Arlington, VA

While students with disabilities are still set to return to classrooms next week, further return-to-school phases are now on hold.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán made the announcement in an email to families Tuesday evening.

“Currently, the health and safety metrics are not where they need to be to proceed with Level 2, Phase 1 Return on Nov. 12 for PreK, Kindergarten, and Career & Technical Education (CTE) students,” Durán wrote. “Compared to Level 1 [for students with disabilities], Level 2 brings a significantly larger group of staff and students into our buildings and classrooms, and that is why the metrics are set to a more rigorous standard.”

“To begin phasing in Level 2 students, we need to see further improvement in the metrics,” Durán continued. “We will continue to monitor the data at the end of this week and, in consultation with Public Health, will make a final determination about next steps for Level 2 by next week.”

Among the key metrics that APS is monitoring to determine when to advance to Level 2 of the return-to-school plan and beyond are the county’s rate of increase of coronavirus cases and teacher preferences for whether to return to in-person instruction.

The Case Incidence Rate per 100,000 people currently stands at 9.4, and advancing to Level 2 calls for it to be between 5-6. The latest teacher survey found that only 39% want to return, compared to the 70% or greater set as the criteria for Level 2.

(Level 2 includes PreK-5 and Career and Technical Education students. The criteria for Level 3, which would bring all other students who opt in back to classrooms two days per week, includes a Case Incidence Rate between 4-5 and a teacher preference for in-person instruction above 95%.)

The rate of new coronavirus cases in Arlington has been fluctuating over the past couple of weeks, at a higher level than September, but the county has not seen the kind of surge currently taking place elsewhere in the country.

Students with disabilities are still set to return a week from Wednesday, Durán said.

“Based on my review of the data and in consultation with Public Health, the current health and operational conditions allow for us to provide in-person learning support for Level 1 students with disabilities, beginning on November 4,” the superintendent wrote.

The full letter is below.

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(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Arlington County Police have announced an arrest following a double shooting along Columbia Pike early this morning.

Police said two adults were shot on the 3100 block of Columbia Pike and “are being treated for injuries that are considered non-life threatening.” Photos of the scene show numerous evidence markers and crime scene tape around the parking lot of Purple Lounge at 3111 Columbia Pike.

A helicopter was brought to “assist with the search and recovery of evidence in this case,” Arlington County Police said, adding that the “preliminary investigation indicates there is no ongoing threat to the community.”

Around 4:45 p.m. Sunday, police revealed more information about the shooting and announced that one of those shot has been charged in the shooting. He was shot by security guards and lightly wounded after opening fire on a crowd in the parking lot around 5 a.m., police said.

From a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a shooting that took place on Columbia Pike in the early morning hours of August 30, 2020.

At approximately 5:04 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a shooting in the 3100 block of Columbia Pike. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. He was transported to an area hospital with injuries that are considered non-life threatening.

The preliminary investigation indicates security guards were clearing the parking lot of a business when the suspect drew a firearm and discharged towards the crowd. Two security guards, licensed by the Commonwealth and authorized to carry firearms, then returned fire. The suspect fired additional rounds before fleeing the scene in a vehicle prior to police arrival.

A lookout for the vehicle was broadcast. Responding officers located and stopped the vehicle at the intersection of 9th Street S. at Walter Reed Drive. The suspect was transported to an area hospital for treatment of a superficial wound. Once medically cleared, Yared Denbu, 33 of Dundalk, MD, was arrested and charged with Attempted Malicious Wounding, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, and Reckless Handling of a Firearm. He is being held in Washington D.C. pending extradition to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This appears to be an isolated incident between the parties and there is no known threat to the community related to this incident. This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

The Arlington County Board revoked Purple Lounge’s live entertainment permit last year after a man was shot in the leg in the nightlife venue’s parking lot in September.

“The Arlington County Police Department has noted ongoing issues and violations at this establishment that have created a public disturbance and violate the conditions of the live entertainment use permit,” a county staff report said at the time.

A man was fatally shot a block away from today’s shooting scene, on the 3000 block of Columbia Pike, in June. Two were arrested last month in connection to the shooting and charged with murder.

Photos courtesy @lavvra/Twitter

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(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) A man armed with a gun reportedly robbed the Sunoco at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. Glebe Road this morning.

The broad daylight robbery happened just before 9:45 a.m. Police are on scene and are currently searching for the suspect, who fled on foot.

