Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

NAACP Slams APS Diversity Czar Process —  “The Arlington school system’s effort to appoint a diversity czar has run into a buzzsaw of criticism from the county’s major civil-rights organization. The two co-chairs of the Arlington NAACP’s education committee took to the Dec. 5 School Board meeting to complain that the selection process was leaving out many of those the position is designed to support.” [InsideNova]

Snow Likely Overnight — “Temperatures are poised to leap to near 60 degrees Tuesday, and it won’t feel at all like it could snow. But, in a flash, that will change. An Arctic front charging to the East Coast will switch our weather from fall-like to winterlike in a matter of hours, setting the stage for possible wet snow overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Yorktown in Xmas Choir Competition — “Vote Now! The @yhschoir is a finalist in 97.1 WASH FM’s Christmas Choir Competition. The top prize is $5,000!” [Twitter, WASH-FM]

Local Bus Routes on Chopping Block — Metro is considering cutting or restructuring a number of local bus routes as part of its new, proposed budget. Among the Arlington bus routes that could be cut are the 5A, 16G, 22A and 22C. [WTOP]

Wardian Attempts Elvis Record — “Local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has unfortunately failed to re-capture the world record time for the fastest marathon run while dressed as Elvis.” [Canadian Running]

Letter: County Shouldn’t Rescue Fallen Phones — “I question whether retrieving personal property is really an appropriate use of Arlington County resources. It must have cost significantly more than the value of the phone to provide the personnel for the recovery effort. As an Arlington County taxpayer, I resent that.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Parents Protest APS Proposal — “School officials tasked with the perpetual jigsaw puzzle of reassigning school zones have stirred new tensions… If you drive McKinley Rd., you can’t miss the printed signs ‘SAVE MCKINLEY: Our Neighborhood School Since 1951.’ The Madison Manor Civic Association has revved up with nearby PTAs and community groups to assemble contrary arguments.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tafti Pushes Back on AG Comments — From Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti: “We are neither righteous warriors nor avenging angels. We are public servants. So a little humility in how we do our job and how we accept public critique of our work would go a long way toward building a system that is both safe and just.” [Twitter]

Free Holiday Grief Support Service — “For those who’ve suffered loss-whether recently, or even years prior-the holiday stress can make the season more difficult. To help those grieving in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia during the holidays, Capital Caring Health, a local non-profit, offers a wide range of free counseling and support services.” [Press Release, Arlington Public Library]

Special Burial at Arlington National — “Private Edwin Francis Benson was killed in action at Tarawa during World War II. In 2017, his remains were located. Earlier this year, his remains were identified and a couple weeks ago he was laid to rest in Section 60. We honor his service.” [Twitter]

APS Students Learn About the Census — “The U.S. Census Bureau kicked off its Statistics in Schools program, offering Arlington teachers and others a wide array of resources that teach students not only about data but also about the importance of being counted in the upcoming 2020 Census. Arlington Public Schools shared the free program with its teachers, who can integrate it into their lesson plans.” [Arlington County]

Road Closures for Race in Pentagon City — “The Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5K for Arthritis will take place on Saturday, December 7. Police will conduct road closures in the area of South Joyce Street and Army Navy Drive to accommodate this event.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

New Additions to Story Map — A number of properties have been added to the Arlington Historical Society’s Story Map, per organizer Charlie Clark, including: 817 N. Irving St. (Lyon Park), built circa 1904; Hendry House, 2411 N 24th St. (Woodmont), built circa 1900; 3405 N. Glebe Rd. (Country Club Hills), built circa 1907. [Arlington Historical Society]

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(Updated at 9:15 a.m.) Leaders from Arlington’s Parent Teacher Associations are speaking out against Arlington Public Schools’ plans for a major elementary school boundary swap.

In a joint letter to the School Board, PTA presidents from seven Arlington elementary schools requested that members “not vote on any elementary school moves.” Rather, the PTA members presented a “holistic, twelve-month process” that incorporates more analyses and data review.

“We appreciate the complex nature of the task and the hard work of APS staff and believe adjustments to the process will result in more meaningful community engagement,” the group wrote in the letter.

In October, APS proposed a pair of options for shuffling up to a quarter of the county’s elementary school students, including moving the majority of McKinley Elementary School students to the new Reed Elementary School, among other switches.

The Arlington School Board is expected to take action on one of two final proposals during its meeting on February 6, 2020. If approved, it would take effect for the 2021-22 school year, per APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

During a Q&A session Monday night between area PTA presidents and APS staff, PTA leaders alleged that the plans fair to address issues of diversity or equity.

