.

“The November projections vs. January analysis is like comparing apples and oranges — they were developed for two totally different reasons,” Erdos said. “The January report was only intended to be an analysis of the ethnicity of the student population in the three neighborhood boundary zones because of earlier questions raised.”

“Staff is not aware of any plan by the School Board to revisit high school boundaries at this time,” Erdos added.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is expected to address the projections review and timeline during tonight’s School Board meeting.

by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2017 at 1:20 pm 0

Yorktown teacher Thomas Lenihan and note to Yorktown HS families (photo, left, via FCPD)

A history teacher at Yorktown High School, has been charged with indecent exposure by Fairfax County Police after an incident in Tysons Corner Thursday night.

Police say Thomas Lenihan, 38, exposed himself to two teens in the locker room of the Sport & Health Club on Greensboro Drive. He was arrested on two counts of indecent exposure shortly thereafter.

Lenihan will be placed on administrative leave and will not return to Yorktown, families were told in an email, which also encouraged students who may have additional information about Lenihan to come forward.

More on the charges from the Fairfax County Police Department:

Officers were called to the 8200 block of Greensboro Drive, a Sports and Health Club, yesterday around 9:30 p.m. for a report of a man exposing himself to two juveniles in the locker room. The victims, 16 and 17 years old, told employees that a man had watched them in the shower and followed them around the locker room while exposing himself.

Officers located the suspect at the business and identified him as Thomas Lenihan, 38, of Falls Church. Lenihan is currently employed as a teacher in Arlington County at Yorktown High School. He was arrested, taken to the Adult Detention Center and charged with two misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure. He was released on a $5,000 bond.

Anyone who might have witnessed this incident is asked to contact the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131, or contact Crime Solvers electronically by visiting www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text-a-tip by texting “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES (274637).

by ARLnow.com — January 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Arlington County firefighters, including the hazmat team, responded to Washington-Lee High School this morning after air monitoring alarms indicated a possible refrigerant leak in the school’s boiler room.

ACFD was dispatched to W-L around 10:45 a.m. Firefighters investigated the alarms for more than an hour before concluding that there were no hazards, a fire department spokesman said.

The boiler room was ventilated during the incident response, but the school was not evacuated and no injuries were reported.

In the end, it was a malfunctioning alarm, not a hazardous leak, that caused the incident, said APS spokeswoman Jennifer Harris.

by ARLnow.com — November 29, 2016 at 2:00 pm 0

Police officers at Yorktown High School (file photo)

A fight between two students but also involving one student’s parents broke out Monday morning just outside of Yorktown High School.

Arlington County Police responded to the school just before 11:30 a.m. for a report of a fight involving students, adults and a large crowd. The situation was deemed to be under control shortly after officers arrived on scene.

But police say this was more than just a standard-issue fight between two students. It was the result of an “ongoing dispute” and it involved two parents of one of the students and allegations of racial slurs being used.

“The incident stemmed from an ongoing dispute between students at Yorktown High School,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “There was a verbal altercation which turned physical when one juvenile subject struck the juvenile victim in the face. The victim did not require medical transport. At this time, there are no criminal charges but our School Resource Officer continues to work with the students, families and Yorktown High School administration regarding the incident.”

The parents “were involved in the dispute but not the physical fight, that was between two juvenile students,” Savage said, in response to an inquiry by ARLnow.com.

“There was alleged use of racial slurs during the verbal argument,” Savage added. “We have not been provided with any video of the incident.”

A post in a popular online message board for local mothers suggests that racial slurs were used by the student’s father, and that cell phone video of the fight exists, but the actual circumstances could not be confirmed by ARLnow.com, only the allegations.

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said school administration “is aware of the incident and is working with the families involved to address the situation.”

File photo

by ARLnow.com — November 18, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

Arlington Public Schools administration building

(Updated on 11/21/16 at 3:50 p.m.) The Arlington School Board discussed its budget guidance for 2018 at its meeting Tuesday. Included in the discussion: plans to move the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices.

