School’s Out for Summer — Today is the last day of high school for Arlington Public Schools students. Tomorrow is the last day of middle school and Friday is the last day of elementary school. [Arlington Public Schools]
Meetings Planned for Route 1 Changes — “Two upcoming online forums will look at Virginia Department of Transportation proposals for U.S. Route 1 through the Crystal City corridor. On June 15 at 7 p.m., the Livability 22202 Route 1 Working Group and VDOT proposals will be presented and feedback sought… On June 21 at 6:30 p.m., VDOT will host a public-information meeting on the proposal.” [Sun Gazette, VDOT]
Yorktown Girls Win State Soccer Tourney — “A season that began with a loss ended with no other setbacks and a state championship for the Yorktown Patriots. The girls soccer team won the Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament by nipping the Kellam Knights, 1-0, in the June 11 title game.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]
DJO Softball Wins State Title — “The [Bishop O’Connell] Knights capped a dominant campaign with their 26th Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state title over the past 28 seasons. Katie Kutz tossed 235 strikeouts and went 17-0 while batting .482 at the plate en route to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and VISAA player of the year nods.” [Washington Post]
Groundbreaking for Bus Maintenance Yard — “Arlington County will host a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning for its new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility. The public is invited to attend. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the site of the future facility at 2629 Shirlington Rd. in Arlington in the Green Valley neighborhood.” [Patch]
School Board Absences — “The board, whose schedule of meetings is approved at the start of each fiscal year, has had a tough time gathering all five members on the dais at one time in recent months. Goldstein frequently has been absent, and at the May 26 meeting Priddy was gone. (On May 26, Diaz-Torres was not attending in person but did participate remotely from Puerto Rico, Kanninen said at the start of that meeting.)” [Sun Gazette]
More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “This is a new one. Driver just stops at the end of the gore partially blocking the left lane until they can figure out their next move.” [Twitter]
Gov. Proposes Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday — “In Arlington, Virginia, the cost of regular gas is around $5.29. As gas prices continue to climb, CG Green says he’s pumping the brakes on unnecessary trips. ‘Look at it, it’s crazy,’ said Green. ‘It’s $5.29 for gas. I have to rethink where I’m going.’ Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin says he is in favor of temporarily suspending the commonwealth’s gas tax.” [WUSA 9]
It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]
Whiskey Bar Coming to Clarendon — “Chicken + Whiskey is branching out into Northern Virginia. The Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant and whiskey bar, which got its start from a smaller location in Logan Circle in 2017, has inked a deal for a new location near the Clarendon Metro in Arlington County. The 5,708-square-foot restaurant is slated to open late this year or early next at 3033 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]
It’s Flood Awareness Week — “Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States and it is becoming more frequent with climate change. As we head into the typical rainy season, Arlington County and Fairfax County are teaming up for Virginia Flood Awareness Week to get out key messages of being informed and prepared.” [Arlington County]
Bill to Limit Gov. Powers — “Five of Arlington’s seven-member General Assembly delegation voted in support of a measure that will limit the power of governors to act unilaterally for an indeterminate period in a crisis. Legislation sponsored by state Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) on March 9 cleared the House of Delegates on a 91-8 vote, following earlier passage in the state Senate by a margin of 29-11. Gov. Youngkin is expected to sign the bill.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Kids Hold Ukraine Bake Sale — “Our boys and friends wanted to do something to help the people of #Ukraine – they decided on a bake sale. They raised $900+ today and it’s now headed to medical staff that are getting supplies to the Ukraine/Poland border. Nice job kiddos.” [Twitter]
Bishop O’Connell Swimmer Stands Out — “For Kate Bailey, her time to receive deserved recognition as a standout high-school swimmer in Arlington came this season in her final senior campaign. During past winter years, Bailey and other top local swimmers performed in the shadow of 2022 Yorktown High School graduate and Summer Olympian Torri Huske. With Huske now swimming in college at Stanford University, Bailey’s accomplishments this winter drew more attention.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 31. Sunrise at 7:22 am and sunset at 7:16 pm. [Weather.gov]
ACFD Vaxed to the Max — “Of the public safety departments surveyed by the I-Team, the Arlington County Fire Department has the most vaccinated, with 82 percent of its roughly 360 employees receiving the shot. Alexandria’s fire department, Frederick County, Maryland’s fire department and Montgomery County police are close behind, reporting about 70 percent of their members vaccinated.” [NBC 4]
