(Updated Wednesday at 4:10 p.m.) As the heated process of setting new boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools lurches forward, parents at Patrick Henry Elementary are trying to deliver a single message to school officials: don’t break up the community in the move to Alice West Fleet Elementary.
Fleet’s planned opening next fall precipitated this process of drawing new boundary lines for the schools in the first place, with most Henry students set to move to the new school and the Montessori program currently housed at Drew Model School will move to Henry’s building.
Parents at Henry have long sought reassurances from Arlington Public Schools officials that the community would move as one to Fleet, without any neighborhoods being redirected elsewhere. The school system has released two different maps for public scrutiny over the last few months, and both have so far stuck firm to that request.
That fact was not lost on roughly a dozen parents who testified at the School Board’s meeting last Thursday (Oct. 18). Though the new boundary proposals have stoked outrage among families at Drew and Abingdon alike, they’ve largely satisfied parents with kids set to make the move from Henry, who are urging school leaders to stay the course throughout the remainder of the boundary process.
“We are a community that lives on Columbia Pike,” Melanie Devoe told the Board. “This will keep our students together, as we’ll have students who are learning together in elementary school all stay on the same campus through middle school.”
Erin Wasiak, co-president of the Henry Parent-Teacher Association, similarly praised the Board for keeping families along the Pike together, noting that the road acts as “our ‘Main Street’ and our town square.” Even still, she would note that the school system’s latest proposal would divert a few neighborhoods on the east side of S. Courthouse Road to Hoffman-Boston instead, a change that would only affect a relatively small number of students, but still struck Wasiak as a bit concerning.
“We’re as close or closer to Fleet as we are to the school you want to put us in,” Nicole Hallahan, a parent of a current Henry student set to move to Hoffman-Boston, told the Board.
APS spokesman Frank Bellavia stressed that officials are working to focus on contiguity as part of the process, though he noted that the school system “cannot guarantee that any individual school community will stay together.” As Lisa Stengle, the APS director of planning and evaluation, put it at an Oct. 17 community meeting, “We don’t want islands in places.”
“Boundary proposals align with the policy considerations, reflect what serves all students, and explore how changes to one school affect other schools,” Bellavia wrote in an email. “Change will be continual within APS due to ongoing enrollment growth, and APS is responsible for ensuring equity for all students across schools and programs.”
Nevertheless, between the changes with the Henry boundaries and the proposal to send some South Fairlington students to Drew instead of Abingdon, parents say the county hasn’t always managed to meet that particular goal.
“You just have to look at the map to see it’s oddly gerrymandered,” Claire Kenny, a parent of an Abingdon student, told the Board. “Please don’t punish our children to fix past redistricting efforts, or to fulfill promises to other communities.”
APS planners only proposed those Fairlington changes in the first place to create a more even spread of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch, a measure of their families’ economic means, at schools across South Arlington. Some parents worried too many economically disadvantaged students were being lumped in at Drew, and Henry parents also urged the Board to keep the issue as a prime focus throughout the rest of the boundary-setting process.
“It’s important to have racially and culturally diverse schools that prepare our students to effectively relate with others,” said Megan Haydasz, a parent of a Henry student who’s been active on other school equity issues in South Arlington in the past. “Yet high concentrations of poverty limit a school community’s resources and may unconsciously limit student outcomes compared to other schools.”
Arlington school officials have hit a bit of a snag in the complex, contentious process of setting new boundaries for the county’s southern elementary schools — changes they’ve proposed to address concerns from Drew Model School parents have generated a new backlash from the Abingdon Elementary community.
Some parents living in the Nauck neighborhood initially raised concerns that proposed boundary tweaks at Drew would drastically change the school’s socioeconomic make-up, leading to a substantial boost in the number of students receiving “free and reduced lunch,” a measure of each family’s economic means, at the school. They feared such a shift would amount to packing poorer students into a single building, rather than maintaining a more balanced percentage at each South Arlington school.
