Arlington, VA

(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools would start the new school year a week later than originally planned, and with full time distance learning, under a new plan being proposed by new Superintendent Francisco Durán.

That’s according to a School Talk email just sent to APS families.

Durán says he will present his proposal to the School Board on Thursday. If approved, it would scrap the previous plan to start the fall with a hybrid model that would have most students in classrooms two days per week, while others could opt for online-only classes.

The hybrid model drew criticism from teachers and parents who said there would be no way to ensure the safety of students and school staff. On Monday the Arlington Education Association, which represents APS teachers, released a statement saying that “it is not prudent to re-open schools.”

“We believe, this fall, all learning should continue online from home,” the association said. “This is the only way to keep all educators and students safe and healthy.”

Earlier today, Arlington recorded its highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases since May.

Other parents, however, have called for a full-time return to in-person schooling, saying that online classes would disadvantage low-income students and single-parent households. A recent ARLnow poll found that about 30% of respondents supported five-day-per-week classroom instruction in the fall, while slightly more called for online-only instruction and a plurality preferred the hybrid model.

Under Durán’s new proposal, the school year would start on Sept. 8, rather than Aug. 31, to allow teachers more time to plan for online-only instruction. After the first quarter of the school year, some students may return to classrooms.

“We will continue to monitor the health data in September, with the goal of beginning to transition some students to in-person instruction in early October, which is the mid-point in the first quarter of the school year,” Durán wrote.

Over the weekend Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools released a similar plan, with an online-only start to the school year.

A tipster tells ARLnow that the decision was reached yesterday.

“Rumor has it APS administration and principals met today and agreed to start the first quarter of the school year online only,” the tipster wrote on Monday.

More from the email:

APS Families,

As we continue to see an increase in positive cases for COVID-19 nationwide, over the past several days I have taken time to re-evaluate our plan and path forward. I have met with both County leaders and School Board members to review current health data for Arlington and the state. Yesterday, we reviewed the APS health and safety plan with our Return-to-School Task Force to address concerns we have received from teachers, staff, parents, and the community.

Based on these discussions and our monitoring of local and national trends in COVID-19 cases, I am proposing to the School Board on Thursday night to postpone the start of the academic year to Tuesday, September 8, and begin our school year virtually in the full-time distance learning model for all students. Throughout our planning, the health and safety of our staff and students has been our top priority, and beginning the year with a virtual model allows us to continue to monitor the situation until we are confident it is safe to return.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) An increasingly vocal group of parents and teachers are calling on Arlington Public Schools to scrap plans to have most students return to classrooms twice per week.

The current APS “hybrid” plan calls for two cohorts of students each going into school two days per week, while wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. It also allows parents and students to opt for online-only learning.

Nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition that instead pushes for a “#OneAPS” model that starts all students with online-only classes in the fall and eventually allows a return to school for teachers and students who opt to do so.

“This will keep APS as one, united school system; protect the health and safety of students, teachers and staff; will not force teachers into options that might precipitate mass resignation; and support our most vulnerable learners,” says the petition, an excerpt of which is below.

Under the #OneAPS model:

  • APS will create a robust online learning platform and provide training for how to teach virtually. (See this article and Driver #3.)
  • All students begin school online and receive synchronous (live) online instruction four days a week (Tuesday through Friday) after Labor Day. The delayed start allows for intensive teacher training.
  • Mondays remain planning days for teachers, intervention days for small groups and asynchronous (independent) learning days for the majority of students.
  • When public health officials deem conditions safe to reopen, survey teachers to see who is comfortable returning to school for in-person support. NO teacher will be forced into this option.
  • Depending on the number of teachers available for in-person support, calculate the number of seats available. Allot those seats to our most vulnerable students

Other groups of teachers and parents have been organizing in opposition to a return to classrooms in the fall, similarly citing health and safety concerns.

One group — which is”advocating for a full distance learning model until Arlington County sees 14 days with no COVID-19 cases” — is planning a protest of Thursday night’s School Board meeting.

A Twitter account called “APS 14 Days No New Cases,” meanwhile, has been posting what it says are pleas from school staff not to reopen Arlington schools in the fall.

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the #OneAPS petition, a new group called “Arlington Parents for Education” has been formed to oppose the hybrid plan and push for five-day-per-week, in-person classes. The group argues that not returning to in-person schooling on a full-time basis disproportionately hurts low-income and single-parent households, and carries “economic and educational performance” risks.