Law Enforcement Memorial Day — Today starting at 8 a.m. “[t]he Arlington County Police Department and the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will host a virtual Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor and pay tribute to the memory of Arlington’s seven fallen law enforcement officers.” [ACPD]
Covid Testing for APS Athletes — “Beginning the week of May 10, APS will begin providing daily free COVID-19 testing for student athletes. The testing is optional and will be conducted at the three comprehensive high schools with written parent/guardian consent. These efforts are put in place to prevent and mitigate transmission of COVID-19 among athletes.” [Arlington Public Schools]
DJO Grad to Kick for UNC — “Bishop O’Connell High School graduate and Great Falls resident Ethan Torres played four years of college football for Bucknell University as a place-kicker, and now will play a fifth season this coming fall for University of North Carolina at Charlotte as a graduate transfer student.” [Sun Gazette]
Runners Enjoy Rainy Crystal City 5K — “They lined up in waves, socially distanced for The Great Inflatable Race: Pacers 5k in National Landing. Only 250 runners instead of the normal 1,500… ‘This is one small step toward normalization,’ says runner Ian Squires.” [WJLA]
Jeopardy Asks Arlington Question — “We made Jeopardy! again. From last Friday. Category was A Whopp’ington’ of a City.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Mosque Knife Incident — “A Falls Church man is under arrest and faces charges after Fairfax County, Virginia, police said he pointed a knife at several people in a Seven Corners mosque.” [WTOP, Annandale Blog]
(Updated at 4 p.m.) In just seven weeks, engineering whizzes at Bishop O’Connell High School developed an app that NASA may draw from as it gears up to land the first American woman and next man on the Moon, in preparation for missions to Mars.
This week, NASA recognized them as one of top 10 teams in the 2020 NASA App Development Challenge, which occurred last fall. Students crunched lunar terrain data to create an app that visualizes the South Pole region of the Moon, and NASA will be using aspects of the 10 winning apps for its own program to help astronauts communicate on and navigate the Moon’s surface.
As members of a winning team, DJO students Alex Janninck ’22, Daniel Kippenhan ’22, Elaine Ly ’21 and Claire Toia ’23, as well as Sevginaz Gurleyici ’23, from the Madeira School in McLean will be able to participate in a NASA leadership event in February.
“It takes confidence, drive and a lot of perseverance,” Bishop O’Connell STEM teacher and team advisor Melissa Pore said. “This was incredible to see them achieve this.”
Students developed the app virtually, using “Code With Me” — the Google Docs of collaborative coding — and talked via Discord, a growing communications platform that is popular among gamers and teens. At the height of the challenge, Ly recalls taking notes in class with her right hand and coding with her left.
A NASA official said during a live-stream announcement that the students “displayed great team work by maximizing each team’s strengths in completing both the coding and non-coding aspects of the challenge.”
The odds were stacked against the students: The team barely met the minimum size to participate and the school went fully virtual (due to a COVID-19 outbreak) near the tail-end of the challenge. Team members also did not have app experience, and only Janninck and Ly could code proficiently — so they mentored other members in the coding language Python, Pore said.
“What adult groups would have persevered when they had to learn a new code and train others?” she said.
NASA wants to use this technology “right now,” said Pore, adding that the app can visualize any planet and is suitable for color-blind people.
“Good for NASA to use our smartest levels of students to figure out tricks they wouldn’t have thought of,” she said. “You taught the adults some lessons.”
Ly, who wrote about the news for the school, said she “wouldn’t be half as interested in engineering if it weren’t for [Pore].”
Always learning, Pore became a licensed amateur radio operator to build satellites with her students, and is working with the International Space Station so her students can learn about and access opportunities in aerospace engineering.
A senior headed to George Washington University, Ly nominated Janninck to take charge next year.
“He’s a really good leader and programmer,” she said.
As soon as Janninck finds another interesting challenge, he is willing to try it.
“We do need to get rest from coding and working really hard,” he said.
Especially since the next challenge could be a 24-hour competition to develop a floating settlement to flee to if a meteor strikes Earth.
“No sleep — it sounds wonderful,” Janninck said.
(Updated at 6 p.m.) This year, Arlingtonians spread Christmas cheer in new ways to bring hope to people virtually or from a distance.
Choir directors at Arlington Public Schools and Bishop O’Connell High School spent hundreds of hours stitching together student videos to create virtual Christmas concerts. A troop of Brownie Scouts virtually judged a gingerbread contest for folks at a local retirement home. And Santa is making special stops in Arlington in his pickup truck, visiting with children from a distance.
