Arlington, VA

A 61% majority of Arlington Public Schools teachers prefer to continue distance teaching or telework, according to a survey recently conducted by APS.

Almost 4,300 employees, or 63% of APS staff, completed the survey. Teachers and assistants had the highest participation rates, 87% and 86% respectively, and while teachers had a stronger preference for distance learning over in-person teaching, assistants were split 50-50.

Those results were compiled and presented to the Arlington School Board by Superintendent Francisco Durán during the school board meeting on Thursday night.

Administrators say the information will be used to match teaching and learning preferences as the school system slowly brings back students, prioritizing students with disabilities and younger students who struggle more often with distance learning. Overall, 55% of all APS staff prefer telework to in-person work due to ongoing concerns of contracting the coronavirus.

During the meeting, Arlington School Board Vice Chair Barbara Kanninen asked Durán what will be done with the results, as there will potentially be more in-person students than staff to teach them.

“It continues to be that teacher preferences are not a match to family preferences,” Kanninen said. “More families are wanting to return to hybrid than there are teachers. What happens with that mismatch?”

Durán said staff in the human resources department, as well as supervisors and principals, will be talking to those who prefer not to return, but do not qualify for accommodations that would keep them fully remote.

“We’ll be working with those staff around what are their needs to make sure they feel safe,” Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Staff Dan Redding said.

Durán told board members that the figures in the presentation will not correspond to the final number of staff inside school buildings as APS continues to reopen.

Among other employee categories, those in food service, transportation and maintenance said they would prefer to report for work in-person.

Surveys were also sent out to select families who could be coming back this November, and those surveys were extended through Friday due to the APS internet outage on Wednesday. The school system will rely on this information to map out bus routes, since there is not much available room on reduced-capacity buses, Durán said.

The Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington teachers, was not available to comment.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is set to add four non-Christian religious holidays to its calendar during the next school year.

The school system is currently surveying families, community members and employees about the draft calendar, which calls for a school year that starts on Aug. 23 and runs through June 17.

The online survey is open through Friday, Oct. 30.

The 2021-2022 calendar includes the following holidays:

  • Rosh Hashanah — September 7, 2021
  • Yom Kippur — September 16, 2021
  • Diwali — November 4, 2021
  • Eid — May 3, 2022

The Arlington School Board is expected to hear a presentation about the calendar on Nov. 17, before a vote on Dec. 3, a school spokesman said.

The Fairfax and Prince William county school systems are also considering adding the same four religious holidays. If approved, it would be the culmination of a long-running effort to have local schools close on major holidays for the Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim faiths.

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Working parents are increasingly feeling burnout from juggling a job and remote schooling, according to a new survey commissioned by an Arlington-based consulting firm.

“A new national poll of the U.S. workforce indicates that 65 percent of employees with children in remote learning situations are feeling burnout,” said a press release from Crystal City-based Eagle Hill Consulting.

“Even for workers without remote learning children, the burnout levels also are high – at 52 percent,” the press release continues. “Among workers who are burnt out, many attribute the stress to the COVID-19 pandemic – 42 percent for workers with remote learning situations and 28 percent for those without children in remote learning.”

The survey results come as Arlington Public Schools prepares to welcome back the first group of students for in-person learning on Nov. 4, in a multi-phase process that currently aims to have all students who opt-in back in classrooms, at least part-time, by the end of January.

Arlington Parents for Education, a group formed to push APS to open schools full time, has distributed orange “Open Schools Now” signs to supporters around the county and garnered more than 1,000 signatures on an online petition. But APS is far from the only school system to open the school year with distance learning only, due to health concerns; burnout from parents pulling double duty between work and pandemic-related childcare or schooling obligations is a nationwide phenomenon.

The survey found that 45% of parents with children in remote learning attributed their burnout to their workload, while 42% said it’s about “balancing work and their personal life.”

