91°Partly Cloudy

by ARLnow.com — July 22, 2015 at 9:00 am 1,463 0

Rosslyn sunset and helicopter (Flickt pool photo by John Sonderman)

Grant for New Bikeshare Stations OKed — Arlington County will receive nearly $300,000 from the federal government to install eight new Capital Bikeshare stations along the GW Parkway. Among the locations set for a new Bikeshare station are Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, Gravelly Point Park and Reagan National Airport. [Arlington County]

Jefferson Davis Name Change Unlikely — The Virginia General Assembly is not likely to approve changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway any time soon. “Jefferson Davis was an avid racist and segregationist… But there’s not a whole lot of people clamoring about it except coffee-shop liberals in Arlington,” Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told the Sun Gazette. Plus, Arlington County already has numerous streets and schools named after slaveholders. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

APS Honored for Healthy Food Options — Arlington Public Schools has received the top award in the “Healthy School Meals” category of the 2015 Virginia School Boards Association Food for Thought Competition. [Arlington Public Schools]

Lighting Task Force Approved — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved the appointment of a citizen working group that will study the issue of athletic lighting in Arlington. After a public process, the group is expected to come back to the Board in 11 months with a recommendation as to whether all artificial turf fields in the county should have lighting, a controversial issue for many who live near such fields. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Heather Mongilio — July 16, 2015 at 4:55 pm 3,893 0

Darryl Evans Drew Model Principal (Courtesy of APS)

Drew Model Elementary School Principal Darryl Evans has resigned, citing family reasons and a desire to seek a job closer to home.

Evans led Drew Model for one year after coming to the school in the summer of 2014 after former principal Jacqueline Smith retired following a driving-under-the-influence arrest.

“I spoke with Mr. Evans yesterday and I hope you will join me in wishing him well in his next endeavors, both personally and professionally,” Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy wrote in a note to Drew Model families (below, after the jump).

APS has not yet released a plan for hiring a new principal, Murphy said. For the time being, APS staff will work with assistant principals Catharina Genove and Wendy Pilch to help the school get ready for the next school year while a new principal is sought. School is back in session on Sept. 8.

“We will continue to work together to ensure that Drew provides an excellent instructional program for our students,” Murphy said in the statement.

Drew Model serves the Nauck area and has about 502 students in kindergarten through fifth grade — 642 including pre-Kindergarten programs — with more than half requiring free or reduced meals.

Evans’ resignation is the latest challenge facing the school, which has been plagued with financial and testing troubles.

Last May, the school’s PTA held its first Spring Fair in order to close a $22,000 funding gap. Last year, the school struggled with test scores, ARLnow.com reported. In 2014, the school was performing at an average of 23 percent lower than the county average on third through fifth grade Standard of Learning Exams.

APS did not have any information on how Evans’ departure will affect the school at this time.

(more…)

by Mariah Joyce — July 8, 2015 at 4:45 pm 740 0

Parents and teachers at Barrett Elementary have started a weekly outdoor library to encourage kids to keep reading during their vacation.

The program, Barret Book Blast, was created by the Family and Community Engagement committee at Barrett Elementary as a way to combat the seemingly inevitable “summer slide” in reading comprehension.

The outdoor library can be found every Friday from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. outside of the Gates of Ballston Community Center (4108 4th Street N.). At the weekly event, which is run by Barrett Elementary teachers on an entirely volunteer basis, neighborhood kids can check out up to three books or listen to a librarian from Arlington Public Library read some stories.

Barrett Elementary teacher Emily Sonenshine estimates that on June 19, the program’s second week, almost 65 children came by to check out books and visit their teachers. Sonenshine added that attendance at the weekly checkout hour has been consistently on the rise.

This Friday will mark the program’s fourth week. Sonenshine says the events are scheduled to continue through the summer, ending Aug. 28.

The books for the outdoor library were supplied by donations from Books for America and Donors Choose, as well as neighborhood donations.

Photos courtesy Emily Sonenshine and Jen Flores

by Heather Mongilio — July 8, 2015 at 3:45 pm 685 0

APS app homepage

Despite budget cuts, Arlington Public Schools may get to keep its mobile app after all.