No injuries have been reported.

Around 10:45 a.m., Arlington County police were notified of a robbery that just occurred at a gas station on the 6300 block of Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners, by a gun-wielding man with a similar description to that of the suspect in the Sunoco robbery.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County should change its logo and seal, the local branch of the NAACP says.

The civil rights group says the logo’s use of Arlington House — the former home of and a memorial to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — is “divisive and racist.”

Enslaved people were forced to build the Greek revival style mansion, which overlooks the Potomac and was the centerpiece of a plantation that utilized slave labor. Until it was seized during the Civil War, Arlington House had primarily been the home of descendents of George Washington. The house is now a National Memorial and part of Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington House, the NAACP said in a letter to the editor this afternoon, is “a symbol of a slave labor camp.” The “racist plantation symbol” should be removed, as it “divides, rather than unites us,” the branch said.

The call to change the logo — which adorns the county flag, website, parks and other county-owned property — comes amid a national reckoning about race, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent national protests.

Prior to the protests, the Confederate-inspired names of Jefferson Davis Highway and Washington-Lee High School were changed in Arlington. The county is also in the early stages of renaming Lee Highway.

In 2018, the County Board responded to a resident’s request for the logo to be redesigned by saying that the Board “will certainly give the matter more thought as budget and staff resources become available in future years.”

Reached for comment today, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that the county has received numerous requests recently to change everything from the logo to the names of buildings, bridges and streets.

As for changing the logo, the county is “happy to consider it,” Garvey said, but only after a community engagement process — “a good solid conversation with everyone in Arlington.”

“When you take something away, you have to put something in its place,” Garvey said.

The letter to the editor was written by NAACP Arlington Branch President Julius Spain, Sr., as well as branch member Carolynn Kane and former Arlington School Board member Dr. Emma Violand-Sánchez. The full letter is below.

Arlington County’s most prominent symbol is its logo and seal. A symbol that is everywhere … on government correspondence, uniforms, buildings, vehicles, websites. A symbol of a slave labor camp. A symbol of the southern plantation economy designed to ensure White privilege and Black subjugation. A place that the National Park Service named, “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.” This is the symbol placed in the center of our flag. A divisive and racist branding of our diverse, usually progressive community. It is a symbol that divides, rather than unites us. Yet, despite community members bringing this problem to their attention, it appears that the County Board is uninterested in changing its logo. Instead the County proudly states in its manual that this symbol reflects its “values … identity … traditions;” and tells residents that there are “good sides” to this racist plantation symbol.

We ask, how can the County have courageous conversations on race, tackle the inequities in Arlington, heal the deep historical wounds here or enact its platform to address racial inequities when it will not confront and change its own symbol? If it refuses to acknowledge its own blindness to the logo’s meaning, it cannot. The County Board must end its embrace of this symbol of Black bondage, oppression and pain. The County’s Robert E. Lee Memorial logo, flag and seal needs to be “retired” and a new era of inclusiveness and equity ushered in immediately. We call on the County Board and County Manager to stop delaying, put this item on the Board’s Agenda, and vote. Now.

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) A road was closed in Crystal City this morning due to a suspicious package investigation.

Police blocked off 26th Street S. between Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street, and are also working to block Crystal Drive.

The Arlington County Fire Department bomb squad responded to the scene to investigate the reported suspicious object, but ultimately officers from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency examined it and gave the all-clear, an ACFD spokesman said.

The area is home to a number of government and military offices.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County workers power washed away Black Lives Matter chalk art in front of a home in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood this morning.

An outraged neighbor posted on social media about the removal of the chalk art, which featured words and phrases like “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” “Justice 4 All,” “MLK,” and “BLM.” A portion of the art was on the county-owned sidewalk and road, while the rest was in the home’s driveway.

“I am both saddened and outraged. My friend and colleague at Ashlawn has had a formal complaint made about her daughter’s chalk art on the driveway, sidewalk and street in front of their home,” wrote Dana Crepeau. “I spoke with the Arlington County employees, who did not want to remove the chalk but were told they must. I asked permission to post their photos.”

“It appears the neighbor who called the county has previously taken it upon herself to erase other chalk drawings in support of Black Lives Matter,” Crepeau added. She noted that today (Friday) is Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved persons during the Civil War, which just became a state holiday in Virginia.

