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County Leaders Finally Ready to Advance Zoning Changes Aimed at Expanding Local Childcare Options

Arlington officials could soon advance zoning changes designed to make it easier for more childcare providers to open up shop in the county, as part of a lengthy push to increase access to daycare options for local parents.

County leaders have batted around a variety of potential changes for months now, but they finally seem ready to pass a suite of zoning tweaks impacting both large childcare centers and smaller “family daycare” homes. The proposals will go before the Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee for the first time tonight (Wednesday), and could make their way to the County Board sometime later this spring.

The Board previously approved a “Childcare Action Plan” last summer laying out some potential changes, including a new subsidy to help families afford daycare services. But it has long planned these additional zoning changes to encourage more childcare providers to move to Arlington, initially hoping to vote on them before the end of 2018 and address what officials see as the exorbitant cost of childcare in the county.

Despite the delay, officials now seem ready to advance the proposals, particularly after soliciting feedback from the community via online surveys and public gatherings in recent months. In all, the main potential zoning changes include:

  • Cutting back on parking requirements for new daycare facilities
  • Expanding the maximum number of children allowed in family daycare homes from nine to 12
  • Allowing small family daycare homes to educate nine children “by right,” without extensive county approval
  • Reducing the frequency of county permit reviews for daycare facilities

The parking changes may well prove to be the most impactful alterations that the county is considering, as many childcare providers say Arlington’s current standards make it a bit difficult for them to open new locations along the county’s Metro corridors.

Currently, the county requires that large childcare centers offer one parking space for each employee.

But staff subsequently discovered that many childcare employees aren’t driving to work — a December study by the county found that roughly 40 percent of parking spaces for childcare centers currently go unused, and a survey of local employees found that 36 percent commuted by using public transit, biking, carpooling or walking.

Accordingly, county staff are proposing requiring one parking space for every eight children attending a center, which should cut back on the number of parking spaces each one needs. The average daycare center in the county currently requires about 40 spaces using the employee-based ratio; the new proposal would cut that number back to about 25 spaces per location.

That would put Arlington more on par with parking requirements in Fairfax and Prince William counties, where daycares generally have 32 spaces and 24 spaces, respectively.

Staff are also suggesting that the Board allow additional parking reductions for centers hoping to locate near Metro and bus stations, letting companies apply for less parking as part of the process of earning a use permit from the county. For comparison, Alexandria lets childcare centers have as few as three spaces if they have access to transit options, while D.C. only requires five spaces for all centers.

The transit advocates over at Greater Greater Washington are especially enthusiastic about that section of the plan. The group’s development director, Pentagon City resident Jane Fiegen Green, praised the county for examining parking requirements in a recent blog post, and urged readers of the site to back changes to such “outdated” standards.

While the parking changes would largely impact centers educating dozens of children, many of the other proposed changes are aimed at loosening standards for smaller family daycare homes.

By bumping up the maximum number of children allowed in each facility to 12, the county would come into alignment with the standard outlined in state law. Arlington and Alexandria are currently the only localities in the D.C. area with a cap of nine children, staff wrote in a report for the zoning committee.

“Expanding the maximum number of children will increase Arlington’s potential child care supply, align with the maximum set by the state, provide potential additional revenue for providers and additional child care jobs in homes that are able to increase their capacity, increase opportunities for children to play together and help address the county’s lengthy child care wait lists,” staff wrote.

The recommendations also call for easing permitting requirements on small providers, as many are “intimidated” by the complex process of earning the county’s permission to set up childcare facilities. Staff found that centers with nine children or fewer regularly operate “without significant disruption to their surrounding neighborhoods,” so it would make sense to allow them to open up “by right” without extensive permits.

The proposed changes also include allowing small daycare homes with up to nine children in more dense sections of the county zoned for apartments, which could “expand the number of units eligible to operate a family day care home by approximately 3,220 units in Arlington County.”

