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Superintendent Sends New Boundary Proposal to School Board, Leaving Abingdon Unchanged

Superintendent Patrick Murphy has revealed his final proposal for new elementary school boundaries to forward along to the School Board, with a new map designed to simultaneously the answer the concerns of some Fairlington parents and reduce overcrowding at Barcroft Elementary.

Arlington Public Schools officials have spent months drawing up map after map to guide attendance boundaries at eight South Arlington elementary schools set to go into effect next fall. Each one has prompted fresh rounds of concern among parents nervous about seeing their kids moved to different schools, as the school system prepares to open up the new Alice West Fleet Elementary next year.

Murphy’s new proposal, released yesterday (Monday), incorporates changes made to several prior maps worked up by APS staffers.

Perhaps most notably, the proposal keeps the entirety of the Fairlington community within Abingdon’s attendance boundaries, rather than sending some students in South Fairlington neighborhoods to Drew Model School. Parents from across Fairlington vigorously protested previous proposals to do so, arguing that it would unnecessarily split up the community and require plenty of busing to help students reach Drew.

School officials worked up a map last week to leave Abingdon’s boundaries unchanged, but that proposal would’ve left both Drew and Fleet with far fewer students than the buildings are designed to hold. Meanwhile, Barcroft, in particular, would’ve remained substantially over its capacity.

Murphy’s new map would move 100 students out of the school, reducing it from being at 149 percent of its capacity next year to 120 percent. Randolph would also see a slight decrease of about 40 students, and Drew and Fleet would absorb most of the students from those schools.

Neighborhoods just off Columbia Pike would be primarily impacted by the change, with a cluster of streets behind the Walter Reed Community Center and others around Alcova Heights Park all moving to Fleet.

The superintendent’s proposal would mean that Fleet will open at about 88 percent of its planned capacity, while Drew will move to about 92 percent of its capacity. Abingdon remains relatively unchanged, and is scheduled to be at about 120 percent of its capacity, but school officials hope to address that in a new round of boundary adjustments in 2020.

Next year, Drew will see hundreds of students leave the building, as the Montessori program moves to Patrick Henry Elementary. Yet parents there worried the school system’s initial plans would involve unfairly packing the school with students from low-income families, as measured by the percent of the student body eligible for free and reduced price lunch.

Murphy’s proposal would mean that about 56 percent of the school’s population would be FRL-eligible, down slightly from the 60 percent figure that officials initially proposed. Of the eight schools included in the process, only three will have more than 50 percent of the student bodies eligible for free and reduced price lunch, the school system’s target benchmark throughout the boundary process.

The School Board will get its first look at the superintendent’s boundary proposal at its meeting Thursday (Nov. 8), with a public hearing set for Nov. 27. The Board plans to pass a final map by Dec. 6, and could make plenty of changes to Murphy’s proposal between now and then.

Photo via Arlington Public Schools

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APS Proposes New Boundary Map to Keep Fairlington Students at Abingdon, Though Concerns Linger

Arlington school officials are proposing a new boundary map that would keep South Fairlington students at Abingdon Elementary, answering the concerns of parents there who worried the school system’s process of drawing new attendance lines would break up the community.

The school system has wrestled for months now with the thorny question of how to best tinker with the boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools, in order to address overcrowding concerns and prepare for the opening of Alice West Fleet Elementary next fall. Previous proposals for new maps initially irked parents at the Drew Model School, prompting Arlington Public Schools officials to propose an option moving some students in Fairlington neighborhoods from Abingdon to Drew to help address those worries.

But that proposal has touched off a fierce backlash of its own, with some in the community arguing it would force the unnecessary of busing of Fairlington students and damage the community’s strong ties. Now, APS leaders are offering up yet another new option, leaving all of Fairlington at Abingdon and moving some Columbia Heights and Alcova Heights neighborhoods to Drew instead.

Such a change would leave Abingdon substantially overcapacity, with Drew and Fleet still with plenty of space. Yet, in a work session last Wednesday (Oct. 24), school officials indicated it could end up being a workable solution for the county’s boundary conundrums.

“We can’t maintain everyone’s status quo, because we’re in a growth environment, so something has to give,” School Board Chair Reid Goldstein said at the meeting. “In our economic environment, we also need to ensure we fill school buildings, but the results aren’t going to be perfect.”

School system figures show that Abingdon will likely sit at 124 percent of its designed capacity by next year, and the latest proposal would bring that down to just 120 percent, a reduction of about 20 students. By contrast, the boundary map involving the disputed Fairlington changes would’ve dropped Abingdon to 98 percent.