“Do I understand correctly that the county forced Black employees to erase messages in support of Black Lives Matter on Juneteenth and apparently saw no problem with that?” asked a commenter on Crepeau’s Facebook post.

“Yes, you are understanding this correctly,” she replied.

The residents were not home when an ARLnow reporter knocked on the door shortly before noon. The mother of the girl whose art was erased — Yvaal Hampton, a second grade teacher at Ashlawn Elementary — said in an email sent to the neighborhood listserv that “today, I feel like an outsider.”

Dear Boulevard Manor,

When my family and I moved into the neighborhood about a year and a half ago we were welcomed by a few amazing neighbors and I thought “this is going to be great.” Well today, I feel like an outsider. With the on-going racial climate that we are in, my kids and I wanted to express some of our feelings and thoughts in chalk outside of our house. Not a novice idea, right? Well this morning I hear loud voices outside of my window, so I go outside to see what’s going on. There were three African American city workers outside power washing our chalk expressions/drawing away because a neighbor complained. I had a lot of emotions running through me, but then one of the gentlemen said “Miss I don’t really want to have to do this, but my boss told be that I have to do it.” Then I felt sad for them, they were forced to remove a Dr. King quote and children’s artwork because a neighbor felt someway about it (angry, threatened… who knows). If it were flowers and sunshine drawings would she have complained?  Today, I feel like an outsider, but this outsider stands by her chalk messages “Justice for All”, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Thank you Dr. King for your wise words. #BlackLivesMatter

ARLnow is still awaiting an official statement from Arlington County, which held a Juneteenth Peace Rally in front of county government headquarters in Courthouse this morning. (Update at 9:15 a.m.: The county issued an apology last night.)

Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey told ARLnow that he is disturbed by the incident and awaiting more information on what happened. In the meantime, he offered an apology to the residents.

“We await a full understanding of the facts, but what is known at the moment disturbs us greatly,” Dorsey said. “It was a mistake to prioritize responding to this call during a pandemic where our workers should not be deployed unnecessarily. Furthermore, removal of the chalk art from a driveway apron, widely known to be the responsibility of the resident, was wrong.”

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(Updated at 8 p.m.) Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which handles 911 calls and the dispatching of emergency personnel, was evacuated late Friday afternoon, ARLnow has learned.

The evacuation happened around 4 p.m. Police officers were told during that time to restrict all radio transmissions to emergency traffic only. There was no indication that the disruption affected any crucial police operations.

A county spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the evacuation was due to a possible coronavirus case.

“Due to an employee reporting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — and out of an abundance of caution — the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is going through a deep-clean,” said Jennifer K. Smith. “The ECC relocated to the alternate ECC today, which provides 100% redundancy, and we expect the ECC to be back in its primary space Saturday evening.”

“Arlington maintains comprehensive continuity of operations plans to ensure continued access to critical services in public safety, including 911,” she added.

The backup facility has some drawbacks when it comes to mitigating the spread of disease, ARLnow hears, including being smaller, with less room for social distancing among the dispatchers.

File photo courtesy Arlington County

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Update on 5/12/20 — In an update, Arlington County Police say a man has been charged in connection to this incident, which is still considered a “suspicious death.” From ACPD:

This incident remains classified as a suspicious death. Detectives continue to investigate the events that preceded the death and are working with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine cause.

Pursuant to our investigation, the condition of the body indicates the death occurred days prior to police being summoned to the residence. Roscoe James Shaw, 51, of Arlington, VA, has been arrested and charged with Virginia Code § 18.2-323.02 Concealment of Dead Body. He is being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

Original article: Arlington County Police are investigating a “suspicious death” in the Ashton Heights neighborhood, south of Ballston.

The death was discovered following a police dispatch around 4:45 p.m. Friday.

Officers responded to the 200 block of N. Piedmont Street, which is primarily a collection of garden apartment buildings, “for the report of suspicious circumstances,” ACPD said in a press release.

The SWAT team was later called in to make entry into a residence. A tipster described a large police presence in the area.

“Any info on whatever is happening around N. Piedmont Street and Glebe,” the tipster asked around 9:15 p.m. “Fifteen plus cops, road shut down, full tactical gear.”

Upon entering the residence, police say they found a man dead inside.