So long as the zoning committee signs off on these zoning alterations, the County Board could order public hearings on the matter at its Feb. 23 meeting. The Planning Commission could then take them up on March 4, setting up a final Board vote on March 19.

File photo

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County Board Signs Off on New Ballston Childcare Center, Despite Local Opposition to the Project

Arlington officials have given the green light for a new childcare center to set up shop in Ballston, in a debate that forced the County Board to weigh its years-long effort to expand access to childcare in the county against the vocal opposition of neighbors to the project.

The Board voted unanimously last night (Tuesday) to award the Bright Horizons Children’s Center with the permits it needs to open a new location on the first and second floors of a building at 4001 Fairfax Drive.

The new center will have room for about 145 kids in all, and include a 4,700-square-foot playground in the small courtyard between the building and an adjacent set of condos at 1001 N. Randolph Street.

The playground, in particular, worried neighbors. Matt Nyce, a board member at the nearby EastView Condos, told ARLnow via email that the location was a “totally inappropriate” place for a playground, given its proximity to two exhaust fans and how close it would be located to homes on the first floors of the two buildings.

But Board members were convinced that some of those concerns were a bit overblown — as Erik Gutshall put it, the Board judged the childcare center unlikely to be “an overwhelming detriment” to quality of life in the area, or to property values.

Officials would acknowledge that the playground would be a bit of a tight fit in the courtyard, and that it would occupy some of Ballston’s very limited open space. But, as the Board weighs a comprehensive overhaul of its zoning regulations governing childcare centers, members also said that they were willing to allow designs that may not be absolutely perfect if it means expanding options for Arlington parents.

“This is not a willy nilly one-off, but consistent with a direction the county seeks to go,” Gutshall said. “This is an evolution as we rethink what is acceptable for our ground floor uses.”

The Board did not make the decision lightly, however. Board member Katie Cristol, a lead backer of the county’s childcare overhaul, said she even considered pushing for a deferral of any decision on the matter, particularly after the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association decided to oppose the project.

Collier Cook, the group’s president, told the Board that he worried that dropping a playground on the site would rob the nearby residents of some crucial open space.

And, as an EastView resident himself, Cook said he understood the concerns of his neighbors. One, Andres Delgado, told the Board that the prospect of additional noise was particularly concerning for people who live in the building and work from home.

“We have neighbors who live on the first floor and it goes right into their living room,” Delgado said. “Noise is a big concern for them.”

Similarly, he said neighbors are worried about smoke from the nearby parking garage impacting the kids’ health.

But Zach Williams, an attorney representing Bright Horizons, said the company made every effort possible to address those playground concerns. The childcare center plans to pay for a timer to ensure the exhaust fans aren’t operating while children are outside, and Williams said they even agreed to shrink the playground by 200 square feet to give residents some more breathing room.

Yet, with the county’s ordinances requiring that the center add 75-square-feet of playground space for each child outside at any given time, Williams said Bright Horizons can’t do much more to address those issues.

“We don’t have a lot of flexibility, but we’ve tried to do as much as we can,” Williams said.

Board members commended those efforts and made another point for neighbors worried about noise — considering the way the area is zoned, a new bar or nightclub could easily move into the space instead and set up outdoor seating, which could prompt even more substantial noise concerns than the childcare center.

“It would be completely irresponsible for us, I believe, to suggest we can prevent change from happening,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “The other ways in which this property could change could be all manner of degrees more intense.”

With this approval in hand, Williams said the center plans to open by January 2020. Bright Horizons is also on the cusp of opening another childcare center in Courthouse, which also faced its fair share of pushback from neighbors last year.

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ACFD Ambulance Bus Deployed to Daycare Gas Leak Investigation

Students at a Clarendon area daycare center are spending part of their morning on the Arlington County Fire Department’s mass casualty ambulance bus.

A fire department spokesman said the ambulance bus was dispatched to the 1200 block of N. Ivy Street, where firefighters are investigating a possible gas leak inside a building.