“These findings shouldn’t be surprising to employers. Families and workers were burnt out even before the pandemic,” said Eagle Hill Consulting President and CEO Melissa Jezior. “Employees are bouncing back and forth between their work computer to their child’s device, struggling to do two jobs at once. The only solution for employers is to work hand-in-hand with employees to meet their individual needs.”

“This isn’t an easy situation for employers to resolve, with work life balance taking on a whole new meaning during this health crisis,” Jezior added.

The survey was conducted last month and included more than 1,000 randomly-selected employees from around the country.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Parking Lot Staying Put — “Crystal City has been a scalding hot market for new development ever since Amazon.com Inc. moved in — but one well-positioned lot will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. Gould Property Co., which owns a small parking lot at 2661 S. Clark St., filed a request with Arlington County last month asking for permission to maintain the property as surface parking through early 2026.” [Washington Business Journal]

Westover Apartment Building Named — “Kathleen Sibert, who led the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) from 2008 until earlier this year, will remain a permanent part of the organization through a facility named in her honor… Located in Westover, Sibert House is designed to provide permanent-supportive housing and a foundation to help individuals achieve better health, overcome substance abuse and mental illness, obtain job security, and attain their goals.” [InsideNova]

Schools Also Facing Budget Gap — “Superintendent Durán said that APS is facing an estimated budget gap at this time of between $24 million and $31 million. The APS budget gap continues to fluctuate and is based on continued unknowns including more possible revenue loss, more possible savings and more costs as APS works to return students to in-person learning while continuing to provide distance learning. The school district is examining its current practices and reviewing the budget.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Water Facts — “In a year, Arlington residents use some 8 billion gallons of water. That’s about a trillion 8-ounce glasses of the stuff. Clean, safe and always at the ready.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Costs on the Rise — “Not only are home prices on the rise across the Washington area; the average cost on a per-square-foot basis continues to grow, too… In Virginia, Arlington led the pack, with its average per-square-foot cost of $455 up 4.4 percent from $436.” [InsideNova]

Real Estate Firm Opening Second Office — “McEnearney Associates is excited to announce a new office location in the heart of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard… This will be McEnearney Associate’s second office location in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Airport Concession Sales Way Down — “Roughly 33 concessionaires were open at Reagan and 44 at Dulles, or just over 40% of all shops in the two airports… the shops that are open are still struggling with very low foot traffic and a customer base that is spending less than normal. Sales per passenger were down 20% at Reagan National and 22% at Dulles in August compared to the same month of 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Early Voting on Irish TV — “Irish TV RTÉ was in Courthouse filming the early voting for the election.” [@Irelands4Courts/Twitter]

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Update at 2:35 p.m. — Kids will be back in class (virtually) tomorrow.

“Our service provider repaired the damaged cable overnight and restored service late this morning,” Arlington Public Schools said Wednesday afternoon. “As of 1 p.m., APS network services have been restored. Distance learning will resume for all students, tomorrow, Oct. 22.”

Earlier: A fiber optic cable cut in Vienna has led to the cancellation of distance learning today.

Arlington Public Schools says the network outage caused by the “major fiber cut” has knocked out systems required for remote classes.

“Our Internet Service Provider has not been able to restore service and is continuing to work to resolve the issue,” APS said in an email to families. As of last night, the school system said “there is no estimate for restoration.”

Meal services and high school pools are unaffected by the closure. APS is, however, pushing back the deadline for some families make back-to-school selections online.

“Due to the network outage, today’s deadline for making Level 2 selections in ParentVUE for students in grades PreK-5 and select CTE courses has been extended to Fri, Oct. 23,” APS said.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and again, thank you for your patience,” the school email concluded. “We will continue to provide updates today and will notify you when service is restored.”