The school system originally planned to cut the app on July 1, in order to shrink its budget. The app cost about $12,000 a year to maintain, said Linda Erdos, APS assistant superintendent.

The app, which launched two years ago, allowed parents to view messages from APS’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts and gave them quick links to APS sites like the Family Access Center, MySchool Bucks, the APS directory and lunch menus.

“The app was intended for those who prefer the convenience of receiving and checking information and notifications on their mobile device through a single application,” Erdos said.

APS was ready to stop the app when fate intervened: Parent Link, the company that built the app, was bought by Blackboard, a company that provides an online platform for assignments, grades and communication between students and teachers. Blackboard, APS recently found out, was willing to give them a sweet deal.

“Because we are already a customer with Blackboard for School Talk and these other educational web-based solutions, Blackboard has offered to include the app into our current contract for APS School Talk as an added feature at no cost to APS,” Erdos said.

APS is still waiting confirmation from Blackboard before announcing that the app will continue, Erdos said.

If the contract does go through, the app will not look any different.

“Blackboard won’t do anything different with the app,” she said. “Based on what they have proposed, since Blackboard now owns Parent Link, they will continue to support the availability of our app, and will support APS staff if changes are needed.”

Photo via screenshot

by Heather Mongilio — July 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm 1,277 0

Blowing past a school bus with its stop sign extended may result in a $250 ticket, if the driver is caught by one of Arlington Public Schools’ newly-installed cameras.

Some APS buses are now equipped with cameras to help police officers catch drivers who do not stop when a bus extends its stop sign. APS operates 165 buses to transport about 10,000 kids a day, said Dave McCrae, APS director of Transportation.

“Essentially, the safety of our students is our primary focus,” McCrae said.

McCrae declined to say how many buses have the cameras, saying that revealing that information may encourage drivers to try their luck. Last year APS officials said that 10-20 percent of buses would get the cameras.

There are six total cameras on the buses: five in the front, one of which is a motion sensor camera, and one at the rear. Together the cameras work to capture the vehicle, including the license plate number, as it drives past a bus with its stop. Footage is then wirelessly sent to the Arlington Police Department, where the footage will be reviewed to determine if a violation has occurred, before a citation is issued.

“Cameras are a way of capturing video and providing law enforcement with evidence needed to prosecute a violation,” said Charlie Territo of American Traffic Solutions, which provides the cameras.

The new program is a result of a partnership between American Traffic Solutions, APS and the Arlington Police Department. The program is self-funded with the money collected from tickets paying for the cameras and upkeep.

Without the cameras, it is often difficult to catch drivers who run the bus’s stop sign, said Ken Dennis with Arlington Police Department. If a police officer follows a bus, drivers use their best driving behavior. It’s when they don’t think they can get caught that most drivers will break the law, he said.

Bus drivers told APS that drivers were often ignoring their extended bus stop signs, which led to the program’s implementation, McCrae said.

Driving past the signs is often not malicious, said Daniel Roseboro, a bus driver of 25 years. Instead, he has noticed that people are often just not paying attention or in a rush when they drive past a bus’s stop sign.

“I think the cameras will help, but I think one of the biggest things is the publicity,” he said. “It’s always good to know Big Brother is watching.”

McCrae said that he is hopeful that the cameras will prompt drivers to pay more attention when they see a school bus.

“If I had one goal of the program it would be no gets a ticket,” he said.

Cameras on school buses have proven to be effective, Territo said. American Traffic Solutions has provided equipment for buses in about 30 school districts across the country, he said. And drivers who get violations are often not repeat offenders.

Fully equipped buses rolled out yesterday. From now until the start of school (July 8-Sept. 7), drivers who pass a bus stop sign will receive a warning. Once school starts (Sept. 8), a violation will result in a $250 ticket.

The bus cameras work similar to red light cameras, Dennis said. Tickets are issued to the vehicle so violations will not result in points on a license.

“This is a good thing. This is to stop bad driving behavior,” Dennis said. “And sometimes the only way to do that is with a fine.”

by Heather Mongilio — July 7, 2015 at 4:05 pm 3,046 0

CARD-logo

A newly-formed citizens group is raising questions about the Affordable Housing Master Plan, the County’s plan to address the need for more affordable housing.

