Arlington’s Head Start program for low-income families could be getting a new home under a plan before the Arlington County Board this weekend.
Head Start, which provides early childhood education, health and nutrition services to low-income families, could be forced from its current building at 1800 N. George Mason Drive as early as next August. It currently leases space at the Edison Complex that previously housed behavioral health care offices in the county’s Department of Human Services.
The move is part of the terms of the county’s planned exchange of the Edison property for the Virginia Hospital Center site at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road, a plan endorsed by the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission.
County staff proposed the program move to a 15,649-square-foot space at 2920 S. Glebe Road, which would be bought by the county for just over $3.8 million and leased to Northern Virginia Family Service, which was selected by the federal government to run the Head Start program in Arlington.
County staff noted in its report on the plan that the price tag is higher than the $2.4 million that the property is appraised at, but the owner, GCP South Glebe LLC, is “unwilling to accept less than the $3.885 million purchase price.”
Staff projected it would then cost another $6.6 million to build out the property for use by Head Start, and construction would take a year and a half.
In recommending buying the building, staff said it is big enough for Head Start, is located close enough to the majority of families who participate in Head Start and has enough parking, among other positives.
In their report, staff noted the problems the county faces in finding facilities for daycare use, including the need for parking, an outdoor play area and a pick-up/drop-off zone for cars and other vehicles. They added that office buildings are expensive to lease and are “typically not good fits” for daycares.
The county is set to explore ways to add new child care options under the FY 2018 budget, including a full-time employee being charged with suggesting changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.
Photo via Google Maps
Traffic Lights Dark in Rosslyn — Due to power outages, several traffic signals at busy intersections in Rosslyn were dark during the morning rush hour. Police were stretched for resources as they tried to direct traffic and deal with wind-related issues elsewhere in the county. [Twitter, Twitter]
Arlington’s Child Care Shortage — “In Arlington, Virginia, Erika Gibson, child care supervisor for the Arlington County Department of Human Services, said most of the county’s 50 licensed care centers have waiting lists for children under 2.” [WTOP]
Grocery Association Coming to Rosslyn — On the heels of food and beverage giant Nestle’s announcement that it is moving to Rosslyn, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has announced it is going to move from D.C. to Rosslyn, leasing 34,000 square feet at 1001 19th Street N. [Washington Business Journal]
New 2017 Commission Chairs — The Arlington County Board has approved the new 2017 chairs of more than a dozen county commissions and boards. [InsideNova]
Obit: Bill Hurd, Jr. — Arlington resident Bill Hurd, Jr. died Jan. 27 at the age of 66 after “aggressive battle with prostate cancer.” The last decade of Hurd’s life was eventful: his first wife died in 2010, shortly after they moved to her hometown in Minnesota. He became active in the community there and was elected mayor. A native of Northern Virginia and a fan of politics, sports, cigars, dogs and Texas Hold’em poker, Hurd later remarried and in 2015 moved back to Arlington. [Legacy]
Updated at 12:45 p.m. — The Arlington County Human Rights Commission contacted Crabb and Johnson minutes ago about their appeal, informing them that reasonable grounds do exist to support allegations of discrimination based on gender. The written decision notes that the “no long dresses” policy is not specific and there are “at least twenty-seven images” on the daycare’s website of girls wearing dresses, including some of similar lengths to the boy’s dress. The commission notes that the boy is the only child who has been disciplined over the policy and that Crabb and Johnson received no warnings or reminders about their son’s dress length. The commission says evidence indicates the boy was expelled as retaliation for his parents speaking up about their child’s dress being removed. The Arlington County Human Rights Commission’s Executive Director has been authorized to initiate “conciliation efforts” between the parties.
Earlier: An Arlington couple is accusing a local daycare of discrimination, saying their young son was kicked out for wearing a dress.
Kristen Johnson and Robin Crabb say their son had been wearing a dress to his daycare, the Arlington Children’s Center near Rosslyn, for several weeks when trouble suddenly broke out in November 2015. Arlington Children’s Center has not responded to ARLnow’s multiple requests for comment, but Johnson and Crabb shared their recollection of the events.
Johnson says last year she went to pick up her then-three-year-old son from daycare when she noticed he was not wearing his dress — which was in the style of Elsa’s dress in the animated movie “Frozen” — over his pants and shirt, as he had been when he was dropped off that morning. When her son said the dress had been taken off of him, Johnson questioned daycare employees about why that had happened.
