(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington Career Center plans remain on track after a contentious School Board vote late last week.
Two concepts that were presented will move to the schematic design phase after a 3-1 vote at Thursday’s meeting, which also cemented the project in the superintendent’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan, to be presented May 12.
The concepts are a $174.6 million “base” plan with 1,795 seats and a $158.3 million “alternative” plan with 1,345 seats.
The project, which could be the most expensive the school system has undertaken, will provide a new home to the county’s only career and technical education center, while potentially relieving some capacity pressure on Arlington’s comprehensive high schools.
Plans haven’t been solidified for the existing, aging Career Center building.
School Board member Mary Kadera casted the only dissenting vote, wanting to delay the project from moving forward until after the CIP passes.
She pointed to the unknown cost of repurposing or demolishing the existing Career Center and pressed the Board to carefully consider the project’s effect on debt service and ability to fund other projects — concerns also expressed by some nearby residents.
“We owe it to ourselves and the community to make decisions about its future within the context of our overall needs,” she said. “What are the down sides to the delay I requested?”
Chair Barbara Kanninen, the most senior member of the School Board, later appeared to admonish Kadera, who is in her first year on the board.
“I want my board colleagues to recognize that when you join the School Board, you’re not a candidate anymore. You’re not a commenter on social media or on ARLnow,” Kanninen said. “You’re heard when you speak and when you take action… And we need to be so aware of that. When we take action, that school communities hear us not supporting them, it’s heartbreaking.”
The Career Project project has been delayed in the past after the board pushed forward with ideas that proved too costly.
“We mustn’t make the same mistake again,” Kadera said.
Kanninen said the project is affordable and will not affect the school system’s other priorities.
“Everything that we had slated… everything we have on our list, infrastructure projects, HVAC, it is all already in this current three-year CIP,” Kanninen said. “We got this project in and there is still debt capacity and there is still $34 million in capital reserves.”
Kanninen added that if a more urgent project was introduced during the CIP process, APS can always adjust.
“The bottom line is we have this doubly verified number, we’ve never had this before, for this Career Center project going into the CIP,” she said. “We are solid with this number. We know what it is. We can work with it.”
Kanninen and the other two “yes” votes on the board — Vice Chair Reid Goldstein was not at the meeting — emphasized their commitment to building a new Career Center.
“For us to suddenly come back now and decide that we’re not going to do that would be irresponsible,” said Cristina Diaz-Torres.
(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) Plans are taking shape to rebuild the Arlington Career Center with improved amenities and, potentially, an additional 450 seats.
And it seems Arlington Public Schools is proposing a novel use for those seats: a middle school component to the Arlington Tech project-based learning program.
The idea appeared to elicit surprise from some Arlington School Board members, who requested to see this idea fleshed out more before they voted on it. The board is set to pick between two concepts for the Career Center project, only one of which proposes the additional seats, during its meeting on April 28.
Board Vice-Chair Reid Goldstein said using the seats for a middle school component “[puts] the cart before the horse.”
“There’s been no decision that a middle school component is decided and going to take place or appropriate,” he said.
School Board member Mary Kadera said she needed to see “a robust evaluation” of the program before deciding to create a middle school program.
“Before we talk about expanding a program, I want to make sure the program is actually delivering on what it promises to offer,” she said.
Although the idea of a middle school appears new, plans to add 450 seats to the Career Center date back to the fall, when the School Board directed APS staff to flesh out two designs: a “base” plan with the additional seats and an “alternative” plan without them.
The only other difference between the plans is the cost: the added seats raise project costs from $158.2 million to $174.6 million. Both those estimates are $4 to $5 million higher than initial projections back in October, due to higher construction costs.
Board Chair Barbara Kanninen reminded the School Board members that the designs reflect the Board’s direction to come up with plans that meet, or nearly meet, its requirements to spend about $170 million and complete the project by 2027.
“I think it’s important for us, and the community, to recognize what’s been approved by the board and the question on the table,” she said. “It’s generally good practice for us to honor what’s been voted on in the past — otherwise, we end up with chaotic governance.”