The block is home to NOVA KinderCare, a daycare center. The spokesman said the bus was deployed to keep children warm as firefighters investigate the reported leak and await the arrival of Washington Gas.

No injuries have been reported.

Update at 9:35 a.m. — The daycare building has been deemed safe to re-occupy, according to scanner traffic.

Photo via ACFD/Twitter

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County Details Possible Zoning, Permit Changes Designed to Make Childcare More Accessible

Arlington officials are outlining more details about potential changes on the way for the county’s childcare policies, raising the possibility that Arlington could soon allow more children in small daycare centers, cut back on the permitting and zoning requirements for daycares and reduce the number of staff required for each center to operate.

County leaders have spent years studying what they could do to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington parents, signing off on some broad goals with a “Childcare Action Plan” this summer. But the County Board is also hoping to make some more specific tweaks to its childcare ordinances, and a survey released this week reveals some of the proposals officials could consider before the year is up.

The Board has already agreed to set up a new subsidy to defray childcare costs for families that don’t qualify for state assistance, and plans to streamline some of its online resources for parents looking to find childcare options. Yet, after holding a community forum on the topic this month, the Board could endorse a dozen or more separate policy changes this December.

The new survey looks to collect yet more opinions on the proposed changes. Chiefly, the county could soon allow up to 12 children in small, family daycare homes, up from the current limit of nine. That change would match state law, which permits up to 12 kids in such a setting.

The Board could also do away with its requirement that anyone looking to open a new family childcare center first secure separate “use permits” from the county, making the process “by-right” instead to speed the proliferation of those daycare facilities. Additionally, the Board could eliminate limits on operating hours for those centers, or allow them to open earlier or stay open later to better accommodate working parents.

Another option the Board could consider would be changing its zoning ordinance to set more uniform standards for daycares, in order to help compensate for a lack of permit reviews. New guidelines could include limits on the hours of outdoor playtime for kids or requirements surrounding screening and buffering for playgrounds.

As for larger daycare centers, the Board may also allow them to bump up classroom sizes across kids of various age ranges. For instance, the county currently caps daycares at 10 children per class for two-year-olds, 16 per class for three-year-olds, and 25 per class for kids ranging from 6 to 14.

The Board could choose to adopt state standards instead, including a limit of 24 kids for age 2 and 30 for age three, with no cap on the number of kids per class above the age of six.

Finally, the Board could reduce the number of caregivers each daycare is required to have on staff, or change up its educational requirements for daycare staffers. The county currently stipulates that daycare providers should have two years of college experience, with evidence of childcare-focused coursework — the Board could move instead to state standards, which require a high school diploma and a set amount of relevant experience and training.

The survey on childcare changes is set to close by Friday (Oct. 12).

Photo via Arlington County

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Despite Traffic Worries, Lee Highway Daycare Center on Track to Open in Early 2019

A proposed childcare center on Lee Highway that has irked neighbors for months is now on track to open in the next few months.

The County Board unanimously signed off on a permit Tuesday to let Little Ambassadors’ Academy move ahead with plans to open a third location at 5801 and 5901 Lee Highway. The childcare center is now on course to open by February or March of next year.

The daycare company has hoped for just over a year now to remodel two existing buildings on the property and create space for as many as 155 children, but people living nearby have repeatedly raised concerns about how the facility’s addition would impact traffic in the area.

Two people living behind the site even filed a lawsuit to block the daycare center’s construction after the Board lent its initial approval last September, though a judge tossed out that case in January. The Leeway Overlee Civic Association has raised concerns about the project as well, urging the Board to restrict the number of children allowed at the facility in a bid to ease traffic in the area.

All the while, Little Ambassadors has worked to open up the new center — but the process has dragged on so long that the permit the Board issued last year came up for review, even though the daycare has yet open.