Arlington County’s website, meanwhile, is still down as of 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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Morning Notes

Return of First Students Delayed — “As we have shared, we were aiming for an October 29 start for Level 1, which includes approximately 225 students with disabilities who need in-person support to access distance learning. We are now moving the start date back to Wednesday, November 4, to ensure all operational metrics are met and staff are well equipped and ready to support our students at each school.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Crushes Census Count — “You did it, Arlington County: With the Census Count completing on October 15th, 99.98% of Arlington was officially counted. Thank you to our Complete Count Committee for your tireless, infectious enthusiasm for ensuring that everyone counts!” [@kcristol/Twitter, YouTube]

Culpepper Garden Celebrates Renovations — “It wasn’t quite the kind of celebration that had been expected when, two and a half years ago, work began on a major renovation at the Culpepper Garden senior-living facility. But it was a celebration nonetheless – albeit ‘virtually’ – that was called for, and on Oct. 13, leaders of two non-profit housing providers and their partners held an online program to mark completion of the $58 million project.” [InsideNova]

Spirits of ’76 Closing Happy Hour Set to close on Nov. 1, Spirits of ’76 is holding a half-off happy hour from 4-6 p.m. until the closing date. “Everything must go!” the Clarendon bar said on social media. [Instagram]

Punch Bowl Social Restarting Happy Hour — “Punch Bowl Social, the ‘millennial-oriented’ adult playground in Arlington, reopened its Ballston location last week, and it plans to restart happy hour, Wednesday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, October 21. The ‘eatertainment’ chain says it will offer diversions like arcade games, bocce, darts, and more in a socially distant fashion.” [Washingtonian]

Overnight Closures Along I-66 — “Overnight ramp and lane closures are scheduled to occur this week, and possibly next week, on I-66 East in Arlington for asphalt paving and overhead sign replacement as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project. Detours will be posted to direct traffic.” [VDOT]

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High school students in Arlington Public Schools say they are getting too many assignments and not enough time to do them during virtual learning.

More than 3,000 students and parents have signed a Change.org petition asking Arlington Public Schools to adhere to its high school homework “expectations,” as stated online.

Students are encouraged to engage in nightly independent reading of their choice. Beyond that, no additional assignments/homework will be required outside of the expectations for asynchronous work that is part of students’ daily class time, or the 30 minutes per subject of asynchronous work assigned for Mondays.

​The volume of signatures caught the attention of the school system. The petition was the first time staff were notified that these concerns are shared by more than just a few students, said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

“We take the feedback we receive via a variety of formats seriously,” he said. “All of our high school principals are aware and are meeting with teachers to examine the number of assignments being given and to reduce them where applicable.”

Principals are working at the subject level with instructional supervisors to come up with solutions that reduce the workload on students, he said.

Bellavia said the homework policy that the petitioners are referencing is not policy, but rather, it is guidance for secondary teachers. According to the guidance, teachers of college-level classes may need to assign more work to cover the breadth of their curricula.

One student told ARLnow that for the most part, the types of assignments and the volume are about the same, with the caveat that some teachers are assigning hours of video content.

“I probably spend… three hours a week watching videos for those classes, and I have three or four classes that assign videos,” he said.

That amounts to three to 12 hours a week of videos. For this student — who is taking all college-level classes and admits that more work comes with the territory — the workload did not motivate him to sign the petition.

“The homework itself doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s more that there was a policy made and they’re not following it.”

Despite the breakdown he sees between the school system’s expectations for assignments and the reality of distance learning, he commended his teachers for how they have adapted to online-only learning.

“Students like to give them flak, but from an objective standpoint, they’re doing pretty well,” he said.

Another student said, as a reason for signing the petition, that she has been working “15 hours every single day (8 a.m. 10 p.m.) non-stop ever since the beginning of school.”

She added that there are too many assignments and not enough asynchronous time in which to complete them.

“We shouldn’t be getting that much work especially in a learning environment that we aren’t familiar with,” she said. “It’s not because of poor time management, it’s because of so much work we are getting.”

In the petitions’ comments, parents also threw in their support, saying they have watched their students lose lunch hours to additional instruction and devote entire weekends to homework.

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Depending on local health conditions, Arlington Public Schools students who opt for hybrid instruction could start entering classrooms between the end of October and mid-January.