Goldstein said he does not intend to further delay the project but added that the designs and cost estimates do not totally meet Board parameters.
“I need more insight into the future vision to know this is the right step,” he said.
Should the School Board accept one of the two designs during its meeting on April 28, the long-awaited project would still require the approval of voters via a School Bond referendum this November.
If that is approved, demolition could begin in the summer of 2023 and construction could start that December. The new building would be completed in 2025 and the entire project would be completed in April 2027.
Career Center renovations have progressed in fits and starts over the last decade. Most recently, a two-year planning effort to add 800 seats to the building ground to a halt in 2020 because estimates came in $84 million over budget.
Historically, the school has kept a menagerie of animals for students interested in pursuing careers in animal care and veterinary science, including a miniature horse, goats, cats, dogs, turtles and birds. Today, the program serves about 120 students.
Since the deaths of “Rocket” in 2021 and the miniature horse “Snickers” in 2020, however, Arlington Public Schools administrators have denied requests to adopt new large animals.
APS says this is because it is updating the Animal Science program as part of the planned renovations to the Career Center. Farm animals will no longer figure into the program because they are not required to teach the four courses that will be offered: Small Animal Care I and II and Veterinary Science I and II.
“We are in the planning process to modernize the Small Animal Science and Veterinary Science lab to ensure the lab mirrors local industry facilities,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said in a statement. “Students will continue to learn about and care for small animals in a modern lab that reflects industry-based standards and practices.”
The new space will feature improved work areas for students and staff and better housing, grooming stations and exam areas for animals, he said.
But students are petitioning APS and pleading with the School Board to keep large animals. A petition that started last year has regained steam and, as of this morning, has just shy of 2,600 signatures.
“The lack of farm animals would take away the experience that students would need to prepare them for going into college,” writes Washington-Liberty High School student Ellen Boling in the petition. “It could also lower the interest of incoming students in the course, which would result in fewer people to care for the animals.”
W-L senior Sean Bender-Prouty told the School Board in the fall that farm animals are critical for college readiness. He said the future Career Center redevelopment plans are hurting the students currently in the program.
“The potential loss of that space in the future is being used to deny students access to large animals now,” he said during the Oct. 14 meeting. “If you decide to redevelop the site and take away our green space, students may be permanently denied the opportunity to gain necessary experience with large animals.”
Bender-Prouty’s prediction has been a few years in the making. Officials have mulled ending the large animal component of the program since 2019, when it moved eight trailers onto the animals’ grazing space to accommodate an influx of students. This prompted APS to “reimagine that program for a more urban setting,” Bellavia said at the time.
The decision mystifies Animal Science instructor Scott Lockhart, who says large animals gain students entry to a job sector that is booming, given the shortage of large animal vets in the U.S.
“The number of jobs and pathways is being reduced tremendously,” Lockhart tells ARLnow. “We’ve always taken a wide view of animal sciences and now we’re reducing that to small animal care. It does have an impact on students and what we’re trying to prepare them for.”
Arlington Public Schools is ramping up planning work to build a new school and parking garage at the Arlington Career Center site.
A group tasked with developing the project from 2018-2020 has reconvened and will be working quickly to flesh out the project before the School Board reviews designs this spring.
Planning documents indicate APS envisions building a new, 5-story Career Center along S. Walter Reed Drive that would provide a modern space suited to the 21st-century career and technical skills taught inside.
APS is working on two plans: a “base” plan for a $170.5 million, 260,000-square-foot building for 1,795 students, and an “alternative” plan for a $153 million, 225,000-square-foot building for 1,345 students that is designed to accommodate a future expansion.
Building next to the current ACC building (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) will minimize disruptions and lower costs, according to APS administration.
“One of the things we learned through the last process is that building around an existing high school while the students are in there is cost-prohibitive,” said Lisa Stengle, the APS executive director of planning and evaluation, in a January planning meeting.
ACC houses college and career-readiness programs as well as programs that help recent immigrant students pursue their high school diploma and provide job training for special education students and support for teen parents.
In 2018, APS launched an expansion project to add up to 800 seats to the Career Center, and designs were being finalized in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic hit. The School Board removed the project from its 2021 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) because it was $84 million, and then $34 million, over budget.