“While demographics and economic diversity might not be considered by everyone an element of equity, it is a pivotal factor,” said County Council of PTAs president Maura McMahon. “To leave it out is a major concern for many people.”

APS officials repeatedly defended their choice to leave out demographics in the proposals, and emphasized that because entire school communities will be moving, they are not defining this as a boundary change.

“When we say we’re going to move a school community, we assume the entire community will move,”said APS Integrated Project Planner Gladis Bourdouane. “When we do boundary changes, we will of course consider changes that include demographics, but if the school moves, the communities will move together.”

The first proposal — which APS said would require boundary changes that would affect around 2,400 students — would make the following changes.

  • The majority of current McKinley students would move to Reed.
  • The Arlington Traditional School (ATS) program would move to the McKinley building.
  • Key Immersion School would move to the Arlington Traditional School building.
  • The Key building would become a neighborhood school.

In the second — which APS says would require fewer boundary changes and thus affect around 2,100 students — involves the following.

  • Campbell Elementary School moving to the ATS building
  • Key, along with its immersion program, would move to the Carlin Springs Elementary School building
  • The majority of students at Carlin Springs would move to the Campbell Elementary School building
  • Campbell building becomes a neighborhood school
  • The Key building becomes a neighborhood school

If neither plan is put into place, APS says, more extensive elementary boundary changes will be required.

APS has several community events planned in December to discuss elementary school planning, including a “What We Heard” meeting on December 9 at 7 p.m. at Swanson Middle School , and another in Spanish on December 16 at 7 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School.

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Ed Talks is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Arlington Public Schools (APS) is moving forward with the implementation of a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO).

APS posted the vacancy in early October and hopes to have the position filled by January. There is a sense within the Arlington community that this process is being rushed – unnecessarily and to the detriment of APS’ own efforts.

Whether you believe the position is unnecessary or you consider it essential to eliminate systemic biases, there are legitimate concerns about the circumstances under which APS is pursuing its implementation:

  • APS has not indicated the specific situations or problems it is aiming to solve with this position;
  • A lack of explicit objectives and measurable goals to be achieved may be setting the stage for certain failure;
  • Filling a new, high-level position in the absence of a permanent superintendent may create inconsistency or incompatibility in expectations when leadership changes; and
  • The work of the CDEIO would likely be guided by APS’ policy on diversity, equity and inclusion, which APS is still developing and the School Board has yet to adopt.

Adding to concerns that this process is being rushed is the uncertain degree to which the School Board is committed to the continued investment needed to enable a CDEIO to succeed. After the recent successive budgets that have precluded the addition of other important personnel, will the future Superintendent and Board members commit the necessary funds in subsequent budgets for staff support, training programs, or other resources the CDEIO requires?

If the Board does not invest sufficient resources, opponents who argue a CDEIO is unnecessary or will be ineffective will be proven correct.  Community fears that creating this position is nothing more than checking a box to reassure the community of the Board’s commitment to diversity and equity will be confirmed. It will merely serve as distraction while the Board forges ahead with boundary changes, capacity solutions, and instructional program decisions without a sense of obligation or responsibility to address diversity or equity within those processes and decisions.

It is noteworthy that the Arlington County Board adopted an equity resolution this past September. Despite the County’s intention to establish an interdepartmental task force that includes Arlington Public Schools, the County did not consult with APS as it developed its resolution. A joint policy on diversity, equity, and inclusion would ensure consistency in terms and definitions used by County and Schools, a shared vision and uniform practices across County and Schools, and an acknowledgement of County policy impacts on APS’ ability to provide equitable educational and social opportunities to all students.

Nevertheless, APS’ policies on equity and inclusion and diversity will be driving factors in all aspects of administration and instruction. Therefore, this position must not be allowed to fail and APS must make every effort to maximize a new CDEIO’s chances for success.

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Arlington Public Schools is conducting a survey about its upcoming 2020-2021 school year calendar, and a pre-Labor Day start date is on the table.

The Virginia General Assembly earlier this year voted to do away with a rule — dubbed the Kings Dominion law and supported by tourism boosters — that restricted school systems from starting classes before Labor Day.

Now, APS is asking parents, staff, students and community members about three new potential school calendars for next year, two of which are before Labor Day. All three options, below, include a 10 day winter break and a 5 day spring break.

  • Option 1: Aug. 27-June 17
  • Option 2: Sept. 8-June 25
  • Option 3: Aug. 25-June 15 (similar to Fairfax County)

More from an APS email to parents:

APS is in the early process of preparing the draft for the 2020-21 school year calendar. The Virginia Legislature recently gave control of calendars back to school divisions which means that school divisions could start before Labor Day. APS invites families and staff to provide input on whether to start school before or after Labor Day. There are three draft versions of a calendar available to review, two of which begin school prior to Labor Day. The online calendar survey is available through Nov. 22 and responses will help inform the final recommendation that will be presented for the School Board’s approval in January 2020.

