(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) With the notable exception of Barcroft Elementary, which opened on Aug. 1, today was the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools students.
Kids and parents flocked back to local elementary, middle and high schools this morning, as the APS bus fleet traversed local roads. There were no major hiccups reported, save perhaps a fire alarm that was set off in the teacher’s lounge of Taylor Elementary around 10 a.m. (No smoke or fire was found.)
This morning at Abingdon Elementary, which is being renovated and expanded, students were greeted by a number of newly-installed relocatable classroom trailers on the field next to the school. Several Arlington County police officers were stationed at the intersection of 29th Street S. and S. Abingdon Street, to help keep cars moving amid a new traffic pattern for dropping off students.
At Carlin Springs Elementary, meanwhile, administrators literally rolled out a red carpet for new and returning students. At the new Arlington Tech, the program’s first 40 students arrived and began classes. At the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, upperclassmen formed tunnels for freshman students on their first day.
Arlington County Police and APS are urging drivers to be extra cautious on the roads as school gets back underway.
ACPD and APS officials, School Board members and school administrators were busy ringing in the first day of school on Twitter this morning. More back-to-school tweets, after the jump.
Two Carlin Springs Elementary School staff members have created a new book series to help kids learn U.S. geography.
Gretchen Schuyler Brenckle and Kathryn Belcher Frazier recently released “A Cat Named Denali: An Outer Banks Adventure,” the first book in the series. In the children’s book, Denali goes on adventures while traveling with her family and learns fun facts about the United States, according to the book’s summary.
Brenckle, a counselor at Carlin Springs, wrote the story, and Frazier, a third grade teacher at Carlin Springs, illustrated the book. Brenckle said that she was inspired to write the book to give kids a fun way to learn geography.
“I am so excited to help children of all ages learn more about our country with Denali the Cat, who is on the adventure of a lifetime as she travels with her family, meeting new friends and learning fun facts about the United States,” she said in a press releases.
Frazier added: “Though I always remind my students not to judge a book by its cover, I hope these illustrations will entice and encourage young readers everywhere.”
Both Brenckle and Frazier live in Arlington and are Yorktown High School graduates.
“A Cat Named Denali: An Outer Banks Adventure” is available for purchase on Amazon or at Barnes and Nobles and Books A Million. The book costs $14.95.
Memorial Bridge Repairs Starting Soon — Temporary repairs to the Arlington Memorial Bridge are expected to begin later this month. The repairs are expected to take six months and will allow the closed lanes on the bridge to reopen. [Washington Post]
Stratford School Historic Designation Meetings — The Arlington School Board held a work session last night and is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Thursday regarding a possible historic designation for the Stratford Junior High School building. The building currently houses the H-B Woodlawn secondary program, but is slated to be renovated back into a community middle school. Superintendent Patrick Murphy is recommending the School Board defer action on a historic designation until later. [Preservation Arlington, InsideNova]
Big Test Score Jump at Elementary School — Good news about Carlin Springs Elementary, which has a largely Hispanic and low-income student body and has struggled with standardized tests in the past: “Some grades… had double-digit increases in their state test passage rates after a concerted effort to prepare disadvantaged students for the exams and closely track student performance on practice tests.” [Washington Post]
Marine Corps Marathon Security — The 40th Marine Corps Marathon is two and a half months away, but local police departments are already gearing up for it. The event requires tight coordination among law enforcement agencies, including the Arlington County Police Department. [ESPN]
Dems Debate in Ballston — The six Democratic candidates for County Board faced off in their first debate last night, before a standing-room only crowd at the NRECA conference center in Ballston. The debate was held by Arlington Young Democrats. Though knowledgable about current issues facing Arlington, candidates were light on specifics about what should be done to address those issues. [InsideNova]
Disruption Corp. Sold to 1776 — Disruption Corp., the Crystal City-based tech investment fund and office space, has been acquired by D.C.-based tech incubator 1776. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. [Washington Post]
Caps Pep Rally at Elementary School — Third grade students at Carlin Springs Elementary School have won a contest to bring a Washington Capitals playoff pep rally to their school today. The rally will start at 12:30 p.m. “There won’t likely be any players, but it will be a great time for all,” a teacher tells ARLnow.com. “The kids will be getting prizes, pictures with Slapshot (the Caps’ mascot) and learning some hockey skills. The Caps are also donating equipment to the school.” [Washington Capitals]
Artisphere ‘Doomed from the Start’ — Artisphere, which is on the budgetary chopping block next week, was “doomed from the start,” according to the artistic director of a theatre company that was booted out of its space at the cultural center two years after it opened. An anonymous Artisphere employee said of the early, over-optimistic attendance and revenue projections: “All of those numbers were so completely false.” [Washington Post]
McAuliffe Signs Special Needs Bill in Arlington — On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Arlington to sign the ABLE Act, which will allow individuals with special needs, and their families, to set up tax-exempt accounts that will allow them to save for future living expenses. Virginia is the first state to enact such legislation, which received the blessing of the U.S. Congress in December. [WJLA]
Security of Va. Voting Machines Blasted — The touch screen voting machines now being replaced in Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia were “so easy to hack, it will take your breath away,” according to reports. [Ars Technica, The Guardian]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Despite voters approving $4.5 million in design costs for the school in a 2012 referendum, the Board is looking at diverting that investment to prepare for middle school overcrowding in the coming years, which is projected to be more serious than the capacity issues in elementary schools.
