Arlington, VA

Update at 3:30 p.m. — The “all clear” has been given after the bomb squad inspected and “disrupted” the device. It’s unclear if it was determined to have been hazardous or, perhaps, just misplaced.

Earlier: Arlington’s bomb squad is responding to the Long Branch Creek neighborhood to investigate a suspicious object in a condominium parking lot.

Police were called to the Olde Factory condos on S. Meade Street, between S. Glebe Road and Gunston Park, shortly before 2:30 p.m., for a report of a suspicious device — possibly a pressure cooker — left in or around the parking lot.

While the bomb squad investigates the object, students from nearby Gunston Middle School and other pedestrians are being kept away from the scene by Arlington County police, according to scanner traffic. Police are encouraging the public to avoid the area altogether.

The parking lot is across the street from the busy Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Update on Big Bailey’s Crossroads Fire — “Fire Investigators determined that the fire was accidental in nature and started in the kitchen area of one of the units. The fire was caused when food was left unattended on the gas stove.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, Twitter]

Local Students Participating in Lincoln Event — “Students from Gunston Middle School will participate in the Lincoln Oratory Residency and Festival, taking place on Feb. 5-6 at Ford’s Theatre.” [InsideNova, Ford’s Theatre]

Chinese New Year Food Tip — “Food tips: #xotaste now sells 6-packs of their pork buns for less than $10. This is a steal! #chinesenewyear#yearofthepig” [Instagram]

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Morning Notes

Family Wants to See Relative Shot By Police — The family of Steven Best, who was shot by police last week after allegedly trying to ram a police cruiser with a van, says they have not been allowed to see him nor have they been given information on his condition. [WJLA]

Legislative Threat Helped Country Club Tax Deal — “The decision by two Arlington country clubs to take their case to the General Assembly helped get all parties to come together on a deal more expeditiously than otherwise might have been the case, the Arlington government’s top legal official said,” reports the Sun Gazette. Arlington clubs, meanwhile, “came away with most of what they were seeking in assessment reductions.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]

Local Sixth Graders Make Headlines — A fourth-period, sixth-grade class at Gunston Middle School is the May Class of WaPo’s KidsPost. [Washington Post]

Marymount Employee’s Boston Marathon Journey — Katie Sprinkel, a lab coordinator and adjunct professor at Arlington’s Marymount University, overcame knee and leg injuries — and a battle with breast cancer — to finish this year’s Boston Marathon. She was back at work the next day. [Marymount University]

Arlington Among Top Walkable Places — Arlington is No. 9 on a list of the most walkable communities in the country. The list was compiled by the travel site Expedia. [Viewfinder]

Major Metro Work Starting Next Summer — “There will be no service on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines south of Reagan National Airport for 98 days beginning in May 2019, as the transit agency embarks on a platform rebuilding project spanning six stations, part of an effort to refurbish 20 station platforms over three years.” Arlington’s East Falls Church Metro station is also on the list of platforms to be rebuilt. [Washington Post, WMATA]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Arlington Gets New Emergency Management Director — Arlington County has named Aaron Miller as its new Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. He is currently the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for the City of New Orleans. [Arlington County]

Gunston Students Win Anti-Bullying Video Competition — Two eighth-grade girls from Gunston Middle School have won a second-place prize from the AT&T Film Awards for their cyberbullying prevention video. The duo will receive $2,000 in camera equipment and a one-day workshop at Gunston with professional filmmakers. [WJLA]

Vihstadt Could Face Tough Reelection — Democrats are energized by their opposition to President Donald Trump, and that could mean an especially challenging reelection for independent County Board member John Vihstadt. A blue wave in the 2018 midterms may make Vihstadt more vulnerable to his eventual Democratic challenger, one local political blogger suggests. [Blue Virginia]

Expensive Morning Commute on I-66 — “The toll to travel along eastbound Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia hit $46.75 Wednesday morning, about a week after it notched a record high.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Applying to college is a scary but exciting process. Picking out schools, writing a personal statement and stacking up all of your best accomplishments.