As Sara Mariska, an attorney for Little Ambassadors, told the Board: “There has been no change in circumstances since we were here a year ago.”

Nevertheless, neighborhood concerns linger. Adam Watson, a staffer in the county’s planning division, said he’s heard from a variety of people in the area concerned that the daycare will snarl an already-busy section of Lee Highway. The original District Taco location sits just down the block, and a new 711 is on the way nearby at 5747 Lee Highway as well.

“[Our] initial expression of general support for [the company’s] application was based on the understanding that the child care center would operate with no more than 135 children,” Leeway Overlee Civic Association President Jack Grimaldi wrote to the Board. “More children, in other words, raises the likelihood of more vehicles being needed to get them to and from the center.”

But Joanne Gabor, who works with county’s Department of Environmental Services, assured the Board that staff believe Little Amabassdors’ strategy for managing traffic in the area “is a good plan and it’s workable.” And without any real-world examples of the childcare facility’s impact on the local traffic, the Board wasn’t inclined to change its original decision.

“A lot of the concerns that people had when this use permit was approved originally, we haven’t had a chance to see if any mitigating or corrective actions will be needed,” said Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “I can’t find a way to mitigate something that hasn’t happened. It may seem like a callous approach to safety, but we have to see how the network responds.”

Board member Libby Garvey added that Little Ambassadors’ track record at its other Lee Highway locations, at 5232 Lee Highway and 3565 Lee Highway, also gives the Board confidence.

“We have a lot of background coming to us on this,” Garvey said. “I don’t want people to think we’re just winging this.”

The Board will review the daycare center’s use permit once more in September 2019, when it will have a chance to assess any potential traffic impact.

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County Looking for More Childcare Feedback, With New Policy Proposals Coming This Fall

Arlington is looking for a bit more feedback on the county’s plans to expand access to childcare, releasing a new community survey on the topic.

The county rolled out the 19-question form today (Friday), just a few weeks after the County Board signed off on a final version of its “Childcare Action Plan.”

That document calls for the implementation of several new initiatives, like a subsidy program to defray childcare costs for families who don’t qualify for state assistance and the streamlining of the county’s online resources for parents. But the Board is also weighing some zoning and code changes to make it easier for daycare facilities to operate in Arlington, and pledged to collect more community feedback ahead of proposing those policy tweaks later this fall.

The survey asks respondents how they currently meet their childcare needs — via a public or private childcare program, a babysitter or a family day home childcare provider — and in what zip code of the county they live, work and patronize childcare facilities.

Respondents are also asked to select their preference for where they’d like to see daycare facilities located. That’s a key point the Board has debated in the past, as it found that many county workers rely on childcare services in neighboring localities like Falls Church or Fairfax County. Members have often sought more clarity on whether that’s because services in Arlington are inaccessible or because people who work in Arlington often live outside of the county and are looking for closer options.

The survey also includes questions on what barriers to accessing childcare parents encounter around the county. Available responses include factors like transportation, cost, a lack of care when it’s most needed (before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m.) and potential language barriers.

The county is also planning a community forum on the childcare initiative next month. The meeting, scheduled for Sept. 17 from 7-9:30 p.m. at 2100 Washington Blvd, will focus on collecting opinions on some potential changes the Board could make. Per a county event description, those include the following topics:

  • Increasing the maximum number of children from nine to 12 in family day care homes and eliminating or adjusting the use permit requirement
  • Land use standards for family day care homes
  • Parking requirements for center-based and family-based child care programs
  • Group size requirements for center-based child care programs
  • Teacher-child ratio requirements for center-based and family-based child care programs
  • Teacher qualifications for center-based child care programs

The Board is aiming to pass more childcare changes by December.

File photo

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County Board Plans New Childcare Subsidy, Policy Changes Before Year’s End

Arlington officials are moving closer to setting up a new financial assistance program to help families afford childcare, with overhauls to zoning and parking requirements for daycare facilities possible before the year is out.

