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Morning Notes

APS Adds Non-Binary Gender Option — “This school year, Arlington Public Schools added a new question on its form for students to indicate a designated gender, including male, female and ‘X.'” [DCist]

ACPD Has New Electronic Sign — “You may see a new electronic signboard around @ArlingtonVA thanks to JAG grant funds provided through the @TheJusticeDept! These signboards help ACPD share important public safety messaging around school zones, events and campaigns… The signboards also display motorists speed so remember to slow down and obey posted speed limits.” [Twitter]

Leak Prompts Early Morning Road Closure — “A water leak has been repaired after causing early morning traffic problems Wednesday in Arlington. The leak was reported along S. Arlington Ridge Road between 23rd St S. and the Interstate 395 Service road.” [Fox 5]

Jail Holds Holiday Party for Inmates’ Kids — “The Arlington County Detention Facility was transformed Tuesday night into the fictional town, Whoville, in anticipation of a few special visitors. Some children were given the opportunity to visit their incarcerated parents.” [WUSA 9]

Amazon News Roundup — Amazon is planning to bring a “Treasure Truck retail vehicle” to the D.C. area. One way to accommodate new HQ2 workers would be to upzone nearby residential neighborhoods like Aurora Highlands to the population density of Capital Hill or San Francisco’s Mission District. Prompted by Amazon’s arrival, George Mason University plans to build a new 400,000 square foot facility on its Virginia Square campus in Arlington to house the Institute for Digital Innovation, “a research enterprise for fields like data analytics, cybersecurity and defense.”

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

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New Nonprofit ‘The Clothesline’ Offers Free Outfits for Low-Income Kids

“The Clothesline for Arlington Kids” has already given away 3,500 pieces of clothing to 140 school-aged children of low-income families since it opened in August.

The nonprofit’s co-founders, Ellen Moy and Ben Sessions, said they decided to start the nonprofit after Moy got frustrated about the lack of options to recycle the clothes outgrown or barely worn by her two boys, who attend Arlington Public Schools, within the community.

At the Clothesline (2704 N. Pershing Drive), parents and children can find high-quality clothing including brands like Ralph Lauren and Northface.

The clothes hang on the racks, sorted by item type, gender and age range. Moy and Sessions said they invested in racks and hangers to mimic a retail store and to save people from picking through bags of unsorted clothing — what Moy calls ” a big bin of ‘good luck.'”

Students living and attending school in Arlington from kindergarten to 12th grade are eligible if they either receive benefits from the free or reduced lunch program or have a referral from a school social worker, place of worship, the county’s Department of Human Services or a local social services organization. One out of three students in Arlington schools qualifies for the lunch program.

The Clothesline lets children acquire a new wardrobe twice a year. The switch to colder weather clothing happened in mid-October, so families picking out wardrobes now can come back in March, April and May for spring and summer attire.

The full package includes:

  • five tops, shirts or blouses
  • four pants, shorts or skirts
  • five pairs of new underwear
  • five pairs of new socks

Additionally, students can pick out one coat or jacket, a pair of shoes, formal wear and a dress, along with accessories as available. If they need more shirts than pants, they can swap within the allotted number.

“They have really fun clothes they get to choose from,” Moy said. “It’s really a thrill when a little girl comes in and she says, ‘Mom, can I have this dress?’ and the mom can say, ‘Yes, you can have that dress.’ Money is not a hindrance.”

Parents can call ahead if they need to pick out formal clothes or are looking for specific items in certain sizes.

“Parents don’t have the time to shop and go all over town, so this is a nice one-stop shopping for their kids,” Moy said, adding that she and the volunteers keep tabs on who needs what and will let families know when requested clothing becomes available.

All of the shopping happens by appointment only, which gives Sessions and Moy a chance to prepare inventory based off of children’s ages and sizes. The store is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Volunteers help inspect the clothing multiple times, Moy said. No ripped, stained, torn or overly worn clothes are allowed. Clothing that doesn’t make the cut gets donated to places like H&M and Goodwill.

Once approved, the clothes get washed and steamed before they go on the rack. “We don’t want them wearing something that looks weird or has a huge stain on it,” Sessions said. “We want to get them into clothes that look exactly like their peers and help them focus on their classwork.”

Sessions, who has a background in finance, takes care of the business side. Moy used her 15 years of clothing retail experience to create simple and inexpensive store decor, which features green painted walls based on the color scheme of their logo, which she said a friend designed.

