Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni visited Barcroft Elementary School today (Monday) to get a glimpse of summer learning opportunities in Arlington Public Schools.
The visit is part of a tour of Virginia schools offering summer learning to select students in most need of academic support after a year of virtual learning. In Arlington, more than 4,600 students are enrolled in summer learning, of whom nearly 3,500 are attending in person.
“It’s been amazing… seeing kids happy to be in the classroom, seeing teachers and staff so enthusiastic,” Northam said. “Our future is in good hands.”
At Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street), 100 students are enrolled in summer learning, which is focused on strengthening math and reading skills, said Catherine Ashby, a spokeswoman for APS. The school system has an additional 480 elementary students participating in a new program, available for those who initially qualified for summer school but were deemed unable to participate.
Initially, APS had expanded eligibility requirements for summer school to reach more students. Citing teacher shortages, however, it later contracted eligibility. This summer, 850 teachers and staff are providing instruction to certain students with disabilities and who are learning English, as well as some regular-education students with failing grades or who need a core class to graduate high school.
Inside the classroom, students and teachers wore masks. The governor is preparing to release new mask guidelines this week in light of rising cases of the coronavirus. The new guidance will replace the executive order governing mask wearing, which is set to expire on Sunday (July 25).
As cases climb and the more contagious Delta variant spreads, and with most children unable to receive the vaccine, the American College of Pediatrics — of which Northam is a member — recently recommended that all kids should wear masks while indoors. Northam said the new state rules will likely be aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We will definitely have guidelines before the weekend,” he said.
Virginia is reporting about 250 to 300 new cases per day, due in part to the rise of the Delta variant. Northam said he encouraged parents to vaccinate their children 12 years old and older with the Pfizer shot. About 35% of eligible children in the Commonwealth have received their first dose, he said.
Still, state officials said they want children attending school in person.
“We have had a lot of unfinished learning,” Qarni said. “We do know the best place to learn is in person.”
APS officials have pledged that the school system will be fully in-person this fall. For the first four weeks of school, APS will be focused on social-emotional learning and academic assessments, Ashby said, as it tries to make up for lost learning last school year.
At Barcroft, Northam also saw a new literacy program at work.
Principal Judy Apostolico-Buck tells ARLnow the school formally implemented the program — which focuses on teaching the mechanics of reading — last year. This approach, called structured literacy, will be implemented across elementary schools in Arlington this fall to improve reading proficiency rates.
“We need something that guarantees literacy proficiency for all students,” she said. “It’s been a big shift, but the research unequivocally shows that this is what we need to do.”
Tree Falls in Aurora Highlands — A large tree fell across 23rd Street S. in Aurora Highland, near Crystal City, yesterday evening around 5:15 p.m. It happened near the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church, between S. Ives and Hayes streets, amid gusty winds that felled other trees and branches around Arlington. The tree reportedly fell on a passing car, but those inside the vehicle were not injured. [Twitter]
Challenger Presses Favola — “Affordable housing and ethical issues took center stage as Democratic contenders for the 31st state Senate seat last week squared off for the first time leading up to the June 11 primary. Facing an uphill battle to knock off a two-term incumbent, challenger Nicole Merlene pressed the case that state Sen. Barbara Favola is too beholden to special interests to effectively represent the district.” [InsideNova]
Overturned SUV Along I-395 — Around 6 p.m. Sunday, an SUV overturned on a ramp to I-395 near Washington Blvd. A photo sent by a tipster shows the SUV on its side near the guardrail. No serious injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Barcroft Principal Lauded — “Judy Apostolico-Buck, who has spent 32 years in the Arlington school system, has been named the county’s 2019 Principal of the Year.” She was also a finalist for Washington Post Principal of the Year. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Small Explosion in Falls Church Condo — “At 11:10 a.m. today, a contractor working on a stove received minor injuries from a gas flash explosion in a unit at the Falls Chase Condominium, located at 1136 S Washington St. Arlington Fire and Fairfax Fire Departments responded to the scene.” [City of Falls Church, Twitter]
Nearby: Peeping Tom in Falls Church — “City of Falls Church police are looking for more information regarding a peeping tom seen outside of Saint James Catholic School.” [Tysons Reporter]
Photo courtesy Ray Villarreal
Arlington’s School Board is laying out more details as it prepares to redraw elementary school boundary lines this fall, identifying 11 schools set to see boundary changes ahead of the 2019 school year.
