(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Swanson Middle School, McKinley Elementary and Ashlawn Elementary were placed in “secure the school” mode Friday morning due to an armed robbery in Fairfax County.
The robbery happened just before 10:30 a.m. in the Willston Center, on the 6100 block of Arlington Blvd. While each are about a mile or more away from the robbery scene, the schools were nonetheless secured as a precaution.
More from Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Harris:
At approximately 10:30 a.m., Swanson, McKinley and Ashlawn enacted our “Secure the School” protocol due to nearby police activity. Students and staff remained safely inside our school buildings for approximately 45 minutes. There was never any danger within the school buildings. A “Secure the School” exercise is not a “Lockdown” protocol. This exercise was in response to police activity within the outside community.
No one was hurt in the robbery, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.
Robbery reported 10:22am at a store in the 6100blk of Arlington Blvd. Suspect described: Hispanic, 20s, 5'6", dark clothing. No one hurt. pic.twitter.com/4uRhUqwvIT
— Fairfax Co. Police (@fairfaxpolice) June 16, 2017
A letter to parents from Wakefield principal Chris Willmore said that on May 30 and 31, students had to move examination rooms after two-and-a-half hours of taking a test that does not have a time limit.
But, Willmore said, some students began talking while moving to the new testing area. Willmore said staff immediately reported what happened to the Virginia Department of Education, but a VDOE spokesman challenged that assertion and said it was reported after regular business hours on June 8. VDOE decided earlier this week that students had to re-sit.
Those re-sits took place yesterday and today. An Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman said around 280 students were affected.
Willmore’s full letter is below.
Dear Wakefield Families:
I am writing to let you know about an irregularity that we experienced during Standards of Learning (SOL) testing a week ago that affects your student. As you may know, some SOL tests have no time limits which means students may take as long as they need to complete the test. During SOL testing on May 30 and 31, some students needed more than the two and a half hours that had been scheduled in the rooms where they were taking tests. Although the state allows schools to move students to another location when this occurs, we experienced some talking among students while they were moving. Because talking is not allowed when students are regrouped, the APS staff who were serving as the Wakefield testing monitors immediately reported this “testing irregularity” to the APS Office of Planning and Evaluation staff who alerted the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) as required.
Although this was reported to VDOE a week ago, we did not learn until yesterday afternoon that the state has decided to void all of the student scores for these tests because of the irregularity. This means that your student is among the group of students who will need to retake an SOL test.
The SOL retakes will be given on Thursday and Friday this week. Students will be informed by their classroom teacher today about the retake. For those students who have a final exam during the time when they need to retake the SOL test, they will be excused from their final exam and their final grade will be calculated using the fourth marking period grades. Also, because Friday is an early release day, for those students who need more time, regular transportation will be available in the afternoon at our normal dismissal time.
Finally and most importantly, I want to sincerely apologize to all of our Wakefield students and families for this error. We have had an amazing year with great progress and achievement and I regret that we have experienced this mistake during our administration of some tests this year. Please know that we will do everything possible to support our students and help them finish the year successfully.
Chris Willmore, Principal
In a second letter sent Thursday, Willmore took full responsibility, and urged parents not to contact VDOE with their concerns, but him.
Yesterday, we learned that Wakefield parents and staff have been contacting VDOE about the need to retest some students. I need to urge you again to instead direct your concerns to me. For those I have already spoken with, I appreciate the time you have taken to share your thoughts and feelings about what has happened.
In the end, Wakefield is required to follow the procedures set in place for all schools by the state and, unfortunately, that did not happen this year. I want to assure everyone that we will implement a corrective action plan so we learn from this year’s testing difficulties and can ensure that this type of irregularity does not occur again.
An anonymous tipster said students that needed to re-take the tests had been put at a significant disadvantage, and they called on the Virginia Department of Education to let their scores stand.
“They’ve been away from the subject for two-three weeks, putting them at a distinct disadvantage,” the tipster wrote. “Someone should put pressure on the state to let the scores stand.”