File photo

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Morning Notes

VHC to Take More Trauma Patients — “Virginia Hospital Center is preparing to become a trauma center. The Arlington hospital, now amid a major campus expansion, is taking steps to secure Level 2 trauma designation — meaning it could handle more serious cases like head injuries and complex fractures with a devoted response team, led by an in-house general surgeon.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS May Be Rethinking School Swap — “As the potentially contentious redistricting of elementary-school boundaries begins to take shape, Arlington school leaders may be tiptoeing away just slightly from somewhat radical suggestions they offered just weeks ago.” [InsideNova]

AWLA Rescues Kitten Near Pentagon –“We received a call about a car parked near the Pentagon, with a note under the windshield stating that there was a kitten up inside the engine. Using a mix of patience and really yummy cat food, our officers were able to safely remove the kitten and bring her back to the shelter.” [Facebook]

Arlington-Made App Highlighted by Apple — “In honor of Veterans Day, Arlington, Virginia-based Sandboxx, creator of a platform that keeps military families connected, is being featured in Apple’s app store as its App of the Day.” [Technically DC]

Arlington Co. Makes Best-for-Vets List — Ballston-based contractor CACI is on a new list of the Best Companies for Veterans. [Tysons Reporter, Monster]

Sullivan Selected as Caucus Chair — “Virginia Democrats on Saturday chose Eileen Filler-Corn to become speaker of the House of Delegates, a pick that managed to be both historic and conventional for a party that flipped both chambers of the General Assembly in elections Tuesday… Del. Charniele L. Herring (Alexandria) will be the new majority leader, becoming the first woman and the first African American to serve in that post. Del. Richard C. ‘Rip’ Sullivan Jr… will be caucus chairman.” [Washington Post, Blue Virginia]

First Flakes Today? — Some light “conversational” snow may fall today as a cold front passes through. Meanwhile, NBC 4’s Doug Kammerer expects this winter to be colder and snowier than usual. [Capital Weather Gang, NBC 4]

New Korean Chicken Eatery Near Fairlington — “Korean chicken restaurant Choong Man Chicken is coming to… Shoppes at Summit Centre (4700 King Street).” [ALXnow]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A large water transmission main serving Arlington ruptured early this morning amid falling temperatures, prompting major closures.

The water main break was first reported around 4:30 a.m. on the Arlington side of Chain Bridge. The northern end of N. Glebe Road, a portion of Chain Bridge Road and Chain Bridge itself were all expected to remain closed throughout the morning rush hour as a result.

(Chain Bridge and Chain Bridge Road has partially reopened as of 9:45 a.m. for drivers heading to and from D.C. and Fairfax County, VDOT said via Twitter.)

The rupture caused a portion of N. Glebe Road, on the hill leading to Chain Bridge, to collapse.

Large water transmission pipes run under the Chain Bridge, bringing water from the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant in D.C. into Arlington. The pipe that burst was a 36-inch transmission main, significantly larger than the typical 12-inch residential water main, WTOP reported.

Though as of 6:35 a.m. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) reported that “crews have stabilized the transmission main break and pressure is being restored to County water lines,” much of the Arlington’s water service was impacted and nearly half of the county remains under a precautionary boil water advisory.

The boil water advisory is “expected to last until at least Sunday, after a series of testing,” according to Arlington Alert.

The closure of Glebe Road, meanwhile, is currently expected to last at least into the weekend.

The repair of the water main is expected to stretch into late Saturday or even into Sunday, DES Chief Operating Officer Mike Moon tells ARLnow. The road could remain closed until Tuesday, though there’s also a possibility it reopens this weekend, Moon said.

More permanent repairs to the road may be necessary even after it reopens, according to Moon. DES officials are still assessing the situation and expect to provide more information to the public on Saturday.

“It’s a major repair,” said DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “Crews are working as fast as possible… but we don’t have a [solid] timeline for the repair and the restoration of the roadway.”

Moon noted that water service has been restored to most of Arlington thanks to redundancy in the system. There are three large transmission pipes that run from D.C. to Arlington — two hanging under the bridge, one under the river — that supply the county’s water, and there are multiple paths that the water takes into Arlington once its reached the Virginia side of the Potomac.

Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, have closed today (Friday) due to the lack of water service, though football games will be played tonight

Two community centers are also closed, in addition to all APS facilities. Libraries are open but patrons are encouraged to bring bottled water.