With the new Alice West Fleet Elementary School set to open in Arlington Heights next year, Arlington Public Schools needs to tweak boundaries for a variety of schools as ripple effects of the change spread throughout the county. The Board’s already been busy working with staff to sort out which schools should be “option” programs, accessible to students around the county, and plans to spend the next few months sorting out remaining boundary details leading up to a final vote this December.
While school leaders have discussed a variety of programs over the course of the year, today (Friday) Arlington Public Schools released the final list of elementary schools set to have their boundaries changed as part of this process. Those schools are:
- Arlington Science Focus (ASFS)
- Henry (Fleet)
- Long Branch
Notably, that list does not include Carlin Springs or Nottingham Elementary Schools, even though APS staff previously suggested that the schools would be good candidates to be converted to option schools. However, APS says the schools’ boundaries will be reviewed as part of a fall 2020 boundary process, which will involve 14 schools in all.
Barcroft, however, is on the list after being recommended for a conversion to an option school.
The question of which schools will become, or remain, countywide option programs is sure to be one of the most contentious issues the Board wrestles with during the boundary process.
APS currently has five option schools at the elementary level: Arlington Traditional School and Campbell, Claremont, Drew and Key Elementary Schools. The rest are all “neighborhood schools,” which only accept nearby students who live within set boundaries.
The School Board has already agreed to move the county’s “Montessori” program from Drew Model School to Patrick Henry Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year, with Drew changing to a neighborhood school, so at least one option site is guaranteed to change.
County staff have yet to offer any final recommendations on option schools, but in a preliminary analysis in May, they told the Board that Campbell, Carlin Springs and Henry Elementary Schools were all likely to earn their recommendation to either become or remain option sites.
Barcroft, Claremont and Nottingham Elementary Schools and the Arlington Traditional School were also cited as possibilities to fill the final two available slots for option schools, leaving Barcroft as the only school recommended for conversion on the list for the 2018 process.
But staff don’t plan to offer any final recommendations until sometime this fall, and will only do so after holding a series of public meetings on the process.
Staff will hold an open office hours session on the issue from 7-8:30 p.m. on Aug. 7 and the first community meeting on the topic on Sept. 26, both at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Rd.).
The Board plans to take a final vote on boundaries Dec. 6.
Officials also released the full list of schools set to be impacted by the 2020 boundary process, precipitated in part by the opening of the new building on the Reed school site in 2021:
- Carlin Springs
- Long Branch
“A school may be involved in both boundary processes, but a specific planning unit will only be impacted once to minimize the number of times that individual students who have continued to reside in a particular attendance area are impacted by the boundary change,” APS wrote in a release.
Transport Panel Approves of I-66 HOT Lanes — The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted yesterday to approve the creation of high occupancy toll lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. It’s estimated that by 2040, almost twice as many users of eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway will be headed to Arlington compared to those heading to D.C. Meanwhile, two Democratic state lawmakers from Fairfax and Loudoun counties want to force the state to start planning to widen I-66 sooner rather than later. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
County Responds to I-395 HOT Lane Plan — Arlington officials say they hope to reach a “mutually beneficial outcome” to a state proposal to extend the I-395 Express lanes north to the D.C. line. The proposal calls for expanding the HOV lanes from two to three lanes while converting them to high occupancy toll lanes. The County says any proposal should “not undermine Arlington’s successful investment in congestion-reducing transit-oriented development in Pentagon City, Crystal City, or Shirlington.” [Arlington County]
APS Wants Historic Designation for Stratford on Its Terms — Arlington Public Schools says it will pursue a local historic designation for the Stratford building, current home to H-B Woodlawn and a future neighborhood middle school. However, APS wants to cut the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board out of the process, to ensure the middle school project can move forward without delays. [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Marine Corps Treats Students to Holiday Celebration — The Marine Corps treated students at Barcroft Elementary to a special Christmas celebration at Henderson Hall on Monday. Students were greeted by Marines, participated in various holiday-themed arts and crafts and got a chance to talk with Santa himself. [DIVIDS]
WERA Now Broadcasting — As of Monday, Arlington’s own low-power radio station, WERA 96.7 FM, was on the air and broadcasting for the community. The station is still looking for volunteers to help with programming. [Twitter, WERA]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Barcroft will hold its annual Chalk4Peace event on Saturday, Sept. 12 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. There will be music and chalk will be provided.