Bishop O’Connell choir director Kyra Stahr burned the midnight candle to publish videos to replace the Christmas concert, which is normally the most well-attended performance, she said.
“I feel like I got more creative in how to make that excitement and cheer possible,” she said, adding that she and her students donned Christmas sweaters and watched all the performances on Zoom.
“It worked out better than I could’ve hoped for,” DJO choir student and junior Tommy Green said. “It was a nice way to exit the year.”
Fellow junior Melanie Greig said “it was almost like we were actually singing together in a concert.”
Meanwhile, Glebe Elementary student and Brownie Scout Leah Meder virtually judged a gingerbread decorating contest at the Sunrise Senior Living facility near the school, on N. Glebe Road, along with other members of Troop 60095. From 11 participants, the young judges awarded the most festive, most creative and most delicious-looking houses, and also created a special holiday greeting for the residents.
“I still felt the spark of holiday spirit when we did this online,” said Meder, who is eight years old. “Since [the residents] are living away from people they know, and can only see them a couple times a year, they can probably have more holiday spirit.”
The festivity creativity in Arlington extends to visits by the jolly one himself.
This afternoon (Wednesday), Santa is parading his sleigh — a converted pickup truck — through Arlington neighborhoods from Foxcroft Heights to Columbia Forest, the final route after two mobile Santa visits through Lyon Park and Ashton Heights.
“It’s a tough year for everybody,” said Lyon Park resident Paul Showalter, who is playing the role of Santa. “It’s really fun to see the faces of the little kids as they see Santa drive up in his sleigh.”
This morning (Wednesday), Showalter said he made a special delivery to a boy named Charlie, who had asked Santa for boxes, thread and tape for Christmas. Neighbors and Glebe Appliance donated the boxes, and Charlie will use the supplies to make a British fleet ship.
Also spreading joy is the Yorktown High School choir, which sent the musical videos it produced to faculty, friends and family, reaching an even greater audience this year.
“That’s how it’s keeping my holidays alive,” she said.
The same gathering on Oct. 31 that took Bishop O’Connell High School online until December has forced St. Thomas More Cathedral School to do the same.
Two St. Thomas More employees tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a Halloween gathering also attended by Bishop O’Connell students who tested positive and prompted the school to cancel in-person classes.
The parochial PreK-8 school in Buckingham told students and staff school would be virtual through next Monday, with in-person instruction set to resume on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
According to the school’s calendar, confirmation, which was set for Monday night, has been postponed and will be rescheduled.
“When Bishop O’Connell closed… my employees went to be tested,” Principal Cathy Davis told ARLnow on Monday morning. “The minute we heard about the positive tests, we looked at our protocols.”
The children and staff of the parochial school are divided into cohorts so that one or two classrooms can isolate if a case appears. But her team decided that the smartest thing to do was to revert to virtual, she said, adding that the transition was easy since the prep work had already been done distributing devices and setting up Google Classrooms.
Davis said administrative staff will be drafting on a report after this series of events and will see what lessons can be learned, such as whether employees have to sign certain COVID-19 commitments. Currently, the school operates on the honor system, with a pledge to prioritizing student safety.
Unlike Bishop O’Connell students, whose return is scheduled for Dec. 1, St. Thomas More students and staff, including the two who tested positive, are slated to return prior to the Thanksgiving break.
“In terms of Pre-K and second-grade children, the better way is in-person,” Davis said. “Our goal is to be in-person.”
When Davis broke the news to parents, she said she “expected unrest,” since 83% of population are dual-working parents.
“Even I have been amazed at how positive everyone is,” she said.
She predicted the school will transition right back to in-person classes.
“Certainly I wish this didn’t happen, but if it has to happen, it’s nice to know we have a strong community who gets this is our new normal,” Davis said.
In October, officials from the Arlington Public Health Division repeatedly warned against celebrating Halloween with trick-or-treating, nightlife and indoor gatherings. Cases in the county, meanwhile, are on an upswing and just reached a fresh peak since the initial spring wave.
Bishop O’Connell High School went fully virtual on Friday, and will remain so until December, out of an abundance of caution after two positive cases came to administrators’ attention.
The two cases were traced to what head of school Bill Crittenberger called “an off-campus gathering” with “quite a few young people” on Halloween (Oct. 31).