Currently, top APS administrators have offices at the Education Center at 1426 N. Quincy Street. But the school system is considering signing a lease that would move APS offices from the Education Center and elsewhere to the Syphax Education Center at 2110 Washington Blvd.

That would free up classroom space for overcrowded Washington-Lee High School or, potentially, for a countywide high school program.

Arlington Public Schools proposed budget“The Education Center property would become available to develop into more classroom space for high school students once APS offices are relocated after Jan. 1, 2018,” said a press release.

“While the Ed Center property will be considered for additional high school seats, the School Board has not made any decision regarding how this space will be used as secondary seats, but the plan does not automatically add capacity to Washington-Lee,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “The Board will have a conversation with the community about whether it will be a countywide high school program, what type of program, and how to use this additional space for secondary seats in the future.”

The overall FY 2018 budget direction calls for pay raises, “whole child” initiatives and cost savings.

“The proposed budget direction prioritizes increased compensation for staff; supports continued investment in initiatives to meet the needs of the whole child and provide 21st century learning opportunities; provides full staffing for growing enrollment; and assumes full funding from the County’s transfer to pay for critical needs of the school division,” said the press release. “Additionally, the Board’s budget direction includes efforts to identify cost savings, options for increased fees, and opportunities to use closeout funding to pay for one-time expenses.”

The School Board, meanwhile, is thanking Arlington voters for approving a $139 million school bond measure that will fund school construction necessary to keep up with increasing school enrollment.

From Arlington Public Schools:

Approximately 79.5 percent of voters supported the bond, which will be dedicated to addressing growing capacity needs throughout Arlington County.

“Thank you to the entire community. We have an incredible community that really supports our schools,” said School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren. “Here in Arlington we are proud to enjoy continued support from the community that is clearly committed to our schools.”

She continued, “One demonstration of this commitment is the strong voter approval of our 2016 School Bond, which passed with just under 80% of the vote. The success of our Bond campaign this year was due in large part to our two Bond Co-Chairs, Monique O’Grady and Peter Fallon. We owe a big thank you to Monique and Peter for their efforts.” The allocation of the $138.8 million will fund the following projects:

  • $26,030,000 will be used as the majority funding to build an addition at the Stratford building to add 339 seats.
  • $78,400,000 will be used as the majority funding for construction of the new school at the Wilson site to add an estimated 775 seats.
  • $12,000,000 will be used to renovate the Career Center/Arlington Tech to add 300 seats.
  • $10,000,000 will be used for planning and design to build an additional 1,300 secondary seats [location(s) TBD].
  • $12,400,000 will be used for HVAC, roofing, and other infrastructure improvement projects at existing APS buildings.

Information on the 2016 school bond and all of the projects planned in the 2017-26 APS Capital Improvement Plan is available online.

by ARLnow.com — November 14, 2016 at 4:35 pm 0

(Updated at 6 p.m.) Local high school students have been spreading messages of love to counter an otherwise gloomy post-election atmosphere in deep-blue, multicultural Arlington County.

During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump made statements that many felt were hurtful and threatening to immigrants, Muslims, people of color and, perhaps to a lesser extent, LGBT individuals — communities that are well-represented in Arlington. In response, students have their own message.

“Love and respect all life,” “stronger together,” “united not divided,” “forever forward,” and “love trumps hate,” are a few of the messages Washington-Lee High School students have written in chalk on the Stafford Street bridge near the school. There are also quotes from Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela.

Elsewhere in Arlington, a message to students at H-B Woodlawn (below) has gone viral on social media.

The message of reassurance, to women and minority communities, has spread on social media and received nearly a quarter million likes after pop star Lady Gaga posted it on her Instagram account.

At Wakefield High School, chalk messages outside the school entrance today included affirmations like “smile,” “you matter” and “be the change.”