Children will be able to draw on the blacktop and sidewalks around the school. The art will stay there until it is washed away by rain, said Principal Colette Bounet.
“They [kids] get to hang out with their friends,” Bounet said. “They get to draw on the ground, which they usually don’t get to do.”
Chalk4Peace is a global initatiative started by artist John Aaron 10 years ago to help connect communities and promote peace and art.
“The peace aspect [for the Barcroft event] is more just getting out with your community,” Bounet said.
About 50 to 60 kids show up each year to the event, Bounet said, adding that at any one time there are usually 25 to 30 kids drawing.
Chalk4Peace first came first came to Barcroft nine years ago, said art teacher Marel Sitron, who helped launch the event. The original Chalk4Peace event was founded in Arlington in 2003.
“I just think it’s a wonderful event because art is an universal language,” Sitron said.
Both Bounet and Sitron draw during the event, they said. In previous years, Sitron chalked the Mona Lisa in chalk as well as other large pictures, she said.
Children who participate in Chalk4Peace also bring a box of cereal to donate. Last year, the school filled five to six large tubs of cereal boxes, Bounet said.
“We’ve just found it’s very appealing for kids to give to other kids,” she said.
Next Saturday, neighborhoods like Clarendon, Bluemont, Westover and Barcroft are each holding events intended to bring neighbors together and celebrate their immediate surrounding area.
In Clarendon, county officials will gather to celebrate the now-upscale neighborhood’s time in the post-Vietnam War 1970s and 1980s when it was known as “Little Saigon” for its high population of Vietnamese immigrants. At 1:30 p.m., former Little Saigon residents and historians will narrate a tour of the area, displaying historic and still-standing businesses from the era.
The whole event, called Echoes of Little Saigon will run from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and will include displays of Vietnamese art and Lemongrass food truck, a frequent Arlington visitor during lunch hours, will provide the country’s cuisine.
Below is a list of the neighborhood day events from other areas of the county, via the Department of Parks and Recreation (all events are on Saturday, May 9).
- Bluemont: Bluemont Park (601 N. Manchester Street), 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The annual Walk for the Animals fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington is back for Neighborhood Day. The 20th anniversary walk has already raised more than $50,000, and this year will include its first “pet festival.” The festival will include vendors, food trucks, photos with pets, adoptable shelter dogs available to play and more.
- Westover: Westover Branch Library (1644 N. McKinley Road), 3:00-5:00 p.m. A “family fun afternoon” with activities that include face painting.
- Penrose: Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S), 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The south Arlington is hosting “Family Fitness day,” holding activities for nutritional and fitness awareness, a moon bounce and fitness classes for all ages.
- Yorktown: Chestnut Hills Park (2807 N. Harrison Street), 11:30 a.m. Celebrate the ribbon-cutting on the renovated playground with neighbors. FitArlington will be on hand promoting its new website and fitness initiative. Children can participate in the free scavenger hunt for prizes.
- Barcroft: Barcroft Elementary School (625 S. Wakefield Street), 4:00-6:00 p.m. The Barcroft Elementary Spring Fair is intended to be an early evening of pure fun, with activities likea bounce house, games and a cake walk, all for prizes.
- Old Glebe: Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road), 10:00-11:30 a.m. The north Arlington nature center will join the neighborhood to “welcome back hummingbirds.” Each family will make its own feeders as the birds with the fastest wings in the world migrate back to the county. Register online.