But there was only one experience that I was never able to put into simple words, and that was the 11 years that I spent in immersion classes.

Arlington County is home to four Spanish immersion programs, at Claremont and Francis Scott Key elementary schools, Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School.

Arlington Public Schools says the goal of the programs is to develop “high levels” of proficiency and literacy in two languages, promote high academic achievement and cross cultural competence.

I started second grade at Claremont Immersion School in 2003. It was the first year the school opened and students came from the immersion programs at Abingdon Elementary and my former school, Oakridge. I spent half my first day reciting the multiplication tables in Spanish, the other half in English.

It was not always easy, I struggled with both science and math as I got older and the content got more complicated. I stuck with it, although it was common for classmates to leave the school so they could thrive in a traditional setting.

Language skills improve even more in middle school, when there are 11 hours of Spanish instruction a week. Because subjects switch throughout the day, there’s a possibility to go back and forth from English to Spanish. It’s a brain workout to go back and forth between the two every 45 minutes. Unlike the elective Spanish classes offered in middle school, the Spanish Language Arts class that immersion students take is structured much like an English class.

High school is the true test. Some students struggle with AP level Spanish, as you don’t practice the language the way you do in middle school. With block scheduling, you may only get one day of Spanish instruction.

Continuing to practice Spanish every day is a valuable commitment. Many of my friends are double majoring or minoring in the language. They have traveled to Spain, Cuba and Costa Rica to practice the language.

“I’ve gotten to travel the world with confidence in my ability to speak the language,” said Peyton Johnson, a senior at James Madison University double majoring in Communications and Spanish.

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National nonprofit For The Love Of Others and the local chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity are hosting a free lunch for those in need this Saturday at Gunston Middle School (2700 S. Lang Street).

The goal of the event is to give out 650 meals between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in an effort to help those who struggle with food insecurity. No reservations are required.

For The Love Of Others provides food drives across the country, and participates in other giving events to “empower, enrich and enhance the lives of people from all backgrounds through providing opportunities to enable them to live a purposeful life.”

Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black intercollegiate fraternity in the country, partners with organizations that are in keeping with the fraternity’s motto of “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All” — promoting brotherhood while providing service in the community.

“The fraternity stands on the motto of manly deeds, scholarship and love for all mankind,” said David M. Preston, a local fraternity member who is helping with the event. “We wanted to partner with an organization that has the vision and the goal of service to the community that is when we partnered with For The Love Of Others.”

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Arlington Public Schools will look to temporarily add more space to try to cope with its rising enrollment by adding temporary classrooms and making interior adjustments at several schools.

The Arlington County Board is expected to vote on a slew of proposals across eight schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels at its meeting Saturday (July 15). The temporary solutions are all recommended for approval by county staff, as “student enrollment is growing at a faster rate than APS can provide new schools and classrooms.”

Some are looking to add more temporary, trailer classrooms — known in APS parlance as “relocatables” — while others will make interior adjustments to add more space.

The following schools are applying to add relocatables:

The following schools will look to make interior adjustments and modifications:

Photos Nos. 6, 7 and 8 via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Yorktown Girls Win Soccer Championship — The Yorktown girls soccer team has won the state Group 6A championship for the first time, defeating the Kellam Knights 1-0 on Saturday. The state champs placed second in a regional tournament to reach the state finals. [InsideNova]

Arlington Triathlon Held — Kids ages 7-15 woke up early to participate in the Arlington Triathlon at Washington-Lee High School over the weekend. [WTOP]

Gunston Getting More Seats — Thanks to a proposed $651,000 internal modification project, Gunston Middle School will be able to add 72 seats, increasing its overall capacity to 1,004 students. [InsideNova]

Nearby: Alexandria Struggles With Housing Promise — “The escalating cost of construction and dramatic changes in how affordable housing is ­financed are leading Alexandria officials to consider modifying a requirement to replace any of its 1,150 public housing units that are redeveloped with equally priced apartments.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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The diamond athletic field at Gunston Park will be converted from natural grass to synthetic turf after the Arlington County Board approved a $370,000 plan Tuesday night.

