Williamsburg to Implement Block Scheduling — Williamsburg Middle School will, in fact, be implementing a block schedule for classes next year, an Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com. While Kenmore has a modified block schedule for sixth grade, and Gunston is “exploring moving to a flexible schedule for next year,” Jefferson and Swanson are not considering moving to a block schedule, we’re told.
Home Prices Decline in Arlington in 2016 — Per WTOP’s Jeff Clabaugh and listing service MRIS: “The median price in Arlington County last year was down 1.8 percent from 2015. Arlington and Alexandria were the only local jurisdictions to see declines in 2016 prices versus 2015.” [WTOP]
Grand Opening for Pamplona — New Clarendon restaurant Pamplona is holding its grand opening celebration tonight. The Spanish tapas restaurant is set in a self-described “sultry and sophisticated space, featuring colorful Spanish tiled floors, unique murals… and of course, an arsenal of bullheads.” [Facebook]
H-B Photography in Richmond — Work by H-B Woodlawn photography students is on display in the Richmond offices of Del. Patrick Hope. Hope plans to highlight one piece a day during the legislative session. [Twitter]
Multi-Generational Housing Construction — A 1950s ranch home near Bishop O’Connell High School is being torn down to make way for a new multi-generation house for a couple, their daughter and husband, and their grandchildren. [Falls Church News-Press]
When You Don’t Want Someone to Take Your Parking Cone — South Arlington is “so rough you have to lock up your cones,” as a photo apparently taken yesterday demonstrates. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Monday marked a milestone for the county’s multimillion dollar ConnectArlington fiber optic network: It has completed phase one of migrating Arlington Public Schools to the system and off of Comcast’s internet access.
But as APS prepares to enter phase two of the migration, it also has an open request for proposals (RFP) to build another fiber network, a potentially pricey project that it says is a “contingency plan.”
With phase one complete, 14 APS sites are now on the ConnectArlington network. Another 23 are expected be online by December.
Early last month, however, APS issued an RFP for a contractor to build a new fiber network for the school system. Proposals originally were due Monday, but the deadline has been extended to January 17. APS is supposed to choose a contractor for the project “as soon after that date as possible,” according to an addendum to the RFP. The RFP states that the new network must be constructed and functioning by April 2018.
APS says the additional fiber network is a contingency plan and ConnectArlington still will be its primary network. Therefore, APS will continue moving forward as planned with getting the next bunch of sites online with ConnectArlington by year’s end.
“APS is contracting for a backup system to remain in place until we know that ConnectArlington is complete and fully functional. With all of our instructional, testing, business functions and state reporting requirements, APS cannot risk not having a viable network infrastructure in place if ConnectArlington is delayed and not completed for any unforeseen reason,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
“Like the insurance policies we purchase to protect the investment in our buildings, buses and other critical components of APS operations, we hope we will never need the insurance, but those policies are in place — just in case,” said Linda Erdos, assistant superintendent for school and community relations
Arlington County communications director Bryna Helfer said that the remaining 21 county and 23 school sites included in the ConnectArlington project’s phase two — which begins in March — will continue to receive Comcast service until they’re fully migrated in December.
The county says that it cannot speak for APS’ desire for another fiber network but asserted that the ConnectArlington network has been performing for nearly two years without issue.
“We are completely confident that we will install fiber into every planned county and school facility by the end of calendar year 2017, based on our previous years’ experience with the construction and operation of this project,” said James Schwartz, deputy county manager for public safety and technology.
In addition to the 14 APS buildings and 33 county buildings on the network thus far, Schwartz said, more than 130 traffic signals have been connected. Plus, the public safety radio system — previously supported by microwave antenna — has been migrated to ConnectArlington and “is operating without a problem,” according to Schwartz.
“This system allows fire, EMS and police to communicate during emergencies and requires the highest reliability standard — that standard is being met by ConnectArlington,” he said.
APS spokespeople say the backup fiber network is eligible for federal E-Rate funds, which assist schools and libraries with obtaining affordable telecommunications and internet access. The Federal Communications Commission explains that the discount a school district receives depends on two factors: “(1) the poverty level of the population the applicant serves and (2) whether the applicant is located in a rural or urban area.”
“The RFP ensures that APS can receive a potential 50 percent reimbursement of [the backup fiber network] costs through the federal government’s E-Rate funds,” Bellavia said.