School Board Chair Abby Raphael, in a letter sent to parents and community members who have inquired about the issue, says its updated projections call for elementary schools in Arlington to be 3 percent over capacity in FY 2019, while middle schools are projected to be 16 percent over capacity in the same time period.
Raphael also referenced the objections from Glencarlyn residents from 2012 as a reason to re-evaluate building the school in the neighborhood, saying “the community raised significant concerns about the traffic and transportation issues” surrounding a new, 600-seat school in the area.
APS is revisiting the plan in advance of their next Capital Improvements Program for FY 2015-2024, which will be adopted in June. Raphael wrote that no decisions have been reached on what schools to build, if any, or if the School Board elects to construct additions onto existing schools.
Civic activist Monique O’Grady is trying to organize a campaign against the apparent backpedal. O’Grady said she’s disappointed that APS is considering abandoning its plans.
“The numbers still show that south Arlington will face more than an elementary school’s worth of overcrowding, so I believe the plan should move forward,” she wrote in an email. “I believe middle school should be addressed, but it shouldn’t come at a cost of 770 South Arlington elementary students being in trailers and with yet-to-be-mentioned programs being moved.”
O’Grady said the school should still be built while APS comes up with creative, cost-effective solutions to address anticipated middle school overcrowding.
“I worry that increased development in South Arlington, especially of apartment buildings and condos, will result in more students than currently projected and that South Arlington schools will become even more crowded than anticipated,” she said. “This is not a time to pull back from researched, planned and approved permanent elementary capacity in South Arlington. I think it is important for the South Arlington community to stand up and ask the school board not to turn South Arlington into a trailer park.”
APS acknowledges it does not have the finances to build capacity to accommodate 100 percent of the projected growth. No matter what comes out of the CIP, trailers will still be used as classrooms. The elementary school in Glencarlyn was originally slated to open in 2017.
VA Senate Panel Advances “Love Shack” Bill — A state Senate panel unanimously advanced a bill proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) that would repeal the Virginia law making it illegal for unmarried couples to live together. Currently, cohabitation by unmarried couples is a misdemeanor under the law, which went into effect in 1877. [Washington Post]
Board Accepts Grant to Fight Childhood Obesity — The County Board has accepted a state grant worth $25,000 to fund a Healthy Meals for Healthy Families program at Carlin Springs Elementary School, intended to fight childhood obesity. The program will include weekly hands-on classes in healthy food preparation and healthy eating for at-risk third, fourth and fifth graders and their families. “[The grant] will fund a program at Carlin Springs Elementary that will not only educate our children and families – but ultimately change behaviors to promote life-long healthy eating and healthy living,” said Board Chairman Walter Tejada. [Arlington County]
APS Makes EPA’s Green Power Purchasers List — Arlington Public Schools has come in at number five on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the Top 20 K-12 green power purchasers. APS meets six percent of its electricity use by purchasing more than 3,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power each year. “Utilizing green power helps us become more sustainable, while also sending a message to others across the U.S. that supporting clean sources of electricity is a sound business decision and an important choice in reducing climate risk,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy. “Most importantly, this conveys to our students the important role and responsibility that all of us have in safeguarding our environment today and in the future.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Board Promises to Hear PenPlace Concerns — At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board assured concerned residents that their voices will be heard in regards to the proposed PenPlace development. Board member Chris Zimmerman refuted claims by opponents that there wouldn’t be a serious review of the Pentagon City project. The plan involves developing 10 acres of mostly vacant land into a complex of 12 to 22 story buildings. [Sun Gazette]
To address school capacity issues, Arlington Public Schools is planning to build a number of new schools, including a new 600-seat “choice” elementary school on the site of the existing Kenmore Middle School/Carlin Springs Elementary School campus.
The Citizens’ Association says the new school, slated to be built by 2017, would bring the total number of students attending schools in the Glencarlyn neighborhood to 2,600, including at Kenmore, Carlin Springs and nearby Campbell Elementary School. That, the association says, presents major traffic, parking and open space issues that will degrade the quality of life for residents.
