School Board Compromise on Stratford History — While opposing efforts to designate the former Stratford Junior High a historic district, the Arlington School Board has adopted a renovation plan that keeps its facade intact and has set aside $250,000 for commemorative artwork and educational displays. Currently the home of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program, the school — which was the first in Virginia to integrate — is slated to become a new neighborhood middle school. [Washington Post]
Arlington Reservist Suing Benghazi Committee — Arlington resident Bradley Podliska is suing his former employer, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claiming he was wrongly forced out of his job and then was defamed on national TV by the committee’s chair. Podliska, an Air Force reservist, says the committee was too hyper-focused on pinning blame on Hillary Clinton. At the same time, he says he was reprimanded for looking into the post-Benghazi talking points of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. [Courthouse News Service]
APS to Hold Community Budget Meetings — Arlington Public Schools will be holding three community meetings in December to gather public feedback ahead of the creation of its proposed FY 2017 budget. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington’s Secret Santa Program — Arlington County is again organizing a Secret Santa program, which will distribute gifts to more than 1,000 needy individuals in the Arlington community this holiday season. Residents, churches and school groups who’d like to participate are encouraged to donate $25 gift cards to local grocery, drug, and clothing stores. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Huge Apartment Building Proposed for Ballston — A Bethesda-based developer is proposing a huge new apartment building on the western side of the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road in Ballston. The building would feature 483 apartments, 760 underground parking spaces and 68,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store. The nearby Bluemont Civic Association has expressed concern about the proposal, including the potential impact of traffic from the grocery store. [Washington Business Journal]
Mall Worker Accused of Stealing Dozens of Shoes — A maintenance worker at the Pentagon City mall has been arrested and accused of stealing at least 77 pairs of shoes and boots and 9 purses. Police say surveillance footage shows Michael Meza-Guevara unsuccessfully trying to disable surveillance cameras. [NBC Washington]
Arlington Tops Regional Teacher Pay List — Arlington Public Schools offer the highest average teacher pay in suburban D.C. The average teacher salary in Arlington was $78,002 a year, compared to $76,029 for Montgomery County, which ranked third. [WTOP]
Editorial Supports I-66 Toll Plan, Widening — A new Washington Post editorial supports Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan for adding tolls to I-66. The editorial also supports widening the highway: “The right policy response to the I-66 mess, in addition to promoting mass transit, is to widen the road. Unfortunately, that’s been blocked by Arlington County, whose hostility from the outset is why the road was designed to narrow to four lanes inside the Beltway (from six outside).” [Washington Post]
Freezing Temperatures This Morning — Temperatures reached the freezing mark, dropping down to 32 degrees for the first time this season. The average first freeze in Arlington occurs on Nov. 18. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
The Arlington School Board approved the proposed design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale at its meeting Monday night.
The project includes an addition to and renovation of the existing building at 4100 N. Vacation Lane. The building is currently home to the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, which will be moving to the new Wilson School in Rosslyn once both projects are complete.
Specific features of the Stratford project include:
- 1,000-student middle school
- 35,000 square foot addition, minimum
- 144 parking spaces
- One-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive
- Traffic and safety improvements on N. Vacation Lane
- Pedestrian crossing on Old Dominion Drive
The approved addition will be built on the west side of the building and is three stories tall. According to a news release, all renovations will keep the historic existing building in tact, including its south facade.
Architects also provided a second driveway option for the school if VDOT does not approve an exit on Old Dominion Drive.
Funding available for the project ranges from $31.3 million to $36.3 million. The School Board is expected to approve a schematic design in February.
The school system has opposed a push by preservationists to designate Stratford a local historic district, saying it would cause delays and drive up costs. In 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.
Stratford Middle School is expected to open in Sept. 2019.