A recent unscientific poll conducted by ARLnow found that a plurality of respondents — just below 40% — support the APS hybrid plan, with the rest nearly split between those favoring five-day-per-week classes and online-only classes.

(The “APS 14 Days” account, mention above, criticized ARLnow for conducting the poll. “Shame on you for farming the reopening crisis for clicks,” the anonymous account tweeted.)

A recent Arlington Public Schools survey found that only 7% of school staff were comfortable, with no reservations, about returning to school on a normal schedule, while 39% were “not comfortable at all” and 54% were either “comfortable with concerns” or “somewhat comfortable.”

The top concern of APS staff, according to the survey, is “public health regulations not being followed.”

Among other major D.C. area school systems, Montgomery County public schools are expected to start the school year fully online, while Fairfax County public schools are planning a hybrid model but facing teacher pushback.

Monday afternoon, after the initial publication of this article, the Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington teachers, issued a statement calling for remote learning to start the school year.

The Arlington Education Association Executive Board believes re-opening Arlington Public Schools this fall puts students, educators, and staff, at an exponential risk of COVID-19 that can lead to illnesses and death. We believe, this fall, all learning should continue online from home. This is the only way to keep all educators and students safe and healthy.

According to the recommended guidelines from the CDC and plans chosen by Arlington Public Schools the plans will not protect the health and safety of all students and staff. While the plans sound good, they and have not been proven safe and there are too many unknowns.

AEA further urges APS to look at professional development for all educators, to provide a consistent platform for virtual teaching and learning. Professional development is needed immediately, and instructional assistants must be included as it will be their responsibility to reinforce lessons and skills taught by teachers.

APS families have until next Monday, July 20 to select either the hybrid option or the distance learning-only option for the return to school on Aug. 31.

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Arlington Public Schools is planning to start the fall semester with most students spending just two days a week in classrooms.

The “hybrid” model would see students spending the other three days a week leaning remotely, from home, a plan similar to that just announced by the country’s largest school system.

Arlington parents will also be able to opt their kids out of physical school entirely, in favor of full-time remote learning. For those students going to schools, however, masks and physical distancing will be required.

There are parents, however, who say that the APS plan is inadequate, and students should be going back to school full-time. A new volunteer coalition, Arlington Parents for Education, has formed to advocate for just that. From the group’s website:

The group recently penned a letter, sent to local news outlets, arguing that “the average citizens of our county will be worse off and those with the fewest resources will be left significantly further behind” if APS does not fully reopen.

The decision the members of the Arlington County School Board will make regarding the Fall semester will be the single most consequential decision they ever make. Superintendent Durán stated that a plan for full-time instruction was his preference. He needs to make it his priority. The need to protect Teachers and Students is tremendously important, but this decision must be made with the fullest picture of health and safety in mind. Unclear references to teacher and student physical and mental health are not a sufficient explanation for failing to provide a full-time option.

Full-time instructions is not some outlier position and should be possible given Virginia’s final phase guidance. Massachusetts, New Jersey and numerous districts all over the world are figuring how to manage their risks and are making plans for students to return in the fall. Considering all the factors, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates that: “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” Arlington needs to follow suit. Conditions on the ground can change and we need to be prepared to meet those conditions. However, that is not an excuse for failing to provide a full-time plan given the current information at hand.

There has been no substantive assessment of why full-time instruction was not selected, and no public guidance from the county on what standards, if any, need to be met to get kids back in school. Even more concerning, there was no assessment provided about the consequences of the superintendent’s proposed plan. APS owes its citizens a breakdown of the expected cost of their plan on the mental, economic, and educational well-being of students and their families. It’s unsound policymaking to offer vague one-sided justifications without being transparent about the consequences their decision will have. This is particularly important when discussing our most vulnerable populations.

Among the advocates for five-day-per-week schooling in the fall: President Trump, who is threatening to cut off funding to school districts that do not physically open in full.

Those who want a full return to classrooms are not alone in their critique of APS. ARLnow has also heard from parents and teachers who do not believe any return to classrooms this fall will be safe.

APS, for its part, recently sent a School Talk email to parents further explaining the rationale for the hybrid back-to-school model and answering other parent questions.

Why APS is not offering a full-time in-school option: We understand there are difficult decisions to be made with both models. The full-time in-school scenario is not possible at this time, due to physical distancing requirements issued by the CDC, Virginia Department of Health and local health officials. Physical distancing limits the number of students and staff who can be inside a school at any one time, so the hybrid model allows half of students to be in school part of the week in order to reduce capacities in classrooms and on buses.

