Arlington, VA

Parents opposed to a proposed four-school swap, set for a School Board vote on Feb. 6, are ramping up pressure to scuttle the plan.

A new coalition calling itself “No School Moves” has gathered more than 1,700 signatures on a Change.org petition launched earlier this month, calling for the School Board to vote “no.”

The group opposes an Arlington Public Schools plan, endorsed by the interim superintendent, to move Key elementary students and staff to the Arlington Traditional School building, while moving Arlington Traditional students and staff to McKinley and McKinley students and staff to a new elementary school building in Westover. That would free up the Key school building near Courthouse, currently used by a Spanish immersion choice program, to become a neighborhood school as the elementary-aged population in that area continues to grow.

People who signed the petition, however, are not buying the APS rationale for the moves, which would reportedly result in more than 2,400 students moving to a new building.

“Moving schools is not creating more seats,” said one. “It’s a temporary bandaid and there is no data to support these moves.”

“These changes can have profound effects on students who get moved to new schools, and the current process is so flawed,” said another. “It could easily lead to even more rounds of redistricting in the near future.”

In addition to objections to the process, an alleged lack of supporting data, and inadequate communication from school staff, opponents say the moves would make diversity in the schools “more difficult to maintain.”

Per the petition:

The school move proposal exacerbates the county’s broader struggle with diversity. As in other communities, Arlington’s historic housing patterns have effectively segregated low-income and minority families, and its schools reflect those same patterns of segregation. Yet despite repeated requests from PTAs and parents across the county — and in the immediate aftermath of a recent settlement between Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the Justice Department over English language learners — APS staff has not performed any detailed analysis of how proposed school moves would affect the demographics of those school populations.

In a recent survey, more than 60% of Spanish-speaking families currently part of the Key Immersion school community have said they won’t be able to move with the program to its proposed new location. APS argues that Key Immersion would draw more native Spanish speakers if it were in a more central location — but their evidence for this is entirely anecdotal.

What’s more, moving the Arlington Traditional School and its VPI preschool program to the McKinley building would adversely affect low-income families who rely on public transit. Families trying to reach the school on a Metrobus could double their commute time. This would discourage enrollment for families without cars, negatively impacting the diversity of a school that has demonstrated results in closing the achievement gap for high-needs students.

Arlington Public Schools is planning to hold a public hearing on the plan on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd) at 7 p.m., ahead of the scheduled Feb. 6 School Board vote.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson is recommending an elementary school swap involving four schools, a more modest of two proposals presented in October.

Both proposals have received considerable pushback from parents, but in a presentation to the Arlington School Board last night administrators said it’s the best option for dealing with projected increased in enrollment in certain parts of the county.

“As we look at our projections and we look at the growth that’s coming along,” a school staffer said, “the area where we see the biggest growth is on the eastern side of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.”

The recommended proposal would make the following changes, starting with the 2021-22 school year:

  • Move most McKinley Elementary students, plus most faculty and the principal, to the new school under construction at the Reed site in Westover.
  • Move students, faculty and the principal of Arlington Traditional School (ATS) — a “choice” school — to the larger McKinley building.
  • Move students, faculty and the principal of Key Elementary, a bilingual English/Spanish immersion program, to the current ATS building.
  • Make the current Key building a new neighborhood elementary school, to support growth in the area.

Administrators say moving Key to the ATS building would put it closer to more Spanish speakers and “allow for long-term growth in the program.”

A number of parents from each of the potentially affected school spoke out against the swap at the School Board meeting, for a variety of reasons, following the presentation.

The presentation also included discussion of an “alternate scenario,” that would change elementary school boundaries rather than swap schools. The decidedly unpalatable alternative called for about 4,000 students — 38% of the elementary population — to be assigned to a new school. On top of that, it would require more busing.

“To fill schools to manageable capacity, boundaries would require more students to be assigned to schools farther away instead schools closer to where they live,” the superintendent’s presentation said.

Next up in the process, the School Board is expected to hold a public hearing before taking action on the proposal in February.