Photos via APS/Quinn Evans Architects
County to Invest $55 Million in Ballston Mall — Arlington County is planning its first-ever Tax Increment Financing district to help fund the renovations to Ballston Common Mall. Arlington plans to invest $45 million in the mall with its TIF, which will be repaid over time via increased tax revenue from the property. It also plans to make $10 million in transportation improvements, including improvements to the attached county parking garage and the narrowing of Willson Blvd in front of the mall. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington May Ask for Jefferson Davis Hwy Renaming — Arlington County is considering asking local state legislators to seek a name change for Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington. Also known as Route 1, the highway is named after the Confederate president thanks to state legislative decree in 1922. A draft of the 2016 Arlington legislative priorities list includes a proposal to rename “the Arlington portion of Jefferson Davis Highway in a way that is respectful to all who live and work along it.” [InsideNova]
Room For Economic Improvement — Arlington County’s building approval process remains cumbersome and overly time consuming, and the county lacks the kind of incentive resources — “weapons” — that other jurisdictions have for economic development. That’s according to Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins, at a recent panel discussion. [Washington Business Journal]
Per-Student Spending Down — Arlington County’s per-student spending is down to $18,616, from $19,040 last year, according to the Washington Area Board of Education. Arlington still has the highest per-student spending of any suburban Washington school system. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
APS says it has disabled wireless internet access for student-owned devices during school hours, due to excessive web traffic on APS’ network — mostly from smartphones.
“Over the past two years APS has seen a massive increase in the use of mobile technologies,” said Linda Erdos, Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations. “Staff and students at some schools are increasingly wanting to connect personal cell phones or other mobile devices to the APS Wi-Fi network. As a result, there have been periods where the demand for access to the network has exceeded the APS capacity, resulting in slow internet performance for all users, particularly for classroom use.”
“To restore network integrity, APS has temporarily removed Wi-Fi access for the lowest priority devices, preventing student-owned devices from connecting to the APS wireless network between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.,” Erdos continued. Students tell us the new policy has been in place for nearly a month.
APS is in the “final stages” of a procurement process that will build more bandwidth into the APS network, Erdos said. When that added bandwidth is in place — APS is hoping the work is complete by December — student-owned phones and other devices will be allowed back on the network.
“It has been decided that we will allow student-owned devices back on the network once the increased capacity is in place and we have tested it to ensure there are no problems,” said Erdos. “I just can’t give an exact date.”
Students, meanwhile, are none too pleased with the lack of internet access. Cell phone service is spotty within schools, students say, and those without school-issued laptops and tablets — which are still allowed on the network — say they need internet access to complete school work at a time when APS is emphasizing technology in classrooms and removing computer labs.
Diana, a Yorktown High School student, wrote the following to explain that internet access is now an educational need, not just a means to slacking off in class.
Technology is seen as a very important part of curriculums and education in APS, which is why students should access to Wi-Fi.
Many places in Yorktown do not even have service so using cellular data is not always an option if students have to use their phones to do schoolwork, which as a senior I frequently have to do. Students can no longer log into Wi-Fi with personal laptops but students who are freshman and sophomores still can log in through their MacBooks since they are APS issued. This puts juniors and seniors at a disadvantage.
Google Docs is widely used at Yorktown and at APS and I use for typing up many notes and papers including for my independent study. Not having access to the Wi-Fi to be able to use Google Docs or just the Wi-Fi in general for my independent study can hinder my success in the class.
Yorktown did have two computer labs with laptops but those laptops were taken away and now those two places are just empty classrooms. Junior and Senior teachers are limited to just computers at the library to bring their class to or request a computer cart. These teachers can no longer tell students to pull out their phones to do something since they just don’t have the access to do so with no Wi-Fi while the underclassmen just use their MacBooks and don’t have to worry about a reliable internet connection.
On Twitter, other students were less reserved with their assessment of the situation, offering comments like:
- “@APSVirginia @YorktownHS I’m dropping out of school if the wifi doesn’t get fixed”
- “Turn on the f-cking wifi @APSVirginia”
- “@APSVirginia has enough money to give thousands of MacBooks to freshmen and sophomores but can’t give the rest of us wifi?”
- “@APSVirginia GIVE US BACK OUR WIFI THIS IS NOT NORTH KOREA”
The Virginia governor will be speaking to students at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) about career paths in cybersecurity tomorrow, Oct. 28, from 1:15-3 p.m.
McAuliffe will be joined by a panel of cyber security professionals who will talk about the different jobs in cybersecurity as well as the resources students need to pursue a career.
