(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.
“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 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.
(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.
Both heartbreaking and inspiring — this from a high school in Arlington, VA pic.twitter.com/gsrWbh4GMk
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) November 10, 2016
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.
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.
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.
Citing 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.”
(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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
One expected hot topic of conversation: whether parking for the school should be partially above ground or completely below ground.
From an APS email about the meeting:
APS wants to hear your input and questions related to the New Elementary School at the Jefferson Site. Planning is currently in the schematic design phase and a proposed design is expected to be submitted to the School Board in October. On September 13, 2016 APS will host a Community Forum beginning at 7 PM in the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Library. The purpose of the event is to inform the community of the planning progress made so far and to hear feedback from community members. The event will be an Open House format with materials on presentation boards. APS staff and consultants will be available to answer questions. Participates are welcome to come and go as they please.
Originally a number of community members fought against a new elementary school on the TJ site, but they only succeeded in delaying the project for a year before the County Board voted to approve it in December.
School administrators say they are “currently without air conditioning in the majority of our building.” The A/C troubles come as temperatures are expected to reach into the upper 90s today.
Separately, Taylor Elementary School is also reported to be experiencing air conditioning problems.
“There is an issue with the HVAC in three classrooms,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “The problem is intermittent and right now it is on. Maintenance is looking into the problem and we are watching it closely.”
A parent tells us that her daughter’s kindergarten classroom, another classroom and the school’s gym are “a sweatbox.”
“My daughter was talking about fighting to sit by a fan,” the parent said.
The letter from school administrators to Gunston parents, after the jump.
(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) With the notable exception of Barcroft Elementary, which opened on Aug. 1, today was the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools students.
Kids and parents flocked back to local elementary, middle and high schools this morning, as the APS bus fleet traversed local roads. There were no major hiccups reported, save perhaps a fire alarm that was set off in the teacher’s lounge of Taylor Elementary around 10 a.m. (No smoke or fire was found.)
This morning at Abingdon Elementary, which is being renovated and expanded, students were greeted by a number of newly-installed relocatable classroom trailers on the field next to the school. Several Arlington County police officers were stationed at the intersection of 29th Street S. and S. Abingdon Street, to help keep cars moving amid a new traffic pattern for dropping off students.
At Carlin Springs Elementary, meanwhile, administrators literally rolled out a red carpet for new and returning students. At the new Arlington Tech, the program’s first 40 students arrived and began classes. At the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, upperclassmen formed tunnels for freshman students on their first day.
Arlington County Police and APS are urging drivers to be extra cautious on the roads as school gets back underway.
ACPD and APS officials, School Board members and school administrators were busy ringing in the first day of school on Twitter this morning. More back-to-school tweets, after the jump.
Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County Police Department are reminding students, parents and drivers to watch out for one another on the roads as a new school year starts.
Yesterday APS released a new Public Service Announcement video, above, featuring Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Police Chief Jay Farr and School Resource Officer Supervisor Lt. Susan Noack.
Among other things, the video reminds parents to practice safe walking with their kids and reminds drivers that it’s never okay to pass a school bus with its stop arm out.
The first day of school for the vast majority of APS students is a week from today — Tuesday, Sept. 6. Barcroft Elementary Students, however, are already back at school; their first day was Aug. 1.
But there’s a big asterisk to that fact, says an APS spokesman.
As opposed to 2010, when all APS high schools were included in the top 500, for the past couple of years the school system hasn’t even applied to be ranked by Newsweek.
“Unlike the Niche, Great Schools and many other ‘school rankings; which are compiled by outside sources who access data from readily available sources like the VDOE and the US Department of Education, Newsweek is one of about a dozen or so rankings that ask school divisions to complete detailed forms and provide additional data to them,” said Frank Bellavia.
“As a result, for the past few years, APS (and many other school districts in Virginia and the U.S.) have chosen to not participate in the Newsweek list,” Bellavia said. “It is a time consuming endeavor that takes away time away from providing instructional and other supports to our students and families. Consequently, while interesting, the list is not scientifically valid since it does not report using data from all eligible school divisions.”
Bellavia said APS’ participation in the Newsweek rankings ended after 2010, when Newsweek was sold by its then-owner, the Washington Post.
“2010 was the last time Newsweek partnered with the Washington Post on the Challenge Index,” Bellavia said. “We continue to participate in the Post’s Challenge Index because it our local ‘hometown paper.'”
In the 2016 Challenge Index rankings, Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School was on the rise, ranking No. 5 in the D.C. area, while H-B Woodlawn, Yorktown and Wakefield were all down, ranking No. 8, 11 and 84 respectively.