The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD), which currently has around 70 members, is concerned with the geographic distribution of affordable housing units and the effect affordable housing has on Arlington Public Schools.

The County Board has set public hearings on the housing plan before the Board and the Planning Commission in September to allow for more public comment. The plan, as proposed, calls for the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040, bringing the total to 22,800 units or 17.7 percent of the total housing stock in Arlington.

For CARD, the question is not the amount of affordable housing, but where it is placed in Arlington. There are large discrepancies in where affordable housing units are located, leading to socioeconomic segregation, said Joye Murphy, a founding member of CARD.

Murphy points to neighborhoods along Columbia Pike — particularly the western end of the Pike — that feed into Randolph Elementary School. In some neighborhoods along the Pike, the county set of a target of having 15 percent of their housing available as affordable housing. However, the neighborhoods exceeded that target and have about 38 percent of its housing affordable, Murphy said.

At the same time, she said, some North Arlington neighborhoods have failed to reach their targets.

Serrano apartments on Columbia Pike“What we’ve seen is a disproportionate percent of affordable housing along specific areas of Arlington,” Murphy said.

One of CARD’s aims is to have affordable housing across the county, not just in specific sectors. By spreading affordable housing, there will be more diversity in Arlington’s neighborhoods, which will benefit all Arlington residents, said Maura McMahon, another founding member of CARD.

“CARD’s goals are for responsible development in Arlington that fosters socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods and schools so that all Arlingtonians can benefit from what Arlington has to offer: top schools, efficient transportation systems, quality recreational facilities and parks, etc.,” McMahon said. “We believe every individual and every child should be afforded an equal opportunity to achieve his/her potential.”

The current targets for the amount of affordable housing units that should exist in each neighborhood are not referenced in the new plan, Murphy said. It only lists distributing housing units throughout the county as one of its goals.

The targets allowed for accountability, said Dedra Curteman, a CARD founding member.

“The primary fault with the master plan as written is it doesn’t call for targets for geographic distribution,” Curteman said.

Without the targets for each neighborhood, affordable housing developers could theoretically place most of the new affordable housing units in specific areas of the county instead of throughout Arlington.

“I worry that the targets were deleted because they shot past the targets in many areas,” Curteman said.

Pie chart of housing on Columbia Pike (via Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance)

CARD wants County Board members to include tools and specifics in the housing plan to ensure geographic distribution. The group plans to send a letter with their recommendations to the County in the next week, Murphy said.

The county is replacing the targets with three different ways to address affordable housing, said County Board Chair Mary Hynes.

“The plan really has three buckets that the Board would be using to achieve affordable housing,” Hynes said.

The first is preserving existing units, the second is looking at bringing affordable housing to transit corridors and the third is to look at areas with many single-family homes to see where additional housing units could be added. Hynes said that CARD is right in saying that the county does not yet have the tools needed for the second and third buckets, but after the plan is adopted she hopes the county will work on developing these tools.

The targets also did not work as the county did not have the tools to bring affordable housing to each area according to the targets, Hynes added. A lack of available land and high costs could make building affordable housing in certain parts of the county particularly difficult.

CARD members say the lack of geographic distribution affects the Arlington Public Schools, as research has shown that having a large amount of children that need reduced or free lunches influences test and achievement scores.

“Housing policy is education policy,” Murphy said.

(more…)

by Heather Mongilio — July 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,105 0

Emma Violand-Sanchez, School Board chairThe Arlington School Board voted unanimously this morning to include gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policies for hiring teachers and other employees.

The language is intended to prevent discrimination and harassment against transgender individuals.

The School Board also voted to ensure that all of its employment policies include protection against discrimination based on disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and national origin.

“I’m very proud that we have these policies, and we are going to implement it,” said Emma Violand-Sánchez, who was elected as the School’s Board 2015-2016 chair during the meeting. “And that we are going to implement it with students, with the staff, within the hiring process, and I think we have to eliminate bullying, harassment and more than anything enhance the candidates in our school system for employment.”

Including gender identity and expression is in line with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, a law that requires schools to provide an equal opportunity learning environment for both genders. Title IX includes gender identity and expression, according to Ellen Kennedy, the director of Employee Relations at Arlington Public Schools.