“The nation is in need of a strong cybersecurity workforce. The demand for skilled cyber professionals is at an all-time high, and will only increase as our country and world grow more dependent on cyber and information technology,” Arlington Public Schools said in a statement.
The panelists will talk about the average day of a cybersecurity specialist, what interested them in a cyber career and how they got their start. They will also perform a Wi-Fi Watering Hole attack demonstration.
The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015.
Officials expect the local housing market to remain resilient, with 1-3 percent rises in residential property assessments. High office vacancy rates, however, are expected to result in flat to slightly lower commercial property assessments.
Commercial property taxes are half of Arlington County’s tax base. While the office vacancy rate is dropping — it’s down to 20.8 percent from 23.6 percent near the end of 2014 — it’s “expected to remain high” during fiscal year 2017, which begins July 2016.
The county’s population, meanwhile, continues to rise. County projections call for the population to rise by 66,300 residents through 2040, a 31 percent increase from the current population of around 220,000.
School enrollment is also expected to continue its upward trajectory, with annual growth rates between 2.7 and 3.5 percent over then next five years. While still rising, that’s down from 2.8-5.2 percent growth over the past five years.
An excerpt from a county press release on the budget projection and the county-school revenue sharing agreement, after the jump.
Columbus Day may be a federal holiday, but it seems that with every passing year it becomes less relevant. Arlington County offices, for instance, remain open on Columbus Day. Purely anecdotal evidence — the volume of rush hour traffic on I-395 — seems to suggest that Columbus Day is the least observed federal holiday, at least in terms of workers taking the day off.
The root cause of this is Columbus and his legacy: the soldiers he led to the New World enslaved, raped, slaughtered and otherwise destroyed native populations. In recent years, the reality of Columbus’ harsh treatment of natives has increasingly outweighed his accomplishments in the collective consciousness.
Still, Columbus Day could optimistically be said to be more about the discovery of America than the man himself. And it’s the lone federal holiday in an otherwise busy month of October.
Do you think Arlington Public Schools students should continue to get the day off?
Photo via Wikipedia
School Growth Slowing? — Arlington Public Schools has released its official Sept. 30 school enrollment figure. The school system has 25,238 students enrolled, according to the count. That’s some 400 students lower than estimates and represents “the lowest year-over-year increase since 2010.” [InsideNova]
Man Dies at Arlington County Jail — A man with a history of medical problems was found unresponsive in his jail cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility Sunday morning. He was later pronounced dead at Virginia Hospital Center. The man’s family is seeking answers as to how he died. It’s the second inmate death at the jail this year. [WUSA 9]
Rollover Wreck on Route 50 — An SUV rolled onto its roof during a crash on westbound Route 50 near Courthouse on Saturday night. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Columbus Day Closures — As a reminder, courts, the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV and Arlington Public Schools will be closed today in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. Arlington County government offices, however, will remain open. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Caps, Star Spotting at Don Tito — The Washington Capitals play their season opener Saturday, but the team has already been spotted out on the town. Members of the Caps were seen dining at Don Tito in Clarendon Wednesday night. Among those in attendance: Caps center Brooks Laich and fiancee Julianne Hough, of Dancing With the Stars fame.
Key Bridge Rehab Coming — D.C. is seeking a contractor for a two-year, $30 million rehabilitation of the Key Bridge. The project will include safety improvements for pedestrians. [Washington Business Journal]
GW Parkway Ramp Closures — The ramp from Reagan National Airport to the GW Parkway will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday for paving. Also scheduled for closure during that period: the ramp from the GW Parkway to northbound I-395. Starting tonight, a third ramp — from the GW Parkway to the Key Bridge — will be closed for paving through 7 p.m. Saturday
E.W. Jackson to Address Arlington GOP Women — Controversial 2013 GOP lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson will be the featured speaker at the Arlington Republican Women’s Club fall dinner on Oct. 20. [InsideNova]
School Cafeteria Taste Test for Parents — Arlington Public Schools parents got to taste test food at the Washington-Lee High School cafeteria as part of a school lunch open house. The reaction: generally positive. [WTOP]
Maywood Profiled — Washington’s daily paper of record has profiled Arlington’s tiny Maywood neighborhood, off of Lee Highway. Homes in the community now regularly sell for more than $1 million, a contrast from 30 years ago when Maywood was home to “rough characters who rode motorcycles.” [Washington Post]
The class of 2015 had a 92.8 percent graduation rate, 0.8 percent higher than the previous year. The on-time graduation rate has increased 8.1 percent over the past six years, according to APS.