Accordingly, Arlington Public Schools planners offered a change to the new boundary map, which is being crafted as the school system prepares to open Alice West Fleet Elementary School ahead of the 2019-2020 school year. The zoning change would send a few neighborhoods in the southernmost reaches of Fairlington, an area roughly bounded by N. Quaker Lane and King Street, to Drew instead of Abingdon in order to better balance out the “free and reduced lunch” population at each school.
However, that suggestion was immediately met with fierce criticism from the Fairlington community. A petition protesting the change launched on Friday (Oct. 12) has already garnered more than 1,000 signatures, and the Fairlington Citizens’ Association fired off a pointed letter to the School Board on Sunday (Oct. 14).
“Shifting South Fairlington students to another school will weaken the fabric of the community, diminish the cohesiveness of the community, and disrupt social and educational connections that currently exist,” Citizens’ Association President Guy Land wrote. “It runs counter to the community-centric focus Arlington has for years promoted.”
Beyond even that broad criticism, Land and the petition’s authors argue that the change would be an inefficient one from a transportation perspective, charging that it would increase the number of students forced to ride the bus to school instead of walk.
“Bus rides from Fairlington to Drew would significantly lengthen the ride for kids,” the petition reads. “This would put a greater strain on APS transportation, which is not a luxury APS has.”
Yet APS staff pointed out in a presentation to the Board last Wednesday (Oct. 10) that such a boundary change would have substantial benefits in balancing out the free and reduced lunch divide between Drew and Abingdon.
They noted that Abingdon had 41 percent of students living in its attendance boundary eligible for free and reduced lunch, as of last October. Meanwhile, Drew stands at 66 percent, a number that is a bit deceiving, as it reflects the move of the Montessori program to Patrick Henry Elementary next year, and the program generally includes kids from wealthier families. With Montessori students included, Drew’s free and reduced lunch percentage is closer to 52 percent.
The first boundary proposal would’ve dropped Abingdon’s free and reduced lunch percentage down to 34 percent, while moving Drew to 60 percent. The newly revised proposal would bump Abingdon up to 45 percent, compared to 49 percent for Drew. And, in a bid to ease some worries over the boundary change, APS could allow rising fifth grade students and their siblings to be exempt from the switch, with APS transportation provided.
The newest boundary map would also address the concerns of parents at Drew that students could be zoned to matriculate to one of three middle schools, instead of just one, under the first APS proposal. The new map would have Drew students eligible for two middle schools instead.
Parents and community members now have until Oct. 29 to offer comments on the latest boundary proposal. APS plans to release a final map on Nov. 5, with the School Board expected to take a final vote on the matter on Dec. 6.
The Washington Nationals’ fourth inning Presidents Race looked a little different on Saturday (June 9) — as Teddy, Abe and Tom rushed to catch up with George, they hit an obstacle in the form of six smaller presidents.
Arms outstretched, the little presidents — boys from Abingdon Elementary School — blocked the racers from passing, while a seventh student, dressed as Nats mascot Screech, waited to greet a victorious George at the finish line.
“The boys were just freaking out,” parent Catherine Ladd said. “They were like, ‘This is epic, this is amazing.'”
Their path to Nationals Park began last Halloween, when all seven boys attended a parade at their elementary school wearing paper mache George, Tom, Bill, Herbie, Teddy and Screech heads to go with Nationals jerseys and baseball gear.
Ladd spent five weeks crafting the costumes, and things escalated quickly from there. Parents at the parade tweeted pictures to the Nationals, a team representative called the next day and the racing presidents themselves were at Abingdon Elementary the following Monday (Nov. 6) to invite the boys to a race, Ladd said.
“I never thought that we’d ever get the invitation to go down to Nats [Park]… I was just hoping [the costumes] looked okay at the end,” Ladd said.
Given that it has been 13 years since their inaugural season, the Nationals are older than the “Little Presidents” themselves, making them part of “the first generation that’s die-hard Nats fans as kids,” Ladd said.
“Seeing the Nationals do this for them was such a special experience and such a treat and so kind of them,” she said.
Several of the boys participated in Arlington Little League playoff games Saturday morning before heading to the stadium.
“It was kind of cool to see [them] live out their major league dreams in a way,” Ladd said.