Still, some Board members expressed uncertainty about the value of such a trade off, wondering if it could create problems at Abingdon down the line — APS projections show Abingdon reaching 131 percent of its capacity by 2021, under the latest boundary proposal. Meanwhile, Drew will be at just 74 percent capacity under that plan, and Fleet will open at 90 percent of its capacity.

“In the long run, we don’t want to have to build a new school because we’re not using these facilities well,” said Board member Barbara Kanninen.

Yet APS planning director Lisa Stengle pointed out that Abingdon, Barcroft and Long Branch will all be included in both this year’s boundary process and the redrawing of boundaries set for 2020, giving school officials a chance to address overcrowding at Abingdon in the coming years. She added that process will include more school’s in the county’s northern half as well, allowing for more possibilities in shifting around students.

Stengle also noted that the newest proposal would bring down the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch in Drew’s attendance boundaries compared to previous maps. Parents at Drew expressed concerns that previous efforts would’ve unfairly concentrated low-income students at the school, as the FRL rate is a proxy for the economic diversity of each community.

The newest proposal would mean that 57 percent of students eligible to attend Drew would qualify for free and reduced price lunch, down slightly from the 60 percent figure that initially concerned parents. As of now, about 52 percent of the school’s attendees are FRL-eligible.

“We still haven’t found that sweet spot yet where all the considerations are exactly where we want them to be,” Stengle said.

Board members indeed sought to stress that they were well aware that any boundary proposal is bound to make at least some people unhappy, and Goldstein was careful to note that all of the maps offered up by APS officials over the course of the process “are all still possibilities at this time.”

But Kanninen, in particular, called for a cooling of tempers among parents worried about their children changing schools, urging anyone anxious about a move to a new school to simply call up their prospective principal and learn more about the curriculum before worrying too much.

“We are creating new communities when we do this,” Kanninen said. “Please keep an open mind and get excited about the possibilities.”

Superintendent Patrick Murphy will offer up a final boundary map recommendation next Monday (Nov. 5), ahead of a planned Board vote on the matter in December.

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Letter to the Editor: Sending South Fairlington Students to Drew Would be a Mistake for APS

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Mike Rosenberger, a parent of a second grader at Abingdon Elementary who has deep concerns about a proposal by Arlington Public Schools officials that would send some students in South Fairlington neighborhoods to Drew Model School instead of Abingdon.

The School Board has spent the last few months considering a redrawing of boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools, precipitated by the opening of the new Alice West Fleet Elementary next year, and tempers have frequently flared over how the changes will impact Drew, in particular. But one APS proposal designed to alleviate those concerns has prompted new worries among Abingdon parents.

The Board is still considering a variety of proposed maps, and will approve final boundaries in December. 

I am writing regarding the proposed elementary school boundary map released at APS’s “What We Heard” meeting on Oct. 17. APS’s proposal to bus the students of southern Fairlington from the walkable Abingdon school zone to Drew Model School is not in the best interests of the children and does not reflect the values or the limited transportation resources of the county. The failure of the “What We Heard Proposal” to address in a fair and appropriate way several of the county’s guiding principles in the redistricting process means that this map should be withdrawn from serious consideration.

One of APS’s objectives in establishing new elementary school boundaries is to ensure that most students can attend the school closest to their home. Under the current proposal the students of southern Fairlington, all of whom live within one mile of Abingdon, would be bussed up to two miles to Drew Model School. This proposal would effectively eliminate the popular options of walking and biking to school for all southern Fairlington students, despite the know health benefits of walking or biking to school. Virginia’s Safe Routes to School initiative recognizes that children who walk or bike to school are more active, more physically fit, and more ready to learn when they arrive at school than students who are driven or bussed to school.

Increasing the school transportation needs of Fairlington also has important consequences for APS’s future capital and operating costs. The fiscal year 2019 school budget already allocates $18.3 million for transportation and was only balanced by extending the useful life of buses by three years. Arlington County is already being forced to make difficult financial decisions about existing tax rates and services. The School Board must look for opportunities to stabilize or reduce transportation costs and concentrate its budget on children’s educational needs.

The walk from southern Fairlington to Abingdon is through a safe neighborhood that features contiguous sidewalks, crosses no major roads, has no traffic lights, and, for some children, would be as short as .3 miles. Expanding the Abingdon walk zone would be a common-sense decision that supports APS’s dedication to the welfare of the whole child and would seize a valuable opportunity to reduce transportation needs from the current levels.