Post-it notes on the school’s doors (below) also offered positive, personal messages for students, who were encouraged to take one on their way into school.

https://twitter.com/MrBurnsWHS/status/798139316551766016

https://twitter.com/whssuperfans/status/798149528679579648

Arlington was not totally immune to a national wave of hateful messages, however. In the wake of the election there were some isolated reports of racist (confirmed by police; link is NSFW), anti-gay (not confirmed by police; link is NSFW) and anti-Trump graffiti around Arlington.

The following graffiti incidents have been reported since last Tuesday’s election, according to an Arlington County Police spokeswoman.

GRAFFITI, 2016-11090173, 2700 block of S. Nelson Street. On November 9 at approximately 2:16 PM, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti in the area. Officers located a delivery truck vandalized with black spray paint but the words were not clearly written and officers could not determine what the graffiti stated. There are no suspect(s) descriptions.

GRAFFITI, 2016-11110113, 6600 block of Little Falls Road. On November 11 at approximately 11:34 AM, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti in the area. Officers located the words “Truck Frump,” “Bet,” “LMOA” and an obscenity spray painted on the football field. There are no suspect(s) descriptions.

GRAFFITI, 2016-11120136, W&OD Trail – Rt. 66 at N. Ohio Street. On November 12 at approximately 11:33 AM, police were dispatched to Bluemont Park for the report of graffiti in the area. Officers located numerous graffiti markings including the words “Trump,” “U.S. Border,” “Caution huge,” and a derogatory term spray painted on the pavement and wall. There are no suspect(s) description.

by ARLnow.com — November 2, 2016 at 10:10 am 0

A set of possible high school boundary changes presented by Arlington Public Schools staff would shift several hundred students from the increasingly overcrowded Washington-Lee High School to Wakefield and Yorktown high schools.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is set to present his boundary change recommendations to the School Board tomorrow (Thursday).

The various boundary “refinement” options (as seen above) were presented to the public last week, as part of a process that began in September.

APS says its goal in the boundary change process is to “balance enrollment among the three comprehensive high schools and better utilize available instructional space” while taking into consideration “efficiency, proximity, stability, alignment, demographics, and contiguity.”

As with previous school boundary processes, this latest iteration is not without its detractors. Some residents have emailed ARLnow.com, contending that the process has lacked transparency and has not properly taken parent feedback into account.

“For what it’s worth, this whole process has been an absolutely embarrassing abomination of the ‘Arlington Way’ and the solicitation of feedback has been nothing but a flash-bang to distract residents from the County staff simply doing whatever they want,” said Pete Messman, an Arlington Forest resident.

Next up in the boundary process is School Board work session on Nov. 9, followed by a public hearing on Nov. 15 and a School Board vote on Dec. 1.

The boundary changes would take effect next fall and would apply to rising high school freshmen, not current high school students.

by ARLnow.com — October 28, 2016 at 10:20 am 0

Halloween decorations on Ivy St. in Ashton HeightsCiting fatigue associated with a night of walking around and collecting free candy, more than 2,000 people — mostly students — have signed an online petition calling for a day off of school after Halloween.

The petition, directed to the Arlington County Board, says next Tuesday, the day after Halloween, should be an off day.

Here’s what the petition says:

The night after Halloween kids will be tired and not able to focus on school work. It would be a useless day of school that goes to waste on lethargic children. Middle and high school students already don’t get a ton of sleep, having school on November first would really kill 6th-12th grade students. Sign this to tell the county of Arlington about this problem that has such an easy solution. This may add another day of school at the end but I believe it is worth it to get this day off.

Signers of the petition have encouraged others to spread it to fellow students at Arlington’s middle and high schools.

“We need to let people know about this. Spread it like a wildfire. Share with kids at other schools,” said a petition signer who listed his name as “Spicy Boi.”

by ARLnow.com — October 27, 2016 at 3:35 pm 0

Williamsburg Middle School (photo via APS)(Updated at 8:50 a.m.) In 2012 Arlington Public Schools considered, and then scrapped, a proposal to move middle schools to block scheduling. Four years later, the issue is coming up again at Williamsburg Middle School.