At the time, the board told the school system to focus on smaller renovations to meet rising enrollment. Since then, completed renovations to the Columbia Pike Branch Library created more space for students, and APS is spending around $31 million to add more seats to the current ACC building over the next three years.
But now APS is looking to build once more. The School Board directed Superintendent Francisco Durán in October to add the project to the 2023-32 Capital Improvement Plan, set for approval in June. If approved, the project will go to voters in November as a School Bond referendum.
APS expects to start construction in December 2023 and finish the building in December 2025 and the entire project in 2027.
The graphic below shows how the site will change through the project. (The current ACC building is in light gray, the Columbia Pike library is in dark gray and the above-ground parking garage is in tan.)
Part of the current ACC building (indicated with red dashes) will be demolished to accommodate the above-ground, 400-space parking structure at S. Highland Street and 9th Street S.
The Columbia Pike Branch Library will remain where it is, as will the rest of the ACC building, which APS intends to use as a flexible space. Separately, APS is figuring out what to do with the building long term.
Shots Fired in Green Valley — “ACPD is investigating a shots fired incident in the 3200 block of 24th Street S. which occurred at approximately 8:14 p.m. No victims related to this incident have been located.” [ACPD, Twitter]
New Taco Ghost Kitchen — “Philadelphia-based Iron Chef alum Jose Garces is returning to DC with a delivery-only taco ghost kitchen, Buena Onda. The Baja-inspired taqueria, an offshoot of his brick-and-mortar Philly shop, will start running grilled fish tacos, guac, and “buena bowls” on Friday, September 24 from an Arlington kitchen.” [Washingtonian]
Another ACPD Departure — Adrienne Quigley, Arlington’s only female deputy police chief, retired from ACPD on Friday. Citing multiple sources, ARLnow previously reported that Quigley is expected to take a job at Amazon HQ2, amid an “exodus” from the department. [Twitter]
No APS Blue Ribbon Schools This Year — “One Fairfax County school was named among seven Virginia public schools honored as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, but the rest of Northern Virginia’s inner suburbs found themselves shut out… No Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church or Loudoun public schools made the grade this year, although one Prince William County public school – Mary G. Porter Traditional – was honored.” [Sun Gazette]
Officers Visit PEP Program — From ACPD: “Corporal Smithgall and Recruit Officer Divincenzo spoke with PEP Program students at the Arlington Career Center today and also had the opportunity to compete in a push-up challenge! PEP is a community based program for supported work experience, supported travel training, and independent living training.” [Facebook]
Bayou Bakery Owner Featured on CNBC — David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse, was featured on CNBC Thursday night for his Community Spoon initiative, which provides meals to Afghan refugees. Guas is a Cuban-American, whose father fled Cuba in the 1960s. This isn’t the first time local business owner has provided food to those in need; he previously provided meals to families in need during the pandemic and supplied meals to National Guard personnel at the Capitol earlier this year. [CNBC]
De Ferranti on WAMU’s Politics Hour – Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti was on “The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi” on Friday. In the 16 minute conversation, de Ferranti talked about the county’s new logo, schools, the shrinking police force, the newly-adapted bag tax, housing, and his hunger task force. He also fielded questions about the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, saying it was still premature to discuss, and the tightening Virginia governor’s race. The Board chair also revealed that he voted for Terry McAuliffe in the Democratic primary. [WAMU]
Outdoor movies are returning to Columbia Pike.
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization will be screening summer cinema from the Arlington Career Center parking lot starting this Saturday.
The group’s annual movie series, now in its 11th year, was held under the stars until the pandemic struck. Last summer, it decided to offer a drive-in movie theater experience instead, a format that the CPRO will be repeating this year.
Admission requires a donation to the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and registration in advance. Both can be done through forthcoming links in the neighborhood’s newsletter, which is sent out every Thursday. The event is being funded in part by Amazon and the Washington Forrest Foundation.