I ask the School Board to consider the significant benefits of leaving the southern portion of Fairlington within the borders of Abingdon Elementary School. I understand that redrawing school boundaries is a difficult process. Finding a better alternative to the current proposal would not only be in line with Arlington County’s efforts to promote walkable communities, but would also serve the health interests of the children of southern Fairlington and APS’s limited transportation resources and budget.

I encourage APS to withdraw the “What We Heard Proposal,” to explore other options, and to think more creatively about possible solutions to the challenges we face as we work to ensure our schools meet the needs of our communities.

Sincerely,

Mike Rosenberger

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity. Photo via Arlington Public Schools.

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Fire Station 7 in Fairlington to Shut Down Temporarily Due to ‘Structural and Safety Concerns’

Fire Station 7 in Fairlington will soon shut down temporarily and its firefighters will relocate elsewhere, due to some structural concerns at the property.

Arlington County’s fire department announced the move yesterday (Thursday), reassuring Fairlington and other South Arlington residents that other firefighters near the station (located at 3116 S. Abingdon Street) will continue serving the area during the closure.

The fire department says the trouble stems from the “apparatus bay floor” of the station, where fire engines are housed inside the building. Whenever firefighters would pull an engine into or out of the station, the county says crews heard noises that convinced them to undertake an engineering investigation — particularly because some of the crew’s living quarters are located directly beneath the area in question.

That closer look at the concrete convinced the fire department to move its crews elsewhere, for now.

“First, the floor was built many decades ago and was not designed to handle the weight of modern fire engines, which has almost doubled since the station was built,” the fire department wrote in a blog post. “Second, with the additional weight, engineers found that the steel and the concrete structures of the flooring were no longer working in unison to support the load. The noise the crews heard was the concrete and steel in the floor rubbing against one another as they were flexing at different rates.”

With the onset of some colder temperatures, firefighters don’t feel comfortable simply storing fire engines outside, so crews working out of Fire Station 7 will move to Fire Station 4 in Clarendon (3121 10th Street N.) as work continues.

The fire department expects it will need a month or two to complete a “more thorough inspection of the concrete slab,” and then expects to identify some “possible fixes” for the station.

Until then, the county expects to rely on Fire Station 9 (1900 S. Walter Reed Drive), two stations in Alexandria and one in Bailey’s Crossroads to serve the area.

“The fire department is committed to providing high-quality and dependable service to Arlington residents,” Acting ACFD Fire Chief Joseph Reshetar wrote in a statement. “The proximity of Fire Station 9 and our mutual aid agreements with Alexandria and Fairfax County will ensure that Fairlington continues to receive thorough fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) coverage.”

Crews at Fire Station 7 will officially move out this coming Tuesday (Oct. 30).

Photo via Google Maps

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Parents Urge APS to Keep the Henry Community Together As Part of Move to Fleet

(Updated Wednesday at 4:10 p.m.) As the heated process of setting new boundaries for eight South Arlington elementary schools lurches forward, parents at Patrick Henry Elementary are trying to deliver a single message to school officials: don’t break up the community in the move to Alice West Fleet Elementary.

Fleet’s planned opening next fall precipitated this process of drawing new boundary lines for the schools in the first place, with most Henry students set to move to the new school and the Montessori program currently housed at Drew Model School will move to Henry’s building.

Parents at Henry have long sought reassurances from Arlington Public Schools officials that the community would move as one to Fleet, without any neighborhoods being redirected elsewhere. The school system has released two different maps for public scrutiny over the last few months, and both have so far stuck firm to that request.

That fact was not lost on roughly a dozen parents who testified at the School Board’s meeting last Thursday (Oct. 18). Though the new boundary proposals have stoked outrage among families at Drew and Abingdon alike, they’ve largely satisfied parents with kids set to make the move from Henry, who are urging school leaders to stay the course throughout the remainder of the boundary process.

“We are a community that lives on Columbia Pike,” Melanie Devoe told the Board. “This will keep our students together, as we’ll have students who are learning together in elementary school all stay on the same campus through middle school.”

Erin Wasiak, co-president of the Henry Parent-Teacher Association, similarly praised the Board for keeping families along the Pike together, noting that the road acts as “our ‘Main Street’ and our town square.” Even still, she would note that the school system’s latest proposal would divert a few neighborhoods on the east side of S. Courthouse Road to Hoffman-Boston instead, a change that would only affect a relatively small number of students, but still struck Wasiak as a bit concerning.