Block scheduling introduces longer periods for core classes — math, English, science, etc. — reducing the number of classes per day attended by students and increasing instruction time. Critics, however, say that longer classes can detrimental to students, especially those with shorter attention spans. They also say that longer core classes cut into electives like music.

In response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com, prompted by emails to us from parents, Williamsburg principal Gordon Laurie confirmed that block scheduling is under consideration. School staff will be presenting a proposal to parents at a meeting in two weeks, he said.

Here’s a statement from Laurie:

We have been considering the block schedule as a staff since January 2016 to provide for an Arlington Tiered System of Supports (ATSS) period in the day as a way to meet the needs of all students’ academic, behavioral, and emotional needs.  Our goal with considering block scheduling is to make sure that we can provide individualized supports and to provided individualized learning to our students.

We convened a faculty committee to examine the block schedule and how it might benefit all students and Williamsburg. We also invited APS teachers from schools that use the block schedule system to visit with their teacher peers and talk to them in their content areas about their experience. We shared the process with the Williamsburg community last February to gather their feedback.

As the process evolved, it became clear that we were too far along in our school year to undertake and implement a new bell schedule for this school year (2016-17). Williamsburg staff began discussing block scheduling again this year as a way to provide additional supports to students. Staff has put together a proposal to share with Williamsburg families at a meeting on Wednesday, November 9 at 7 p.m. During that meeting, we will seek input, provide clarity and answer questions. No final decisions have been made at this point.

Parents who contacted ARLnow.com about the block scheduling said they had been kept in the dark about it and only found out when word leaked out following a school staff meeting yesterday.

Block scheduling has been in place at Arlington’s high schools for at least a few years. It is in place at Kenmore Middle School but not at other local middle schools, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman said.

by ARLnow.com — October 21, 2016 at 10:05 pm 0

Police car (file photo)A large fight broke out at tonight’s Washington-Lee High School football game, prompting police to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

No significant injuries were reported, said Arlington County Police spokesman Capt. Bruce Benson. Those involved in the fight — students, reportedly — were evaluated but did not require medical treatment.

Washington-Lee’s football team was at home tonight, facing McLean High School. Police requested extra officers for security at the end of the game.

As of 9:45 p.m. no arrests had been made, Benson said.

Update at 11:55 a.m. — In addition to the fight during last night’s game, there was also a strong-arm robbery reported after the game. Police searched for the teenage suspect but were unable to locate him. The following email about the robbery was sent to the Cherrydale neighborhood listserv this morning.

My son was robbed after the Homecoming game at Washington Lee. It was right by the bike racks in front of the school on Stafford street, the guy asked for change for, and when my son took out the money to check, the boy snatched the money and ran, and when he yelled and tried to follow him, suddenly a group of the perpetrators friends showed up. I am glad the he did not engage, and instead went looking for a police officer.

The perpetrator had a Black Beanie cap, a grey sweatshirt, and blue jeans, he might have been only 15-16 years old. Even though only about $20 was snatched from my son, I hope the police follow up, as this totally is a sign of organized activity. Per police others were robbed last night as well.

by ARLnow.com — October 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm 0

Test Taking (file photo)Three Arlington Public Schools students have scored a perfect 36 on their ACT college entrance exams so far this year.

Two Yorktown High School students and one Washington-Lee student earned the perfect composite score, which only one in every 1,000 test-takers achieve, according to an ACT spokesman.

Among the APS students to score a 36 was Yorktown senior Megan Grieco. From a press release:

Megan Grieco, daughter of Michael Grieco and Lisa Campbell, and a senior at Yorktown High School, earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36. On average, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2016, only 2,235 out of nearly 2.1 million graduates who took the ACT earned a composite score of 36.

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1-36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores. Some students also take the optional ACT writing test, but the score for that test is reported separately and is not included within the ACT composite score.

