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Arlington Public Schools is not alone in defying Virginia’s new governor.

One of the first acts in office for Gov. Glenn Younkin (R) was an executive order intended to let parents decided whether their children wear masks to school. But APS — along with Alexandria and Fairfax County, among other public school systems — says that masks are still required, despite the order.

APS argues that state and federal law still requires masks in schools and on buses, and thus the governor’s order is, essentially, invalid. Youngkin hinted that a legal clash may follow.

“The fact that that tweet came out from Arlington County within minutes of my executive order, what that tells me is that they have not listened to parents yet,” Youngkin said, when asked about it by a WTOP reporter. “We will use every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure parents’ rights are protected.”

On Twitter and in interviews, Arlington’s Democratic state lawmakers backed the local school system.

Also issuing a statement of support for APS was a notable Arlington resident: White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong),” President Biden’s primary spokesperson said on Twitter. “Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant.”

Legality aside, Youngkin’s executive order suggested that, in practicality, requiring masks in schools is ineffective and fails to substantially reduce virus transmission.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends use of masks, and has published studies showing more Covid cases among schools without universal masking policies. But some have questioned the science behind the CDC’s guidance.

At last check, there were nearly 1,000 confirmed Covid cases among students and staff in the seven days following their return to school from winter break and a week of snow days.

What do you think: should APS stand firm on its masking policies, or do you support Youngkin’s call to make masks optional at schools?

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Morning Notes

Snow being plowed (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Weekend Snowfall Total — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Observer at Reagan National Airport reports 2.6 inches, pushing Jan. total to 12.2″ – most since 2016 and more than double the norm. Most of the immediate area saw 1.5 to 3 inches.” [Twitter]

Long-time Hospital CEO Retiring — “Virginia Hospital Center ‘was quite a different place’ when Jim Cole arrived in 1985, he recalls… Now 37 years later, Cole is getting ready to retire from one of the area’s only independently owned hospitals — for real, this time after delaying his planned departure in 2020 to remain at the helm through the Covid-19 pandemic.” [Washington Business Journal]

‘Smart Restart APS’ Donates Masks — “Over the winter break, a bunch of other Arlington parents joined Headrick’s effort. They collected money and drove to Home Depots and hardware stores in three states to buy all the available masks they could.
This week, the group donated about 6,000 masks to APS. They will be distributed to all full-time and part-time school employees.” [Patch]

Fire Dept. Recruits Graduate — “After 30 weeks of hard work, ACFD Recruit Class 80 graduates today with 25 new Probationary FF/EMT’s.” [Twitter]

New Va. Gov. Inaugurated — “Virginia began a new chapter Saturday with the inauguration of Glenn Youngkin, the first Republican governor to take the oath of office in 12 years. In his inauguration speech, Youngkin promised a change in direction in the state, with shifts on COVID-19 policies, education, criminal justice and taxes. Youngkin was sworn in as the commonwealth’s 74th governor on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.” [NBC 4]

Fmr. Gov. Says Farewell — From Ralph and Pam Northam: “It has been the honor of our lifetimes to serve as your 73rd Governor and First Lady. From the bottom of our hearts–thank you, Virginia.” [Twitter]

Another Storm Possible This Week — “The European modeling system Monday morning showed a number of projections that would offer some snow but also had some that showed dry weather. On Sunday, one of the model runs from the American modeling system showed a snowstorm, then the next took it away. Monday morning’s run of the model has the storm just missing us to the southeast, but it’s close.” [Capital Weather Gang]

It’s Tuesday — A couple of brisk days are on tap. Today will be sunny, with a high near 39. West wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 5:14 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 48. Southwest wind 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Wolfkann/Flickr

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(Updated at 7:40 p.m.) Students and parents are in the middle of a tug-of-war between Arlington Public Schools and newly-inaugurated Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

One of the Republican’s first acts today (Saturday) after succeeding now-former Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was issuing eleven executive actions, including one that allows parents to “elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”

The order is set to take effect next Monday, Jan. 24.

Youngkin’s order suggests that mask mandates have been ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools, citing incorrect mask usage and the use of low-quality cloth masks. It further suggests that schools instead focus on air filtration systems and other environmental mitigation measures.

Nonetheless APS, which has had a mask mandate for the entire school year, said tonight that the mandate is still in place on school grounds and on buses.

In a statement, APS said state law requires it to adhere to “any currently applicable mitigation strategies.” It also said that federal law requires masks on public transportation, like school buses.

From APS:

Arlington Public Schools will continue to require all staff and students to wear masks inside on school grounds and on buses, as part of our layered approach to safety. Universal mask use has proven effective in keeping COVID-19 transmission rates low in our schools and ensuring schools remain safe and open.