“We’re as close or closer to Fleet as we are to the school you want to put us in,” Nicole Hallahan, a parent of a current Henry student set to move to Hoffman-Boston, told the Board.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia stressed that officials are working to focus on contiguity as part of the process, though he noted that the school system “cannot guarantee that any individual school community will stay together.” As Lisa Stengle, the APS director of planning and evaluation, put it at an Oct. 17 community meeting, “We don’t want islands in places.”

“Boundary proposals align with the policy considerations, reflect what serves all students, and explore how changes to one school affect other schools,” Bellavia wrote in an email. “Change will be continual within APS due to ongoing enrollment growth, and APS is responsible for ensuring equity for all students across schools and programs.”

Nevertheless, between the changes with the Henry boundaries and the proposal to send some South Fairlington students to Drew instead of Abingdon, parents say the county hasn’t always managed to meet that particular goal.

“You just have to look at the map to see it’s oddly gerrymandered,” Claire Kenny, a parent of an Abingdon student, told the Board. “Please don’t punish our children to fix past redistricting efforts, or to fulfill promises to other communities.”

APS planners only proposed those Fairlington changes in the first place to create a more even spread of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch, a measure of their families’ economic means, at schools across South Arlington. Some parents worried too many economically disadvantaged students were being lumped in at Drew, and Henry parents also urged the Board to keep the issue as a prime focus throughout the rest of the boundary-setting process.

“It’s important to have racially and culturally diverse schools that prepare our students to effectively relate with others,” said Megan Haydasz, a parent of a Henry student who’s been active on other school equity issues in South Arlington in the past. “Yet high concentrations of poverty limit a school community’s resources and may unconsciously limit student outcomes compared to other schools.”

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APS Draws Ire of Abingdon Parents With Boundary Tweaks Designed to Satisfy Drew Concerns

Arlington school officials have hit a bit of a snag in the complex, contentious process of setting new boundaries for the county’s southern elementary schools — changes they’ve proposed to address concerns from Drew Model School parents have generated a new backlash from the Abingdon Elementary community.

Some parents living in the Nauck neighborhood initially raised concerns that proposed boundary tweaks at Drew would drastically change the school’s socioeconomic make-up, leading to a substantial boost in the number of students receiving “free and reduced lunch,” a measure of each family’s economic means, at the school. They feared such a shift would amount to packing poorer students into a single building, rather than maintaining a more balanced percentage at each South Arlington school.

Accordingly, Arlington Public Schools planners offered a change to the new boundary map, which is being crafted as the school system prepares to open Alice West Fleet Elementary School ahead of the 2019-2020 school year. The zoning change would send a few neighborhoods in the southernmost reaches of Fairlington, an area roughly bounded by N. Quaker Lane and King Street, to Drew instead of Abingdon in order to better balance out the “free and reduced lunch” population at each school.

However, that suggestion was immediately met with fierce criticism from the Fairlington community. A petition protesting the change launched on Friday (Oct. 12) has already garnered more than 1,000 signatures, and the Fairlington Citizens’ Association fired off a pointed letter to the School Board on Sunday (Oct. 14).

“Shifting South Fairlington students to another school will weaken the fabric of the community, diminish the cohesiveness of the community, and disrupt social and educational connections that currently exist,” Citizens’ Association President Guy Land wrote. “It runs counter to the community-centric focus Arlington has for years promoted.”

Beyond even that broad criticism, Land and the petition’s authors argue that the change would be an inefficient one from a transportation perspective, charging that it would increase the number of students forced to ride the bus to school instead of walk.

“Bus rides from Fairlington to Drew would significantly lengthen the ride for kids,” the petition reads. “This would put a greater strain on APS transportation, which is not a luxury APS has.”

Yet APS staff pointed out in a presentation to the Board last Wednesday (Oct. 10) that such a boundary change would have substantial benefits in balancing out the free and reduced lunch divide between Drew and Abingdon.

They noted that Abingdon had 41 percent of students living in its attendance boundary eligible for free and reduced lunch, as of last October. Meanwhile, Drew stands at 66 percent, a number that is a bit deceiving, as it reflects the move of the Montessori program to Patrick Henry Elementary next year, and the program generally includes kids from wealthier families. With Montessori students included, Drew’s free and reduced lunch percentage is closer to 52 percent.

The first boundary proposal would’ve dropped Abingdon’s free and reduced lunch percentage down to 34 percent, while moving Drew to 60 percent. The newly revised proposal would bump Abingdon up to 45 percent, compared to 49 percent for Drew. And, in a bid to ease some worries over the boundary change, APS could allow rising fifth grade students and their siblings to be exempt from the switch, with APS transportation provided.