The APS spokeswoman said an irregularity during a test can be defined in any number of ways, and that staff are trained to report anything that happens.
“[A] ‘testing irregularity’ is anything that happens outside the norm,” the spokeswoman said. “A student getting sick and throwing up during the test is an ‘irregularity’ and test scores are thrown out by the state for the class. Same thing if there’s a fire alarm or power outage. We have monitors in all schools during testing who must share anything that occurs with our head of testing and, then our head of testing reports that to the state.”
The Arlington School Board will consider a new contract for Superintendent Patrick Murphy, one year before his current deal expires.
According to a memo sent to her colleagues on the School Board by chair Nancy Van Doren, Murphy has requested a new four-year contract, effective July 1.
At tonight’s meeting, the Board will vote on whether to advance a notice of intent to renew Murphy’s contract as part of its consent items. If it passes, the contract would then likely be debated at the Board’s June 29 meeting.
Van Doren’s May 18 memo reads:
The Superintendent has requested that his contract be replaced with a new four-year term, with some modifications, effective as of July 1, 2017. This memorandum provides notice to the Board, pursuant to Va. Code 22.1-60(C), that the Board may act upon this request at its June 29, 2017 meeting or thereafter, and a vote is tentatively planned for that purpose.
An Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman declined to comment further on the new contract and those modifications, except to say that the Board is “considering the renewal.”
“I know that the procedures for contracts of any type (personnel, construction, equipment, contractors, etc.) are private until the contract has been finalized and approved, so terms of this (or any other) contract would not be public until it is finalized and approved by the Board at some point in the future,” the spokeswoman said.
Murphy’s current contract, which expires at the end of the 2018 school year, provides an annual salary of $223,242.50. He has been superintendent since 2009.
All 15 high school graduates from the pilot year of AHC Inc.’s new college guidance program will progress into higher education.
This year, the seniors applied to 71 schools and were accepted into 54. Together, they received nearly $500,000 in scholarship money, including full rides to Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania. Many of the students are the first members of their family to attend college.
AHC, an Arlington-based affordable housing provider, hosted a celebration Monday night at the Lyon Park Community Center for the graduates, their families and mentors.
The free mentoring program is part of AHC’s resident services program, which began in 1993. The initiative is designed to provide students of all ages with something productive to do in their afternoons.
The program includes after-school activities for elementary school students, tutoring for middle and high school students and now a mentoring program to help high school seniors with the college process.
Each senior is paired with an adult for an entire year. The mentors aid their students with the college process, including financial aid, essays and scholarship applications.
Jasmine Connor began working with her mentor, Marjorie Macieria, in the fall.
“Working with Marjorie was the best. We clicked,” Connor said.
The two met weekly, primarily focusing on scholarship applications, of which Connor has received two: the “We Are the Dream” oratorical scholarship and the Arlington School Administrators Spirit Award. The scholarships will help fund Connor’s ambition to graduate debt-free from Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.
Connor plans to pursue a major in Early Childhood Development with a minor in Special Education. She has been inspired by her own teachers to help students with learning disabilities.
“Just because you have a learning disability, that doesn’t mean anything,” she said. ”I have one and I got two scholarships and I’m going to college.”
Kyle Yapching-Galang began working with his mentor, Carter Vaden, in the seventh grade. Initially, she tutored him in French and then branched out to help him with English. While Vaden did not help Yapching-Galang with his college applications, she has been a part of his school career for six years.
“She’s a really good friend who helps me when I’m struggling or when I’m angsty,” Yapching-Galang said.
Vaden said she has seen Yapching-Galang grown from a shy middle-schooler into a confident adult. Yapching-Galang plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall.
Zanab Farooq has been attending AHC’s programs since pre-school. Yet, she credits her mentor of the past year, Joseph Maltby, for helping her get into college.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten into college without him,” Farooq said. “He knew what to do, what not to do and how to stay on top of things.”