Arlington Public Schools implemented our mask requirement this school year prior to Governor Northam’s K-12 mask mandate, and we will continue to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety and wellbeing of our students and staff, following the guidance of local and national health professionals. Current law in Virginia, per SB1303, says: school divisions need to “provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The federal requirement from February 2, 2021, is still in place on all forms of public transportation. Anyone riding a school bus is therefore required to wear a mask when riding on our school buses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Over the past week there have been just under 1,000 Covid cases identified by Arlington Public Schools — 850 among students, 125 among teachers and staff — according to the school system’s public Covid dashboard. APS has around 27,000 students.

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Morning Notes

Clouds over Roaches Run and Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Youngkin Supporters Want Action Against Arlington — “Arlington County firemen, EMTs, police and other unvaccinated county employees will lose their jobs 16 days after Youngkin takes office if county mandates stay in place, and the remaining vaccinated workers may be forced to do double duty to take up the slack. Youngkin supporters, including those at this monthly breakfast lecture of the Arlington based Leadership Institute, have been expressing concern that the new governor may not be aggressive enough in opposing punitive county policies directed against the unvaccinated.” [Bacon’s Rebellion]

Activists Want Arlington to End All ICE Cooperation — “As Arlington County lawmakers embark on an effort to strengthen trust with immigrant residents, the details of what that will look like — particularly over when and how Arlington communicates with federal immigration officials — remains an open question. Earlier this fall, officials in the Northern Virginia county released a draft framework that declares it is ‘inappropriate’ to use its resources to detain or deport undocumented immigrants. But activists say Arlington needs to go further, pushing the county to cut all ties with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” [Washington Post]

APS Science Teacher Changes Channels — From local high school science teacher Ryan Miller, who also works as fill-in television meteorologist: “Little life (work) change to announce! I’m now part of @nbcwashington & StormTeam4 & will be helping out w/ weather duties from time to time. I may even mix in a science lesson or two during my broadcasts.” [Twitter]

Snow Looking More Likely — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Snow potential index – 3/10 (^): The chance of maybe an inch or two in parts of the region has gone up for Wednesday but some models still aren’t on board with snowy idea.” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Today will be mostly cloudy, with warming temperatures in the afternoon giving way to rain showers after 4 p.m. High near 67. South wind 9 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. Sunrise at 7:13 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 41. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

The sun shines over Crystal Drive and the Crystal City Water Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington Is Getting an Eruv — “Two ritual enclosures that allow Shabbat-observant Jews to carry items beyond their homes are nearing completion in Northern Virginia. Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown is expanding its eruv, or ritual enclosure, into Arlington. Rabbi Hyim Shafner said the completed eruv will enclose Congregation Etz Hayim, Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington and Kol Ami: Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community, as well as Arlington National Cemetery and The Pentagon.” [Washington Jewish Week]

County Leaders Reject ‘Defund’ Call — “At the Nov. 13 Arlington County Board meeting, speaker Evangelia Riris called on elected officials to eradicate much or all of the police department and sheriff’s office, rerouting the $119 million in annual funding to other uses. ‘We could put the money into social services that would provide a more meaningful effect onto people’s lives,’ said Riris… Arlington board members and County Manager Mark Schwartz said, in effect, thanks but no thanks.” [Sun Gazette]

Activists Want New Tree Study — “Activists are continuing to press their effort to get the Arlington County government to initiate another study of tree canopy in Arlington, but seem at best to be receiving a lukewarm response. ‘There are surplus funds available” to conduct a new study,’ said Mary Glass of the Arlington Tree Action Group, who wants the county government to move beyond a 2016 study that showed a largely stable canopy of trees in the county.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Honcho Meets Governor-Elect — From Amazon’s Brian Huseman: “As part of the Team Virginia econ development effort, today I met with Governor-elect @GlennYoungkin about his vision for Virginia. He will be a great leader for VA and Amazon looks forward to working with him as we invest & grow across the Commonwealth and in our Arlington #HQ2.” [Twitter]

Fill the Cruiser Tonight — “Our next Fill the Cruiser event is [Wednesday] evening at Lee-Harrison Shopping Center (2425 N. Harrison Street)! Help us brighten the holidays for children in need and Stop by from 5-7 p.m. to donate new, unwrapped toys for kids aged newborn-17.” [Twitter]

Inflation Hits Local Food Bank — “All this week, @AFACfeeds is giving free turkeys to families in need ahead of Thanksgiving. Last year, the nonprofit spent $37,000 on about 2200 turkeys. This year? That same order cost them $47,000.” [Twitter, WJLA]