The newest boundary map would also address the concerns of parents at Drew that students could be zoned to matriculate to one of three middle schools, instead of just one, under the first APS proposal. The new map would have Drew students eligible for two middle schools instead.

Parents and community members now have until Oct. 29 to offer comments on the latest boundary proposal. APS plans to release a final map on Nov. 5, with the School Board expected to take a final vote on the matter on Dec. 6.

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30 Years Ago in Arlington: Serial Killer Convicted With DNA Evidence

On a summer day in 1988, prosecutor Helen Fahey addressed an Arlington jury. It was the sentencing phase in a six-day long capital murder trial.

“Something is terribly, terribly wrong with Timothy Spencer,” she said.

That trial opened 30 years ago this month, on July 11, 1988. It ended with a death sentence.

Spencer, sometimes known as the “South Side Strangler,” was convicted for the brutal rape and murder of Susan Tucker, a 44-year-old Fairlington resident. He would eventually accumulate three more death sentences for similar killings in and around Richmond.

The story is significant in American legal and scientific history because it represents the nation’s first capital murder conviction based on DNA evidence. No serial killer in any country had previously been convicted with DNA.

Richmond-based writer Richard Foster is chronicling the story in painstaking detail through a 10-episode podcast, entitled Southern Nightmare.

“The fact is there was no other evidence directly linking Spencer to the scene besides the DNA,” Foster said. “That’s what’s really so groundbreaking about this case.”

Foster spoke with sources including homicide detectives, FBI profilers and friends and family of Spencer’s victims to outline a chilling tale of escalating criminal behavior, tragedy and the struggle for justice.

Years earlier, from summer 1983 through January 1984, investigators believe Spencer committed a series of crimes including eight rapes in and near Arlington in what Foster describes as a “seven-month terroristic campaign.”

Those crimes culminated in Spencer’s first murder, in the 23rd Street S. home of lawyer Carolyn Hamm.

That January, the attacks abruptly stopped, only to resume in September 1987 with the rape and murder of Debbie Davis, a 35-year-old Richmond resident.

As Foster relays in the podcast, Arlington County detective Joe Horgas discovered that this timeline lined up with a prison stint for Spencer — he was arrested for an Alexandria burglary in January 1984, and released to a halfway house in Richmond in September 1987.

When Horgas visited the halfway house in Richmond, he found something else. Spencer had been signed out of the house when each of the murders occurred, and he had furlough to visit his mother in Arlington when Susan Tucker was killed.

Arlington detectives arrested Spencer in Richmond on Jan. 20, 1988 with a grand jury indictment for burglary, rape and murder.

Spencer was never tried for the 1983-84 crimes or for Hamm’s murder. The DNA left behind at the Hamm murder scene had degraded beyond usefulness, and he had received death sentences for the other murders.

But Spencer’s implication in the Hamm case led Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles to pardon David Vasquez, who had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for Hamm’s murder after submitting an Alford plea — not admitting guilt, but conceding that there was enough evidence to convict him.

Vasquez’s sentence “was an obvious miscarriage of justice and it’s very sad,” Foster said. “[Vasquez] was a man who functioned at about the level of a 10-year-old depending on the situation.”

The Spencer case, in spite of its significance, seems to be “one of those cases that… fell through the cracks, historically,” Foster said.

At the time, DNA evidence was quite new to the courtroom, and there was uncertainty over whether juries would accept it. This case “made it so it wasn’t as difficult to put on DNA cases… in the future,” Foster said.

Without DNA evidence in Spencer’s trials, “I definitely don’t think they would’ve gotten the four convictions they got,” Foster said. “I think that would’ve been a lot tougher.”

Spencer was executed April 27, 1994 — the last person in Virginia to be put to death with the electric chair.

Photo via Facebook

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Chemical Leak at Fairlington Dry Cleaners Prompts Neighborhood Worries

A long-term chemical leak at a dry cleaning business near Fairlington has caused an odor in some homes — and concerns among residents about their health.

State environmental regulators are wrapping up their review of the spill from Fairlington Cleaners, located in a low-slung shopping center at 1712 Fern Street in Alexandria. According to documents, toxic chemicals leaked from the business into the area’s soil and groundwater, which has affected homes across the Arlington border in Fairlington.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has spent years working with TBR Associates, the owner of the Fairlington Shopping Center along N. Quaker Lane, to evaluate conditions at the business. With a final report in hand, they’re planning a meeting tonight (Monday) to discuss their findings at 7 p.m. at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).