Earlier School Closing Decisions — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says the school system will try to make school closing decisions earlier this year, preferably the night before a snow or ice event. [InsideNova]
Arlington Company Gets $1 Billion Investment — Rosslyn-based satellite internet company OneWeb has received a $1 billion investment from SoftBank. The Japanese company said it’s the “first step” in its $50 billion commitment to President-elect Donald Trump to create jobs in the U.S. [Reuters]
W-L Student Pens Open Letter on Boundary Changes — The boundary changes approved by the School Board on Dec. 1 will decrease socio-economic diversity at Arlington’s high schools, despite diversity being a stated “core value” at Arlington Public Schools. That’s the argument made by a Washington-Lee student in an open letter to the School Board, published by the Crossed Sabres student newspaper. The article has been widely shared online and, we’re told, has broken traffic records on the newspaper’s website. [Crossed Sabres]
Rollover Crash Last Night — A crash involving an SUV that flipped on its roof was reported near the intersection of Little Falls Road and N. Glebe Road just before 8 p.m. last night. Another crash, involving a person potentially trapped in a vehicle, was reported on Old Dominion Drive just over the border in McLean, around 6 p.m. [Twitter, Twitter]
AFAC Collecting Lots of Donated Food — Holiday-time food collections are bolstering supplies at the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Just yesterday AFAC said it had received around 3,900 lbs of food from property owner Vornado and 1,900 lbs from apartment operator Dittmar. Dittmar says its total holiday food drive goal this year is 5,500 lbs. Other organizations collecting food for AFAC include local real estate agents that have formed a group called Arlington Realtors Care. [Instagram]
More Special Needs Students at APS — The percentage of special needs students at Arlington’s public schools has remained steady, but due to enrollment growth the number of special needs students has increased, presenting budgetary and instructional challenges. [InsideNova]
Cruz and Cornyn’s Queso Comes from Ballston — When Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn needed some authentic Texas-style queso to square off in a taste test against cheese dip from Arkansas, they went to Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant in Ballston. (The restaurant chain is based in Texas.) Unfortunately, the Arkansas cheese won the competition. [Roll Call]
Per Student Spending Questioned — Arlington Public Schools is again being questioned about why it has the highest per-student costs — $18,957 — of any suburban D.C. jurisdiction. Fairfax County, the largest school system in the state, has a per-student cost of $14,432. [InsideNova]
Woman’s Tireless TSA Protest — Alyssa Bermudez, a former Army staff sergeant and Bronze Star recipient, has been tirelessly protesting in front of Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Pentagon City, claiming that she was sexually harassed and fired for complaining about it. Other complaints and a lawsuit point to an alleged culture of harassment within the agency. [Washington Post]
ACPD Officers Meet Shaq — NBA great Shaquille O’Neal visited with D.C. area police yesterday on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs. Several ACPD officers were photographed with the 7’1″ O’Neal. [Twitter, Twitter]
LiveSafe Launches Navy Pilot Program — Arlington-based startup LiveSafe has launched a six-month pilot program with a big client: the U.S. Navy. LiveSafe’s app will be used by sailors in Hampton Roads, Va. and in Rota, Spain “in an effort to prevent sexual assaults and combat other destructive behaviors before they happen.” [Stars and Stripes]
Arlington Man Tweets Hillary Sightings — Arlingtonian Adam Parkhomenko, a long-time Hillary Clinton aide and booster, is helping grieving Democrats by turning the former presidential candidate into a “wandering folk hero.” He’s doing so via a social media account that keeps track of photos of Clinton “in the wild” since she lost the election. [Vanity Fair]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
A fight between two students but also involving one student’s parents broke out Monday morning just outside of Yorktown High School.
Arlington County Police responded to the school just before 11:30 a.m. for a report of a fight involving students, adults and a large crowd. The situation was deemed to be under control shortly after officers arrived on scene.
ACPD on scene at Yorktown High School for a reported fight outside of the school. So far no injuries or active fighting reported.
— Arlington News (@ARLnowDOTcom) November 28, 2016
But police say this was more than just a standard-issue fight between two students. It was the result of an “ongoing dispute” and it involved two parents of one of the students and allegations of racial slurs being used.
“The incident stemmed from an ongoing dispute between students at Yorktown High School,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “There was a verbal altercation which turned physical when one juvenile subject struck the juvenile victim in the face. The victim did not require medical transport. At this time, there are no criminal charges but our School Resource Officer continues to work with the students, families and Yorktown High School administration regarding the incident.”
The parents “were involved in the dispute but not the physical fight, that was between two juvenile students,” Savage said, in response to an inquiry by ARLnow.com.
“There was alleged use of racial slurs during the verbal argument,” Savage added. “We have not been provided with any video of the incident.”
A post in a popular online message board for local mothers suggests that racial slurs were used by the student’s father, and that cell phone video of the fight exists, but the actual circumstances could not be confirmed by ARLnow.com, only the allegations.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said school administration “is aware of the incident and is working with the families involved to address the situation.”