At first she thought perhaps her son had gotten the dress dirty and staff therefore had to remove it. But staff told Johnson that the daycare center’s owner saw the boy wearing the dress and instructed staff to take it off.
“A teacher said [the owner] was irate when she saw my son wearing a dress,” Johnson says. “My son was essentially kicked out because he was wearing dress.”
She points out that although the boy had been wearing a shirt and pants under the dress because it was cold outside, the dress reportedly was taken off of him in front of the other children at the daycare.
“I said no one should take my son’s clothes off until they talk to my husband or myself first,” Johnson says.
An employee reportedly returned the dress to Johnson in a plastic bag but did not provide any additional information. Johnson requested to speak with the owner and staff said the owner would call her. Johnson says although she became angry at the lack of answers to her repeated questions about why the dress had been removed, she realized she wasn’t making progress and left the daycare without becoming disruptive.
Johnson says once she got home she called the daycare and spoke with the director. She recalls that the director also did not answer questions about the dress removal and told Johnson she would have to speak with the daycare’s owner. Johnson admits becoming frustrated at that point and hanging up on the director. “It was not my best moment, but I did it,” she says.
She received a call from the owner shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly became “animated,” according to Johnson and her husband, Crabb, who joined the call when Johnson grew agitated. The couple repeatedly asked the owner if she instructed staff to remove the dress just because it was on a boy. The owner repeatedly stated that the center had a policy against long dresses for safety reasons. But Crabb believes the owner’s animated response to the questions indicates otherwise.
“If somebody violates a policy against long dresses, you don’t have an emotional reaction like that. You just say they’re not allowed to,” he says.
After more discussion about the long dress policy, the owner reportedly told the couple not to bring their son to the daycare again or employees would call police. The owner told the couple that the boy was expelled because of Johnson’s interactions with staff after discovering the dress had been removed.
Johnson says the expulsion is unjustified on those grounds because she was not inappropriate or aggressive with anyone, other than hanging up on the one employee. She says parents and staff who witnessed her at the daycare center on the day of the dress removal have attested to her appropriate behavior during the incident.
Although the daycare does indeed have a “no long dresses” rule, Crabb and Johnson say, they had never been warned that their son was violating the policy prior to this incident. Additionally, they say that the vague rule does not even state exactly where on a child’s body dresses are allowed to reach or what constitutes a violation.
The boy received the dress as a hand-me-down gift from one of the girls at the daycare. She reportedly had worn the dress at the center on more than one occasion without any repercussions. In fact, the girl was wearing the dress in a photo featured on the daycare’s website (above left).
Crabb and Johnson point out that the dress was longer on the girl than it was on their son; it reached nearly to the girl’s ankles but only mid-calf on the boy (above right). They say other girls also wore dresses longer than their son’s without reprimand, as seen in another photo from the center’s website (below right).
Crabb and Johnson are certain their son was discriminated against for wearing non-gender conforming clothing and took their case to the Arlington County Human Rights Commission earlier this year. The commission investigated the case but did not rule in Crabb and Johnson’s favor.
A spokesperson for the Arlington County Office of Human Rights told ARLnow that all matters it investigates are confidential and it will not discuss them with anyone except the parties directly involved.
The commission’s ruling in the discrimination case was based on a number of factors, according to its final written report. One factor is that the parents did not inform the daycare that their son might have a “gender identity issue.” The commission also decided the dress in question was not related to his gender identity because it is a “costume dress,” and it cited insufficient evidence that the boy wore dresses outside of daycare.
The incident happened around 2:45 a.m. Monday. Police say a man wearing a brown coat and a backpack broke into the Rosslyn Children’s Center (RCC), at 1401 Wilson Blvd, and stole two laptops and a hard drive.
From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
BURGLARY, 151026013, 1400 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 2:45 a.m. on October 26, an unknown subject(s) entered the Rosslyn Children’s Center and stole two laptops and an external drive. The suspect is described as a male wearing a brown coat and backpack at the time of the incident.
RCC was in the news two weeks ago for its plan to move to a new location in Rosslyn.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump.
STEM Preschool was approved by the Arlington County Board last night for a use permit at 3120 S. Abingdon Street, in the 74-year-old building once occupied by Frosty’s Heating and Cooling, next to Fire Station 7.