Local restaurants, meanwhile, are using bottled water and disposable plates amid the boil water advisory, according to Washingtonian.

More on the boil water advisory, from a county press release:

As a precaution, Arlington County has issued a Boil Water Advisory for customers in the eastern area of the County (excluding Crystal City) who may be impacted by a large water transmission main break at Glebe Road and Chain Bridge Road. (See area… on the map.) The break caused pressure drops in several locations across the County. The advisory is a safety measure because of the depressurization.

If you live in the affected area, you should bring your water to a rolling boil for three minutes then cool before:

  • Drinking
  • Brushing teeth
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Preparing baby food and formula
  • Making ice
  • Giving to pets

Information will be shared when the advisory has been lifted. Check the County website for updates.

Map via Google Maps. Some photos via Arlington DES/Twitter.

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Morning Notes

School Shuffle Blowback Starts — “Alicia Rich, president of Key’s PTA, said she has been fielding texts and messages over WhatsApp from parents and staff members worried about the prospect of moving. ‘This issue is so huge for us,’ Rich said.
School system officials said they ‘urgently need’ the Key building as a neighborhood school because of the lack of space for students.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Office Market Improving — Arlington County landing Amazon HQ2, a selection announced one year ago this month, has helped move its office market in the right direction after years of struggles. The office vacancy rate in National Landing, the newly branded area comprising the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods, dropped from 19.6% in Q3 2018 to 16% as of Sept. 30, the lowest level since 2012, according to JLL.” [Bisnow]

Chamber Supports Keeping Dillon Rule — “Facing a possible Democratic majority in the General Assembly, @ArlVAChamber is standing firm in its support of the Dillon Rule. Why? A Dem majority could allow localities like Arlington to raise the minimum wage.” [Twitter, InsideNova]

Storms Don’t Deter Trick or Treaters — From a family that tracks the number of trick or treaters visiting their Arlington home: “Despite threatening weather and a tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service… 2019 was our second best year ever with 161 visitors, 13 goblins behind the all-time high of 174 visitors in 2016.” [Facebook]

ACPD Helps With Snakes, Too — “Sgt. Morrison proves he’s a jack of all trades! Yesterday he responded to a citizen assist call and helped safely relocate this snake.” [Twitter]

Opera Fans Plan Outreach Effort — “Reports of the demise of a certain musical genre are not just premature. They are just plain wrong, supporters say. ‘Clearly, opera is not a dying art – the music is still transcendent,’ said Paul Dolinsky, a board member of Opera Nova, which on Oct. 27 held its annual fund-raising brunch at Washington Golf & Country Club.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Is Runner Up in Entrepreneurship Competition — “Ela Gokcigdem has good news to share about her ePearl noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. They were a big hit in the Big Apple… The 17-year-old senior at Wakefield High School in Arlington participated in the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. More than two dozen competitors from around the country pitched their products to a panel of judges.” [WJLA]

Nearby: Road Closure Planned in Seven Corners — “The Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) bridge over Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) will be closed from 9 p.m. Monday night, Nov. 4 to 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, Nov. 5 for bridge deck work, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Eastbound Wilson Boulevard traffic will be detoured via Route 7, Patrick Henry Drive, Route 50 and the westbound Route 50 service road back to Wilson Boulevard.” [VDOT]

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools may shuffle nearly a quarter of its elementary school students around to combat the county’s persistent overcrowding problems.

During a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, school officials proposed moving the majority of McKinley Elementary School students to the new Reed Elementary School, among other switches.

The Arlington School Board is expected to take action on one of two final proposals during its meeting on February 6, 2020. If approved, it would take effect for the 2021-22 school year, per APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

“Some of our schools can’t manage the student’s lunch time, we have students who eat lunch as early as 10 a.m. and as late as 2 p.m.,” said Lisa Stengle, executive director for the APS Department of Planning and Evaluation.

“We like to keep kids together. The more we can keep groups of kids together, the better,” she said.

The first proposal idea APS shared with parents would mean:

  • The majority of current McKinley students would move to Reed.
  • The Arlington Traditional School (ATS) program would move to the McKinley building.
  • Key Immersion School would move to the Arlington Traditional School building.
  • The Key building would become a neighborhood school.

According to officials, 40% of McKinley students live in the Reed School walk zone, meaning more students who are currently riding the bus would have the option to walk to school. In addition, it would provide 100 additional seats for new ATS students.