What APS will do if health conditions improve: If health conditions improve and physical distancing and other health requirements are adjusted in a way that would allow APS to resume in-person instruction for all students, we would reassess our operating status at that time.

What APS will do if health conditions worsen: We continue to monitor COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and state and local health officials on a daily basis. Our hybrid in-school model is contingent upon the school year beginning in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. If health data and recommendations from the Arlington County Public Health Division necessitate closing schools, students and staff participating in the hybrid model will transition to full time distance learning similar in substance to the existing full time distance learning model which will include a blend of teacher-led/synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction.

Do you think APS should change its plan for the fall?

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Morning Notes

Deadline Set for Back to School Choice — “APS will provide two instructional delivery methods for families to choose from – hybrid in-person with physical distancing or full-time distance learning – when school resumes. Families will have until July 20 at 5 p.m. to select one of the two instructional delivery methods. If families do not select one of the two options by the deadline, their selection will automatically default to the hybrid instructional delivery model.” [Arlington Public Schools]

HS Athletes Understanding of Cancellations — “Senior track and field stars Isaiah Mefford of Wakefield High and Rebecca Stewart of Washington-Liberty could have won state crowns during the outdoor spring season. ‘It was disappointing for all of us, but people were getting sick. So something had to be done,’ Mefford said. Said Stewart: ‘With all that was happening with that virus, we couldn’t think about ourselves.'” [InsideNova]

D.C. Area Facing Tech Talent Gap — “The Capital Region is expected to add more than 130,000 digital tech jobs over the next five years, but the demand for tech talent continues to outpace supply, according to a new study… The talent gap will only continue to widen, unless much more is done to create a robust tech talent ecosystem that makes deliberate connections between digital tech pathways and diverse learners.” [Greater Washington Partnership]

Photo courtesy Buzz McClain

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Today — Voting is underway in the three-way special election to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. The candidates are Takis Karantonis, Susan Cunningham and Bob Cambridge. “Don’t forget your photo ID, ballpoint pen, and face mask,” Arlington’s election office said this morning in a tweet. [Twitter]

No Incentive Payments for Amazon This Year — “Amazon.com Inc. won’t receive any direct cash payments from Arlington County, this year at least, for its HQ2 office leases… because Amazon’s incentive payments are tied to Arlington’s tourism industry. And many rooms remain empty to this day.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Working to Offer Free Internet Service — “In May, the Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to APS students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal [CARES] Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast. Arlington is the first community in Virginia to partner with Comcast to offer free broadband services to students and their families.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Flying Squirrel Rescued from Chimney — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This little flying squirrel had been stuck in a local resident’s chimney since Saturday, but thankfully, Sgt Ballena was able to remove him and release him safely nearby!” [Twitter]

Synetic Organizing Joint Fundraiser — “Synetic Theater has partnered with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to raise $20,000 during the month of July to be split evenly between the organizations. This partnership was initiated by Synetic Theater to help fulfil the company’s desire to invest in their local community while they are unable to host live performances at their Crystal City/National Landing theater space.” [Press Release]

Interview With New Poet Laureate — “When Hollynd Karapetkova learned that she had been selected as Arlington County’s poet laureate, she saw it as a wonderful piece of good news and positive recognition at a time when everything in the world seemed so chaotic. ‘I’m really grateful that Arlington has gone ahead with this program in spite of all the chaos that’s unfolding,’ she said.” [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Nearly 1,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Arlington Public Schools to require masks for in-person instruction in the fall. They’re in luck: that’s precisely what APS is planning to do.

“Moving forward we will be requiring all staff and students to wear face coverings while in school and at work as medically appropriate,” Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán said in a presentation on Wednesday, adding that APS based its mask policy on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

Don’t have a mask? No problem.

Durán revealed that APS has placed a large order for three-layer cloth masks: two for every student, and four for every school employee. The shipment is expected to arrive in August, ahead of the scheduled Aug. 31 start of the school year. Clear masks have also been ordered to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mask-wearing, he said, will be “very critical” to making in-person instruction possible while coronavirus remains a threat.

APS is currently planning a “hybrid” model for the return to school, with most students spending two days per week in schools, and other students able to opt for a distance learning-only program. The distance learning-only group, according to Durán, will be taught by a different group of teachers than the other students.