Previous managers of the cleaners used equipment that regularly leaked fluid containing tetrachloroethene, a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning that’s linked to a variety of adverse health impacts, prompting concerns among residents of the nearby Fairlington Glen and Fairlington Meadows condo communities.

The DEQ ultimately determined that most people living in the area weren’t facing any serious health risks, after testing about 50 homes in those neighborhoods. Though the chemical has impacted the area’s groundwater, the homes are hooked up to municipal water lines, meaning the chemical would only impact people if its vapors wafted into the houses.

Regulators did find that five homes were contaminated with those vapors at potentially serious levels, and the shopping center’s owner installed fan systems to address the issue. However, a review of data collected from the homes by the state health department concluded that there is a “low or extremely low” risk of cancer for anyone breathing in the fumes and determined that the chemical does not pose a health hazard to the larger community.

In a letter to the Fairlington Glen and Meadows homeowners associations, the DEQ now says it’s ready to install four new, permanent groundwater monitoring wells in the area and set up some sort of “legally binding mechanism” to ensure the owner of the shopping center continues to test the area for any potential contamination from the chemicals.

Some neighbors, however, want to see regulators get considerably more aggressive in pressing TBR to do more. Glen residents Barbara Collier and Ellen McDermott have been distributing a flier arguing that “we still do not have an active picture of the plume or chemical levels under our homes,” according to a copy of the note provided to ARLnow.

They wrote that the state testing only “gives a snapshot in time” of the contaminants, and the chemicals could continue to spread, even though the DEQ argued in its report that TPR and its contractor, Engineering Consulting Services, have managed to stem the flow of the chemicals.

Collier and McDermott are also concerned that ECS hasn’t “used the best technologies” to review contamination in the area before submitting data to DEQ, arguing that their methods are “questionable.” They note that they’re suspicious of the contractor in general, considering that the DEQ cited the company back in 2006 for improperly disposing waste water as it tried to clean up chemicals at the dry cleaning site.

“This matter has dragged on for so long that by the time there is any ‘resolution,’ we also may be well past the statute of limitations for any legal action to fix the damage done,” Collier and McDermott wrote. “This meeting is the last chance to push the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to be more aggressive.”

DEQ spokesman Greg Bilyeu told ARLnow the agency has no timetable set for any follow-up actions following the meeting, but hopes to use the gathering as a way of “sharing more information, hearing from the community and answering questions right now.”

“Information gathered from the meeting and afterwards will be included in DEQ’s future considerations and actions,” Bilyeu wrote.

Photos 1 and 2 via Google Maps

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Duckling Rescue Effort at Fairlington Pool Sparks Neighborhood Dispute

Trista Nealon and some of her neighbors thought they were doing the right thing when they forced their way into the neighborhood pool to rescue some wayward ducklings — but now, their condo association is threatening them with criminal charges for their efforts.

Nealon tells ARLnow that one of her fellow condo owners in Fairlington Glen noticed seven ducklings stuck in the neighborhood’s community pool back on May 10 and she decided to go ask the pool’s manager if she could get in and help them leave.

When Nealon was rebuffed, she and her neighbors tried contacting a member of the Wildlife Rescue League to come help — again, they had no luck. So a group went back over to the pool, unlocked its gate by reaching in through a well-positioned mail slot, and fished out the baby ducks.

Nealon says a woman accosted the group at the time and threatened to call the police, before storming off, but she otherwise didn’t think much of the encounter. Yet when last Thursday (May 31) rolled around, Nealon and a few other neighbors involved in the rescue effort received a letter from attorneys representing the Fairlington Glen Council of Co-Owners informing her that the group’s Board of Directors “is currently considering whether to press charges or take other enforcement action.”

“I am a [27-year] Glen resident owner, and it is ridiculous that I am being threatened with criminal charges for being a Good Samaritan and saving baby ducks,” Nealon wrote in an email. She shared a copy of the letter with ARLnow and also posted it to a Facebook group for Fairlington residents.

Kristen Buck, an associate with the firm Rees Broome, said in the letter that the condo board felt a lock around the pool was damaged in the process of this rescue effort, and she’s requesting the people involved to pay the board $100 each to help reimburse the cost of replacing it.

“Such a good faith payment may influence whether the Board decides to press charges or take other action,” Buck wrote.