Showtime begins at sunset, between 8 and 8:30 p.m. depending on the evening. The movies are rated between G and PG-13 and the lineup ranges from dramas to animated films, and musicals to action flicks:
- July 3, 8:30 p.m.: La Misma Luna
- July 10, 8:30 p.m.: The Addams Family
- July 17, 8:30 p.m.: The Farewell
- July 24, 8:30 p.m.: Just Mercy
- July 31, 8:30 p.m.: Hairspray
- Aug. 7, 8:15 p.m.: Gojira
- Aug. 17, 8 p.m.: A League of Their Own
- Aug. 28, 8 p.m.: Raya and the Last Dragon
Each movie will be shown in English with Spanish subtitles.
The Arlington Career Center Parking lot can be accessed by entering on S. Walter Reed Drive, according to the event page. There will be no public bathrooms available at the facility while the film is shown.
Moviegoers can arrive up to one hour early to secure a spot for their vehicles, the event page said. A Kona Ice truck will be making shaved ice treats before the movie.
Photos courtesy of CPRO
Big Ballston Restaurant Opening Today — WHINO, a 150-seat restaurant, craft cocktail bar and art gallery, is set to open its doors at Ballston Quarter today. [ARLnow]
County Considering Green Valley Curfew — “No arrests yet, but Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz says police are making progress after a June 6 shoot-’em-up in the Green Valley neighborhood… The matter became the topic of discussion at the June 12 County Board meeting, when one neighbor called on county leaders to impose a curfew at dusk for the park and school area. County Board member Katie Cristol has asked staff to return with an opinion on whether such an approach would be legal.” [Sun Gazette]
Police Planning for ‘National Night Out’ — “The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) invites community members and organizations to celebrate outdoor National Night Out (NNO) events on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. NNO is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our communities safer and improve quality of life.” [Arlington County]
APS Animal-Science Program Dwindling — “I am an 11th-grader at Washington-Liberty High School and a technical-animal-science student at the Arlington Career Center. The animal-science program is at risk. The number of animals in the program has been dwindling for years. The program has not been permitted to replace the recently deceased miniature horse. Only one goat is left, and he’s 17. The sole surviving ferret, at nine, is living on borrowed time. However, the administration wants to cut our programs even more, taking away our only goat and our four chickens.” [Sun Gazette]
W-L Student’s Vax Effort Lauded — “Before graduation, McBride spent countless hours convincing her classmates to get vaccinated against COVID-19. ‘I was making sure if vaccines were available for some of my friends, they were going to be able to get it and access it,’ she said. ‘I was very compelled by the thought that I want to be able to see my friends in the future, I want to make sure my friends are healthy, and the community is healthy, and their family is healthy in the future.'” [WJLA]
Man Arrested for Columbia Pike Robbery — “The female victim was walking to her parked vehicle when she observed the suspect sitting near by. As she approached the vehicle, the suspect allegedly ran towards her with his arms outstretched and demanded money. The victim backed away and the suspect ran across the street and approached another victim in a similar manner. Arriving officers canvassed the area and located the suspect.” [ACPD]
Arlington Public Schools has asked nearly 6% of all staff who have reported in-person for work to stay home temporarily because they tested positive for COVID-19.
Among in-person students, the percentage who have been kept out of school after testing positive is 5%.
APS Superintendent Francisco Durán presented data on those excluded from school based on reported positive tests or contact with positive cases during the School Board meeting last night (Thursday). These new data, for the period from Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 21, 2021, come after weeks of teachers and staff asking for more transparency regarding coronavirus tests and exclusion rates.
“This year’s exclusion to date for in-person instruction is the most detailed information we can provide,” Durán said.
Durán assured School Board members that APS monitors for high concentrations of cases in a single building, though he declined to reveal building-level data.
APS meets with Arlington County Public Health Division twice weekly to go over case rates and cross-check numbers, APS Emergency Manager Zachary Pope said. Since COVID-19 is spreading through community transmission, he said it is hard to tell if it spreads inside or outside a school.
“The data provided by APS doesn’t answer the burning questions we all have: are our mitigation strategies actually working? Are our rates the same as or higher than community rates?” a Yorktown High School teacher said. “They have obscured the data by lumping together all staff.”
She said she wants APS to find the infection rate among in-person, student-facing staff.