Road Closures for Weekend 5K — “The 7th Annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5k & Family Fun Day will take place on Saturday, November 20th, 2021. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures from approximately 8:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in order to accommodate the event.” [ACPD]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny and warmer, with a high near 66. Sunrise at 6:53 a.m. and sunset at 4:52 p.m. Tomorrow will start off sunny and warm, with a high near 72, before rain moves in later in the afternoon and evening. Wind gusts as high as 26 mph on Thursday. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

New AG Targets N. Va. Prosecutors — “Virginia Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares said that he and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will pursue legislation to enable the state’s attorney general to circumvent ‘social justice’ commonwealth’s attorneys who refuse to vigorously prosecute crimes. At a news conference on Thursday, Miyares laid out ‘one of our major legislative initiatives’ which Youngkin ‘has already indicated that he would sign… into law.'” [Fox News]

Department Bans ‘Kill’ from Feedback — From Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt: “Today I learned it’s against our ‘Community Guidelines’ to tell DES that their designs are going to get someone killed.” [Twitter]

Younger Va. Voters Get Less Blue — From ARLnow opinion columnist Nicole Merlene: “Millennials and Gen Z swung almost 10% from Ds to Rs in the #VAGov election. That is ONE THIRD of voters in Virginia. More % of voters than college educated white women — so why are they the story?” [Twitter]

Local Legion Post Getting New Flagpole — “The Arlington House chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution on Oct. 28 presented a financial contribution in support of the effort to raise a new flagpole at the post, which is being redeveloped in partnership with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). DAR chapter regent Nancy Weinberg in 2020 contacted Bob Romano, then-post commander of Sgt. Dorothy M. Doyle American Legion Post 139, to discuss what could be done to assist Post 139 during the construction period.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 54. Sunrise at 7:40 a.m. and sunset at 6:03 p.m. Saturday will be sunny, with a high near 56, while Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 58.

Join the ARLnow Press Club — Get the Morning Notes early and find out what we’re planning to cover that day. Plus exclusive text alerts, insights and more. Sign up now.

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Voting on Tuesday at Swanson Middle School in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Last night’s election gave Arlington’s local Republican and Democratic parties both reason to celebrate, while at the state level, Democrats ceded ground to the GOP.

Arlington maintained its reputation as a solidly blue county Tuesday night, with a majority of voters supporting every Democrat-endorsed or supported candidate and bond referenda on the ballot.

Meanwhile, Arlington’s Republican party says it is celebrating greater enthusiasm for the party locally than it has seen in years. At the state level, Republicans swept Richmond: Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin beat former governor Terry McAuliffe, while fellow Republicans Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares became the first Black woman and Latino respectively to win statewide office.

“Terry was a low-energy candidate,” Arlington GOP Communications Director Matt Hurtt said. “Glenn was a dynamic candidate who enthused Republicans and independents. You have to believe a candidate is going to win, and Republicans believed Glenn was going to win. Even in a place like Arlington, we had a 33% increase [in Republican votes].”

At the county level, 60% of voters secured the re-election of incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis to the Arlington County Board. Voters handily elected Arlington Democrats-endorsed Mary Kadera to the Arlington School Board, succeeding Monique O’Grady.

Arlington re-elected Virginia House of Delegates members Patrick Hope (D-47), Rip Sullivan (D-48), and Alfonso Lopez (D-49), while Democrat Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, currently the City of Alexandria’s vice mayor, was elected to represent the 45th District, which includes parts of Arlington.

“The tremendous outpouring of Democratic support in Arlington was inspiring and contributed to victories in several critical races,” Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo said in a statement. “At the end of the day, we fell short statewide, but we’re confident that the Democratic leaders elected today will continue the fight for a brighter future in Virginia for everyone.”

Karantonis, who has been through three county-wide elections in 20 months, says largely, the priorities of Arlingtonians — and his three vanquished independent candidates — remain the same: housing, healthcare, economic development, the environment, equity, schools and transportation.

“I do believe this election season has underscored the set of issues that have been present along the entire 20 months that I’ve been in political campaign mode,” he said. “It was just a re-emphasis on things that residents need, and I’ve been proposing approaches that could bring measurable improvement.”

Republicans ride education to victory 

While Arlington had a solidly Democrat showing, Hurtt said enthusiasm for Republicans grew leading up to election night. He pointed to the nearly 6-percentage point shift to the right between Donald Trump, who netted 17% of Arlingtonians’ votes, to Youngkin, who received 22.8% of votes.