In a letter to Ms. Grieco recognizing this exceptional achievement, ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda stated, “Your achievement on the ACT is significant and rare. While test scores are just one of multiple criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”

ACT test scores are accepted by all major U.S. colleges. Exceptional scores of 36 provide colleges with evidence of student readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.

by ARLnow.com — October 3, 2016 at 8:55 am 0

Instagram 'clown' threat against Arlington middle schoolsArlington is the latest place to have its schools threatened by “creepy clown” social media accounts.

Hoax social media posts, often featuring images of sinister-looking clowns, have threatened schools across the country. Thus far the posts have led to numerous arrests of teens suspected of making the threats, but no reported violence.

Last night, two Instagram accounts — @virginiaclowns and @dmv_clowns — posted similar threats, warning of shootings at a number of area schools, including Kenmore, Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools in Arlington.

The threats have prompted a stepped-up police presence at Arlington schools this morning.

“We are aware [of the threats] and were in contact with the Arlington Police Department staff last night when we saw the messages,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “As a precaution, ACPD has had an increased presence at our schools this morning.”

by Tim Regan — September 29, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

Arlington Public School school bus(Updated at 2:37 p.m.) Teachers at two Arlington schools are doing away with take-home packets, worksheets and projects.

Oakridge and Ashlawn elementary schools have adopted a reading-only homework policy this year, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. Another local school, Taylor Elementary, is currently piloting a similar program for second graders.

Under the new program, teachers will only assign occasional at-home reading. Students are graded not on homework, but on class participation and what they produce during the school day.

The policy is aimed at teaching students how to think critically and solve problems, said Oakridge principal Dr. Lynne Wright.

“We felt that when we used homework as a grade, it was inequitable because we couldn’t really determine how much of the assignment was done by the student or how much was done with editing, support and coaching,” Wright said.

But that doesn’t mean kids at those schools won’t learn how to be responsible after class, Wright said. Teachers will encourage students to learn practical tasks such as making their lunch for the next day or putting things away at home.

So far, Wright said there’s been little resistance from parents, partly because the new program didn’t come as a surprise. School officials spent the last year looking at research and talking it over at PTA meetings.

“The questions about responsibility and getting ready for middle school were the questions that came up the most,” Wright said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of pushback.”

In fact, many parents said they felt like homework took too much time away from interacting with their kids.

“They weren’t spending time talking to their children about their day or their friendships or the content they’d learned,” Wright said. “They were really just saying, get that worksheet done. They felt like they were putting all this energy into something that wasn’t impacting their learning or their creativity and problem solving.”

And how are students taking to the new policy?

“They were jumping for joy,” Wright said. “They feel relief. They’re happy. They’re proud. They feel like they’re developing their relationships.”

by Tim Regan — September 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

2016 SAT graph (via Arlington Public Schools)Though SAT scores at Arlington Public Schools fell in 2016, they still far exceeded national and state trends.

That’s the latest from APS, which reported today its average combined SAT score in 2016 fell 19 points, to 1,661. APS Students achieved an average combined score of 1,680 last year.

Despite the drop, however, the newest numbers still easily beat the Virginia average score of 1,535 and national average score of 1,484 in 2016. The latest average score also exceeds what APS students achieved in 2014 by eight points.

“Our students continue to have a proven track record of exceptional performance on the SAT that far exceeds their peers around the country,” Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said in a press release. “We are very proud of their success and their level of preparation for post-secondary opportunities.”

Year-over-year, mean APS SAT scores fell three points in reading, eight points in writing and seven points in math.

Additionally, “results for APS black and white students also exceed the peers in Virginia and the nation by large margins,” the school system noted in its release.

“I am grateful for the leadership of our principals and the support from our teachers and counselors who helped to prepare our students well to achieve these impressive results,” Murphy added. “Our congratulations go out to our students and their families for successfully completing this important step to achieving their post-secondary pursuits.”

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