Durán anticipates releasing more granular data after APS rolls out a new app for reporting health metrics. He anticipates it will be ready for teachers next week and for families later on.
Meanwhile, 192 students enrolled in select Career and Technical Education courses will be returning next week. Their teachers are already reporting to the Arlington Career Center building, Durán said.
Students will be split up into multiple groups to keep down the number of students on the bus and in the building, said Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Bridget Loft. All will have access to lunch.
More teachers are expected to return to their buildings for two days next week, but School Board member Reid Goldstein suggested holding off until community health statistics improve and more staff are vaccinated.
“Both those things are likely to be accomplished in likely not much longer,” he said. Nearly 1,800 APS employees received vaccine doses this past holiday weekend.
Goldstein and other School Board members recalled President Joe Biden’s call for unity as APS works to get everyone back in-person, while addressing online and emailed vitriol.
“I’m calling on everyone to stop this uncivil behavior,” he said, of anger on the part of both teachers and parents.
Meanwhile, both sides — parents who want in-person classes to resume, and teachers who want the opposite — have been holding demonstrations and protests.
This Saturday, a number of Arlington parents and students plan to participate in a public, outdoor event organized by Arlington Parents for Education. The group says it will “highlight calls from parents, teachers, concerned community members and most importantly students, in support of a safe-reopening of Arlington Public Schools.”
Last Saturday, about 85 cars, with more than 100 parents, school staff and students, rallied in favor of continued virtual learning. They honked horns and drove around the Washington-Liberty High School parking lot, advocating for improvements to ventilation, vaccinations for staff before they return, transparent infection data from APS, better accommodations for at-risk staff, outdoor-only lunches, and 100% masking indoors.
After months of uncertainty, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization announced that the group’s annual summer movie series would be converted into a new drive-in theater format.
“On Saturday nights throughout July and August, CPRO will be showing blockbuster hits on the big screen at the Arlington Career Center parking lot (816 S. Walter Reed Drive),” the organization said in a press release.
The movies are scheduled to start at sunset, sometime between 8-8:30 p.m.
The event will remain free and open to the public, but with limited space, participants will have to register in advance. Attendees will also be asked to remain in their vehicles during the movie. Public restrooms will not be available.
An area will be set aside for households without vehicles, which CPRO said can be identified on the registration form.
The lineup (below) is a fusion of the earlier schedule for movie nights at Arlington Mill and Penrose Square, now that the only screenings will be at the Career Center.
- July 11: Jurassic Park
- July 18: The Secret Life of Bees
- July 25: Twister
- August 1: Crazy Rich Asians
- August 8: Apollo 13
- August 15: Ready Player One
- August 22: Coco
- August 29: Mary Poppins Returns
“2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbia Pike Movie Nights and we had already hosted several rounds of voting to let the people pick this year’s line-up, so we were really eager to find a way to host the event safely,” CPRO Program Director Stephen Gregory Smith said in a press release. “So we worked with [Arlington Public Schools], libraries, and county staff to secure the Arlington Career Center parking lot and come up with a plan to allow everyone to still enjoy their favorite movies together — while still apart — this summer.”
Photo via CPRO
The Arlington County Board is set to consider a school expansion project that will involve changes to a local library.
Arlington Public Schools is requesting a use permit to add 150 seats to its Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center. It’s the prelude to a larger expansion project for the facility at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive, which would add 800 new high school seats and a 200,000 square foot addition by 2025.
The current project would add the new student capacity — bringing the total Arlington Tech seats from 350 to 500 — via interior changes, namely the use of what is currently the second floor of the Columbia Pike Branch Library. The library, in turn, would be modernized consolidated on the first floor of the building.
“Both floors of the existing Columbia Pike Branch Library will be renovated, with the second floor converted to classroom space for APS use during school hours and County use outside school hours,” a county staff report says. “There are no proposed changes to the façade of the building.”
If approved, Construction is expected to kick off in July or August and run through late fall. The library would be closed for 3-4 months, prompting some concerns from nearby residents.