The County Board signed off yesterday (Tuesday) on a final version of a “Childcare Action Plan” it’s been eyeing since late last year, setting the stage for leaders to address the affordability and availability of childcare in Arlington following years of debate.

In the near term, the county will work with local businesses and nonprofits to set up a program to defray childcare costs for families who don’t qualify for state subsidies, similar to existing efforts in Alexandria and D.C. Staff also plan to study the county’s childcare needs and shortcomings in more detail, building on work they’ve done over the last year or so, and make the county’s online resources for childcare providers a bit more streamlined.

By December, the Board plans to rewrite some of its zoning ordinances to make it a bit easier for daycare centers to open and operate in the county, with the goal of bringing costs for parents down in the process. That same month, the Board will propose changes to the county’s childcare codes, with a vote on the edits soon afterward.

Leaders haven’t quite finalized what all of those changes will look like, with community engagement and public hearings to discuss the specifics set for the coming months, but they’re broadly aiming to give parents more affordable options for daycare around Arlington.

“We’ve come a far way, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey pointed out that Arlington parents foot the highest average annual bill for childcare for an infant and a 4-year-old out of any locality in the region. The county’s average cost of $42,705 per year, compared to $40,521 in D.C. and $37,787 in Alexandria per staff’s findings, left Dorsey “gobsmacked” and eager to see what the Board could do to bring that figure down.

“I can’t imagine our rents are higher than they are in D.C.,” Dorsey said. “The District has just as much supply-demand pressure, yet we’re more expensive… I’m not interested in Arlington exceptionalism when it comes to this.”

One contributing factor could be the county’s parking requirements for daycare facilities. Deborah Warren, the deputy director of the county’s Department of Human Services, noted that Arlington currently requires providers to have one parking space for each employee, in addition to space for pickups and drop offs.

The Board could tweak that requirement to make it easier for more facilities to open in the county’s densest neighborhoods, or even let smaller, family daycare providers avoid the lengthy process of applying for a special use permit before opening their doors.

“If it takes less time, there’s less of a process to go through, hopefully we can increase the number that’s out there,” said Kimberly Vacca, an associate planner with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

With roughly 13,435 children under the age of 5 in the county and 6,894 spaces in licensed daycares, as of 2015, county leaders recognize they have an urgent need to somehow attract more providers to the area.

Dorsey urged the Board not to lose sight of the county’s focus on using its regulations to enforce high standards at all of its daycare facilities, yet the entire Board expressed a desire to see some of those requirements somehow loosened by the time this process wraps up.

“To the extent that the pendulum swings between affordability and quality, the pendulum might’ve swung a bit too far away from affordability here,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

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New Daycare Center in Courthouse Set to Win Permit

A new daycare center could soon be open for business for Courthouse.

The Merit School nearly has the final approval it needs to open up a new facility in an office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd.

The County Board is reviewing a use permit to allow the daycare company, an offshoot of a similar school in Woodbridge, to start operating in the space, and has approved several other child care facilities in the area in recent months. The Board has made the availability of child care in the county a particular focus over the last few years, and is still working on an overhaul of Arlington’s policies governing the facilities.

The 7,600-square-foot space could someday serve as many as 103 children, and includes a nearly 3,000-square-foot playground around the rear of the building.

According to a letter to county staff from the company’s managers, the facility “will be designed with separate areas designated for children by age,” serving kids from toddlers up to 12-year-olds.

The daycare center will have eight parking spaces reserved for its employees in a nearby underground garage, with another six saved for pick-up and drop-offs by parents along N. Adams Street.

The Lyon Village Civic Association raised a few “concerns about potential increased traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood,” according to a county staff report. But county staff ultimately decided to simply require the daycare center to make its parking rules clear to parents in advance, rather than forcing the company to make any significant changes.

The County Board is set to vote on the permit for the new facility at its meeting Saturday (July 14). Board members are planning to unveil their childcare changes in a July 24 work session.