Durán said the hybrid model — with one cohort of students in classrooms on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the other in school on Thursdays and Fridays — is necessary to allow social distancing in schools and protect the health of students and staff.

“Physical distancing, as we said for quite some time, is key and it is the main reason we’re pursuing a hybrid in person model as one of the two options,” the superintendent said. “On order to maintain that six foot distance, we have to reduce the number of students on buses and in classrooms.”

APS is also planning daily health screenings, including temperature checks before boarding bus, entering school, or participating in sports. Both students and employees will be checked with new infrared thermometers the school system has purchased.

Other measures APS is taking, according to Durán’s presentation:

  • “Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces”
  • “Clear, documented procedures will be provided for a presumptive or confirmed COVID case”
  • Seating students on every other seat on the bus
  • Furniture in classroom set up to maintain six foot distancing
  • Visitors allowed only in the main office for drop-off and pick-up
  • In-school volunteer work suspended
  • Plexiglass shielding for high-traffic areas like offices

Durán also noted that APS is looking at additional ventilation and filtration measures to help prevent viral spread.

“I want to reiterate that the health and safety of students and staff is of the utmost importance to us,” he said.

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Monique O’Grady has been selected to serve as Arlington School Board Chair for the 2020-2021 school year.

O’Grady takes over the rotating chairmanship from Tannia Talento, who along with Nancy Van Doren is retiring from the School Board after this year, setting up a three-way race to fill the two empty seats.

Arlington Public Schools is preparing to begin the school year on Aug. 31 in a hybrid learning model, with most students only going to in-person classes twice per week. O’Grady said in a statement that communication and collaboration “will help us serve our students, families, and staff through these challenging times.”

In addition to O’Grady’s selection as chair, the School Board selected Barbara Kanninen as Vice Chair at its organization meeting earlier today.

O’Grady, the mother of actress Brittany O’Grady, has been a member of the School Board since 2018 and an APS parent for 23 years. She is a “longtime community advocate and communications professional,” according to her APS biography. Kanninen has served on the School Board since 2015 and was named one of the Most Powerful Women in Washington by Washingtonian in 2017.

More from an APS press release:

At its July 1 organizational meeting, the Arlington School Board selected Monique O’Grady as School Board Chair for the 2020-21 school year. The School Board selected Dr. Barbara Kanninen as Vice Chair.

“Communication and collaboration are setting an important foundation as we prepare to reenter school this fall. We are stronger together, and these two actions will help us serve our students, families, and staff through these challenging times,” said new School Board Chair Monique O’Grady.

On collaboration, O’Grady had the following message. “We will need to continue to collaborate with the County to maximize success within new fiscal constraints that may get worse before they get better. We will need to lean on our community leaders and partners to support our families in need. We must honor our teachers and staff as they work with students in different ways, and we must be ready to support our students social emotional and learning needs, because they will be on the frontlines of this change.”

“I enter this situation ready to lead because of the support of the school board staff and each of my colleagues, who have all been board chairs before. I have learned a lot from you and will continue to treasure your expertise and guidance. I have special gratitude for Ms. Talento who mentored me through the past year as her vice chair. Her intelligence, kindness, wit and compassion are an inspiration to me.”

She concluded her remarks by thanking the Executive Leadership Team and those who came before her. “Thank you, Executive Leadership Team, as you work overtime to craft and support a reopening plan that serves our students. Thank you to all the women and people of color who have served on this board before me, including Evelyn Syphax, for whom our offices are named. Thank you to my family for their constant support in my effort to serve our community. And thank you to all those who helped me earn the opportunity to be the first black elected woman in Arlington so I can serve our students and families in this important role.”

The next regular School Board meeting is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, July 16.

Photo courtesy Arlington Public Schools

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Morning Notes

March Planned Tonight in Crystal City — “This Tuesday (6/30) we will be gathering in Crystal City Courtyard Green to march to Pentagon City in defense of Black womxn.” [Twitter]

Petition for APS to Require Masks — “To maximize the chances of success for Arlington Public Schools (Virginia) hybrid return to school model we urge the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán to make face coverings compulsory for both students and teachers during the days they are at school for in-person learning. Those who object to wearing masks can always choose the distance-learning option.” [Change.org]