The death is considered “suspicious” and is being investigated by homicide detectives and the medical examiner. If determined to be homicide, it would be the third homicide in the county so far this year. The last reported homicide happened on April 23.

More from the police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a suspicious death in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

At approximately 4:44 p.m. on May 8, police were dispatched to the 200 block of N. Piedmont Street for the report of suspicious circumstances. During the course of the investigation, information was developed about a possible deceased individual inside a residence. Officers established a perimeter, secured a search warrant and entry into the residence was made by members of the SWAT team. Once inside, an adult male was located deceased.

Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The identity of the decedent is being withheld pending proper identification and notification of next of kin.

This remains an active and ongoing criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this case is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4243 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at ‪1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Chain Bridge was temporarily closed Friday morning due to a search and rescue operation.

Firefighters from D.C. and Arlington, along with U.S. Park Police, were searching for a fisherman who reportedly fell into the Potomac River and did not resurface.

Numerous emergency responders arrived on scene, looking for the man from the shoreline, the bridge and by boat. (The photo above shows a previous rescue operation in the same general area, in March.)

Inbound traffic on Glebe Road was being diverted onto Chain Bridge Road. As of 9 a.m. the incident was moving from being a rescue operation to a recovery operation, with the reported missing person presumed dead, and as of 9:45 a.m. Chain Bridge was being reopened.

The Washington Post reported late Friday morning that a 67-year-old man had died after falling into the river around 7:40 a.m.

More via social media:

File photo

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all schools in the state to remain closed through the end of the academic year and certain non-essential businesses to close.

The governor made the announcement Monday afternoon, citing the need to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads, and to protect the capacity of our healthcare systems,” Northam said.

All schools public and private are to stay closed at least through the end of the academic year. As a result, Arlington Public Schools says it is now working on a plan for what to do going forward, while awaiting further guidance from the state Dept. of Education.

Earlier Monday, APS told parents that it would start to introduce new instructional material to middle and high school students this week.

Elementary teachers will not introduce new content within the timeframe that schools are currently set to be closed. Secondary teachers may begin introducing new content the week of March 23. We recognize that all students do not have the same ability to regularly access and attend to learning new skills or content while at home. Secondary teachers who are introducing new content are mindful of the opportunity gap that this is likely to create and will plan strategies to address it.

While virtual learning can never replace classroom instruction, teachers are providing instructional activities meant to help students maintain their skills and knowledge and prepare for what’s coming next. We understand this comes with both challenges and perks as adults and students work to establish new routines.

Given the extended school closures, state officials are going to with localities on a plan to provide childcare to essential workers, like those who work in healthcare, Northam said.

Northam also announced today that, as of just before midnight on Tuesday, he was ordering certain non-essential businesses closed. That includes recreational and entertainment businesses, like bowling alleys, as well as personal care services that can’t social distance, like barber shops and salons.

Restaurants will only be able to remain open for carryout, curbside pickup, and delivery, Northam said, finally providing the state backing to what Arlington County leaders had been calling for since last week.

The business restrictions will be in effect for at least 30 days, Northam announced.

“We do not make these decisions lightly,” the governor said. “But COVID-19 is serious and we must act.”

“We’re acting judiciously and with full regard to the consequences,” Northam added. “Our priority is to save lives. We have a health crisis, and we have an economic crisis, but the sooner we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover.”

Among the businesses deemed essential, which will be able to stay open, are grocery stores, pharmacies and banks. Construction activities will be allowed to continue, and “construction product retail stores” can stay open, the governor said. Virginia ABC liquor stores will also stay open.

Northam did not order churches and other houses of worship closed, but he encouraged them to practice social distancing.

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The number of known coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Arlington have risen to nine.

That’s up from five as of Friday afternoon. The figures are being reported by the Virginia Dept. of Health, which as of noon on Monday reported 51 cases statewide, with only 489 people tested.

Arlington was third among Virginia jurisdictions in terms of coronavirus cases, with Fairfax and James City counties each reporting 10 cases.

“VDH is no longer reporting the pending number of tests as testing capacity has expanded to include commercial laboratories,” the health department said. “Commercial laboratories report all results to VDH. Information will be updated daily, Monday-Friday at noon; and will be updated daily on weekends.”

Over the weekend, Arlington County declared a local emergency in response to the ongoing outbreak. The county has been listing changes to county government services and events, along with tips for prevention and testing.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

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