Complying with the federal government was one reason the board members adopted the new changes. But members also said it was the right thing to do.

“We do not want to put our community, legally, down the road,” outgoing chair James Lander said. “And so, again, in alliance with our County Board colleagues, the state and the federal government, we again are showing progressive leadership.”

The School Board did receive emails about the changes, Lander said. However, many questioned the procedure and not the policy. Residents were worried that the board would make the decision behind closed doors.

There were no public speakers at the meeting, which was a surprise, member Abby Raphael said. However, throughout the process, there had been little dissent from the community or APS employees, Barbara Kanninen noted.

“It was very clear from the beginning we were going to do this,” she said. “I don’t think it was ever an issue of any disagreement in terms of wanting to do this.”

The School Board also updated its bullying and harassment policy today to include protections based on creed and age. The bullying policy, which had last been updated in 2008, already included protections based on gender identity or expression.

Update at 12:40 p.m. — Democratic County Board candidate Christian Dorsey has issued a statement commending the School Board’s action and calling on Arlington County to make similar policy changes. “I urge the County Board to pursue ways to update the County Code to ensure that people are not discriminated against in Arlington based on their gender identity,” he said.

by Heather Mongilio — June 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm 1,119 0

Arlington School BoardThe Arlington School Board voted this month to provide $640,000 to train teachers in student use of school-issued Apple iPads and Macbooks.

The funding was approved after an amendment to stop it failed one to four.

The professional development will help teachers be able to better incorporate digital tools, such as laptops or iPads, in lesson plans. It is part of the Arlington Public Schools’ digital learning initiative, which has the goal of equipping children in second to eighth grades with an iPad and high school students with Macbook Airs.

Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez submitted the amendment to defund the professional development for digital learning. She argued that while technology is important there were other areas recommended by advisory committees that needed the money more, she said during the School Board meeting on June 16.

“We have forgotten the whole child,” she said. “We have forgotten any of the support systems or professional development we need for that. We have forgotten professional development that could be needed for English language learners. We have forgotten the needs for the middle schools and other areas I feel are needed.”

Emma Violand-Sanchez

But other board members said that the professional development was key to the success of the already-approved digital learning initiative.

“I fundamentally believe that technology is going to be a key component of any future change for our children, our ability to include all students in a general education setting and to provide the differentiating instruction,” member Nancy Van Doren said.

Van Doren agreed with Violand-Sánchez that professional development was needed in other areas but said it was not a question of one or the other. Instead, the School Board should look to providing the financial needs for multiple areas of professional development, she said.

The digital learning initiative also provides for the whole child, member Abby Raphael argued. In order for the digital learning to be successful, teachers need the training, she said.

“I think it is so meaningful. And it affects special education students, it affects [English language learners], it helps accelerate students, and it really, I think, does personalize learning and individualize learning,” Raphael said.

The digital learning also provides low-income children with the opportunity to interact with technology that they would not have otherwise, Chair James Lander said. Low income families often only buy what they need, and laptops and iPads do not always make the list, he said.

“I believe in technology, and I believe this is a way for a school that is majority minority to have an opportunity to get their hands on technology and start to close the digital divide,” he said.

But the program is not without its problems. Members brought up monetary concerns about the costs of the actual devices and the software that each would need as APS increases the number of devices it maintains from 5,000 to 25,000.

Barbara Kanninen also brought up concerns about the lack of planning involved in the rollout of the devices and questioned whether they actually helped to accelerate learning. She attempted to halt the program in the past until budget and educational concerns were addressed.

“I still feel, as I did then, that we need a full evaluation of this program,” she said. “So far we had a work session earlier this year, we’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about successes in our schools system, but we don’t have solid evidence that it’s truly achieving our goals.”

Despite that, Kanninen voted against Violand-Sánchez’s amendment, saying that the training is necessary.

Van Doren said there is also a need to look a security and privacy concerns brought up by parents.

“We must address the parent concerns related to security, privacy and the continuous feedback and improvement related to the devices,” she said. “That is tantamount in allowing parents to be partners in this process.”

Parents need to feel that their children are safe while using these devices, and they need to feel as if they are partners with the school system, she said.

Lander agreed that those areas are important and should be part of the next steps going forward. However, despite the budget, educational and concerns, utilizing technology in school is too important of a priority to stop, he said.