“We have a need in our community for daycare, for childcare,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said before the Board unanimously approved the application. “As we get more families, day care is a really important service to provide. I think this is going to be a great addition to the Fairlington community.”
The preschool is owned by Portia Moore, who owns P&E Babysitting, a service that caters largely to North Arlington families and has a five-star rating on Yelp. Moore started the babysitting business while she was a teacher for Arlington Public Schools. She taught for three yeas at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, one at Swanson Middle School and one at Patrick Henry Elementary School, in the preschool program.
Moore said she wanted to start a preschool focused on STEM education ever since she was getting her master’s degree from Marymount University and visited the elementary school programs at Ft. Belvoir.
“They have an amazing program there, with interactive labs with kindergarteners,” Moore told ARLnow.com this morning. “It was hands on, not just reading off the board. The children would learn through touching things and labs. It was interesting to me, and I thought younger kids could learn just like that.”
Moore said that there will be about 11 staff members trained in early STEM education, including a director with a master’s degree in early childhood education. She won’t be closing the babysitting business — “I think my clients would kill me,” she said — and she had hoped to be closer to her clientele, but said she fell in love with the space.
“There’s an outdoor play area in the back, and a lot of places in Arlington don’t have any land for that,” she said. As a requirement of her use permit, county staff mandated that the playground Moore plans to build is fenced in for the children’s safety.
Inside the school, there will be hands on activities to get the children to engage in STEM education, like plants, a butterfly garden to observe an insect’s life cycle and a “water table” to observe the phases of water. “Everything will be integrated,” Moore said, “the kids won’t just be doing science during science time, there will be math components, too.”
Now that the permit is approved, Moore said only building permits are left before construction can begin. She estimates the school will open on Jan. 20, the day after Martin Luther King Day. The center plans to operate 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. There are 15 parking spaces in the lot, but staff approved the site, pointing out nearby street parking is readily available for staff to use.
Photo via Google Maps
Yet another caregiver at a daycare center on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall has been charged with abusing children.
Va Nessa Taylor, 47, or Temple Hills, Md. has been charged with misdemeanor assault after military investigators found that she allegedly hit, pushed and withheld food from children between the ages of 18 months and two years. From a Department of Justice press release:
On Jan. 29, 2014, a CDC employee reported to a supervisor that Taylor had been observed withholding food from a two-year-old child during the facility’s lunch period. After this conduct was reported, officials investigated the allegations and conducted a thorough review of surveillance footage within the CDC. That investigation ultimately revealed four instances in which Taylor allegedly assaulted four children within her care by hitting and pushing the children. The children ranged in ages from 18 months to two years, and the observed conduct occurred from Nov. 26, 2013 to Jan. 29, 2014.
Based on the investigation, Taylor’s conduct did not appear to result in sustained physical injury to the children. Taylor was removed from her duties of supervising children on Jan. 30, 2014, immediately after her conduct was reported to the relevant authorities at JBM-HH.
The alleged assault happened at the Cody Child Development Center, the military’s largest daycare center, which serves the children of military and civilian families that work at the Pentagon, Myer-Henderson Hall and Ft. McNair.
It’s the third such incident of alleged abuse at the base in two years.
In October 2012 three childcare workers were charged with multiple counts of assault. In December 2012, nearly three dozen workers childcare workers were suspended after background checks revealed past criminal charges. In February 2013 the Cody CDC lost its accreditation after another childcare worker was accused of abuse after allegedly being observed hitting a child with a cushion.
Located at 3650 S. Glebe Road, Melody Tavern was a bar/restaurant that hosted live music. It closed in October 2012 after 10 months in business.
The space is now being renovated and will become the new location of the Crystal City Children’s Center. The parent-run cooperative child care center opened in 1987 and is currently located at 1900 S. Eads Street.
The new location will allow Crystal City Children’s Center to expand from 64 to 108 children, according to Luellen Matthews, director of the center. Among other features of the new center will be a state-of-the-art secure entryway, she said. Workers could be seen yesterday taking down old Melody Tavern signs and replacing them with Children’s Center signs.
“We expect to re-locate by late October,” Matthews told ARLnow.com.
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
As ARLnow.com reported last week after an enormous public outcry, the Arlington County Board has decided not to accept a proposal by the Arlington County Manager to save roughly $250,000 annually by cutting the additional staff Arlington needs to enforce stricter child care standards for Arlington childcare facilities.