The staggered return times, along with more details about the school system’s preparations, were announced on Friday during a town hall for parents with Superintendent Francisco Durán and his staff.

Students with disabilities will begin returning on Oct. 29, followed by preschool to fifth-grade students — youngest to oldest — starting in late November and continuing into early December. High-school students taking certain Career and Technical Education courses will also return.

Parents of these students, designated as priority level 2, are being surveyed currently for instruction preferences. All other middle- and high-school students who opt for hybrid instruction comprise Level 3 and are currently expected to return in January.

“We want to be thoughtful of meeting the needs of all of our students who need more support,” Durán said.

During a town hall with teachers earlier last week, Durán told APS staff, including teachers, that balancing their preferences with those of families may mean APS cannot respect the wishes of every family who selects the hybrid option, according to a recording of the meeting, which was provided to ARLnow.

Rather, “with student need as the driver,” those who are falling behind, or have disabilities, those who have difficulty accessing online learning or do not have parents at home will receive the greatest priority in returning to school, he said.

An advocacy group promoting in-person education, Arlington Parents for Education, contends that qualifying for face-to-face education based on need is inconsistent with APS’s mission to provide equal access to public education.

“If APS is going to go down this path of making determinations on behalf of parents which children ‘truly need’ to deserve in-person schooling, then the district should be prepared for and willing to answer questions on the matter,” the group said in a statement. “Based on the volume of questions that were ignored at Friday evening’s town hall, it’s clear Dr. Durán is not being transparent with families, yet again.”

On Friday, parents had a lot of questions, submitted via text, Facebook Live comments and Microsoft Teams chat, ranging from keeping teachers to testing students.

“I recognize how challenging this is for our community, and I know there are many opposing views about how we should proceed,” Durán said.

School officials said parents are concerned with keeping kids with their current teachers, with many wanting to base their survey answers on what their child’s teacher prefers.

“We know there are strong bonds formed, and we will do our very, very best to maintain consistency as best we can with classes and teachers, but we are not going to be able to share what teachers prefer in their survey,” Durán said, asserting that doing so would reveal private health information.

Many others asked about regular COVID-19 testing.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, K-12 students should not be regularly tested as a condition for students to return, said Zachary Pope, the school system’s emergency manager.

Rather, students will be pre-screened before boarding the bus or outside the classroom when parents drop them off.  Guardians need to stay just in case their child is turned away for exhibiting symptoms, Pope said.

Students who experience symptoms at school will be put in seclusion rooms attended by specialized staff until a guardian can come get them. With the pre-screenings, however, Pope said “we hope we won’t have to have them in those rooms at all.”

Other safety measures include improvements to ventilation and social-distancing on buses. Walk zones have been expanded to keep down bus ridership to 11 students per trip and to mitigate car traffic.

 

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Morning Notes

Big Jump in Local Home Sales — “The red-hot summer real-estate market that evolved out of the springtime COVID crisis showed no signs of abating in September across Arlington. If anything, the market last month doubled down – literally. Home sales across the county totaled 274, up 44.2 percent from the 190 transactions recorded in September 2019.” [InsideNova]

Dems Protest Outside Trump HQ — Democrats protested outside of Trump reelection HQ in Rosslyn yesterday morning, criticizing the president for not agreeing to a virtual debate with Joe Biden. They came with signs and a large “Baby Trump” balloon. [Twitter]

Photos: Outdoor Coworking Space in Rosslyn — “Like dining out and birthday parties, coworking is now an outdoor activity thanks to the pandemic. At least it is in Rosslyn. Today, the new O2 pop-up (short for Outdoor Office) opens in Gateway Park by the Key Bridge.” [Washingtonian]