- Glencarlyn: Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road), 7:00-8:00 p.m. The nature center will host families in the amphitheater for a campfire discussion about snakes. Games, songs and s’mores will all be in abundance.
A 30-year-old Barcroft Elementary School kindergarten teacher was found dead this morning in her Cherrydale home.
Police and paramedics responded to Morgan Harre’s home on the 2200 block of N. Pollard Street just after 9:00 a.m. this morning, after receiving a “check on the welfare” call from Arlington Public Schools. Harre was found unresponsive and pronounced dead on the scene.
Police say it appears that Harre suffered a “medical emergency,” possibly related to a preexisting medical condition, which led to her death. No foul play is suspected, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
In a letter to parents sent this afternoon, Barcroft principal Collette Bounet said students have not yet been informed of Ms. Harre’s death. Grief counselors were at Barcroft today to support school staff, and will be there tomorrow for staff and students.
The full letter from the school, after the jump.
Photo via Facebook
The contagion prompted school officials to cancel after-school activities on Friday, including a PTA-sponsored “Sweetheart Dance.” Students were sent home with a letter on Friday advising parents on how to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal illness.
“This communication is being sent to let you know that Public Health has been receiving an increase in reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness in members of the Barcroft school community,” the letter reads. “If your child develops vomiting or diarrhea, we recommend that you keep your child home for 24 hours after the symptoms stop before sending your child back to school.”
School will reopen and activities will resume as normal on Wendesday, weather permitting.
School Health Bureau Chief Marian Harmon told ARLnow.com in an email this afternoon that, between Feb. 11 and Feb. 13, 38 students at Barcroft were either sent home or stayed home with gastrointestinal issues.
“Kids were lying around the office waiting to be picked up” on Friday, an ARLnow.com tipster wrote in an email.
Because Arlington Public Schools offices were closed due to the snow today, officials could not confirm the number of cases reported at Barcroft. In the letter, APS said all shared surfaces in the school are disinfected “each day and after any illnesses at the school.”
After the jump, the letter APS sent home with Barcroft students. Read More
First, a plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a project which has come under criticism for its reduction of the green space next to the TJ Community Center.
Second, a plan for building $54 million of expansions onto Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. The Arlington School Board approved the expansion plan at its meeting last night as the alternative to the TJ plan. Whichever option is built is expected to open by September 2018.
The Board will vote in January on which option it will move forward with. Arlington voters approved $50.25 million toward the new elementary school seat plan on Tuesday as part of the $106 million school bond package.
Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said last night that there could be measures APS takes to bring the two expansions closer to the $50.25 million budget.
Two parents spoke out last night against the plan to expand Barcroft and Randolph, telling the School Board they should focus expansion efforts on schools that don’t lag far behind the rest of the school system in state testing. School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez echoed those parents’ concerns, and was the lone vote against the alternative plan.
“When we look at adding more seats, we keep on talking about seats. We’re not talking many times about students,” she said. “We’re not talking about instructional programs and options we have before us. The part of the county where Barcroft sits and Randolph sits, we have serious instruction issues when we have low achievement of Latino, African-American, students with disabilities, low-income students not perfomrming as they should. We have a problem.”
The other School Board members countered with the fact that APS capacity issues will affect every building in the school system, and performance issues can be addressed during expansion. School Board member Abby Raphael suggested that concerns about the schools’ performance are being overblown.
“Barcroft is a wonderful school. Students are achieving, there’s a wonderful staff. Of course we can do more,” she said. “Because of our growing enrollment, our elementary schools are going to reach 725 students, and we’re running out of land. Ideally, we’d love to have a number of very small elementary schools, but we just simply don’t have the land and the money to achieve that.”
The School Board’s “preferred plan” remains building a new elementary school next to TJ, but that plan is opposed by community group Friends of TJ Park. The group says the new school would reduce crucial parkland, including the community garden. TJ Middle School students spoke up at a School Board meeting last month to advocate for keeping the garden.