Before racing, the Little Presidents also got to spend some time with their bigger counterparts and collect autographs.
“The presidents and Screech [signed] a ball for each of the kids,” Ladd said. “For them, that’s just as cool as a major league baseball player.”
As for next Halloween, Ladd has a feeling the Little Presidents might make another appearance.
“I think this is going to be the gift that keeps on giving,” she said.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) The Fairlington 5K Run and Walk tomorrow will raise money for an Arlington girl with a rare, degenerative disease.
In 2011, Ellie McGinn was diagnosed with LBSL (leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation), which causes impaired nervous system functioning that can lead to muscle stiffness, tremors, weakness, poor balance and difficulty coordinating body movements.
The nonprofit organization “A Cure for Ellie” has been set up in her name to raise awareness of LBSL and funding for research. McGinn appeared on the Today Show last year for her and her parents’ work in their search for a cure.
Tomorrow’s non-competitive run/walk in Fairlington aims to promote general health and physical fitness while also supporting McGinn, who is a third-grader at Abingdon Elementary School. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at Abingdon Elementary (3035 S. Abingdon Street) and registration is $35 for adults, $20 for children ages 6-16 and free for children five and under.
Arlington County police will oversee the following road closures from approximately 7-9:30 a.m. to accommodate the race:
- Abington Street between S. 29th Street and S. 36th Street
- 36th Street between S. 34th Street up to, and including, Stafford Street
- Wakefield loop off S. 34th Street
- Utah Street between S. 32nd Street and S. 34th Street
Photo via A Cure for Ellie
Police were called to the area around Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington yesterday for a report of a man seen masturbating in his car.
The incident happened around 2 p.m. and initial reports suggested the man was staring at the school when spotted by the witness. He drove off before police arrived.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2018-04120144, 28th Road S. at S. Abingdon Street. At approximately 2:06 p.m. on April 12, police were dispatched to the report of an indecent exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was walking in the area when she observed an unknown male suspect masturbating inside his vehicle. The suspect fled the area prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his 30’s. He was driving a blue sedan. The investigation is ongoing.
There have been a number of similar incidents recently, but it is unclear whether any are linked.
“All cases of indecent exposure are assigned to the Special Victims Unit for follow-up investigation and they will work to determine if the case is linked to any other reports in Arlington County,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com.
Fund Bets on Amazon HQ2 Coming to Crystal City — A New York-based asset manager is making a $10 million bet that Crystal City will be the location chosen for Amazon’s HQ2. The company cited a high concentration of millennials and housing in the area, as well as proximity to Metro stations, commuter rail and Reagan National Airport. [Bloomberg, ZeroHedge]
Chamber Wants Extended Parking Meter Hours Paused — “Leadership of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants the county government to hit the brakes on a proposal to increase parking-meter fees and extend the hours meters must be fed. In a letter to County Board Chairman Katie Cristol, Arlington Chamber president Kate Bates said the government failed to do proper outreach before proposing the alterations to existing policy.” [InsideNova]
Grumbles About Ballston Construction — “Like many who venture to the kingdom of Ballston, I am impatient for the never-ending renovations to be over. Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, was happy to promise me that the rewards for us patrons of Arlington’s most central community will unfold in September–with staggered openings continuing through May 2019.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Average Single-Family Home Sale: $1 Million — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington in March was $1,066,368, up 6.9 percent from a year prior. [InsideNova]
Ribbon Cutting for Abingdon Renovations — A ribbon cutting ceremony is being held at 9:30 this morning to celebrate the recently-completed addition and renovations at Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. [Twitter]
Lopez Talks Medicaid Expansion — Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) was a guest on Politico’s healthcare podcast to discuss the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Virginia. [Simplecast, Twitter]
Photo by Anna Merod
Registration is open for Rep. Don Beyer’s (D) community forum in Fairlington later this month on helicopter noise.
Beyer will host the forum on January 16 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Abingdon Elementary School (3035 S. Abingdon Street), as part of a study he added to last year’s Defense Authorization Act that passed Congress.
Anyone wishing to attend must register online.