Farooq will be attending the University of Mary Washington in the fall, where she hopes to major in Marketing. With various scholarships secured, all she has to pay for is textbooks and a meal plan.
During the celebratory dinner, guest speaker and local Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he was proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“You are what we need. You are medicine,” he said. “You are the source of pleasure and accomplishment and hope for everything that ails every community. Your thirst for education and knowledge and the fact that you’ve done it, says so much about you.”
Arlington Public Schools will begin to mark the end of the 2017 school year over the next week with graduation and promotion ceremonies.
Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for the following times and places.
- Arlington Career Center PEP (Friday, June 16, 10 a.m. in the Career Center)
- Stratford (Friday, June 16, 1 p.m. in the H-B Woodlawn auditorium)
- Arlington Career Center GED (Friday, June 16, 7 p.m. in the Washington-Lee High School little theatre)
- New Directions (Monday, June 19, 11 a.m., Arlington Central Library)
- H-B Woodlawn (Tuesday, June 20, 5 p.m., H-B Woodlawn cafeteria)
- Comprehensive high schools (Wednesday, June 21, DAR Constitution Hall – Washington-Lee at 10 a.m., Yorktown at 2 p.m., Wakefield at 8 p.m.)
- Arlington Community High School (Thursday, June 22, 9:30 a.m., Washington-Lee auditorium)
- Langston Continuation Program (Thursday, June 22, 1 p.m., Washington-Lee auditorium)
The last day of school for APS is as follows.
- Tuesday, June 20: High schools
- Thursday, June 22: Middle schools (promotion ceremonies that day)
- Friday, June 23: Elementary schools (a number also have celebrations that day)
The first day of school for the next school year is Tuesday, Sept. 5.
The HVAC problems at W-L struck on one of the hottest days of the year so far.
Separately, the air conditioning system for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program was down this morning, but workers were able to get the chiller “back up and running,” according to an Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman. Classes there remain in session.
Washington-Lee’s principal sent the following email to parents this morning.
Dear W-L Families,
We appreciate your children’s patience and resilience as we deal with the HVAC issue in the building.
APS has decided to release students early. We will follow these procedures:
Buses will operate per usual routes.
Walkers will make their way home as normal.
Students who are unable to depart at the new dismissal time may remain on campus — a room in the trailer, where HVAC is unaffected, is available.
APS Facilities and Operations are currently in the building trying to address the problem.
Thank you to our families for their flexibility and support during this unusual situation.
Dr. Gregg Robertson
Principal, Washington-Lee High School
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington Public Schools parents and teachers remain divided over the county’s one-to-one technology initiative ahead of possible revisions to the school system’s strategic plan later this year.
The rollout of the program began during the 2014-2015 school year and provides iPads for elementary and middle school students, Macbook Air laptops for high school students. The hope was that every student attending an Arlington school would have a device by 2017.
Prior to the program teachers had to check out laptops for assignments that were based online, or reserve computer lab space. In some cases, students had to pair up to complete assignments.
One middle school parent said that although her children have access to technology at home, the program is the county’s “best option” for those who don’t — helping to level the playing field for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Attended by parents and teachers, the conversation was focused on how the technology is impacting the classroom. The main concerns for many parents were how teachers could balance the use of the technology with traditional learning and how parents could monitor how their child is using their device.
Jennifer Burgin, a second grade teacher at Oakridge Elementary School, shared how her students used their iPads to identify real deer teeth samples. When the assignment was over, the devices were replaced with pencil and paper.
“iPads are not meant to replace me, instead they help unleash me,” said Burgin. “As I learn more about deeper learning practices and ensuring equity for all my learners, I use iPads to my advantage when they benefit all learners.”
Several middle school teachers said that the technology makes their students more interested in learning, allowing them to research additional information or record and re-watch their teacher explaining challenging concepts.