“We can’t hold back the tide of technology,” Lander said. “This is how we do business.”

by ARLnow.com — June 24, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,741 0

Post-storm sunset over the Air Force Memorial 6/23/15

Graduation Live Streaming Nixed — Arlington Public Schools canceled internet live streaming of its high school graduation ceremonies this year due to budget cuts. Graduation ceremonies has been streamed online for the past two years. [InsideNova]

Police Foot Chase in Pentagon City — Last night, after the Pentagon City mall was evacuated due to a power outage, mall security spotted two men lingering and entering closed stores. Police were given a lookout and one of the alleged suspects was spotted outside the mall. A foot chase ensured and the man was apprehended behind nearby Pentagon Row. No word yet on any changes.

Economic Chief Has a Plan For Arlington — New Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins says he has a plan for economic growth in the county that will reduce the county’s office vacancy rate from the current 21 percent to 10 percent over the next six years. The plan includes “a mix of much more aggressive marketing efforts, incentives and other government aid, and the help of ‘frenemies’ in competing local governments such as the District and Alexandria.” [Washington Business Journal]

A-Town Plans ‘Sunday Funday’ Summer Kickoff — “Ballston’s rowdiest bar,” A-Town Bar and Grill, will be kicking off its summer “Sunday Fundays” this weekend with “squirt guns, beach balls, popsicles, barbecue, water balloons” and multiple DJs. [Clarendon Nights]

by Heather Mongilio — June 3, 2015 at 11:05 am 15,301 0

Oakridge Elementary is getting desks with bicycle pedals and swinging bars in an effort to incorporate movement and exercise into classroom learnings.

The new desks, as well as yoga ball chairs, are part of a pilot program to improve kids’ ability to learn while in school.

The idea behind the new equipment is based in science, said Heather Suave, a member of Oakridge’s 2Fit2Quit Committee and Wellness Council. Research has shown that when kids’ brains are active, which happens during exercise, they are able to retain more information.

“Kids in elementary school have the wiggles, and it’s a good energy release,” Suave said.

Oakridge Elementary was able to raise $9,000 through sponsorships and donations — from Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, the Oakridge PTA and individual donations — to buy three of the two person pedal desks, four stand-up/swinging desks and eight yoga ball chairs.

The pilot program has only been in place for a month, Suave said, but it is already showing promise.

Jenn Crain, a third and fourth grade teacher, said the new equipment has helped with keeping her students focused and have not been a distraction in the classroom. She has had the pedal desk and standing desks in her class.

“Some of them prefer the pedal desk, some of them prefer the standing desk, some of them prefer none,” she said.

The kids have also had positive feedback toward the equipment, she said during a presentation.

Maxwell Thomas, an 8-year-old student, likes the pedal desk because they help him concentrate while he does his math schoolwork.

“I can get my body moving while I work,” Maxwell said.

Annabella Brooks, a fifth-grade student, likes the standing/swing-desk “because people have a way to fidget without making noise.”

The desk helps her concentrate and she finds it relaxing, Annabella said.

“It’s easier to think while moving,” she said.

This is the first pilot program in Virginia. The equipment is also used in 30 schools in Texas and in 32 other states, said Lowell Lease, a representative with KidsFit, the company that provides the equipment.

The company has received good feedback on the equipment from other schools as well, Lease said.

“The kids love it,” he said. “The teachers love it because the kids pay attention better.”

by ARLnow.com — May 27, 2015 at 9:00 am 2,811 0

Bluemont Oak (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

GOP Offers Support to Gun Store Owner — A Change.org petition against a planned gun store in Cherrydale has reached more than 1,900 signatures. The store’s landlord now says he’s trying to figure out ways to legally break the lease. Countering the backlash, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans have launched a petition in support of the store and its owner, 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran James Gates. “We can’t remain silent while Arlington liberals push their radical anti-gun agenda,” the petition says. [AFCYR]