“I am so proud to work in the TJ Garden and seeing it every morning reminds me of how important it is to our community and school in Arlington,” seventh-grader Lucy Robinson said. “If the TJ garden were separated from the school, fewer people would go there and be involved. The TJ community would be hurt by this. Please leave our garden in its current location.”
The TJ plan would add 725 seats with the new school, while the two expansions would add a total of about 500 seats, according to APS estimates. The disparity may make the decision clearer after APS released its new set of student growth projections last night.
APS Director of Facilities Planning Lionel White told the School Board that APS figures to grow by 19 percent, or 4,957 students, in the next five years. According to the district’s projection model, APS will hit 30,000 students in 2020. Because of this growth, APS is considering refining elementary school boundaries for next fall.
“This year we had our highest kindergarten class on record, 2,196,” White told the Board. “Next year we’re anticipating [more than] 2,200.”
Many of the students affected by the school district’s boundary changes will be attending the new elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School. Last night the School Board approved the school’s name: Discovery Elementary School.
“When you go into successful schools, they use language like ‘discovery’ and ‘creativity’ to spark inspiration in the children,” School Board Chair James Lander said. “The fact that Discovery is the recommended name really pleases me.”
Photo (top) via Arlington Public Schools
Some parents of Barcroft Elementary School students are concerned about Arlington Public Schools’ plan to expand the school if a controversial plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School falls through.
The School Board says it’s their preference to build a new school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Amid protests from those who want to preserve the parkland next to the school, the School Board has appointed a working group to determine the feasibility of that plan. The group will present its findings to the School Board in January.
If the TJ site cannot be developed, APS’ backup plan is to expand Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street) is currently at a 460-seat capacity and the expansion would add 265 seats. Randolph (1306 S. Quincy Street) has a 484-seat capacity and would expand to seat 725 students.
While APS struggles to keep up with rising school enrollment, county and school officials have warned that there’s precious little open land left in Arlington to build new schools.
Some Barcroft parents, however, are crying foul over being targeted for expansion. They’re worried about the effect it would have on the surrounding community and how the school would be able to adjust to the influx of space and students.
“Barcroft has tireless, dedicated administrators and teachers, but they face serious challenges,” one parent, Sarah Freitas Waldman, told ARLnow.com in an email. “I feel the top issue is whether it is fair for the community and the students and whether it is responsible policy for APS to propose a plan that places the entire burden of South Arlington’s overcrowding on two small schools with ongoing issues of student performance.”
Barcroft’s performance on the state Standard of Learning exams has been dwindling in recent years, culminating in only 71 percent of students passing the English reading exam and 68 passing math, compared to the state average of 74 percent for each subject and the Arlington-wide average of 81 percent in reading and 83 percent in math. Randolph performed about the same as Barcroft, with 61 percent passing English reading and 70 percent passing in math.
“Barcroft consistently underperforms the County in terms of student achievement on the Virginia SOLs,” Waldman wrote. “Is it wise educational policy to expand a program by 50 percent when it is already struggling to meet the needs of its students?”
Waldman said parents were distributing flyers in the neighborhood this past weekend, including bilingual flyers, to notify residents and other parents of APS’ plans. APS facilities staff will be conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. Barcroft to inform parents of the process to address the district’s capacity crisis. For those who can’t make it, there will be another meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 22.
APS Identifies Elementary Schools to Possibly Expand — Arlington Public Schools named two schools that could be expanded as a “plan B” if the proposal to put a new school on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School campus doesn’t go through. If the new school cannot be constructed, APS has suggested expanding Randolph Elementary School and Barcroft Elementary School. The County Board commissioned a working group last month to look into the possibility of building a new school on the Thomas Jefferson campus. [InsideNova]
Voter Registration Deadline — Today is the deadline to register to vote, both in person and absentee, in the special election next Tuesday, August 19. Voter registration can be done online. [Arlington County]
Free Tacos at California Tortilla — California Tortilla is giving away free tacos today to celebrate being voted readers’ favorite Mexican in Washingtonian magazine’s “Best of Washington 2014” issue. Arlington’s three locations, as well as all locations nationwide, will offer one free taco per customer all day.