Official: No Voter Fraud in Arlington — On Sunday president-elect Donald Trump tweeted an accusation of “serious voter fraud” in several states, including Virginia. In response, Arlington’s top election official said there were no reports of voter fraud in the county, which Trump lost by a wide margin. “I want to see the evidence as to what the allegations are,” said Linda Lindberg. [WJLA, Fox 5]
County and APS Budget Forum — Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools will be holding a joint budget forum tomorrow (Wednesday) from 6-8 p.m. at Wakefield High School. “During this forum, participants will have the opportunity to share their priorities and ideas on the 2018 budget,” said a press release. [Arlington County]
Local College Student Dies — Nicole Orttung, a National Merit Scholar who graduated from Yorktown High School, died last Tuesday. Orttung was a student at Columbia University, where she was “known for her dedication to social justice and bright personality.” [Legacy]
Advice from a Still-Grieving Husband — Neal Lawson, whose wife Jennifer was killed by a passing dump truck while she was putting her toddler into a car seat, is still two-and-a-half years later, “managing his own loss and grief while balancing the emotional needs and daily schedules of his growing children.” He recently offered some advice for others dealing with profound loss. [Washington Post]
Donation from 9/11 5K — The annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K Race, which was held in September, helps to raise money for military and first responder charities. Among the donations from the race this year was a $21,000 donation to TAPS, which provides care to the survivors of fallen U.S. service members. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated on 11/21/16 at 3:50 p.m.) The Arlington School Board discussed its budget guidance for 2018 at its meeting Tuesday. Included in the discussion: plans to move the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices.
Currently, top APS administrators have offices at the Education Center at 1426 N. Quincy Street. But the school system is considering signing a lease that would move APS offices from the Education Center and elsewhere to the Syphax Education Center at 2110 Washington Blvd.
That would free up classroom space for overcrowded Washington-Lee High School or, potentially, for a countywide high school program.
“While the Ed Center property will be considered for additional high school seats, the School Board has not made any decision regarding how this space will be used as secondary seats, but the plan does not automatically add capacity to Washington-Lee,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “The Board will have a conversation with the community about whether it will be a countywide high school program, what type of program, and how to use this additional space for secondary seats in the future.”
“The proposed budget direction prioritizes increased compensation for staff; supports continued investment in initiatives to meet the needs of the whole child and provide 21st century learning opportunities; provides full staffing for growing enrollment; and assumes full funding from the County’s transfer to pay for critical needs of the school division,” said the press release. “Additionally, the Board’s budget direction includes efforts to identify cost savings, options for increased fees, and opportunities to use closeout funding to pay for one-time expenses.”
The School Board, meanwhile, is thanking Arlington voters for approving a $139 million school bond measure that will fund school construction necessary to keep up with increasing school enrollment.
From Arlington Public Schools:
Approximately 79.5 percent of voters supported the bond, which will be dedicated to addressing growing capacity needs throughout Arlington County.
“Thank you to the entire community. We have an incredible community that really supports our schools,” said School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren. “Here in Arlington we are proud to enjoy continued support from the community that is clearly committed to our schools.”
She continued, “One demonstration of this commitment is the strong voter approval of our 2016 School Bond, which passed with just under 80% of the vote. The success of our Bond campaign this year was due in large part to our two Bond Co-Chairs, Monique O’Grady and Peter Fallon. We owe a big thank you to Monique and Peter for their efforts.” The allocation of the $138.8 million will fund the following projects:
- $26,030,000 will be used as the majority funding to build an addition at the Stratford building to add 339 seats.
- $78,400,000 will be used as the majority funding for construction of the new school at the Wilson site to add an estimated 775 seats.
- $12,000,000 will be used to renovate the Career Center/Arlington Tech to add 300 seats.
- $10,000,000 will be used for planning and design to build an additional 1,300 secondary seats [location(s) TBD].
- $12,400,000 will be used for HVAC, roofing, and other infrastructure improvement projects at existing APS buildings.
Information on the 2016 school bond and all of the projects planned in the 2017-26 APS Capital Improvement Plan is available online.
