Locals who want to put their kids in preschool or daycare programs might have to wait for months before an opening appears. At Early Steps Bilingual Preschool in Lyon Village, the wait list for the upcoming 2017-18 school year is between 20 and 30 names long. And that’s fairly average, according to the preschool’s director, Michelle Clark.
“I have many parents who come to me before they have given birth who put their children on the wait list,” she said. “When parents ask me what the probability is of getting in, I tell them it’s kind of a strange science.”
What’s the problem? For one, says Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, there’s just too many kids and not enough daycare facilities. Cristol, who won her seat in 2015 after running on a policy platform that included child care, has long spoken out about the lack of affordable options in the county.
“Arlington has a child care supply problem, resulting, at least in part, from high commercial rents and growth in demand,” Cristol said.
The number of kids in Arlington vastly exceeds local availability. As WTOP reported this month, children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
But the supply problem isn’t only frustrating parents. In Cristol’s view, not having enough child care options can hurt the county’s prospects attracting and retaining young workers who either have a family or want to start one soon.
“Limited childcare supply creates not only personal strain on individual families, but also a problem for Arlington’s long-term economic competitiveness,” she said. “Our highly-educated young workforce is a key selling point for new businesses and organizations to locate, or existing organizations to expand, here.
Another issue is the lack of space for providers. Tatjana Vichnevsky, who heads the Full Circle Montessori School, said she’d like the county to rework the regulations that surround opening a new child care center. Specifically, Vichnevsky said rules regarding parking and green space at a daycare need updating.
“If you’re in Arlington and you want to open a school, not only do you have the state standards, but there’s also another layer of regulations and bureaucracy,” she said. “Just finding the space is an absolute nightmare.”
Arlington’s child care ordinance, Chapter 52 of county code, was last updated in 1981 and was primarily written in the 60s. In 2013, then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget-cutting proposal to adopt Virginia’s child care regulations and eliminate three county regulators was met with widespread parent outrage. The proposal was eventually scrapped, but attempts to update Arlington’s child care regulations have also been problematic.
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
Moving forward, Cristol said her goal will be to look for ways to “clear obstacles to, and support, the provision of more high-quality childcare in Arlington.”
She added that the county’s upcoming 2018 budget could be an opportunity to advance that priority.
“Strategies include more technical assistance to new providers as they locate and develop their small businesses, exploration of land use and zoning strategies to increase the number of commercial spaces available for rent by childcare providers and reduced regulatory burden while still protecting quality,” Cristol said.
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) A co-op child care center for Arlington Public School employees has plans to move to a new space in Ballston, possibly splitting it up from a special needs program it has long integrated with.
The Children’s School’s board of directors this week signed a letter of intent to relocate its program to 4420 N. Fairfax Drive for the 2017-2018 school year.
The relocation could separate the center from the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together at the Reed School building in Westover for more than 20 years.
The move comes months after a plan from APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building. Under the proposal, both The Children’s School and the Integration Station would likely have been displaced from their current home.
“APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit,” TCS board member Alec Strong said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS and Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help.”
The prospect of separating the daycare and integration program has worried many parents whose kids are enrolled in them. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting earlier this month.
“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent at that meeting. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”
In a statement given to ARLnow.com on Feb. 3, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.
“While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options,” the statement reads. “APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”
Read a release from TCS about the move below:
The Children’s School Board of Directors signed a letter of intent yesterday to relocate its program to a new location in Arlington for the 2017-2018 school year. This follows confirmation at a School Board meeting two weeks ago that Arlington Public Schools does not have any space during planned renovations of the Reed School for the non-profit program, which has served pre-school aged children of APS teachers since 1987, and special needs students in the Integration Station program for more than 20 years.
In a statement to ARLnow.com, APS said: “While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”
The TCS Board of Directors maintains that APS has never offered any space or location to TCS. “APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit. Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS & Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help,” said TCS Board Member Alec Strong.