“The Arlington Heights Civic Association expressed their concerns regarding the closure of the library during the renovations,” the staff report notes. “Residents will be able to access other full-service libraries to use the same services offered at this location, including the Shirlington, Aurora Hills and Glencarlyn branches, as well as the use of public computers at the nearby Walter Reed Community Center.”
The item at the end of the agenda for the Board’s meeting this coming Saturday.
More from the county staff report:
The Board will consider Arlington Public Schools’ request for an amendment to its Use Permit for the Arlington Career Center, located at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive. If approved, the amendment would allow APS to add 150 seats for the Arlington Tech high school program through interior renovations that would include renovating both floors of the Columbia Pike Branch Library. The number of seats at the Career Center would be increased from 800 to 950. The plan calls for converting the library’s second floor to classroom space during school hours and County use outside school hours. The modernized library would be consolidated on the first floor. During the anticipated three to four months of renovations, the library would be closed. If the plan is approved, APS expects to begin construction in July or August 2020 and finish in late fall. To read the staff report, scroll to Item No. 34. on the agenda.
As a result of the renovations, the total ACC building capacity will increase from 800 seats to 950 seats. With its existing functions consolidated to the first floor, the library will be modernized with new technology, furniture, and equipment that improves the delivery of current resources and programs. During the renovations, which are anticipated to last for approximately three (3) to four (4) months, the library and its programs and services will be closed. Due to financial costs and the short-term nature of the closure, there are no plans to set up a temporary library location. However, residents will be able to access other full-service libraries to use the same services provided at this branch, including the Shirlington, Aurora Hills and Glencarlyn branches, as well as the use of public computers at the nearby Walter Reed Community Center.
While the renovations were initially intended to occur during the 2020 summer break and completed in time for the 2020-21 school year, due to the uncertainty related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) the planned renovations have been delayed with an anticipated construction start date of July/August 2020. APS intends to proceed with the renovations as soon as reasonable in coordination with pandemic recovery. In the interim, to accommodate the growing enrollment at Arlington Tech, APS is pursuing alternatives over the 2020 summer break to increase seat capacity including minor interior renovations to add a new science lab and rightsize existing classrooms, as well as the temporary installation of eight (8) additional relocatables on the existing parking lot.
Students: Keep the Career Center’s Farm Animals — “A staff proposal to revamp the animal-science program at the Arlington Career Center, including the removal of on-site large non-domesticated animals, is drawing brushback. The proposal calls for focusing more on smaller, domestic animals at the expense of farm animals, which have been part of the program for years and have come to be a beloved part of the Career Center family.” [InsideNova]
NBC 4 Profiles ACFD Mass Shooter Plan — “The Arlington County Fire Department is leading a national shift in how rescue squads respond to mass shootings.” Arlington fire trucks are now equipped with bulletproof vests and personnel are trained to treat victims as soon as possible. [NBC 4]
Arlington Rent on Par with D.C. — “The District and Arlington County are virtually tied for average apartment rent, at $2,233 and $2,236 respectively. Rents in D.C. and Arlington County are both up 4.3% in the last year.” [WTOP]
Local Tech Firm Not Meeting Job Hype, Yet — “Blockchain software developer Block.one promised in September to add 170 jobs in Arlington over three years, so we’re checking in on where its local employee numbers stand. Out of the 231 employees the company has listed on LinkedIn, 24 are now located in the D.C. area.” [Washington Business Journal]
How One Young Resident Affords Housing Here — “In 2013, [Mallory Scott] and one roommate moved into a three-bedroom, World War II-era Arlington house where the monthly mortgage and property taxes totaled $1,200. She had a connection that helped her find the place: Her parents, who now live in Nevada, purchased the home in 1991 for $190,000 when the Army assigned Scott’s father to Arlington. Today, it’s worth roughly $800,000.” [WAMU]
Neighborhood Near Clarendon Profiled — “Lyon Village is a chic, charming neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, that resides regally just across the river from Washington, D.C. The 191-acre community of 6,000 residents, which was established in the mid-1920s by developer Frank Lyon for whom it is named, still retains a small-town, good-to-see-you feel yet offers access to all the cultural activities and amenities of the nation’s capital.” [Mansion Global]