“The provision was proposed by Rep. Beyer in response to frequent complaints from constituents about excess noise from military helicopters,” organizers wrote. “It directs DOD to study changes to the region’s helicopter flight routes, operating procedures, and types of helicopters flown in the national capital airspace to mitigate the effect of noise on the region’s neighborhoods.”
Abingdon Elementary School’s own version of the Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents got a visit from the real thing at school today (Monday).
The seven students and Little League friends, who wore the custom-made costumes for Halloween, were surprised by the four Racing Presidents, who race around Nationals Park during every home game. It took parent Catherine Ladd five weeks to custom-make the costumes.
The Presidents came into an assembly at the school in Fairlington and gave the boys signed bobbleheads and tickets for them and their families to the team’s Winterfest in December.
“The final surprise was that the Nats presidents invited the Petite Presidents to race them at Nats Stadium in the spring,” Kathleen Branch, a parent at the school, said. “The boys were shocked, as they were told that they had to wear their uniforms to school to pose for more photos. They had no idea that the assembly was for the surprise announcement. Catherine Ladd, the creator of the Petite Presidents, was presented with a signed Bryce Harper jersey.
“The parents and families thank the Washington Nationals for their recognition of a school that loves the Washington Nationals.”
Photos via Catherine Ladd
Something incredibly special is about to happen!! @Nationals @ARLnowDOTcom @APSVirginia pic.twitter.com/qgC08W5wCA
— Abingdon APS (@AbingdonGIFT) November 6, 2017
The Arlington neighborhood tradition of Halloween parades continued today on a picture-perfect fall day.
Among the neighborhoods and schools hosting parades was Abingdon Elementary in Fairlington. Led by the Wakefield High School marching band, with rolling road closures courtesy of the Arlington County Police Department, hundreds of students and teachers marched down local streets as parents and residents snapped smartphone photos and cheered them on.
Among the crowd were ghouls, goblins and even raccoons.
One costume standout were small, paper mache versions of the Washington Nationals racing presidents. It took parent Catherine Ladd five weeks to custom-make the costumes for her sons and their Little League friends.
“It required the coordination of other parents… and taking over her first floor for over a month with the multiple figures in various stages of the design process,” Ladd said of the effort.
Dressed as George, Tom, Abe, Bill, Herbie and Teddy, the “petite” presidents batted cleanup near the end of the parade.
Abingdon Closed Due to Asbestos Issue — Abingdon Elementary, which is undergoing an expansion and renovation project, is closed today due to an asbestos incident on Tuesday. “This afternoon an error was made by one of the subcontractors working on the Abingdon Elementary School project who did not appropriately handle the removal of asbestos,” parents were told in an email yesterday. “As a result, since it was close to dismissal time APS Facilities staff immediately contacted the school to have all students and staff shelter in place in their classrooms to limit movement throughout the school for the remainder of the day.” APS will conduct testing to determine whether the school can reopen Thursday.
Graffiti PSA From ACPD — Arlington County Police is reminding the public that graffiti on either public or private property should be reported to the police non-emergency line, at 703-558-2222. “Graffiti is not a new problem in Arlington but something ACPD needs your help with,” the department said. ACPD’s Gang Unit reviews all graffiti reports. [Arlington County]
Man Charged With Secretly Filming Sexual Encounter — A former Oregon congressional candidate has been charged in Arlington with secretly recording a video of himself having sex with a 22-year-old woman in his apartment. Jim Feldkamp, 53, most recently worked as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, and the woman was a student there, according to news reports. [Register-Guard, KVAL]
Metro Workers Meet at Arlington Church — A group of Metro workers met last night in an Arlington church to discuss planned budget cuts and service reductions. Said one former bus operator: “Virginia should be outraged. This is going to cause of catastrophe. All of these cuts in Virginia, it’s already gridlock.” [WJLA]
Favola Gets in Knife Fight in Richmond — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) is speaking out against a bill that would make it legal for family members to give several types of knives — a switchblade, Bowie knife and a dirk — to children. Currently, family members can give kids guns but not those types of knives. “This is just bad public policy,” Favola said of the bill, which narrowly passed. “Why would you want to put our children at risk?” [Washington Post]
(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.