Hynes Fires Back at Reevesland Sale Critics — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is firing back at criticism of the Board’s 3-2 decision to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse to a private owner. Critics charge that the sale was hastily added to the Board agenda the day before the vote and that citizen groups should have had more time to propose alternatives. Hynes said the house would have needed $2.5 million in work to be brought up to code for public use and noted that interested groups have had 5 years to suggest better alternatives for using the house. [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Outdoor School in Fauquier County — Every year thousands of Arlington Public Schools visit the APS-operated Outdoor Lab in Fauquier County, experiencing nature and wildlife first hand. The property was purchased with private funds for school use and is beloved by students. However, some worry that a proposal to increase summer use of the 225 acre site may overtax the lab and its ecology. [Falls Church News-Press]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by ARLnow.com — May 22, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,222 0

Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally at the Pentagon (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin)

Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County government offices, courts, schools, and community centers will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Arlington’s public indoor pools will be open, trash and recycling will be collected and ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. [Arlington County]

Flags In at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, placed small American flags in front some 275,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The annual ceremony, known as “Flags In,” has been taking place before Memorial Day for more than 60 years. [U.S. Army]

Arlington Man Convicted of Sexual Abuse — Arlington resident Gary Hankins, a 45-year-old former licensed clinical social worker, has been convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old patient. The boy’s parents first contacted authorities after they discovered sexually suggestive texts from Hankins on his phone. [NBC Washington]

Candidates Bash Board’s Reevesland Vote — The Democratic candidates for County Board are criticizing the County Board’s vote this week to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. At a debate lacking one candidate — School Board Chair James Lander, who had a School Board meeting — candidates took turns bashing the decision, calling it “shameful,” “bad business” and “beneath Arlington.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]

APS to Discuss Swanson, Williamsburg Plans — Next month Arlington Public Schools will hold public forums to discuss “interim options” for addressing capacity issues at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools. “These interim solution options include the use of both on-site or off-site locations to house some portion of the school populations, the possibility of some interior redesign, the use of relocatables as part of the solution, and changes in scheduling,” APS said in a press release. [Arlington Public Schools]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2015 at 9:00 am 2,286 0

Rainbow over D.C. on 5/18/15 as seen from Rosslyn

Taste of Arlington Winners — The judges at Sunday’s Taste of Arlington event in Ballston selected four winners among the dozens of restaurants that participated. Il Forno won for Best Appetizers, Liberty Tavern won for Best Fast Casual, Water and Wall won for Best Fine Dining and Northside Social won for Best Dessert.

Real Estate Prices Rise — Real estate prices in Arlington continue to rise. The median home sale in Arlington between January and April was $545,000. That’s up 9 percent year-over-year. [InsideNova]

Clarendon Real Estate Was a Bargain in 1900 — Clarendon is full of nice restaurants, luxury condos and million dollar homes now, but in 1900 it was an emerging suburban community with vacant land for sale. How much were plots of land going for? Between $90 and $140. [Ghosts of DC]

Presidential Candidate in Arlington TodayMark Everson, a former IRS commissioner and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will speak and greet supporters at a $100-a-head reception in Courthouse today. The event is being held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Courthaus Social, 2300 Clarendon Blvd. [Mark Everson for President]

APS Educator Named Top Hispanic Teacher — Arlington Traditional School art teacher Veronica Perez has received the Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Hispanic Teacher of the Year Award. [InsideNova]

by Ethan Rothstein — May 15, 2015 at 11:00 am 1,498 0

Walk and Bike to School Day 2012 at Oakridge Elementary SchoolFor the last month of school, the Arlington County Police Department will devote more resources and officers toward preventing crime in county middle school and high schools.

School Resource Officers will conduct “saturation patrols” and educate students about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Until school lets out June 18, ACPD plans to put more officers at malls, parks and community centers around Arlington. Police will also have a heightened presence at school and community events.

“This initiative encourages positive interaction between officers and the students of Arlington County,” School Resource Officer Supervisor Lt. Ron Files said in a press release. “Our goal is to provide a safe environment in the school communities by using crime prevention strategies and utilizing enforcement measures.”

The initiative coincides with the department’s efforts to curb underage drinking and drinking and driving during prom season.

File photo

by Ethan Rothstein — May 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm 2,991 0

Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.

The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.

This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.

“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”

Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.

While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.

“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”

Arlington Girls Softball Association's fields at Arlington Traditional SchoolSevern said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.

“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”

Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.

Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.

“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”

Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.

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