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The Children’s School Advances Plans for Former Alpine Restaurant Site

The Children’s School is moving closer to finding a permanent new home, as it pushes forward plans to build a three-story daycare facility along Lee Highway.

The child care program for Arlington Public Schools employees is looking for a county permit to redevelop the space once occupied by the Alpine Restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway, marking the first formal proposal that the school would seek to build a a 27,500-square-foot facility on the property.

The Children’s School got its start in 1987 at the Reed School building in Westover as a childcare program owned and operated by school system employees, but APS’ plans to build a new elementary school at the site pushed the program elsewhere.

The co-op is currently operating out of a Ballston office building, and would look to use the Alpine site to expand its operations and serve about 235 children in total. Anywhere from 60 to 70 of those students would likely be part of the “Integration Station” program, which is reserved for kids with developmental or other disabilities, allaying initial worries that The Children’s School wouldn’t be able to maintain its relationship with the program.

The school is hoping to demolish the current restaurant on the property, then build a three-story facility complete with two outdoor play spaces and a one-level underground parking garage.

In all, there would be 42 parking spaces located on site, as well as nine extra spaces on an adjacent lot to serve the roughly 40 employees at the program. The building would also include a “covered drive aisle” to facilitate easy pick-up and drop-offs by parents, with hours running from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday.

The play areas, designed to serve kids from 2 months old to 5 years old, would be located on the second- and third-floor roofs of the property, and both will be enclosed by a 7-foot-tall mesh fence. Those will face away from the road and toward the residential neighborhoods behind the building.

County staff are recommending that the County Board approve the project, writing in a report that the program has managed to work up the right sort of plans to mitigate any potential traffic impacts along Lee Highway. The Lee Highway Alliance also endorsed the project in a letter to the Board.

Board members will consider the permit request Saturday (July 14) as part of the Board’s “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for non-controversial matters that are passed without debate.

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County Board Will Unveil Long-Debated Childcare Policy Overhaul Next Month

Arlington officials plan to unveil their long-awaited overhaul of the county’s childcare policies next month.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced those plans her first “State of the County” address today (Thursday) while speaking to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Crystal City. The overhaul is a substantial step forward in the debate over how to improve the availability and affordability of daycare in the county.

While Cristol said she was broadly “optimistic” about the county’s future, she stressed that the Board needs to take action to bring down the cost of childcare and ease the financial burden on working families. County leaders have been examining a “draft action plan” to tackle the issue since December, and Cristol says the Board plans to unveil a final product and debate it in full at a July 24 work session.

“For many families, child care can cost more than rent,” Cristol said. “In just a few weeks time, the Board will consider a detailed plan to address this… including a new set of land-use strategies, public-private partnerships and more.”

She noted that county staff and a host of community partners have been studying the issue since early last year, and will finally be able to present a path forward in some “granularity” next month.

Some items will be able to put into motion immediately, while others will require more Board debate, particularly if they involve zoning changes.

Cristol also stressed the childcare plan would be just one of the Board’s priorities as it moves into the back half of 2018. Following the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county convened to spark conversations among county residents, Cristol said she’s newly hopeful that the Board will be able to revisit its zoning policies to increase Arlington’s supply of market rate affordable housing.

Specifically, she’s interested in tackling the problem of the county’s “missing middle,” or homes available for county residents who might make too much money to qualify for dedicated affordable housing but still can’t afford detached single-family homes or high-priced luxury condos.

Cristol is hoping to find new ways to encourage the development of duplexes, moderately-priced townhouses or even “accessory” homes small enough to fit on another single-family home’s property. The county has already loosened its rules for such construction, known as “accessory dwelling units,” but she believes there’s more work still to do.

“We cannot lose sight of affordability as the fundamental challenge of Arlington’s future,” Cristol said.