Amazon Employees to Keep Teleworking — “Amazon.com Inc.’s corporate offices may not return to pre-pandemic staffing levels until the middle of next year, with some managers telling their teams that they can continue to work from home until summer 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tonight: Town Hall with APS Superintendent — “Dr. Durán will be hosting a community virtual Town Hall on Friday, October 16, from 5-6 p.m., to address the Return to School Plan. The Superintendent will address questions already received and take questions during the live event using Microsoft Teams or Facebook Live.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Ballston Private School Tackles Racism — “The Sycamore School (TSS), an independent nonprofit school serving 5th-12th grades, has invested in a year-long contract with nationally regarded educator and trainer Dr. Deborah Stroman as part of their continuing commitment to address issues of systemic racism.” [Press Release]

ART Bus Ridership Down — “For the fiscal year ending June 30, the ART system – funded by the Arlington government but operated by a private contractor – reported an average daily bus boarding total of 8,224, down 12.8 percent from the 9,434 reported for the previous fiscal year.” [InsideNova]

ABC Stores Are Doing Just Fine — “From March to September, [liquor sales in Northern Virginia] were up almost 17 percent over the year before: an average of nearly $37 million per month. March remains the month with the highest dollar amount of liquor sales in NoVa, at $39.3 million. July wasn’t far behind, with $38.5 million.” [Washingtonian]

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High school athletes can start working out in-person next week, regardless of whether they chose distance- or hybrid-learning, Arlington Public Schools has announced.

Starting Monday, Oct. 12, APS will be using stadiums, tracks and fields for student workouts and athletic activities. While students exercise, the facilities will be closed to public use.

“During the APS athletic workouts, staff will be following COVID precautions and therefore all school facilities (stadiums, track, fields) will be closed to the public,” the school system said. “It is important that the community respect the closure and practice social distancing.”

APS is currently conducting remote learning only, but preparing to bring students back in a “hybrid” model, with most students spending two days per week in schools and other students able to opt to continue a distance learning-only program.

The school system previously said it would be screening kids daily, including temperature checks before participating in sports. Students are encouraged to check with their coach and school’s athletic webpage for more information.

School athletic facilities will be closed on the following days and times, according to APS.

Greenbrier Stadium (Yorktown) and fields
Monday, Thursday and Friday, closed from 3:30-8 p.m; Tuesday and Wednesday, closed from 3:30-7:15 p.m.

Wakefield Stadium and fields
Monday through Friday, closed 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Washington-Liberty Stadium and fields
Monday through Friday, closed 3:30-7:30 p.m.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Study: Arlington Has Safest Drivers in Va. — The insurance website Insurify says Arlington has the safest drivers in Virginia. Drivers in the county “demonstrate exceptional dedication to their own safety and to the safety of others around them,” the website says. [Insurify]

Local Toll Lanes May Be Sold — “Transurban is selling off stakes in its US toll roads because it wants to strengthen its balance sheet… Transurban owns the 95 Express Lanes, 495 Express Lanes and 395 Express Lanes toll roads near the US capital, but traffic on the motorways has been hard hit by the pandemic… The Virginia assets have the longest concession periods of Transurban’s assets with asset lives out to 2087.” [Australian Financial Review]

Police Response at Va. Square Metro — Metro Transit Police and Arlington County Police responded to the Virginia Square Metro station last night for a person who jumped on the track bed. Orange and Silver Line trains were stopped in both directions while the person was taken into custody. [Twitter]

Arrest Made in Silver Line Sexual Assault — “Metro Transit Police today arrested the individual suspected of an attempted rape Tuesday, October 6 aboard a Silver Line train in Northern Virginia. Kendrie Roberts-Monticue, 21, of Reston, was taken into custody this morning at the home of a family member in Virginia.” [WMATA]

Metro Closure Planned in Early 2021 — “Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road stations will be closed for approximately three months for full platform replacement and station renovation… [During the work] Yellow Line trains will provide all trans-Potomac service for stations Pentagon and south.” [WMATA]

APS Getting More CARES Act Funding — “More than $220 million in federal coronavirus relief is headed to Virginia schools, according to an announcement from Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday… Arlington County schools will receive $4.7 million.” [DCist]

‘Tiger King’ Star Indicted in Va.Updated at 8:30 a.m. — “Following an investigation by Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s animal law unit, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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