An Arlington GOP meeting in May had 80 people — the highest attendance in decades, we’re told — and the record was soon broken by an event two weeks ago that netted 200 people and the Tuesday night watch party that attracted 300.

And one new issue drove that support, Hurtt says: education.

“I think the frustration there among parents was palpable,” he said.

That frustration came from a number of new schools issues taken on by Republicans, who’ve traditionally rallied around school choice and homeschooling.

Among them: how systemic racism is taught in schools; policy decisions to eliminate or lower admissions standards for advanced programs in the name of education equity; and in places such as Arlington and Fairfax counties, frustrations over school closures and masking.

“Unequivocally, [Critical Race Theory] 101 is not being taught in Virginia schools. That said, the lens through which every subject is taught… has the lens of critical theory, a philosophy of questioning the institutions,” Hurtt said. “To say to a child that everything around them is stacked against them or stacked in their favor [based on their race] is a destructive way to teach someone who’s forming their belief system.”

On education equity issues, he pointed to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County changing its admissions standards.

At the state level, the Virginia Department of Education also cited equity in its decision to eliminate accelerated math courses prior to 11th grade.

On these issues, Hurtt said, McAuliffe wasn’t strong.

“It was clear in the last 96 hours of the campaign that Terry had lost his footing,” Hurtt said. “He gave us the greatest gift by saying, ‘Parents shouldn’t have a say in kids’ education.’ Whether he meant to say it that way or not, that’s what parents went into the polls considering.”

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Morning Notes

Power Payment Scam — “Arlington County is warning the public about a phone scam of unsolicited calls claiming to be representatives of Dominion Energy. Dominion Energy will not call you to pressure you to pay. If you have issues, contact the customer service line (1-866-366-4357) immediately.” [Twitter]

Youngkin Voters Cite Schools — From WAMU’s Rachel Kurzius: “I cannot stress enough how much the issue of education has motivated Youngkin supporters. It comes up in every convo. Charmaine and Jack Yoest of Arlington say that ‘what’s going on in our schools today’ cuts across party lines and that helps explain Youngkin’s success tonight… One thing I keep hearing is that parents didn’t like what they overheard on Zoom classes.” [Twitter]

Leadership Center Picks Leader — “Lisa Fikes, who has served as head of Volunteer Arlington for five years and in recent months has served as interim CEO of the Leadership Center for Excellence, has been tapped for that post in a permanent capacity.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Today there will be areas of frost before 10 a.m. Otherwise it will be sunny, with a high near 52. Sunrise at 7:37 a.m. and sunset at 6:05 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.

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(Updated at 1 a.m.) The eyes of the nation are on the statewide races in Virginia tonight — and, at least occasionally, on Arlington, which is remaining deep blue.

Another Election Day has resulted in another decisive sweep for Arlington Democrats in the local races.

The narrowest win, relatively speaking, belongs to County Board member Takis Karantonis, who currently has just over 60% of the vote with all but two of Arlington’s 57 precincts reporting. His three independent challengers — Mike Cantwell, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo — have about 14%, 18% and 6% of the vote, respectively.

Democratic-endorsed School Board candidate Mary Kadera is cruising to victory and will replace fellow Democrat Monique O’Grady, who did not seek another term. In the House of Delegates races for districts that include Arlington, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Parker-Bennett will be headed to Richmond in January, while Dels. Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan were all reelected.

All four of the county’s 2021 bond referenda will pass, with the $17 million “community infrastructure” bond receiving 71% yes votes, the lowest of the four.

More than half of Arlington registered voters cast ballots — 26.5% did so through early voting — though whether the turnout exceeds the 59% seen in the 2017 gubernatorial race will not be official until all of the votes are counted. The Arlington elections office said that it would not be able to complete the count until later this week due to outstanding ballots.

As for the statewide races, 76.5% of Arlington voters voted for Democrat Terry McAuliffe to return for a non-consecutive term in the governor’s mansion, as of 11 p.m. That’s down from the 80% that Gov. Ralph Northam received in 2017, and it will likely not be enough. Republican Glenn Youngkin currently has about 51% of the vote across the Commonwealth, to 49% for McAuliffe.

CNN briefly highlighted the vote in Arlington as its national prime time coverage focuses on the closely-watched race in Virginia, a state that had been trending bluer during the Trump era.

Major national outlets called the race for Youngkin around 12:30 a.m., later also calling it for GOP colleagues, Lieutenant Governor candidate Winsome Sears and Attorney General candidate Jason Miyares.

Prominent national election-watcher Dave Wasserman and Virginia Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett both called the race earlier in the night, after early returns favored Youngkin.

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