She expects that the “overdue” kickoff of planning along the Lee Highway corridor, which the Board found new funding for this year and will start in earnest in the coming months, will have some role to play in that conversation.

Cristol would acknowledge, however, that the specter of Amazon’s arrival in Arlington hovers over any discussion of affordable housing or any other pressing issue in the county.

She declined to “break any news” on that front, but would say that she felt the county’s pursuit of the tech giant’s HQ2 “will make the county stronger.”

“Whatever choice Amazon makes on HQ2, it means the national spotlight has found our county,” Cristol said.

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APS Suspends Extended Day Registration, Following More Technical Problems

Arlington Public Schools has once again run into issues with online registration for its “Extended Day” program, prompting big headaches for parents and an indefinite delay in program sign-ups.

APS announced on its Facebook page at 9:30 a.m. that it will be suspending registrations for the program until it can resolve “technical issues” with its registration system. “Extended Day” is designed to offer low-cost care for students before and after school.

APS added that the software vendor is currently working to fix these problems, and will announce a new registration start time soon.

Registration for “Extended Day” opened at 8 a.m., and with spots available at each school on a first-come, first-served basis, parents rushed to sign up for the program. Yet the system began experiencing problems soon afterward, and APS tweeted that it had summoned its contractor to address those issues, but didn’t immediately suspend registration.

The confusion prompted some parents to attempt to register in person, with dozens waiting in line at the school division’s headquarters at the Syphax Education Center to attempt to sign up.

The episode mirrors APS’ problems last year, when the system crashed during its first try at accepting online registrations in March, then again in April.

Photo courtesy of Drew H.

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Nearby Residents Voice Concerns About Proposed Courthouse Child Care Center

A proposed child care center in Courthouse is likely to be approved by the County Board at this weekend’s meeting, but it is not without some controversy.

Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominiums have raised concerns about the proximity of the proposed Bright Horizons child care center to Arlington’s Homeless Services Center, according to the county staff report.

Several tenants of the Courthouse condominium building publicly opposed the homeless shelter prior to its construction due to safety and property value concerns.

The 24-hour homeless shelter is at 2020 14th Street N., and the child care facility would be at 2000 14th Street N. That’s a distance of less than 330 feet, according to a Google Maps estimate.

Pending approval, the child care center would also be near Ragtime restaurant, as well as Arlington County Police headquarters, the county jail and the county courthouse.

The center is slated to have a maximum permitted enrollment of 136 children, but the number could be set lower by Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services if deemed necessary.

County staff concluded that “the proposed location of the Bright Horizons child care center is not anticipated to cause an undue adverse impact on the surrounding community and will provide a valuable service at the proposed location.”

The report added that the site has adequate parking spaces and public transportation access. The child care center would convert 10,868 square feet of office space into child care use. An outdoor plaza would be converted into a 4,645 square foot outdoor play space enclosed by a five foot fence.

The Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association did not object to the child care center and several nearby apartment buildings did not respond to county staff’s notification, according to county documents.

The child care center would help with the county’s lack of available child care services. The shortage of child care options — particularly affordable options — relative to demand prompted the launch of the county’s Child Care Initiative in December.

Bright Horizons has agreed to operate from Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. The child care chain has three locations in Arlington already — in Rosslyn, Ballston, and Crystal City — and has dozens across the country.

Attempts to reach a current representative of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association were unsuccessful.

Photo via Arlington County

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The Children’s School May Move to Alpine Restaurant Site

A community meeting is being held tomorrow night to discuss a proposed development that would bring The Children’s School to the former Alpine Restaurant site on Lee Highway.

The Children’s School, a subsidized daycare center for Arlington County teachers, is planning to relocate as its long-time home — the Reed School building in Westover — is renovated and turned into a new elementary school.

A flyer for the meeting — to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lee Highway Alliance (4620 Lee Highway) — says a three-story building has been proposed for the Alpine site, which has sat largely unused for the past eight years.