The rate is 2.3 percent higher than the state average of 90.5 percent, APS said.
“The increases in the on-time graduation rate and the proportions of graduates earning advanced diplomas is notable given the more strenuous requirements for earning a diploma in Virginia,” APS said in a press release.
Students receiving diplomas this year had to complete an economic and personal finance course, the first time Virginia had this requirement.
“The students who graduated in May and June began high school just as the commonwealth was introducing challenging, new assessments in mathematics, English and science,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said in a statement.
Of the students who graduated this year, 68.5 percent of them graduated with an advanced or International Baccalaureate diploma, 17 percent higher than the state average of 51.5 percent. The average number of students graduating with advanced or IB diplomas has also increased 7.3 percent over the past six years, from 61.2 percent in 2009.
“While I am pleased that our graduation rates have continued to rise, I am especially excited to see that more and more of our students also have challenged themselves to earn advanced or IB diplomas. This expands the options for their academic and personal pursuits after graduation,” said APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
While graduation and advanced diploma rates have increased, the number of students dropping out of school increased, as well. The rate jumped up from 3.8 percent in 2014 to 4.2 percent in 2015.
Although the rate increased, the dropout rate has decreased since 2009, when the rate was 11.9 percent. The rate is under the Virginia average of 5.2 percent.
Patrick Henry Elementary School has been recognized as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School, the only public elementary school in Northern Virginia to receive the honor this year.
Arlington Public School officials announced its Blue Ribbon status today in front of the student body, teachers, parents and members of the Arlington School Board. Children and faculty wore blue ribbons to mark the occasion.
“We are very proud of you [the students], of the teachers, of the staff members,” said School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez. “And I wanted to tell the teachers and the staff that you are making a different in the children’s lives.”
Patrick Henry joins 334 other schools receiving Blue Ribbon status in 2015, including 11 schools — six public, five private — in Virginia.
“I am so excited that our students, staff, and families are being recognized for their hard work and dedication to academic excellence,” said Andrea Frye, who has been the principal of Patrick Henry for two years. “Our Patrick Henry team and students are living the school motto of doing their personal best all year and I am so proud that they are being honored for those efforts by being selected as a National Blue Ribbon school.”
The school received the Blue Ribbon in the category of high performance, Frye said. To be chosen as a Blue Ribbon school for high performance, Patrick Henry had to be in Virginia’s top 15 percent of elementary schools, based on test scores.
“One thing we know about Patrick Henry is they have consistently high academic performance, and that tells me one thing. You are working very hard, and that is excellent quality I want you to build on. This school is consistent, teachers and staff, thank you for that,” said Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Frye said she thinks the school was chosen as a Blue Ribbon school because of its teachers, who work together to help students develop as individuals, instead of focusing solely on academically.
“I think the adult-child relationship that happens at Patrick Henry is unique,” Frye said.
Teachers at the school are kind and make learning fun, said a group of fourth graders, with one adding that they never give out homework that is too long.
“All the teachers are nice, but at the same time, the teachers want us to learn,” said fourth-grader Colby Ames.
The school will display two banners to mark the achievement — the official Blue Ribbon banner from Department of Education and one that celebrates everyone who helped make the school Blue Ribbon worthy, Frye said. Children and teachers will be putting their names on cut-out blue handprints that will hang around the second banner, she added.
Patrick Henry is located at 701 S. Highland Street, near Columbia Pike. The school is diverse from a socioeconomic standpoint, with about 37 percent of the student body receiving free or reduced-cost lunches.