In a January 30, 2017 letter to concerned Integration Station parents, many of who spoke at the School Board meeting in support of the two programs remaining together, TCS Director Naseera Maqsood said:
“As of Friday, January 27, 2017, we were informed (by Assistant Superintendent Leslie Peterson) in very clear terms that we need to find a new location. We were informed that there is no space at the Madison Community Center (technically an Arlington County property) and that no Arlington Public School grounds have enough space for us to put relocatables (trailers). Arlington County has also indicated that there is no space for us to use relocatables.”
“We want desperately to keep all of our children together,” Maqsood added. “As educators, we are committed to having our students in integrated classrooms. We will ensure that any space we seek to lease or buy will have room for the Integration Station students. Ultimately though, the decision to keep our programs together is in the hands of Arlington Public Schools, not The Children’s School.”
“We continue to hope and work towards some miracle that will allow us to remain on APS or Arlington County grounds, and to continue providing more than 150 affordable childcare positions to Arlington teachers and parents,” Maqsood added. “We believe this aligns with our shared values, legacy and the desires of the Arlington County electorate.”
Fairfax Drive photo via Google Maps
A plan to build a new educational facility at the Reed School in Westover has some parents worried for the future of a daycare and special needs program there.
Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced a renovation project to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building in Westover.
The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School , a co-op child care center for APS employees, and the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together for more than 20 years.
But the longtime collaboration may soon come to an end. Under the proposal, The Children’s Center and the Integration Station could be moved out of the building and separated from one another. Arlington Public Schools hasn’t yet announced a home for either one.
The possibility of separating the daycare and integration program has worried some parents whose kids are enrolled in both. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting Thursday evening.
“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”
One parent fought back tears as she urged School Board to keep the two programs under the same roof. She described how her son, who is autistic, benefitted from the Integration Station.
“Had he not received the level of special integration care from the staff, I’m sure he would not be where he is right now, which is attending a typical school surrounded by typical kids,” the parent said.
She continued: “Without TCS, the Integration Station is no longer possible and much of its value is lost… We ask that the board take concrete steps toward ensuring that the children’s school can continue to serve both the staff and the students of the Integration Station.”
— Sara Shaw (@SaraShaw7) February 3, 2017
In a statement given to ARLnow.com, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.
Everyone in Arlington knows that APS is facing a period of unprecedented enrollment growth that is creating significant demands on school capacity. Providing seats for the growing number of students in APS has stretched the capacity of our schools and our school sites. APS is working closely with the County and The Children’s School to explore viable options for relocation. To date, TCS wants to continue to pursue additional options beyond those that have been identified.
While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.
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 was reported around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
From an ACPD crime report:
PEEPING, 2016-11090200, 600 block of S. Carlin Springs Road. At approximately 3:57 p.m. on November 9, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. The investigation revealed that two unknown male subjects were seen photographing a child care center. A canvass of the area by responding officers returned with negative results. Subject one is described as a light skinned Hispanic male, approximately 30 years old, 5’8″ with a thin build. He was wearing a light gray hoodie with the hood pulled up. Subject two is described as a light skinned Hispanic male, approximately 30 years old, 5’8″ with a thin build and dark hair. He was wearing a royal blue shirt.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington County has taken a proposed update to its child care regulations off its website after County Board members called the inclusion of certain controversial provisions “troubling.”
As ARLnow.com first reported Monday, the most recent draft of the child care regulations would have required child care centers to encourage mothers to breastfeed and would have dictated what type of milk, juice and birthday treats could be fed to children, among other provisions.
That’s in addition to new staffing and employee education requirements that panicked the operators of small and part-time child care centers, who said such rules would put them out of business or at least drive up the cost of daycare and preschool programs.
“This situation, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s really the most troubled roll-out of a county initiative since the ill-conceived and ill-fated Public Land for Public Good,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “I really think that this is close to an unmitigated disaster. If our goal is to increase the supply and the affordability of child care throughout Arlington County, this in my view seems to do exactly the opposite.”
Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, said the creation of the new regulations is an “iterative” process that has been underway since 2014, with input from directors of child care centers and consultation from a Kentucky-based nonprofit association.
Despite what she described as a positive public outreach process, Friedman acknowledged that there has been “a lot” of negative feedback, particularly from owners of smaller child care centers and the parents who use them.
“There are some issues with the current version,” she told the Board. “In some places, I think, because some of the enthusiasm of the child care centers and our Arlington Way of striving for the best, we may have probably overreached in terms of the best practices that we want to incorporate in there, that don’t belong in the code.”
That didn’t satisfy new County Board member Katie Cristol, who included affordable child care as part of her policy platform. She called the inclusion of some of the provisions “silly season business.”
“At a time when we have young families leaving this county because it costs as much if not more to have your child in daycare as it does to pay rent… I think we have broader concerns than making sure kids have the absolute best environment,” Cristol said.
“This is really troubling to see this level of best practice conflated with code and with regulation,” she continued. “I am not comfortable inserting unbidden county government in encouraging anybody to tell a mother how to feed her child, whether that’s best practice or regulation.”
“Distraction is not a strong enough word for the real issue at play here. We have been hearing loud and clear from members of our community that this undermines trust in government. It exacerbates a sentiment that Arlington is hostile to child care centers and small businesses.”
Daycare and preschool providers in Arlington are decrying proposed new child care regulations as overly onerous and intrusive.
A 34-page draft of new child care center regulations would set stringent requirements for employee education, require food handling certificates for handing out snacks and would require providers to encourage mothers to breast feed, among numerous other regulatory provisions.
Child care providers — particularly small, part-time operators — are speaking out against the the changes to Chapter 52 of County Code via the county’s online “open comment tool.”
“This document was supposed to clarify things, however, it created more issues,” said one comment.
Many comments focused on new education requirements for the teachers and assistant directors at child care centers. They would have to have a Bachelor’s Degree in education or a similar major and “at least 9 semester credits of advanced study in child development or early childhood education.” Current teachers would have three years to meet that requirement.
The education requirement could financially burden employees, who may have to go back to school to get the necessary credits, and could burden child care centers by raising the cost of hiring new employees, providers said.
“Have you considered the impact this would have on preschools and just how difficult finding teachers with these very narrow qualifications will be?” said one comment. “As former preschool board member who was in charge of hiring for two years, I can tell you that finding highly qualified teachers who are willing to work for preschool pay is already very challenging. You add these new rules and and two thirds of our EXCEPTIONAL staff would not be qualified to teach.”
“I am sure these regulations are well-intentioned and meant to foster excellent Arlington preschools,” said another. “But we already have excellent Arlington preschools. The effect of some of these costly new requirements will be to drastically increase costs, making these excellent schools inaccessible financially for some area families.”
Providers also questioned a requirement that they have a certified food handler on staff if they serve or store food.
“If we need to obtain a license for teachers to distribute Goldfish crackers, this would be unduly burdensome,” said a daycare provider. “We are a part-time center and children are required to bring their lunches from home. The only food we give them are snacks and milk for lunches, if requested.”
Operators of part-time cooperative preschools and daycare centers, which are run largely by volunteers, said that such schools should be exempt from the provisions. Staffing requirements that require specific child-to-adult ratios but only count paid staff, while also prohibiting volunteers from being alone with children, would make it “virtually impossible for parent cooperative preschools to function,” said one commenter.
Some of the most incredulous commentary was reserved for provisions that daycare providers viewed as unnecessary for child safety and overly prescriptive. Among them:
- “The licensee will ensure that mothers are encouraged to breast feed their infants.”
- “The interior of the building must be finished in light or bright colors…”
- “Celebrations (birthdays, special occasions) should include mostly healthy foods or non-food treats.”
- “Children two years of age and older will be served only skim or 1% pasteurized milk.”
- “Staff will promote dental hygiene among children at mealtimes.”
- “Only full-strength (100%) pasteurized fruit juice or full-strength juice diluted with water from a cup will be served to children twelve months of age or older.”