The nonprofit Arlington Sports Foundation offered a grant of $180,000 to convert the field, and the county sports commission’s Diamond Field Fund will pay the additional $190,000. The project is on top of a previously-approved $1.4 million maintenance and improvement plan at the park.

It is estimated the new field will add nearly 880 new possible playing hours per year, at a time when there is high demand for athletic fields in the county.

“Both the number of people playing sports in Arlington, and the hours our fields are in use continue to grow. We need creative solutions to meet the demand,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette. “Kudos to the Arlington Sports Foundation and the sports community for helping fund the conversion of Gunston’s field and expand its community use without increasing taxpayer support.”

Before the board’s unanimous approval of the project, there had been questions raised about the safety of the synthetic turf, which will be made from EPDM rubber. Local resident Kelly Alexis asked that a natural ingredient like coconut husks be used instead, and cited previous concerns about the health risks of playing on turf, especially that made up of crumb rubber.

Board vice chair Katie Cristol and others said the health of children is something Arlington takes “incredibly seriously,” and asserted that the health risks of EPDM are minimal.

Several members of the county’s sports community testified in favor of the conversion. Arlington Little League president Adam Balutis said the new turf means more games can be played and not be canceled or postponed due to the weather.

“Everybody would love to have natural, beautiful green fields that we could upkeep all year round and play and play and play, but it’s not possible in Arlington County because we don’t have enough space,” said Daniel Lopez, vice president of the board of the Arlington Soccer Association. “So the next best thing is we try to turf these fields so everybody can use them and everybody can enjoy them.”

Board members said that the funding model for the new turf field is something that could be repeated elsewhere, especially if community members are willing to help fundraise.

“We know in today’s tight funding times that the government is not going to be able to do it all and will rely increasingly on the generosity of the folks in our community,” said John Vihstadt.

“I think we’ve maybe got a new model,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

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Morning Notes

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans at Arlington Rooftop Grill (photo courtesy Brent Robson)

Gunston Could Get New Baseball Diamond — Arlington County officials are considering renovating a baseball diamond at Gunston Middle School, replacing it with a lighted artificial turf field. A public meeting about the project, is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 7-9 p.m. at the Gunston community center. [Arlington County]

TJ Elementary Design Approved — The Arlington School Board has unanimously approved schematic designs for the new elementary school planned for the Thomas Jefferson Middle School site. Construction on the $59 million project is expected to begin in July and wrap up in time for the 2019-2020 school year. [InsideNova]

More Details About W-L Fight — A large fight at Friday night’s Washington-Lee High School football game, first reported by ARLnow.com, involved “at least 20 parents and students” and “was the result of a dispute between two families,” unrelated to the game, according to police. Officers used pepper spray to break up the fight. One adult was arrested during the game. [Washington Post]

Photo courtesy Brent Robson

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Instagram 'clown' threat against Arlington middle schoolsArlington is the latest place to have its schools threatened by “creepy clown” social media accounts.

Hoax social media posts, often featuring images of sinister-looking clowns, have threatened schools across the country. Thus far the posts have led to numerous arrests of teens suspected of making the threats, but no reported violence.

Last night, two Instagram accounts — @virginiaclowns and @dmv_clowns — posted similar threats, warning of shootings at a number of area schools, including Kenmore, Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools in Arlington.

The threats have prompted a stepped-up police presence at Arlington schools this morning.

“We are aware [of the threats] and were in contact with the Arlington Police Department staff last night when we saw the messages,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “As a precaution, ACPD has had an increased presence at our schools this morning.”

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