The two cases, one confirmed and one presumed, were reported to the school on Wednesday. The second case was confirmed on Thursday. The two students likely came to school on Tuesday, with the 500-student cohort that comes Tuesdays and Thursday, though it’s also possible one or both were in on Wednesday, with another 500-student cohort comes in on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Given the uncertainty and the number of students at the gathering, administrators decided it made more sense to go virtual than to quarantine specific individuals.
“We felt like it’s not as simple as flipping a switch, but staff was seasoned from having done it in the spring,” Crittenberger said of moving to virtual learning. “I’m really proud of how O’Connell transitioned in less than 24 hours,” he said.
The school, in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood, does not itself provide tests for students. Both families independently got tested and notified the school.
Although some schools may be more explicit about asking students to agree to COVID-19 norms, he said the expectation at DJO is that students follow Catholic social teaching and the commandment to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
“To be fair, some of the things that this gathering were about put folks in a spot that wasn’t ideal,” said Crittenberger.
Otherwise, everybody has been extraordinarily compliant about social-distancing and wearing masks, he said.
The students and faculty will be fully virtual for two weeks, which leads into the Thanksgiving break. Their first day back will be Dec. 1, a Tuesday.
Crittenberger said the response to the closure was fairly minimal and largely positive, with some suggesting that the virtual learning be reduced to one week.
“We’ve tried to be lockstep with the community,” he said.
Arlington public schools, meanwhile, will remain virtual for most students through the end of the year.
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Of Arlington’s eight private schools that offer a level of K-12 education, seven have announced plans to bring students to the classroom either five days a week or in a hybrid model.
Full Circle Montessori School is the only school that told ARLnow it is not planning on opening for in-person instruction.
All reopening schools have said they will implement plans aimed at curbing the coronavirus’ spread as cases continue to rise in Arlington. Required mask wearing, physical distancing and general compliance with Virginia’s Phase 3 guidance for schools were the most common strategies schools said they will use.
In other parts of the country, some schools that have reopened to in-person learning are already reporting coronavirus outbreaks. A recent study from South Korea found that while children under 10 are less likely to spread the disease, those ages 10-19 spread it “at least as well as adults do.”
The following list provides a brief outline of each local school’s plan. Only schools where the majority of education is at a K-12 level were included.
Full Circle has an elementary school for 1st-6th grades near Bailey’s Crossroads and Montessori schools at three locations throughout Arlington.
Tatjana Vichnevsky, head of school at Full Circle, told ARLnow in an email she is “not planning on opening Full Circle Montessori School until — at the earliest — the week of October 5.”
Vichnevsky added that her husband, an epidemiologist, is directing the school’s reopening plan using COVID-19 metrics for the D.C. region and Arlington’s population.
Our Savior offers kindergarten through 8th grade instruction to about 120 students at its Barcroft building.
Its reopening plan is based on a modified hybrid model. Students who do not want to return in person can choose distance learning, but classroom lessons will not be available virtually and these students will instead work with an online liaison to their classroom teacher.
Only staff and students will be allowed in Our Savior’s building, and everyone will have their temperature checked upon arrival.
Students must wash their hands when they enter the classrooms and everyone in the building must wear a mask. Socially distant breaks will be provided during the day for students to be without masks.
Rivendell School, located on Lee Highway in the Yorktown neighborhood, has K-8 education for about 150 students.
A spokeswoman said Rivendell “is planning to be at school with a modified schedule and mitigation strategies.”
Parents will also have the option of keeping their students at home for distance learning.
The Sycamore School, based in Ballston, enrolls approximately 60 students in 5th through 12th grades.
According to the school’s website, it announced on July 21 plans to resume in-person instruction five days a week in the fall.
No visitors, including parents, will be allowed in the school. The school’s meetings and community workshops will be conducted over Zoom.
Arlington’s four other K-12 private schools are under the direction of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.
These three K-8 schools — with student body sizes of approximately 460, 220 and 400, respectively — will open five days a week for in-person instruction, according to Joseph Vorbach, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.
Vorbach said the schools’ reopening plans are primarily based on Virginia’s Phase 3 school guidance. The state encourages schools to require face coverings, limit gathering sizes, restrict classes and groups of students from mixing, and mandate six foot distancing whenever possible.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A bear was spotted near Bishop O’Connell High School this morning.
The bear was spotted in the private high school’s parking lot by a construction crew, around 6:30 a.m., as seen in the photo above. It was later spotted around 7 a.m. closer to I-66.