- “… All cribs, cots and mats must be spaced a minimum of 3 feet (36 inches) apart.”
- “[Providers must have a plan for] acquiring, stockpiling, storing and cycling to keep updated emergency food/water and supplies needed to care for children and staff for up to 3 days if shelter-in-place is required…”
- “The licensee will ensure that a trained staff member shall conduct and document a health check of each child every morning upon arrival.”
- “In addition to the application document, the [child care center] must submit… a business plan.”
- “A licensee will have specific arrangements with a health care provider who will provide consultation on both routine and emergency health care issues for children.”
The incident happened around 7 a.m. on the 1900 block of N. Uhle Street, which is about five blocks from the Courthouse Metro station.
“At approximately 7:00 a.m. a male subject was seen masturbating in front of a daycare,” according to this week’s Arlington County crime report. “Felipe Jones Degado, 45, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged with public masturbation. He is being held without bond.”
Her bills — SB 780, SB 818 and SB 898 — would require everyone who receives compensation for child care in their home to be licensed with the Department of Social Services, undergo background checks and include their own children in official counts of how many children are under their care.
Currently, only homes caring for six or more children must be licensed by the state as a child care provider. If Favola’s bills pass in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, all employees who are alone with children would also have to receive first-aid training and ensure the home is clear of fire hazards.
“We should give families some assurances that there’s some standard of care,” Favola told ARLnow.com this week. “Right now the law reads if you have five unrelated children, you’re not regulated. This would require all day-home providers to meet minimum standards, like CPR, background checks and house fire safety code.”
The bills are currently in the senate’s Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, which met this morning. Favola is hoping that she can draw support from across the aisle to win some form of child care legislation. Favola’s colleague in the senate, Sen. Adam Ebbin, thinks she may have a chance.
“Daycare is going to be a significant issue to see progress on,” he said.
Favola called her bills “baby steps” at this month’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, but she said she wanted to introduce legislation she felt could pass. Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in December that daycare is an issue he wants to see progress on in 2015. According to an editorial in the News Leader in Staunton, Va., 46 children have died in unlicensed daycares in Virginia since 2004.
Daycare Owner Sorry for Leaving Child Outside — An Arlington home daycare owner says she’s sorry for leaving a three-year-old girl outside in the rain and cold without a jacket or shoes. Police were called to the home after neighbors say they heard the girl crying and trying to get back in the home. [WJLA]
Arlington Teacher Surprised by Award — Barrett Elementary School teacher Joshua McLaughlin was surprised Tuesday afternoon when he was presented the Virginia Lottery Super Teacher Award during a school-wide assembly. McLaughlin is one of eight teachers to win the award along with a $2,000 cash prize and $2,000 classroom supply credit. [Arlington Public Schools]
A-SPAN Making Progress on 100 Homes Initiative — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network continues to make progress on its 100 Homes initiative. So far A-SPAN has placed 87 formerly homeless individuals into housing, including 12 chronically homeless veterans. [Falls Church News-Press]
Westover Farmers Market Starts Summer Hours — The Westover Farmers Market will begin its summer hours on Sunday, May 4. The market will be open an hour earlier than the winter market, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. [Westover Farmers Market]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, police received several calls for a vehicle containing numerous young children who were not in proper children’s car seats. Police pulled the vehicle over as it was leaving the Weenie Beenie parking lot on the 2600 block of Shirlington Road, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Inside the 2004 Ford Explorer, officers found seven children, ages 5 months to 3 years, and, according to police, “none of them were buckled in with any type of safety restraints.” One child was on the lap of a woman in the front passenger seat, four were in the back seat, and two were in the rear cargo area, Sternbeck said.
Two Alexandria women — Betty Ross, 34, and Cassandra Lewis, 37 — were arrested and charged with seven counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Ross and Lewis, who own a home-based daycare business in Alexandria, were released on a summons.
“None of the children were physically injured, and all of the children were returned to their parents,” according to the ACPD crime report.