Some parents, however, wanted to know what is being done to protect children from the dangers of the internet, with some saying there needs to be a county-wide policy on the use of the devices.
While there are schools that have blocked apps and have teachers conducting spot checks on student devices, parents said that there are still students who get in trouble for breaking the classroom guidelines. One anonymous parent alleged there is a culture of students using their iPads for inappropriate content.
“I can tell you that if a child is reported to have inappropriate content, their iPad is checked and if the content is there, the iPad is taken away from the child,” she said. “But that is a Band-Aid on instance on a much wider systemic problem.”
The one group that was absent from the meeting were parents of high schoolers. The older students got laptops instead of tablets because of their heavier course load and lengthier assignments.
“[Now] that students have laptops — which they have by and large learned to bring to class, charged, every day — [it] has facilitated a sea-change in how I deliver instruction,” said Doug Burns, an English teacher at Wakefield High School. He said that an effective lesson plan helps keep students from misusing their devices.
Some suggestions for a more cohesive program included a training program for both teachers and parents, and placing more restrictions on the devices.
“If they would have thought about curriculum, investigated helpful apps, locked down the iPads to only those apps, not provide Safari, and train the teachers prior to rollout, the iPad initiative could have been much more successful,” said one parent.
APS is set to revisit its strategic plan for the devices later this year.
School Board members clashed Thursday over an attempt to add language encouraging more diversity in Arlington Public Schools.
The revised policies are designed so students could have equal access to an option school with a more specialized curriculum, while also guaranteeing students a place in their neighborhood school.
The new policies will go into effect for the 2018/19 school year, with siblings able to attend the same school at the elementary level if one already attends.
But an effort by Board member Reid Goldstein to add new language that says the policy “will include steps to enhance diversity across our option schools and through our neighborhood transfer practices” got the cold shoulder from his colleagues.
Goldstein said steps that could be taken to enhance diversity could include looking at new options around transportation, to enable a better mix of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
He also said that higher-income families could thus be encouraged to attend schools where there are more lower-income students and families.
But Tannia Talento said Goldstein’s efforts represented “microaggressions,” the casual degradation of those less fortunate than others.
“While I support diversity, I think diversity is a great thing, it’s very hard for me to sit here and listen to some of this, because there are some things in here that I feel are microaggressions that I’m offended by,” Talento said.
Later, Talento added that previously, she has been seen as the “token Latino” and “token woman” in various settings. Any conversation about enhancing diversity should include all affected communities and be part of a robust public engagement process, she said.
Goldstein said his efforts were focused on helping the county and APS improve its diversity, given what he said are major disparities across the system.
“This should be a call to action for a community that so vociferously hails its diversity and proudly proclaims how diverse and inclusive it is,” he said. “And yet, outside of our vision state and our core values, APS’ definable steps to achieve diversity are scarce.”
But James Lander rejected that, and the idea that the income of fellow students’ families could be a determining factor for where people want to send their children to school.
“It’s been my experience that families choose instructional programs, not how much money their neighbors make, to determine what is the best instructional journey for their children,” Lander said. “I want to bring this back to instruction, because that’s important.”
The board voted down Goldstein’s plan, 3-2. Chair Nancy van Doren said that not only did she believe it was making an attempt at “forcing” or “incentivizing” diversity, it was too late in the process to introduce such an amendment. The Board then unanimously approved the new transfer policy, despite opposition from some parents.
That’s according to the Arlington County Police Department, in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com. ACPD has thus far not provided additional details about the nature of the arrests, the suspects or the schools involved.
The new statistic comes as ACPD starts conducting K-9 drug searches after hours in Arlington public high schools.
Current and former students, who spoke to ARLnow.com on the condition of anonymity, said there is drug problem within the school system.
“Over the past two years or so, I have definitely seen an increase in drug usage among high school students, particularly Xanax and Adderall,” said one recent graduate. “If I had to place blame on one thing, I would say that stress is what’s driving most kids towards drug use, but particularly Xanax and Adderall. The stress problem is really something that APS needs to get out in front of sooner rather than later.”