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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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Morning Notes

Wawa Planning 40 New N. Va. Stores — “Wawa Inc. has big plans for the Northern Virginia. Upon breaking ground on its latest project in Vienna Tuesday, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain officially unveiled its expansion plan for the area, which includes 40 new Northern Virginia stores in the next 15 years totaling $240 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

National Honors for Arlington Traditional School — “Arlington Traditional School is one of nine Virginia schools, and 362 across the nation, to be named 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. It is the third time since 2006 the school – known as ATS – has received the national honor.” [InsideNova]

Census Is Important for Emergency Management — “The Census provides emergency managers and public safety officials with critical information to better prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters in Arlington County. Data from the Census provides us with key demographic, socioeconomic and housing data that form the basis of Census Bureau tools we use in emergency management.” [Arlington County]

Outdoor Lab Ready for Another School Year — “The Arlington Outdoor Lab starts the school year with a host of initiatives, as well as a new incoming director. Michele Karnbach, who previously served as a resource assistant at the facility, has been tapped as its next director. Karnbach most recently was a science teacher in Prince William County’s school system.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Ovi Visits Local Elementary School — “In conjunction with the launch of Ovi O’s, Alex Ovechkin’s limited-edition breakfast cereal, the Washington Capitals’ captain surprised Arlington Traditional School, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and a local Giant store with a visit on Sept. 10.” [NHL]

9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in Courthouse — “Officials in Northern Virginia held a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Sen Tim Kaine, Rep. Don Beyer, military commanders, local Arlington County officials and members of the Virginia House attended the remembrance ceremony on Arlington County government plaza.” [NBC 4, WUSA 9]

Local Leaders Set Housing Goals — “Local governments around Greater Washington now plan to set targets for housing production over the next decade, as part of a regional initiative to build 320,000 new homes by 2030 and ease the region’s cost pressures.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

ACPD Plans ‘Coffee With a Cop’ — “Wednesday, October 2 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting four events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at these informal events to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]

Orthopaedic Office Celebrates Grand Opening — “Ortho OIC Orthopaedic Immediate Care, the area’s first independent orthopaedic specialty urgent care… will be holding a grand opening event on September 19 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The event is open to the public and will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony.” [Press Release]

Farewell, Subway-Centric Paper — “The Washington Post is closing down its free daily commuter paper, Express, this week. The final edition of Express will be published on Thursday. The staff learned of the news at a meeting at noon on Wednesday.” [DCist]

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Morning Notes

Latest Flood Stats — “As of Tuesday morning, the Department of Environmental Services had received 151 calls about damage to private property, storm drain backups, indoor flooding and roadway flooding; The County also investigated more than 30 drainage complaints.” [Arlington County]

Record-Setting Rain Rate — “The 3.30 [inches of rain] recorded between 8:52-9:52 a.m [at Reagan National Airport] was Washington, D.C.’s highest hourly precip report in records dating back to 1936.” [Twitter]

Flooded Scooters Removed from Service — “Bird, Jump, and Lime, three of the city’s five operators, told The Verge that their employees were actively engaged in removing scooters from the flooded areas.” [The Verge]

ACPD Crime Map Goes Down — “ACPD is aware of system issues with the Online Community Crime Map and is working with the third-party vendor, LexisNexis, to resolve the issue. If you are looking for information regarding crime in your neighborhood, please view the Daily Crime Report.” [Twitter]

D.C. Office Vacancy Rises as N. Va. Declines — “Office vacancy is reaching new heights in the District as new supply continues to outpace demand, but market conditions are much better for landlords in neighboring Northern Virginia.” [Bisnow]

Trailers to Take Out Tree — “In a community where the destruction of even a single tree can mobilize residents, there may be another skirmish in the offing on July 13. That’s the date that Arlington County Board members will be asked to approve the placement of new portable (‘relocatable’) classrooms on the campus Arlington Traditional School, designed to ease overcrowding.” [InsideNova]

Ballston Office Building Sold — “The first building developed in Ballston’s Liberty Center complex has just traded hands.  Carr Properties sold the One Liberty Center office building at 875 North Randolph St. to USAA Real Estate, the JLL brokerage team announced Monday. Property records show the sale closed June 26 for about $153M.” [Bisnow]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Morning Notes

ATS Parents Peeved About Overcrowding — Arlington Traditional School parents are protesting the addition of classes and relocatable classrooms to the already-overcrowded school. [Arlington Connection]

Alliterative Pothole Patching Update — Via Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Punctilious, present pothole people have plugged 500-plus problems post-2017 but prefer a plethora for practice. Please provide. http://topics.arlingtonva.us/reportproblem or call 703-228-6570.” [Twitter]