What prompted the County Manager to make this proposal in the first place? What are the most important lessons to be learned from this experience?
The County Manager made this proposal because she was instructed last November to make recommendations for cuts in the County’s operating budget that added up to one half of the then estimated $50 million shortfall in the budget. She was looking for ways to cut about $25 million out of the operating budget. This proposed $250,000 cut represented only one percent of the savings she was trying to achieve, yet she proposed the cut anyway.
I believe the County Manager made this recommendation in good faith because it was her way of trying to cope with the lack of willingness by the County Board to reduce or eliminate the huge expenses associated with financing projects like the Artisphere, the Aquatic Center, and the Clarendon dog park. With those projects and others like them “off the table”, the Manager was forced to reach out for a relatively small projected saving in an area like this.
The many Arlington consumers of child care services revolted and shone a light on the risks of gutting Arlington’s child care guidelines. But, those risks were well known, or certainly should have been well known, beforehand.
This $250,000 skirmish over childcare guidelines is just a taste of much more dire cuts to Arlington’s social safety net that are in the offing in future battles over the FY 15, 16, and 17 budgets unless the County Board fundamentally alters its current trajectory of layering one overly-costly capital project after another onto a budget beset by revenue shortfalls due to the flat commercial real estate sector of Arlington’s economy.
Claims that some of these capital projects, like the Columbia Pike streetcar, don’t impact Arlington’s operating budget because they are funded by a “special surtax on commercial property that can only be used for transportation”, are just plain wrong. These supposedly special capital projects do indeed affect Arlington’s operating budget adversely. There is “no such thing as a free lunch.”
The same commercial property owners who pay this special transportation surtax also pay the regular real estate tax that funds the bulk of Arlington’s operating budget. If the Board continues to impose this special transportation surtax at the maximum rate, while also continuing to raise the regular real estate tax rate that directly funds the operating budget, these commercial property owners will pass these costs on to Arlington consumers of their products or services, or they will move to greener pastures in Tysons.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
The recommendation, one of numerous spending cuts in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget, was met with controversy. Hundreds of parents and residents signed a petition against the elimination of Arlington Child Care Office, which would have turned inspections over to the state and resulted in more lax oversight.
The county issued the following press release about the Board’s decision tonight.
Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada today said that the County will continue its inspections of childcare centers and family childcare homes and will continue to train providers. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had recommended in her Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget that the County eliminate childcare inspections and provider training.
“The Board is committed to maintaining Arlington’s inspections of childcare facilities and training for providers,” Tejada said. “Although most localities in Virginia rely on the State alone to conduct inspections of childcare facilities, Arlington has, for more than 40 years, provided an extra layer of inspections and training for providers – and the Board is committed to continuing both of those elements.”
Tejada made his statement at the start of a Board public work session on the Department of Human Services’ proposed FY 2014 Budget. In her Proposed FY 2014 Budget, had recommended that the County rely on the state to inspect childcare centers and family childcare homes, and cut provider training, as part of her effort to cut costs across departments. The proposed cuts to inspection services had raised concerns within the community about the safety of Arlington’s childcare facilities.
The measure would have saved about $250,000 per year. The County Board will approve a final Fiscal Year 2014 budget on April 20.
A group of residents is organizing to oppose a proposed cut to child care regulation in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget.
Donnellan’s budget, which is under consideration by the County Board, cuts the county’s Child Care Office, which regulates local daycare centers. Three full time positions would be eliminated, saving $250,000 annually.
If the cut were made, a local ordinance regulating daycare providers would be eliminated, and oversight of such daycare centers would be returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which opponents say has weaker standards than the county. In addition, family daycare centers with up to 5 children are not regulated by the state and would instead go unregulated.
“The County Code and Child Care Office PROTECT our children by requiring small home daycares to be licensed and by requiring SIGNIFICANTLY higher standards for all settings,” says the petition page. “Investing in early childhood is SMART ECOMONICS: research has shown high quality early care and education significantly decreases major social and economonic problems such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of high school and adverse health conditions.”
The petition was started by Sandra Redmore, director of the Clarendon Child Care Center.
In addition to eliminating local oversight of the county’s dozens of licensed daycare providers, the closure of the Child Care Office would eliminate professional development programs run by the office.
Child Care Office supporters are being asked to register today to speak at the upcoming March 26 public budget hearing.
Photo via Arlington County