Nealon insists that no one damaged any property over the course of this episode, and she finds Buck’s suggestion that the neighbors should have simply called the county’s animal control to be without merit, given the “imminent danger” she felt the ducklings were in at the time.

Buck declined comment on the matter, as did Thora Stanwood, president of the condo association’s Board of Directors.

But, in a newsletter distributed by the condo association, there is a reference to a “break in” at the Fairlington Glen pool.

The newsletter claims a police report was filed about the incident, and that condo association’s Board of Directors “consulted with legal counsel about the recovery of damage from the break in.” County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says she has no record of any police report being filed from the area that day.

Nealon isn’t sure what she’ll do next, but she at least plans to attend the condo association’s next meeting to protest her treatment, and she doesn’t expect she’ll be alone.

Her post on the Fairlington Appreciation Society Facebook page about the incident already has 125 likes and dozens of supportive comments.

Photo courtesy of Trista Nealon

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Resident Calls Police on Children’s Karaoke Party in Fairlington

An outdoor karaoke party for kids in the Fairlington neighborhood prompted a call to police Friday night.

Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that police were dispatched at 9:49 p.m. to the 4200 block of 35th Street S. “for a report of a loud party.”

Via social media, residents described the gathering as a karaoke party for toddlers, held by parents in a condo parking lot. Two police cars arrived but no action was taken by officers, residents said.

The call to police prompted widespread indignation on a Facebook page for Fairlington residents, with many calling it “ridiculous.”

“Whichever of you suggested to call the police on a karaoke party before 10 p.m. on a Friday during [Memorial Day weekend], you must be a pleasure at parties,” said one.

“Sorry my child likes to play outside,” said another. “Thank you for calling the cops on us instead of walking over and asking us to turn down the volume on a kids’ ‘fashion show,’ cowardly neighbor. You’re a peach.”

“You’re a joke,” said yet another. “Say hi to your cats.”

The posts were later taken down by a page administrator, who urged greater civility among its thousands of members.

In an earlier post, which was also taken down after attracting numerous replies, a resident complained about noise from the party. (It’s unclear if the poster was the same resident who called police.)

“Appreciate it’s a Friday night, but our neighbors have decided to have a (loud) party (complete with karaoke) in our common court area outside,” she said. “Are there rules for noise at this hour? I’ve never had neighbors like this in Fairlington and we’ve lived here for 14 years.”

No citations were issued by police and the officers who arrived on scene did not even file a report, according to Savage.

“The minor incident was resolved and no police report was filed,” she said.

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Morning Notes

Region Sets Heat Record — The National Weather Service reports that Arlington and surrounding areas set a heat record yesterday. The temperature at Reagan National Airport reached 91 degrees, which tops the previous record of 89, set in 1930. [Twitter]

Co-Working Space Opening Soon — TechSpace, a new co-working space, will hold a grand opening event and happy hour in Ballston on May 15. The 20,000 square foot office will open in the Two Liberty Center building (4075 Wilson Blvd) across the street from the under-construction Ballston Quarter Mall. [PR Newswire]

Playground Design Meeting — County staff will present the two concepts for the new playground at Rosslyn Highlands Park and take feedback from the public at a meeting tonight. It takes place in the library at Key Elementary School at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]

Theodore Roosevelt Island Survey — The National Park Service is seeking feedback via a survey for improvements to Theodore Roosevelt Island, including possible bridge and comfort station upgrades and the addition of a boat dock. Today is the last day to submit comments. [National Park Service]

Reduced Parking in Fairlington — As the Fairlington Park Project enters its final stages, 19 parking spaces will be occupied for construction equipment staging. Visitors should plan ahead for the parking challenges.

New Marymount President — Dr. Irma Becerra has been chosen as the new Marymount University president and will take over the position on July 1. She comes to the school from St. Thomas University. [Marymount University, InsideNova]

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Fairlington 5K Tomorrow to Benefit Girl with Rare Disease

(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) The Fairlington 5K Run and Walk tomorrow will raise money for an Arlington girl with a rare, degenerative disease.

In 2011, Ellie McGinn was diagnosed with LBSL (leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation), which causes impaired nervous system functioning that can lead to muscle stiffness, tremors, weakness, poor balance and difficulty coordinating body movements.

The nonprofit organization “A Cure for Ellie” has been set up in her name to raise awareness of LBSL and funding for research. McGinn appeared on the Today Show last year for her and her parents’ work in their search for a cure.