AIM Petition Nearing 1,000 Signatures — More than 900 people have signed a petition calling on the County Board to nix the proposed 20 percent cut in funding for Arlington Independent Media. “The proposed Arlington County FY ’19 budget would be catastrophic for AIM,” the petition says. [Change.org]

Arlington Ranks No. 2 in Virginia ‘Healthiest’ List — Arlington is second only to Loudoun on a list of the healthiest counties in Virginia, compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. [WTOP]

Capitol City Files for Bankruptcy — Shortly after closing its Shirlington brewpub, Capitol City Brewing Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Owner David von Storch says he intends to keep Cap City’s downtown D.C. location open, serving its four core in-house beers, which will now be brewed by a contract brewery, as well as local craft brews. [Washington Business Journal]

Kaine to Talk Guns at Wakefield HS — Via press release: “On Friday, March 16, Senator Tim Kaine will hold a classroom conversation on gun violence and school safety with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington. Kaine will hear students’ perspectives on how policymakers should address this issue and which solutions they would like to see implemented to keep schools safer.”

Photo courtesy @thelastfc

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Arlington Public Schools will look to temporarily add more space to try to cope with its rising enrollment by adding temporary classrooms and making interior adjustments at several schools.

The Arlington County Board is expected to vote on a slew of proposals across eight schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels at its meeting Saturday (July 15). The temporary solutions are all recommended for approval by county staff, as “student enrollment is growing at a faster rate than APS can provide new schools and classrooms.”

Some are looking to add more temporary, trailer classrooms — known in APS parlance as “relocatables” — while others will make interior adjustments to add more space.

The following schools are applying to add relocatables:

The following schools will look to make interior adjustments and modifications:

Photos Nos. 6, 7 and 8 via Google Maps

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Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.

On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.

Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.

Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.

The full letter is below.

Dear Mr. Severn:

I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).

The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.

The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.

We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community.  Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period.  However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event.  We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.

Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.

Sincerely,

James Lander, Chair

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Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.

The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.

This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.

“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”

Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.

While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.

“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”

Arlington Girls Softball Association's fields at Arlington Traditional SchoolSevern said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.

“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”

Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.

Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.

“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”

Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.

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U.S. Secretary of Education and Arlington resident Arne Duncan was on hand Friday to personally present Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street) with one of the Department of Education’s top honors: the designation of Blue Ribbon School.

The elementary school was named a 2012 Blue Ribbon School — one of only 269 schools in the country and one of seven elementary schools in Virginia this year — based on its “overall academic excellence.”

Duncan presented the Blue Ribbon School award to ATS Principal Holly Hawthorne at a school-wide assembly Friday morning. Also in attendance were Rep. Jim Moran (D), School Board Vice Chair Sally Baird, School Board member Abby Raphael, County Board member Libby Garvey, State Sen. Barbara Favola (D), Del. Patrick Hope (D) and State Board of Education President and former Arlington School Board member Dave Foster.

Arlington Public Schools issued the following press release (excerpted) about the recognition.

“This is a tremendous honor for us. Great schools don’t happen by chance, they happen by design,” said Hawthorne. “We know the quality of the education at ATS is the result of the efforts of our talented and dedicated teachers, our hard-working and focused students, and our involved and caring parents. The strong partnerships ATS has forged with families and the community help foster each child’s whole development. Students leave ATS with the skills and attitudes of lifelong learners, prepared to become caring and contributing citizens.”

This is the second time in eight years that ATS has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.

“I want to congratulate the entire ATS community on receiving this prestigious honor,” said Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy. “This recognition rewards the time that teachers spend each day making sure that their students have the tools to help them succeed in the classroom. It recognizes the time that students put into learning as well as the time that parents spend supporting their child’s education. The staff at ATS is to be recognized for building a strong foundation for its students to learn and grow.”

Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has honored America’s most successful public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. The National Blue Ribbon Schools award honors schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement. The award acknowledges and validates the hard work of students, staff members, families, and communities in reaching high levels of student achievement.

The US Department of Education will honor all of the nation’s 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools during a conference and awards ceremony November 12-13 in Washington, D.C. A list of the 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools and more information on the Blue Ribbon award is available at www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.

Video from today’s ceremony is available online at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25243604.

Photo courtesy Frank Bellavia / Arlington Public Schools

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