APS Receives Top Ranking — Arlington Public Schools is the top school division in Virginia and in the D.C. area, according to new rankings from Niche.com. All three comprehensive high schools in Arlington ranked in the top 10 in Virginia, according to the website. [Arlington Public Schools]
Alleged Racial Confrontation at Metro Station — A local man says a trio of older white men confronted him last week in the Courthouse Metro station, a few days after the election, and told him “good thing you’ll all be gone soon” — an apparent racially-motivated comment — and “it’ll be great again soon.” [Patch]
Remy Releases Post-Election Song — Arlington’s best-known libertarian comedian/musician, Remy, has released a new original song on the topic of Donald Trump’s election. [Twitter]
‘Isolated’ Schools in Arlington — Two schools in Arlington County, and 136 schools statewide, are considered “racially and economically isolated,” according to a new report from a liberal Richmond-based think tank. [Washington Post]
No Name Change Push for JD Hwy — Seeking a name change for Jefferson Davis Highway, the formal name of Route 1 in Arlington County, is not part of the county’s recently-approved legislative agenda. The chance of the Republican-dominated state legislature allowing the name change in its upcoming 2017 session was “all but nil.” [InsideNova]
Joint Meeting of N. Va. Jurisdictions — County Board and city council members from Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church held a joint meeting last night, in which they discussed ways to cooperate and save money. Together, the three inside-the-Beltway jurisdictions have about 500,000 residents, as compared to Fairfax County’s population of 1.1 million. [Washington Post]
Wardian Wins Vegas Marathon Dressed Like Elvis — Not only did Arlington’s own marathoning superhero Michael Wardian, 42, win the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon over the weekend, but he did it while dressed like Elvis Presley. Wardian even set a world record for the fastest marathon while dressed like the King, at 2:38:04. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, Competitor]
Fox Rescued from Construction Pit — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington rescued a fox from a large pit at a construction site on Monday. The fox was cold and muddy but uninjured; it was released back to “a quiet patch of trees nearby.” [Facebook]
APS Accused of Poor Communication — Arlington Public Schools is “a great school district,” says Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, but it has communicated “poorly” regarding the potential for middle schools to move to block scheduling. [Washington Post]
Reminder: Preventing Sewer Backups — Ahead of the holiday season, Arlington County is reminding residents to avoid sending fats, oils and grease down the drain. The “FOG” from cooking and cleaning can clog home sewer lines and lead to catastrophic sewage backups. [Arlington County]
I-395 Issues on Monday — I-395 in the District was briefly blocked by anti-Trump protesters yesterday afternoon, leading to some backups. Later, a multi-vehicle crash near the Route 1 exit in Arlington blocked multiple lanes during the evening rush hour. [Washington Post, Twitter]
A set of possible high school boundary changes presented by Arlington Public Schools staff would shift several hundred students from the increasingly overcrowded Washington-Lee High School to Wakefield and Yorktown high schools.
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is set to present his boundary change recommendations to the School Board tomorrow (Thursday).
The various boundary “refinement” options (as seen above) were presented to the public last week, as part of a process that began in September.
APS says its goal in the boundary change process is to “balance enrollment among the three comprehensive high schools and better utilize available instructional space” while taking into consideration “efficiency, proximity, stability, alignment, demographics, and contiguity.”
As with previous school boundary processes, this latest iteration is not without its detractors. Some residents have emailed ARLnow.com, contending that the process has lacked transparency and has not properly taken parent feedback into account.
“For what it’s worth, this whole process has been an absolutely embarrassing abomination of the ‘Arlington Way’ and the solicitation of feedback has been nothing but a flash-bang to distract residents from the County staff simply doing whatever they want,” said Pete Messman, an Arlington Forest resident.
Next up in the boundary process is School Board work session on Nov. 9, followed by a public hearing on Nov. 15 and a School Board vote on Dec. 1.
The boundary changes would take effect next fall and would apply to rising high school freshmen, not current high school students.
Above Average Teacher Salaries? — Arlington Public Schools teachers are paid somewhere between the market average (for the D.C. area) and 14 percent more than the market average, according to a new report that will be presented to the School Board on Thursday. [InsideNova]
Potomac Yard Metro Station Clears Hurdle — The planned Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria has received environmental approval from the federal government. The project will now enter the design and construction phase. [City of Alexandria]
Police Release Sketch of Sexual Assault Suspects — Fairfax County Police have released sketches of two men accused of abducting a 50-year-old woman they met at a restaurant on Columbia Pike in Falls Church. Police say the men sexually assaulted the woman before dropping her off along Route 50 in Arlington. [WJLA]
New Finance Director Named — Arlington has named Stephen Agostini, the former Chief Financial Officer of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as the county’s new Director of Management and Finance. [Arlington County]
Citing fatigue associated with a night of walking around and collecting free candy, more than 2,000 people — mostly students — have signed an online petition calling for a day off of school after Halloween.
The petition, directed to the Arlington County Board, says next Tuesday, the day after Halloween, should be an off day.