A current junior at Yorktown High School said the issue extends beyond prescription drugs.
“Yorktown definitely has a drug problem,” she said. “So many people have started getting into cocaine and a lot of the other harder drugs and many of them don’t even think much of it just because they see it around so often. It’s definitely considered ‘cool’ to be into that sort of thing, which is why I think so many kids are drawn to it.”
“There’s not much else to do so a lot of people do for fun,” said a recent graduate. “I don’t think people really think of themselves as addicts.”
“The middle schools are the worst,” said a senior. “Kids have older siblings that are in high school and are able to sell to the younger students. It’s a cycle.”
In a prior statement, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman said APS is taking steps to combat drug use, adding that the problem is part of a larger trend that extends well beyond Arlington.
“As you know, substance abuse and opioid use is a growing problem both in our region and across the US,” said Frank Bellavia. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we are taking steps to make sure that our students are safe and that our schools remain drug free. We also want to make sure that parents are aware and having conversations with their children at home.”
Kalina Newman and Brooke Giles contributed reporting. File photo.
During the last few weeks of the school year and throughout the summer, the dogs will patrol secondary schools after hours to try to sniff out illegal drugs.
Described as a “proactive measure” in a letter to parents, sent today (Thursday), the searches come at a time when parents are becoming increasingly alarmed about the presence of drugs in middle and high schools.
“I have two children in middle school and have heard of numerous times this year alone of students overdosing on prescription drugs on school grounds or having drugs on school grounds,” one Arlington Public Schools parent said in an email to ARLnow.com.
“Drugs in APS middle and high schools are a real problem,” said an APS employee, who wished to remain anonymous. “Administrators are quick to sweep the drug problems under the rug so it won’t make the school look bad. Do the police warn drug dealers of a raid before the raid? I’m a concerned parent, tax paying citizen and an employee of APS.”
In an email to staff yesterday afternoon, obtained by ARLnow.com, Washington-Lee High School Principal Dr. Gregg Robertson acknowledged that Arlington “has seen an increase in the use of controlled substances.”
As many of you may be aware, Arlington, like many areas of the country, has seen an increase in the use of controlled substances. Over the course of the past year, APS staff worked closely with a number of county agencies to respond to this uptick and to ensure that our schools continue to be safe spaces for students and staff. One of the new measures that will be implemented to help minimize the presence of illegal substances in the schools is the use of the Arlington Police Department K-9 unit. Beginning later this month, the police will come to each of the high schools with the K-9 units to search for drugs. The searches will take place in the evening after students and staff have left.
APS has been communicating this information to families, and all high schools will make an announcement tomorrow (Thursday) morning. I wanted you to be aware of this initiative as I am sure students may have questions.
The drug dogs will only patrol high schools, not middle schools, according to APS.
At least one middle school principal downplayed the extent of the “drug problem” at her school. In an email sent to parents on Monday, Williamsburg Middle School principal Connie Skelton said the problem was limited to “a small cohort of students.”
I’ve had some questions about the “drug problem” at Williamsburg. I want to assure you that this is not a widespread problem, however, we do share your concern. In our school, there is a small cohort of students we are carefully following for drug related issues. If you have any information you would like to share with me, please give me a call.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said the school system is taking measures to keep students safe in the face of a nationwide upswing in drug use.
“Substance abuse and opioid use is a growing problem both in our region and across the U.S.,” said Bellavia. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we are taking steps to make sure that our students are safe and that our schools remain drug free. We also want to make sure that parents are aware and having conversations with their children at home.”
A plan to designate one of the potential sites for a new public high school as a historic district will be discussed by the County Board tonight (Tuesday).
But the proposal has drawn skepticism from county and Arlington Public Schools staff, who want the Board to deny the request and instead help preserve flexibility for APS as it solves its capacity issues.