“All the neighbors in the area saw it,” one poster said. “The workers saw it too.”
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington confirmed to ARLnow that its animal control unit responded to the area but was unable to locate the bear.
“Arlington County Animal Control was promptly alerted as was the Arlington County Police Department, Virginia State Conservation Officers, the Arlington County Natural Resource Manager, and Fairfax County Animal Protection Police,” AWLA said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“The bear appeared to be a yearling male… Animal Control quickly responded and monitored the area but was unable to locate the bear and there was no property damage,” the statement continued. “The bear did not approach any people, pets, or residences and quickly left the area. If a resident ever sees a bear we ask that they keep a large distance and immediately report to Animal Control at 703-931-9241. Animal Control is continuing to monitor the area to ensure the bear has moved on.”
Alonso Abugattas, Arlington County Natural Resource Manager, also released a statement.
Bears, especially young males, travel away from their families and often, as they don’t know as much as older bears, into new areas that perhaps are not ideal for them. They are shy and almost always try to get away from people, would like for you to leave them alone as well. Eventually they either find their way back to more wild settings or are helped to get there. They are almost always not a danger and just would like to be left alone. If you find one, just calmly report it. If you know they’re around you, don’t leave trash cans, pet food, and bird feeders around that may attract them. This is not an uncommon occurrence as bear numbers have really built up. For example, there are 4 bears this calendar year that have been seen in Fairfax.
A bear was spotted in the Reston area two weeks ago, our sister site Reston Now reported.
“It’s not uncommon to spot bears this time of year as they wander into residential areas in search of food,” Reston Now wrote. “County officials say that bears may be drawn into populated areas because of the smell of food. Other things that attract bears include garbage, compost piles, fruit trees, beehives and berry-producing shrubs.”
Photos courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington
For Families, $100K Doesn’t Cut it Here — “An analysis by personal finance site MagnifyMoney found that in some pricey cities it’s particularly hard to make it on $100,000. ‘The worst metro area for a family earning $100,000 includes Washington, D.C. and neighboring cities Arlington and Alexandria, Va. After factoring in monthly expenses, families would be $315 in the red.'” [MarketWatch]
AWLA Helps Kitty with Gruesome Injury — “Today we urgently need your support for a young orange tabby with a horrific injury. On Valentine’s Day, we received a call from one of our rescue partners in West Virginia who had just taken in a cat who had been shot in the head with an arrow.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, WJLA]
YHS Athletes Prepare for Collegiate Competition — “On Feb. 5, I watched the ceremony in the cafeteria of Yorktown High School, where 20 male and female seniors announced plans to play collegiate-level football, soccer, lacrosse, swimming, baseball, tennis and track. Only 1 in 50 high school athletes play at competitive colleges, said activities director Mike Krulfeld.” [Falls Church News-Press]
New Head of School for DJO — “After an extensive national search, and at the recommendation of the search committee, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, has named Mr. William Crittenberger the new Head of School at Bishop O’Connell High School, effective July 1, 2020.” [Press Release]
Nearby: Opening and Closing in Seven Corners — A new Food Star store has opened in Seven Corners, following the 2017 closure of the Food Star on Columbia Pike. Meanwhile, the Gold’s Gym in Seven Corners is reportedly closing on March 13. [Annandale Blog, Twitter, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
A large fire department response at Bishop O’Connell High School this afternoon has been pared back after a gas odor investigation found no active leak.
Firefighters — including a hazmat team — were called to the school at 6600 Little Falls Road around lunchtime for a report of a natural gas smell in a deep pipe chase. They remained on scene well into the afternoon, investigating the odor with crews from Washington Gas.
Thus far, nothing hazardous has been found. The school was not evacuated.
A portion of N. Trinidad Street was closed during the incident due to the extensive emergency response.
More from the Bishop O’Connell website:
A construction worker at Bishop O’Connell detected what he thought might have been the smell of gas in a utility tunnel this afternoon. The Arlington County Fire Department along with representatives from the gas company have been on site all afternoon. They have detected no sign of a gas leak and they have not recommended any evacuation at this time.
Please know that there continues to be a strong fire department presence at the school. In an abundance of caution, they are monitoring the situation, which remains unchanged at this time.
Afternoon pick-up notes: The front carpool lanes may be closed off this afternoon. Students will be dismissed through the gym and Underwood Street lobbies. Please obey all law enforcement officers, and exercise abundant care as you pick up your students.
We appreciate your patience during these unusual circumstances!