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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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Why Immersion Learning Matters: A Perspective

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.

Aside from learning another language, the other perk of immersion is that I was able to forge lifelong friendships. Because there are designated schools to continue the program means I went to school with the same people from that first day at Claremont until my last day at Wakefield.

“A good portion of my closest friends are from immersion,” said Cathleen Madlansacay, a senior International Affairs Pre-Law major who minors in Spanish. Madlansacay and Johnson are roommates at JMU and met at Claremont in third grade.

Speaking Spanish has helped students forge relationships and have seen how immersion matters in a workforce that values employees who are bilingual.

“I have had unexpected conversations with strangers and have gotten job opportunities,” said Johnson.

Most the students I spoke to were grateful that their parents enrolled them in the program.

“They gave me an opportunity to not only become fluent in another language but also immerse myself in another culture,” said Allie Names, a Geography and Spanish double major at Mary Washington University.

Carolyn Harvey, who graduated from Wakefield in 2016, echoed the sentiment.

“I used to always be mad that my parents put me in Immersion but now I’m thankful,” said Harvey. “I always surprise people when they meet me and hear me speak Spanish.”

The Immersion program has progressed since I started all those years ago. The shiny new Claremont that started with 350 students is expanding its capacity to hold 767 students. Now, Wakefield offers Biology, Economics, and Personal Finance in Spanish.

As I approach my senior year at the University of Maryland, I realize how lucky I was to have such an amazing experience that has made an indelible impact on so many lives.

Brooke Giles is an ARLnow.com summer intern.

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Groups Plan to Give Away 650 Free Meals Saturday

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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Schools Plan to Expand Using Temporary Classrooms, Interior Modifications

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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Gunston Park Baseball Field to Get Synthetic Turf

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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Social Media Clown Threats Target Arlington Middle Schools

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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Gunston Middle School Dismissing Early Due to Air Conditioning Issue

Gunston Middle SchoolGunston Middle School students will be dismissed just before noon today due to an air conditioning issue.

School administrators say they are “currently without air conditioning in the majority of our building.” The A/C troubles come as temperatures are expected to reach into the upper 90s today.

Separately, Taylor Elementary School is also reported to be experiencing air conditioning problems.

“There is an issue with the HVAC in three classrooms,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “The problem is intermittent and right now it is on. Maintenance is looking into the problem and we are watching it closely.”

A parent tells us that her daughter’s kindergarten classroom, another classroom and the school’s gym are “a sweatbox.”

“My daughter was talking about fighting to sit by a fan,” the parent said.

The letter from school administrators to Gunston parents, after the jump.

We have experienced an issue with the main air conditioning unit at Gunston.  A repair that was made last week did not hold, and as a result we are currently without air conditioning in the majority of our building.

As a result, Gunston will be releasing students early today, and our dismissal time will be 11:54 a.m. The buses will transport students on their regular routes.  Our Check-In Program will begin at dismissal, and will be open until 6:00 p.m.  The program will move to the part of our building where the air conditioning is working for the afternoon.

We also have modified our schedule to allow time for students to eat at school before dismissal – the AC is working in the cafeteria.  Additionally, with today’s modified schedule, students are able to spend time in the cooler sections of the building.

At the present time all of our APS Facilities and Operations staff are continuing to address this issue and we will provide an update. If you have questions, please feel free to call our Main Office.  We may be reached at 703-228-6900.

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Police: Middle School Teaching Assistant Busted for Smoking Pot With Student

Zachary Van Dyke (photo courtesy ACPD)A middle school teaching assistant is watching his educational career go up in smoke after being arrested on drug charges.

Police say Zachary Van Dyke, 32, smoked pot with a 13-year-old student at his home. He also allegedly sold some pot to the teen.

Van Dyke was a teaching assistant at Gunston Middle School and a freshman basketball coach at Washington-Lee High School. He has been suspended by Arlington Public Schools and charged by police with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and distribution of marijuana.

Police say they’re seeking additional information from “anyone with past inappropriate encounters with this suspect.”

From an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Unit is investigating a suspect involved in the distribution of marijuana to a juvenile victim. The suspect was a Teaching Assistant assigned to Gunston Middle School and a freshman basketball coach at Washington-Lee High School. He has been suspended by Arlington County Public Schools, pending the outcome of the investigation. Representatives with Arlington County Public Schools continue to cooperate with the police investigation.