The second proposal calls for the same McKinley, Reed, and ATS switches, plus:

  • Campbell Elementary School moving to the ATS building
  • Key, along with its immersion program, would move to the Carlin Springs Elementary School building
  • The majority of students at Carlin Springs would move to the Campbell Elementary School building
  • Campbell building becomes a neighborhood school
  • The Key building becomes a neighborhood school

Both plans are expected to affect some 20-30% of Arlington elementary school students.

“[Moving schools allows] APS to use all schools to maximum capacity, keep together as many students in each school community as possible, and keep as many students as possible walking to their neighborhood schools,” officials said in a press release.

The proposals are a larger part of the APS Elementary School Planning Project, which calls for the planning of capacity solutions as Arlington’s elementary student population is expected to exceed 30,000 by 2023 — with significant growth in the Rosslyn, Ballston, and Columbia Pike areas.

The fiscal impact of either proposal remains to be determined, according to APS Transportation Planning Director Kristen Haldeman.

Alternatively, per the planning website, if APS chooses to only redraw elementary school zoning districts without moving schools, it would affect up to 41 percent of Arlington’s elementary school population and incur additional transportation costs.

In addition, Spengle noted the county will need to build up to three new elementary schools by 2029 in order to accommodate growth, including in and around Pentagon City.

The school system will spend the next several months collecting community feedback before the School Board makes a final decision, with public meetings on:

  • November 5: An online information session on APS Engage in English and Spanish
  • November 5-24: An online community questionnaire at APS Engage
  • November 15 and 22: “Friday Facebook Live” sessions with new FAQs answered.

Several community forums are also scheduled for December, plus a School Board public hearing on January 30 at 7 p.m. in the Syphax Education Center.

The discussions come after APS redrew the boundaries of eight elementary schools last year in order to accommodate the opening of Alice West Fleet Elementary School.

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A new Arlington Public Schools policy now requires adults to chaperone younger students at high school games.

The new policy was announced in an email to parents last week, and applies to students in 8th Grade or below looking to attending after-school sporting events. It also requires students to show their school IDs to staff at the games.

“We are asking that any students in 8th grade or younger be accompanied by an adult for admission to any Arlington high school sporting event,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.

From the APS email to families:

Based on growing attendance at our games as student enrollment has increased, APS is taking precautions to ensure that all spectators have a safe, enjoyable experience at all high school athletic events. Moving forward, any students in 8th grade or younger must be accompanied by an adult for admission to any Arlington high school sporting event. The adult accompanying the student or a group of students needs to be in attendance as a point of contact for the duration of the event. This allows APS staff to respond appropriately if issues arise among younger students who are unfamiliar to high school staff, and can help ensure a safe environment for students and families who are there to enjoy the game.

Families with questions are asked to reach out to their Director of Student Activities at Wakefield, Washington-Liberty or Yorktown high schools.

“As a school division, we take great pride in our school spirit and encourage student and fan participation,” the APS email shared with ARLnow reads. “We also expect our students and fans to use sound judgement and demonstrate appropriate behavior that presents a positive viewing experience for all.”

The new policy comes about a month after the school began requiring all visitors to show identification and log their visit in a database.

Photo via @WakeAthletics/Twitter

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Starting next year, Arlington Public Schools will incorporate cloud-based learning curriculum from Amazon Web Services into the classroom.

AWS Educate is the e-commerce giant’s K-12 initiative, designed to get students comfortable with the basics of cloud computing and artificial intelligence tools.

The service is available online at a fee for all educators and interested students 14 years or older. However, in late September, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) announced a partnership with AWS Educate across select Virginia universities, community colleges, and four K-12 school districts in the state, including APS.

For the participating Virginia K-12 schools, including in Arlington, AWS Educate is expected to be incorporated as either a dual enrollment system with a participating community college or university, or as a resource utilized in exiting STEM classes.

Earlier this month APS staff met with officials from Amazon and Northern Virginia Community College to discuss the best way to introduce the curriculum into the 2020-21 school year.

“At this time, we do not have a finalized course list,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Courses may or may not be dual enrolled. We need to see from the community college what their requirements are for the teacher before we can give dual enrollment or college credit.”

Northern Virginia Community College was the first area organization to partner with AWS Educate, rolling out a cloud-based degree program in 2018.

On the recent Virginia partnership, Ken Eisner, head of AWS Educate, said “in this way, students can learn about the tech concepts behind things like online gaming and expand their knowledge with more in-depth challenges on concepts like variables and big data. We’re excited to work with school divisions across northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth to meet students and educators where they are and open up big opportunities in the cloud.”

Additional area school districts and universities partnering with AWS Educate include:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Arlington County Public Schools
  • Alexandria City Public Schools
  • Loudoun County Public Schools
  • Northern Virginia Community College
  • George Mason University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
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