Board Candidates Debate, Find Agreement — Updated at 12:30 p.m. — The four candidates for Arlington County Board participated in a candidates forum organized by the Arlington Forest Civic Association last night. The candidates found agreement on two notable issue: affordable housing shouldn’t be built on parkland — or, at least, certain parkland — and county property taxes shouldn’t be raised at this time. [Washington Post]
JPod Meeting on the Pike — The man behind a proposal to bring a monorail-like pod transportation system to Columbia Pike made his case to residents and to County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada at the Walter Reed Community Center last night. There are still several potential deal-breaking questions about the feasibility of the proposal. [InsideNova]
Teachers Training on Digital Devices — Arlington Public Schools continues to train teachers and educate parents about the use of digital devices like iPads and MacBooks in schools. APS is continuing its rollout of “personalized” devices, with the goal of each student having their own device. [Arlington Public Schools]
Exercise Helped Real-World Response at VHC — Arlington County says that an emergency response exercise at Virginia Hospital Center two years ago greatly helped the real-world response to a fire at the hospital last week. Evacuations of patients went smoothly and no one was hurt. [Arlington County]
GOP Presidential Candidate in Arlington Today — Long-shot Republican presidential candidate and former New York governor George Pataki will be speaking at George Mason University’s Arlington campus this afternoon. The speech on domestic and foreign policy is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
Another South Arlington School Site Identified — A county working group is continuing its effort to identify a preferred site for a new elementary school in South Arlington, to be built by 2019, but in the meantime the group has identified a potential future school site. The South Arlington Working Group says a school could be built by 2024 on parcels of land that currently include the Aurora Hills Community Center, Virginia Highlands Park and a portion of the RiverHouse apartment complex. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The following letter to the editor was submitted by Joan K. Lawrence, Chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board.
The recently posted “Peter’s Take” commentary calling for the rejection of historic designation for the Stratford School is both premature and uninformed. Arlington does not create local historic districts lightly. There are many public hearings involving the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB), the Planning Commission and the County Board, as well as the School Board, when the property in question is a school. This process is still in progress.
The designation process was started by a request from Arlingtonians and included one of the four African-American students who made national headlines on February 2, 1959. On that day, in the face of the massive resistance movement in Virginia, four students, escorted by police, walked from Old Dominion Drive and entered Stratford through a door in the back of the building to begin the integration of Virginia’s public schools. This door and the adjacent central portion of the building remain part of Stratford and are clearly visible. It is still possible today to experience the site and enter the building as those courageous students did over 56 years ago. Children and adults can actually put themselves into the picture of what happened that day because the façade of the school has not been altered.
Capacity can be added to the current Stratford building without covering over the central portion of the rear of the building. This has been demonstrated over and over at public meetings. We just need the will to maintain the visual link with our past.
Stratford’s significance in our history was recognized over a decade ago when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. We owe this designation to these four brave students and to the current and future generations of students and citizens of Arlington.
Joan K. Lawrence
Chair, Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Board
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.
(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Yorktown High School students, faculty and staff were evacuated after the school received a bomb threat.
Shortly after noon, the school received a call from a “computerized-automated voice” that said “I have a bomb on me,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Students were evacuated to the school’s stadium while K-9 units from Arlington, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the CIA searched the school.
The dogs did not find anything suspicious, but officers were posted by each of the school’s entrances as students re-entered Yorktown, Sternbeck said. Students and teachers were allowed back in around 1:35 p.m.
Arlington Public Schools sent the following notes to parents about the situation:
At approximately 12 p.m. today, Yorktown High School received an automated telephone bomb threat. As a precaution, all students and staff have been evacuated. Police have responded and are currently doing a search of the building. Everyone is safe and we will provide an update as soon as we have more information.
A short time ago, Arlington Police completed their search and have given the all clear. Students are now moving back into the building and classes are resuming. We appreciate everyone’s fast response and cooperation as well as the support of our Arlington County Police Department.
Yorktown High School was not the only Virginia school to receive a bomb threat. Approximately 10 minutes after Yorktown received the bomb threat, a school in Prince William county received the same phone call, Sternbeck said.
Arlington schools do not receive bomb threats very often, he said.
“We get them at malls more frequently than at schools,” Sternbeck said.