“Two-hundred thirty-five children, aged 0-5, would be housed in a three story building that tapers at the rear towards the Glebewood townhouses, with rooftop play areas,” says the flyer. “Integration Station, which is a pre-school for kids with special needs, would also be part of the application (about 30% of 235 children).”

“Daycare would open at 6:45 a.m. and close by 5 p.m — not open on weekends,” the flyer continues. “The site is approximately 19,400 square feet. This is a by-right application under a use permit. The preliminary drawings illustrate an attractive, glass-paneled contemporary and playful design for the school.”

The site is owned by Arlington businessman Brian Normile, of BCN Homes and Liberty Tavern, and would be leased to The Children’s School, according to the flyer. The Children’s School would temporarily move to Ballston during the approval and construction process, it says.

The flyer lists “impacts to Glebewood Historic District,” green space and tree coverage, and parking — the plan calls for 40 mostly underground parking spaces plus drop-off spaces — as some of the issues for further community discussion.

Photo via Google Maps

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Feedback Sought on Childcare Options at Thursday Community Meeting

Arlington County officials are seeking the public’s input on how to improve the accessibility and quality of childcare at a community meeting on Thursday.

The meeting is part of the county’s Child Care Initiative, which aims to promote the development of an inclusive, integrated child care system that serves Arlington County families, especially vulnerable populations.

A draft action plan created in December outlined ways to make childcare more accessible for all income levels. Recommendations included creating a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs and updating the county’s zoning ordinance to create more facilities.

At the meeting, officials will hear feedback before the draft plan heads to a county workgroup. Attendees will circulate through different stations to provide written and oral feedback. At one station, attendees can also give first-hand, personal accounts of their experiences with childcare.

The meeting will take place at the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Registration is requested online.

Caitlin Hutchinson, an assistant director with the county’s Dept. of Human Services said Arlington County has a unique opportunity to enact policy changes that drive meaningful progress.

“We’re one of the few jurisdictions in the state in that we can enact our own child care code. We really have an opportunity to think about what we want to look like as a community,” she said.

In March, a 22-member Leadership Roundtable will review the revised action plan. A final plan is expected to come before the county manager and board in April. Implementation of recommendations will begin in late spring, county staff said.

The plan highlighted “significant gaps between supply and demand” for childcare. There are only 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but more than double the number of children under the age of five in the county.

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said the child care initiative is one of her top priorities this year. In a Jan. 2 speech, Cristol said policy changes are necessary to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington County residents.

“I anticipate that some long-awaited steps will be before the Board soon, such as a potential re-examination of our local codes for alignment with the Commonwealth’s; potential zoning changes to increase the availability of affordable places for, and decrease barriers to entry of, childcare centers; and new partnerships to increase the supply of trained childcare workers,” she said.

In addition to attending the meeting, community members can share feedback by Feb. 2 in the following ways:

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Child Care Center to Open in Long-Vacant Clarendon Retail Space

A long-vacant storefront on the first floor of a Clarendon apartment building will be used as a child care center.

The Arlington County Board on Tuesday (December 19) unanimously approved a proposal to use space at the Garfield Park building (925 N. Garfield Street) for a daycare facility called A+ Kids.

County staff said the space, Suite D, has never had a retail tenant since the building opened. It is around the corner and in the same building as the recently-opened Board Room.

The center will have space for up to 60 children, and comes after the official kick-off of the county’s Child Care Initiative to try and expand choices for daycare. A final number of children will be subject to review by the county’s Child Care Office and Inspection Services Division.

It would be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and use the building’s on-site parking garage to provide the required one parking space per employee.

The center will use some on-street parking spaces on N. Fillmore Street as a drop-off and pick-up zone, and make use of several existing parks as outdoor play space.

Board vice chair Katie Cristol praised the partnership between the various county departments to make the new child care center a reality in a previously unused space.

“It’s nice to see an otherwise unoccupied retail space going for this use,” she said.

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