The Education Center at 1426 N. Quincy Street is one of three remaining options for the county’s next public high school — not counting a new option involving the center, floated by superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Under the plan for historic designation, the Education Center and the adjacent David M. Brown Planetarium would be saved from possible demolition and subject to a strict design review process for any changes to its exterior.
The request for historic designation came from local resident and Planning Commission member Nancy Iacomini, who described both 1960s-era buildings as “physical embodiments of the forward thinking of Arlington and our County’s hope for the future” in her nominating letter.
Preservation Arlington said in a blog post that the buildings are examples of “New Formalism,” which combined classical and more modern design elements. Both were completed in 1969, after being funded through a 1965 bond referendum.
But in their report on the plan, staff said the Education Center could help address school overcrowding and so designating it would prevent “maximum use (and reuse) of the public facilities we have.”
That is a view echoed by School Board chair Nancy Van Doren, who in a brief letter to County Board chair Jay Fisette expressed the School Board’s opposition to the plan.
“School Board members do not support pursuing historic designation of the building at this time as it would limit options to address the school division’s capacity needs at this site,” Van Doren wrote.
In a previous column, Peter Rousselot argued against the historic designation, and noted that APS is moving its administrative staff out of the building to new offices at Sequoia Plaza 2 on Washington Blvd. The School Board approved the move at its meeting last week.
Staff recommended finding that the site meet some of the criteria for historic designation but that further evaluation be shelved. They also proposed denying the request and collaborating in the future to see how the site can be reused.
Kids have apparently been doing too much fidgeting, because at least two schools — and likely more — have addressed the issue in emails to parents.
A parent who did not wish to be identified said emails have been sent to her from Williamsburg Middle and Nottingham Elementary schools, saying that schools are cracking down on the toy, which was originally intended to help students relieve stress and concentrate in class.
Here’s an excerpt from the WMS email:
We need your help with two issues. First, the entrepreneurial spirit has hit Williamsburg! And not necessarily in a good way. We have noted students selling spinners and slime to other students. This activity takes the focus off of learning and we are making every effort to stop it. On a somewhat related issue, we are continuing to see an explosion in the number of spinners. The spinners are getting larger, more complex and increasingly distracting. Unless your child has an accommodation to use a spinner, please encourage them to leave the spinners at home.
There has been “no guidance from central office as of yet” regarding spinners, said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Principals handle this sort of thing and make decisions based on what they are seeing in schools.”
Initial reports suggested that a student brought a small, sharp object to school and tried to stab a teacher with it, but the teacher was not injured and did not require medical treatment.
The student was then detained by administrators and police were called.
“Just after 9:00 a.m. Arlington County Police responded to Carlin Springs Elementary School for the report of an assault on teacher,” police said in a subsequent statement. “The investigation determined that the student produced a small sewing tool and struck the teacher in the leg. No injuries were reported and there is no threat to students. Police remain on scene investigating and coordinating with the administration of Arlington Public Schools.”
Update at 11:55 a.m. — More from an email sent to parents by Arlington Public Schools this morning:
Dear Carlin Springs Families:
I wanted to update you about an incident that occurred at our school this morning. At approximately 9:15 a.m., a Carlin Springs student was removed from a classroom after attempting to injure a teacher with a small sewing tool the student brought to school. Only one other student was in the immediate vicinity and other staff immediately intervened to calm the situation. The teacher was not harmed and no other students were involved.
As a precaution for everyone, this student was removed from the classroom and away from other students. School Resource Officers from the Arlington Police were contacted and immediately responded to the scene. The investigation is ongoing at this time, and no further information can be shared.
While we understand that many people would like to have additional details of this incident, it is considered a confidential student matter at this time and we cannot share more information. But I want to assure everyone that students are safe and were not affected by the occurrence. All further action as a result of this incident will be taken in accordance with our policies.
Please be assured that all of us at Carlin Springs and Arlington Public Schools take these matters very seriously, and appropriate action will be taken to address the issue and ensure our students’ continued safety at all times.