Tomorrow’s non-competitive run/walk in Fairlington aims to promote general health and physical fitness while also supporting McGinn, who is a third-grader at Abingdon Elementary School. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at Abingdon Elementary (3035 S. Abingdon Street) and registration is $35 for adults, $20 for children ages 6-16 and free for children five and under.

Arlington County police will oversee the following road closures from approximately 7-9:30 a.m. to accommodate the race:

  • Abington Street between S. 29th Street and S. 36th Street
  • 36th Street between S. 34th Street up to, and including, Stafford Street
  • Wakefield loop off S. 34th Street
  • Utah Street between S. 32nd Street and S. 34th Street

Photo via A Cure for Ellie

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Police Looking for Man Seen Masturbating Near Elementary School

Police were called to the area around Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington yesterday for a report of a man seen masturbating in his car.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. and initial reports suggested the man was staring at the school when spotted by the witness. He drove off before police arrived.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2018-04120144, 28th Road S. at S. Abingdon Street. At approximately 2:06 p.m. on April 12, police were dispatched to the report of an indecent exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was walking in the area when she observed an unknown male suspect masturbating inside his vehicle. The suspect fled the area prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his 30’s. He was driving a blue sedan. The investigation is ongoing.

There have been a number of similar incidents recently, but it is unclear whether any are linked.

“All cases of indecent exposure are assigned to the Special Victims Unit for follow-up investigation and they will work to determine if the case is linked to any other reports in Arlington County,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Woman Killed in Freak Accident — Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident and world class triathlete, was killed when the car she was a passenger in struck a deer on I-85 in South Carolina Monday morning. Viviani, 68, was pronounced dead at the scene. [Greenville News]

Arlington Man Killed in Fiery Crash — A 32-year-old Arlington man, Antwuan Barnes, was killed early Sunday in Martinsburg, W. Va. Police say the driver of a car in which he was passenger tried to take a turn too fast and slid into a tree, shearing the vehicle in two and causing it to burst into flames. [Martinsburg Journal, MetroNews]

Fairlington Condo Association Rolls Out Trash Cans — The Fairlington Villages condo association has rolled out dozens of large black trash bins for residents to deposit their garbage. The move follows a series of raccoon attacks in north Fairlington and is intended to discourage the nocturnal critters from taking up residence. Following the roll out, the association suspended its raccoon trapping campaign. [Fairlington Villages]

Crystal City Building Wraps, Explained — Washington Post columnist John Kelly has an explanation for why property owner JBG Smith commissioned a series of four colorful building wraps to spruce up some of its older office buildings in Crystal City. Not mentioned in the article: that the neighborhood is a top contender for Amazon’s HQ2. [Washington Post]

Thousands Ticketed for Driving Slow in Left Lane — “Thousands of people have been fined since Virginia implemented a law setting penalties for driving too slowly in the left lane of a highway… from July 1, 2017, through April 3, more than 16,000 people were cited under various portions of the law.” [NBC Washington]

Late Night Hot Pot — Chinese hot pot restaurant Mala Tang has extended its hours until 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, according to a press release.

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Morning Notes

Favola Weighs in on Country Club Tax Bill — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) said in an op-ed that Gov. Ralph Northam should veto a bill lowering the taxes of Arlington country clubs. She added: “If the country clubs are really interested in preserving open space, Virginia has a successful land preservation tax-credit program. It gives financial incentives to landowners who agree to keep their open space undeveloped, in perpetuity, while ensuring that the space is maintained for everyone’s benefit.” [Washington Post]

Fatal Motorcycle Crash Near Fairlington — A 34-year-old Haymarket man died after he crashed his motorcycle on King Street near Fairlington early Friday morning. Residents said on a local online group that a large group of motorcyclists was riding down King Street at the time of the crash. [Patch, WTOP]

New Ballston Restaurant Serving Nepalese Dishes — Urban Tandoor, which opened last week in Ballston, is serving Tibetan dumplings — or momos — in addition to the traditional Indian fare that makes up most of the menu. [Eater]

Dance Party on Streets of Clarendon — An impromptu group song and dance performance broke out on a Clarendon sidewalk after last call early Saturday morning. [Twitter]

Another Successful E-CARE — Arlington’s E-CARE recycling and disposal event over the weekend collected 83,208 pounds of “household hazards” over the weekend. [Twitter]

Hundreds Give Blood in Ballston — “Hundreds lined up at the Washington Capitals practice facility to donate blood for Inova Blood Donor Services. The drive, held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, was one of several sports-themed drives that Inova holds every year, teaming up with local sports teams to promote blood donation in a fun way.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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