“People like to shop here,” Sessions said. “The idea is not only to provide a place for kids to get clothing but also to provide a place that really values the families that are coming in by providing a really nice place for them to shop.”

The Clothesline accepts items year-round and stores off-season clothing in boxes for the next switch. People can drop off new and gently used clothing in the donation bins in the front of the store on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Moy and Sessions said the support from the Arlington community has been a “heartwarming experience” — from Girl Scout Troops and churches helping them collect clothes to the bevy of volunteers who have helped staff the program.

So far, they have relied on more than 200 volunteers since they started collecting clothing last year, with usually one to eight volunteers helping out on any given day, they said.

“Arlington is a very generous community, so we’ve been very fortunate,” Moy said.

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Arlington Needs Families to Foster, Adopt Children

Arlington County is searching for families willing to foster or adopt children, and anyone interested in learning about taking in a child can attend an information session tomorrow.

Foster care is a temporary arrangement for children who cannot live in their homes because of neglect, abuse or serious family trouble. These children might stay with a foster family for just a few days, or for years. Adults who are approved to foster can explore the possibility of adopting children as well.

Although the county needs families to accept all types of foster children, it has a particular need for people who will care for those of Hispanic, African American and other cultural backgrounds. There’s also high demand for families to take in teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.

Foster parents must be over 21, be employed either inside or outside the home and live in a house or apartment in or near Arlington County.

Adults interested in becoming a foster parent — or even just learning about what it entails — can attend an information session tomorrow (Thursday) night from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Contact Erica Serrano for information about the session location, at [email protected] or 703-228-1559.

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Reaction: Parents Frustrated, Miss Work over APS Tech Failure

Arvaye Robinson, the mother of two elementary school girls she had hoped to enroll in the Arlington Public Schools extended day program, stood in front of the Syphax Education Center this morning during the system’s technical problems that ultimately suspended sign-up indefinitely.

“I’m so disappointed,” Robinson said, exasperated, with her phone in her hand waiting to hear from a school staffer. “I wanted some confirmation.”

After setting an alarm for exactly 7:59 a.m. so she could hop online and enroll her children, Robinson realized that the site was down and that she would have to drive to the center to enroll her children in person. She was told that she would receive a call about placement, but she didn’t feel confident about that.

“They have the means to take payment, but no concrete confirmation,” said Robinson.

A father who overheard ARLnow interviewing Robinson cut into the conversation, calling the situation absurd and saying that it had thrown his work schedule out the window for the second year in a row.

Indeed, this is the second consecutive year that extended day registration has flopped. There are varying reports of exactly how many parents waited in line to secure a spot for their children, but one parent told ARLnow she saw at least 100 people in the Syphax Education Center’s lobby this morning.

The extended day program allows parents “who can’t juggle everything” to leave children in their school’s care before and after classes, according to the program’ director, Bobby Kaplow.

According to Kaplow, after last year’s technical failure with the same vendor, APS spent the year troubleshooting with the contractor, trying to find a solution.

“All year we worked with him, we told him what we needed, we told him what the problem was, can he see it on his end,” Kaplow said, adding that he had demanded that the contractor fly in from Michigan to be on-site for the enrollment rollout today in case any issues cropped up.

“I talked to him 20 minutes before it started today, and said, ‘Are we good?'” Kaplow said. The contractor told the director that there wouldn’t be any problems.

Kaplow suspects that the issue lies in the simultaneous, high numbers of enrollment attempts overloading the system.

Today’s 8 a.m. enrollment start time was just that — a start time. Technically, enrollment is ongoing, but some schools quickly incur a wait list for open spots and parents don’t want their child’s status to remain in limbo. Many wake up and pound the keyboard, as Kaplow put it, hoping to get their child in the right program right away.

He said that this year’s line of waiting parents wasn’t as bad as last year’s, which he recalls went “all the way down the hall and out the door and down the street.”

One mother tried to enroll her daughter in the program both on her computer and her cell phone before eventually going in person to the facility.

“When I tried to, the system was closed off,” she told ARLnow in Spanish. “It was the same last year.”

Typically, she makes $9 an hour as a cleaner. Having to take off the day, without notice, to enroll her daughter this morning was necessary, but it impacts her family financially.

“The worst is that we lost the day and we won’t get paid,” she said, pointing to two friends joining her in line.

Despite the difficulty, that mother values the extended day program, although she added that “when you have a low salary, it’s more or less very expensive.”

“This program is very important,” she added. “It’s just very slow for the people who need it.”

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