The association is asking for the County Board’s help after not getting a satisfactory response from the School Board.
“We have tried to raise our concerns with the School Board, but our community was not consulted during the planning process, despite our requests that it do so, nor has it been responsive to our questions and concerns,” Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association President Peter Olivere wrote in a letter to the County Board (after the jump). “We need your help.”
Olivere told reporters that Glencarlyn residents do not want to be portrayed as having a “Not-In-My-Backyard” attitude.
“Please, we very much do not want to be categorized as NIMBY; we only want a process which fully addresses the community concerns before a final decision is made, which is the ‘Arlington Way,'” he wrote.
As previously reported, Arlington Public Schools is facing a significant capacity crunch. The school system is expected to reach capacity at the elementary school level by next fall. The new choice school in Glencarlyn is one of five proposed new capacity-generating construction projects throughout the county.
The full letter from the Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association, after the jump.
Residents of Glencarlyn already have two schools in their neighborhood — Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School — but they say a proposal to add a third school to the existing campus, part of the plan to address the capacity crisis at Arlington Public Schools, goes too far.
In a letter sent to the Arlington School Board yesterday, the Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association asks the board to consider alternative sites for the proposed 600 students capacity magnet elementary school. The association cites concerns about “traffic, safety, parking and loss of [an] important recreational area” as reasons why the school shouldn’t be built or, at the very least, should be built in a way that minimizes negative impacts.
Along with the letter to the school board, Glencarlyn Citizens’ Association president Peter Olivere sent a letter to the editors of ARLnow.com, the Arlington Mercury and the Sun Gazette.
The Glencarlyn community is very concerned about the process and potential adverse consequences of the Arlington Public School’s (APS) Capacity Planning Process. The process appears to be driven by the APS’s desire to identify specific construction projects prior to placing a bond referendum before the public in November 2012. At the beginning of the Capacity Planning Process, the School Board committed to including the effect on Neighborhood Resources as a criteria for site selection. To date, the process has effectively excluded the affected neighborhoods from participation. The result is that APS has failed to incorporate the impact on neighborhoods in any meaningful way.
The School Board needs to recognize that the construction of new schools will have a significantly larger community impact than the replacement or expansion of an existing building. Given APS’s experience with late and costly modifications to approved capital improvement plans and past criticism of its ability to address legitimate concerns raised by affected communities, Glencarlyn believes the not including neighborhood input prior to deciding locations will undermine public support and confidence in APS’s ability to address future capacity needs.
Glencarlyn is requesting the School Board to refrain from selecting new school sites until additional alternatives have been considered and outreach efforts with the affected communities have resulted in plans to mitigate major concerns. For the Glencarlyn community the major concerns are traffic, safety, parking and loss of important recreational area. We believe there is adequate precedent for the Board to proceed with a bond referendum without tying it to site specific capital improvements.
The Arlington Montessori Action Committee (AMAC), a six year old group of parents and educators, has launched a campaign to convince Arlington Public Schools to build a brand new school devoted to Montessori education.
As part of its ongoing capacity planning process, APS has been narrowing down its options for keeping up with rising enrollment at schools countywide. The options for adding capacity include building new schools and making additions to existing schools.
Montessori advocates have seized upon an APS proposal to build a new PreK-8 countywide magnet school between Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School. AMAC says the school would be ideal for a central Montessori “choice” program, hosting between 600 and 750 Montessori students either from PreK-5 or PreK-8. Currently, there are almost 600 PreK-8 students in 31 Montessori classrooms at schools across Arlington, with hundreds more on waiting lists, according to AMAC.
By drawing Montessori students away from already-crowded schools, the new Montessori choice school could efficiently help mitigate the school system’s looming capacity crisis, AMAC says. The group created a PowerPoint presentation to make their case.
In addition to helping relieve the capacity crunch, advocates say Montessori programs have educational benefits. AMAC cites the county-wide Montessori program at Drew Model Elementary as proof that a Montessori education can “[close] the achievement gap for minority students.”
(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) Fairfax and Arlington County police are investigating an attempted armed robbery that took place within the past hour on the 3100 block of S. Manchester Street, on the Fairfax/Arlington border.
A man reportedly attempted to rob a small store while displaying some sort of a weapon, initially said to be a gun but possibly a pipe.
The search for the suspect has now been called off. Earlier, Fairfax County police were using a police dog and a helicopter to try to track the suspect. Arlington police, meanwhile, searched the area around nearby Kenmore Middle School and Carlin Springs Elementary School.
During the search the schools locked all external doors and were not allowing anybody to go outside, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.