Corina Coronel, Principal
Carlin Springs Elementary School
Just days after local parents launched a petition favoring building a high school next to Kenmore Middle School, others have begun a petition of their own against the plan.
The petition against the Kenmore plan raises concerns about the impact on traffic on S. Carlin Springs Road, which it says would increase the number of students that attend nearby schools from 2,200 to approximately 3,500.
“Carlin Springs Road is one of the County’s few north/south arterials and a major commuter thoroughfare,” the petition reads. “There is no reasonable alternative to Carlin Springs Road for many people using this route. Adding students would add vehicular traffic in the form of school buses, and cars for students and staff. The increase in traffic and the increase in the number of students crossing Carlin Springs Road will increase the threat of accidents involving students.”
The School Board recently whittled down a list of nine possible sites for the county’s new public high school to three. Under the Kenmore plan the current middle school would remain on the 33-acre campus, and adjacent property would be used to build a new 1,300-seat high school.
The other two options remaining are to develop a ninth-grade academy on the site of the Education Center next to Washington-Lee High School, with the International Baccalaureate program expanded and a World Languages site created, or build at the Arlington Career Center site to co-locate with Arlington Tech.
The petition was also critical of the process to determine the site of the new high school.
“The planning process by the County and the School Board to engage in more proactive planning is appreciated,” it reads, “but it appears that the effort to site the 1,300 [seat] high school seats is short circuiting the process.”
Another School Board work session is scheduled for May 15 at the Education Center, with the Board set to discuss the options and adopt one in June.
Parents and community members are being asked to help choose the name of the new elementary school that’s being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
A naming committee has narrowed down the choices, which included suggestions submitted via an online survey, to five. The finalists, each with an explanation from the naming committee, are below.
- Alice West Fleet Elementary School — “A native Virginian, a granddaughter of slaves, and a long-time Arlington teacher, resident, community activist and leader… she broke down racial barriers, serving as the first black reading teacher in Arlington and the first black teacher to teach in an all-white school in Arlington.”
- Grace Hopper Elementary School — “Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an acclaimed computer scientist, professor, and long-time Arlington resident… Ms. Hopper was key to the development of COBOL, a computer programming language that helped make coding more accessible.”
- Journey Elementary School — “The new elementary school building is designed with different levels and sections representing different biospheres… The name ‘Journey’ was recommended through the Community Input Form and represents the students’ journey through the building as they explore our diverse world as well as the educational journey that students and their families experience.”
- Liberty Elementary School — “The name ‘Liberty’ is a tribute both to Patrick Henry’s famous ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’ speech and to his support of the Bill of Rights. This option represents a name change that maintains a connection to the school’s existing name.”
- Patrick Henry Elementary School — “Patrick Henry Elementary School was given its name in 1925, renaming the original school name, Columbia Elementary School. Patrick Henry was a lawyer, orator, and statesman who served as the first and sixth governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was also a slave owner.”
The new school is expected to open in September 2019. Students and staff will be moving from the existing Patrick Henry Elementary, near the Columbia Pike Branch Library, to the new school.
The naming committee says it received input on both sides of the debate over the current school’s name.
The committee heard compelling arguments both for keeping and for changing the name of the school. Some felt that keeping the name would provide continuity and maintain a connection to the school’s history, while continuing to honor one of our nation’s founding fathers. Others thought that the school name should be changed in order to avoid confusion between the new and existing school, or to reflect the creative design of the new building. Some also felt that Patrick Henry’s name should no longer be used since he owned slaves.
The committee says it received more than 500 survey responses via its online form. Among the serious suggestions were at least a few from pranksters, we’re told; other name suggestions included Howard Stern Elementary and Pokemon Elementary.
This time around, the committee is hoping to only receive input from Patrick Henry Elementary and Jefferson Middle School parents, students, staff and nearby neighbors.