Local Church to Feed Thousands — “On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) in south Arlington is working with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) to feed families in need of food assistance. World Central Kitchen is providing 3,500 meals to OLQP for distribution to the community. Meals will be offered to take home in conjunction with pre-packed food the OLQP food pantry distributes every Wednesday morning. This is the second time WCK will be providing meals to OLQP during the pandemic.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Catholic Churches Enter ‘Phase 3’ — “All 70 parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington will move into phase three of Virginia’s reopening plan on Wednesday. Officials announced Monday that each parish is ‘able, but not mandated, to celebrate public Mass with capacity restrictions lifted’ beginning on July 1.” [Fox 5]

County Adjusts Committee Meeting Rules — “After facing a rebellion from members and chairs of advisory commissions, the Arlington County Board has revised rules for holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the two biggest changes from the original plans: Commission chairs (apparently) will no longer have to seek county-staff permission to hold meetings. Advisory-group meetings will be allowed in-person or in a hybrid format, in addition to the previously announced “virtual”-only arrangement.” [InsideNova]

New Construction Contract for VHC Inked — “Skanska USA has inked more work with Virginia Hospital Center as the Arlington hospital soldiers on with its $250 million expansion project. The construction company said Monday it signed a contract worth $96 million for site work for the new outpatient pavilion and parking garage at the hospital. That’s on top of a $37 million contract with VHC it grabbed late last year.” [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Under a new Arlington Public Schools proposal, set to be presented Thursday night, most students would start the new school year in a hybrid instructional model that involves only two days in classrooms per week.

Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán, who told APS families in an email earlier this week that the school system was “reviewing hybrid instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning for students,” is set to make the presentation to the School Board tonight.

The proposal would divide students into three groups: one that would attend in-person classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, another would attend classes in person on Thursdays and Fridays, while a third group would consist of students whose families opt for distance learning only.

According to the presentation, Monday would be a planning day for teachers and a distance learning day for all students.

That is similar to the model announced by Fairfax County Public Schools earlier this week.

The goal is to reduce the potential for a wide-scale coronavirus outbreak in a school, while also keeping students engaged and interacting with one another.

In the presentation, APS says it is planning a number of other safety measures, including:

  • Staff and student health screening
  • Personal protective equipment and face covering requirements
  • Increased disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces
  • Public health signage
  • Physical distance floor markings

The presentation details the results of surveys of APS staff, students and families. Notable findings include:

  • 39% of staff say they’re “not comfortable at all” returning to physical schools
  • 70% of staff say they would return to school in the fall if asked, while 10% would “request work-from-home accommodations for health reasons,” 1% would not return, and 19% are uncertain
  • 75% of staff support mask requirements for APS staff
  • 42% of families prefer only in-person instruction in the fall, while 37% prefer a hybrid model
  • 99% of students say they “have access to the technology I need” for distance learning, compared to 81% of staff members

Families are expected to be sent an enrollment notice in early July that will allow them to opt in to a distance learning-only model in the fall.

For remote-only elementary students, daily APS teacher-led instruction will be provided, “in combination with asynchronous instruction.” For high school students, distance learning will be provided “in partnership with online virtual course providers.”

“While [high school] students enrolled in virtual courses may receive their instruction from a teacher outside of APS, they will be closely monitored by a faculty member from the school of attendance,” the presentation notes.

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Arlington’s new superintendent says Arlington Public Schools is focusing on a potential hybrid model for the return to school in the fall.

Dr. Francisco Durán is scheduled to update the School Board on back-to-school planning on Thursday. He said an APS Task Force this week “is reviewing hybrid instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning for student.”

“We are also planning for a distance-learning-only option for students who are in high risk health categories or are not comfortable returning to school in person,” Durán added.

Nearly three-quarters of families said in a recent APS survey that they would be comfortable sending kids back into classrooms this fall, with a plurality preferring only in-person instruction over a hybrid model (42% to 37%). Only 10% of survey respondents preferred keeping students out of classrooms altogether to start the school year, according to an email Durán sent to APS families Tuesday afternoon.

Fairfax County, meanwhile, plans to give families two options to start the school year: entirely virtual online learning or a hybrid in which students would be in class at least two days a week.

Last month interim superintendent Cintia Johnson said distance learning to start the school year was “very probable.”

The full email from Durán is below.

Dear APS Community,

We continue to develop our plan for returning to school this fall based on the state’s guidance, working in collaboration with the Task Force, regional superintendents, and the Arlington County Public Health Division. This week, our team is reviewing hybrid instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning for students, assuming Virginia enters Phase 3 by the start of school.