Here’s what the petition says:
The night after Halloween kids will be tired and not able to focus on school work. It would be a useless day of school that goes to waste on lethargic children. Middle and high school students already don’t get a ton of sleep, having school on November first would really kill 6th-12th grade students. Sign this to tell the county of Arlington about this problem that has such an easy solution. This may add another day of school at the end but I believe it is worth it to get this day off.
Signers of the petition have encouraged others to spread it to fellow students at Arlington’s middle and high schools.
“We need to let people know about this. Spread it like a wildfire. Share with kids at other schools,” said a petition signer who listed his name as “Spicy Boi.”
(Updated at 8:50 a.m.) In 2012 Arlington Public Schools considered, and then scrapped, a proposal to move middle schools to block scheduling. Four years later, the issue is coming up again at Williamsburg Middle School.
Block scheduling introduces longer periods for core classes — math, English, science, etc. — reducing the number of classes per day attended by students and increasing instruction time. Critics, however, say that longer classes can detrimental to students, especially those with shorter attention spans. They also say that longer core classes cut into electives like music.
In response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com, prompted by emails to us from parents, Williamsburg principal Gordon Laurie confirmed that block scheduling is under consideration. School staff will be presenting a proposal to parents at a meeting in two weeks, he said.
Here’s a statement from Laurie:
We have been considering the block schedule as a staff since January 2016 to provide for an Arlington Tiered System of Supports (ATSS) period in the day as a way to meet the needs of all students’ academic, behavioral, and emotional needs. Our goal with considering block scheduling is to make sure that we can provide individualized supports and to provided individualized learning to our students.
We convened a faculty committee to examine the block schedule and how it might benefit all students and Williamsburg. We also invited APS teachers from schools that use the block schedule system to visit with their teacher peers and talk to them in their content areas about their experience. We shared the process with the Williamsburg community last February to gather their feedback.
As the process evolved, it became clear that we were too far along in our school year to undertake and implement a new bell schedule for this school year (2016-17). Williamsburg staff began discussing block scheduling again this year as a way to provide additional supports to students. Staff has put together a proposal to share with Williamsburg families at a meeting on Wednesday, November 9 at 7 p.m. During that meeting, we will seek input, provide clarity and answer questions. No final decisions have been made at this point.
Parents who contacted ARLnow.com about the block scheduling said they had been kept in the dark about it and only found out when word leaked out following a school staff meeting yesterday.
Block scheduling has been in place at Arlington’s high schools for at least a few years. It is in place at Kenmore Middle School but not at other local middle schools, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman said.
Board Holds Pike Transit Station Meeting — Updated at 10:45 a.m. — More than three-and-a-half years after it was first revealed by ARLnow.com that a prototype bus stop on Columbia Pike cost more than $1 million, the discussion of less expensive bus stop alternatives continues. The County Board last night held a work session with staff to discuss the current status of Pike transit station planning, ultimately voting to approve the County Manager’s design recommendations. [Arlington County]
APS High School Boundary Refinements — The next step in what promises to be a contentious process of adjusting Arlington’s high school boundaries will take place tomorrow. A community meeting is planned at the Washington-Lee High School cafeteria starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Cemetery Bike Ban Starts Today — Starting today, only loved ones visiting a grave or niche will be allowed to ride a bike in Arlington National Cemetery. That nixes a commuter route through the cemetery that some cyclists used to avoid busy roads elsewhere in the county. [ARLnow]
Clement Attacks Pay Raise Proposal — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey’s pay raise suggestion is opening her up to attacks from challenger Audrey Clement. “The problem is [the] County Board doesn’t do much work, unless you consider rubber-stamping done deals ‘work,'” Clement told supporters via email. Clement also is criticizing a plan to add an extra high-occupancy lane to I-395 and, in response to local noise complaints, calling on NASA to develop quieter helicopters. [InsideNova, Audrey Clement]
Stalled Cab Company May Retain Permits — Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending the County Board give All Access Taxi, which specializes in providing wheelchair-accessible transportation, two more years to get its service off the ground. Currently, the company has only one cab — and 49 unused permits. [Washington Post]
Local Ghost Stories — ‘Our Man in Arlington’ columnist Charlie Clark has received recent reports of ghostly encounters from “reliable sources” at several local places: at Arlington Hall, along George Mason Drive; at the Overlee swim club and a nearby home; and at an 18th century home in McLean that was torn down last month. [Falls Church News-Press]
Pamplona May Open in December — Pamplona, a new Spanish restaurant in the former SoBe space in Clarendon, is hoping to open “by the end of the year.” James Martin, a 29-year-old rising culinary star, will be the restaurant’s executive chef. He hopes Pamplona will win the kind of critical acclaim that can “put Clarendon on the map.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]