The Task Force has already reviewed many possible instructional models and is now focusing on three that best meet APS needs and align with neighboring school divisions. We are also planning for a distance-learning-only option for students who are in high risk health categories or are not comfortable returning to school in person.

I will share more details on our work and present the recommended instructional model at the School Board meeting this Thursday. Deciding on the model will allow for us to begin to make decisions regarding staffing, budget, childcare, transportation, and other elements of our plan.

The results are in from the staff, student and family surveys on distance learning and reopening, and I would like to thank everyone who participated. Your input is invaluable as we work to plan for the upcoming year. We will post the complete results on our APS Engage webpage by this Friday. In the meantime, here are a few highlights which are informing our work moving forward:

  • 37% of families preferred reopening school with a hybrid combination of in-person and distance learning; 42% preferred in-person instruction only; and 10% preferred distance learning only.
  • 73% of families said they are comfortable sending students back to school with no concerns or some concerns; 9% were not at all comfortable.
  • 38% of staff said they are comfortable returning to school/workplace with no concerns or some concerns, while 39% said they were not at all comfortable returning.
  • The top factors influencing the level of comfort in returning for both groups were whether public health regulations will be followed, disinfection of facilities, and availability of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
  • 35% of families reported that their students will not continue to ride the school bus, and 28% are uncertain if their students would continue to ride the bus.

We are developing health and safety plans to address these concerns to make sure students and staff are learning and working in a safe environment.

In terms of distance learning feedback, a few highlights:

  • Families (52%), students (43%) and staff (62%) all preferred a combination of live, synchronous distance learning and self-directed, asynchronous distance learning.
  • Students indicated that they know how to contact their teachers and get technical help when necessary (68% for both).
  • Staff indicated that they mostly felt “somewhat prepared” to connect with students, provide social-emotional support, and provide instructional supports to students (Special Needs, English Learners, and Gifted); further questions allowed them to specify what professional development and supports they would need.

This input will help inform our work in developing professional supports for staff, providing training as needed, and making sure that the 2020-21 school year is a success for all.

I hope that you will continue to follow updates on APS Engage and that you can join me at 7 p.m. tonight for the final Community Town Hall in this initial series of virtual events I have held this month. I also encourage you to view the School Board meeting on Thursday, June 25, as I present the recommended instructional model along with other important details and next steps.

Sincerely,

Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

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A lawsuit has been filed against Arlington Public Schools’ controversial elementary school swap.

The swap, which was approved by a 4-1 School Board vote in February, would move Key Elementary students and staff to the current Arlington Traditional School, Arlington Traditional students and staff to the current McKinley Elementary, and McKinley students and staff to a new school being built in Westover.

The suit was filed in March by Louisa Castillo, an Arlington resident and Key Elementary parent, against the School Board. It claims the School Board violated a Virginia law “when it adopted a proposal to relocate thousands of Arlington County elementary school students… rather than engaging in the necessary process to enact a school boundary change.”

Specifically, the suit alleges that the School Board failed to take into account six factors — financial efficiency, student proximity, educational stability, student alignment, school demographics, and and boundary contiguity — when considering the changes.

The swap was done before a planned boundary change process, which is set to start this fall. Like past boundary processes, it is likely to be contentious.

School Board members who voted for the swap said it was a tough decision but agreed with APS staff that it was the option that would impact the smallest number of APS students, at a time when the school system continues to build and expand schools to keep up with rising enrollment growth.

Steven Krieger, who finished a close third in the recent Democratic School Board endorsement caucus, emailed supporters last night to encourage them to support the lawsuit with donations.

Krieger, who was critical of both APS decisionmaking and the caucus process, said the suit will give the School Board “another opportunity to correct a wrong decision.”

“This decision won’t solve our capacity issues, and moving forward with this proposal without a proper review of its impacts is intellectually dishonest,” he wrote. “Despite the current pandemic and corresponding budgetary issues, APS is still planning to spend about $3 million to move these three schools.”

“Louisa Castillo, a Key parent, hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the School Board. Logistically, her son may not be able to move with the program to ATS and does not know what school she will be zoned for because the school moves decision was separate from the boundary decisions,” Krieger continued. “Many other families at Key, ATS, and McKinley are living with similar levels of uncertainty about where their children will attend school when we return to in-person instruction.”

“Instead of doing the right thing and analyzing the school moves in conjunction with the boundary process, the School Board hired a large law firm to fight Louisa’s lawsuit,” wrote Krieger.

So far the GoFundMe campaign has raised just over $300 of a $20,000 goal.

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