The suspect, 32 year-old Zachary Van Dyke, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and distribution of marijuana stemming from an incident on May 27, 2016. The investigation revealed that Van Dyke transported the 13 year-old juvenile victim to his residence where they smoked marijuana. Van Dyke also sold marijuana to the juvenile. Van Dyke was arrested and held on bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing. Anyone with past inappropriate encounters with this suspect or who has additional information is asked to call Detective S. Proud at 703.228.7156 or email [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

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Mission Accomplished: Kittens Rescued from Gunston Middle School Roof

On Wednesday we reported that a cat and her kittens were living on top of Gunston Middle School. Today we’re happy to report that the kittens have been successfully removed from the roof.

After a bit of an impasse with Arlington Public Schools officials, yesterday animal control officers from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington were able to find a way to safely get to the roof, capture the kittens and get them back down from the roof.

AWLA detailed the process in a Facebook post last night.

We are happy to report that the kittens have been safely removed from the roof and are in our care here at the shelter!

We were made aware of this little family after a young student saw the kittens outside his classroom window and called the shelter. The mother cat was able to freely come and go from the flat roof, and had decided that it was the safest spot for her kittens!

Because the mother cat is feral, we needed to wait to remove her kittens until they were old enough to eat on their own and not rely on her for survival. Typically our officers do not climb onto roofs for safety reasons, but after we were informed that there was a secured ladder on the side of the building, the officers knew they had to help. And so Operation Roof Kitten Rescue began!

Officers Corcoran, Solano and Dispatcher Barrett were able to capture the fearful kittens in a net and transfer them to a carrier. They created a harness made of leashes so that Officer Solano could “wear” the carrier as she descended the ladder.

The kittens are now the perfect age for socializing: old enough to eat on their own, but young enough to learn to enjoy human contact. They will now go to a foster home until they are old enough and friendly enough for adoption. Thank you to everyone who assisted us in this rescue!

What will happen to the kittens’ mother? AWLA also answered that on the Facebook post.

When it comes to feral kittens there’s a delicate balance between leaving them with their mothers vs taking them into the shelter. If we leave them with the mother until they are completely grown and leave her on their own, they will be too old to socialize and adopt out – they will be feral like their mother, and then those kittens will grow and have more kittens of their own, leading to a larger and larger population of feral cats in the area. The officers and shelter staff feel that it’s in the best interests of the mother and kittens to remove them at this time. As stated above, the officers are looking options for the mother cat. We can assure you that the welfare of both the kittens and mother are what we are most concerned about.

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A Cat and Her Kittens Are Living on the Roof of Gunston Middle School

Gunston Middle SchoolArlington Public Schools and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington are trying to figure out how to get a cat and her kittens off of the roof of Gunston Middle School (2700 S. Lang Street).

The feline family recently took up residence on the school’s roof, apparently after the cat climbed a tree to get there.

Both APS and AWLA want to get the cat and kittens down from the roof, but are still formulating a plan for how to do it.

“We think that the mother cat is feral, and we want to capture the kittens while they are young enough to be socialized,” said AWLA’s Susan Sherman. “Once the kittens are old enough to get down from the roof on their own, they will likely be too old to socialize.”

Sherman said an AWLA animal control officer has been to the school “several times” to talk to officials from the school and the attached Gunston Community Center. One sticking point is deciding who’s going to go up on the roof. School workers don’t want to get attacked by the cat and animal control officers don’t want to play Spiderman.

“We offered to assist the school facilities people to set a humane trap on the roof, but they said the mother cat might attack them,” Sherman explained. “Our officers do not climb up on roofs. The part of the roof the cats are on is flat, and we requested access from classroom windows but the school facilities person told us the windows cannot be unscrewed or removed.”

“We are working on a plan to capture the kittens as soon as possible but want to do it in a way that is safe for the cats and people,” she said.

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Tip Leads to Arrest of Suspected Argumentative Face-Slasher

Calderon, Ramon mugshot (photo courtesy ACPD))A police tip earlier this month led to the arrest of a man suspected of slashing another man in the face after an argument last June, police announced this morning.

According to the authorities, a tip received through Arlington County Crime Solvers led to the arrest of 24-year-old Ramon Calderon on April 14.

Calderon is suspected of brandishing a pocket knife, then cutting another man across the face at the Gunston Middle School soccer fields in June. The attack caused “a fairly large laceration,” on the victim’s face according to police, and resulted in significant bleeding due to a cut minor artery. The man was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where he received 60 stitches.

Police said last June that the two men were arguing about the “worth and importance of a college education” before the attack, but they did not specify whether the suspect was arguing for or against the value of higher education.

Photo courtesy ACPD

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Argument Over The Value of a College Education Ends in Slashing

ACFD ambulance / advanced life support paramedic unit (file photo)An argument between two men about the value of a college education ended with one of the men being slashed across the face.

The malicious wounding incident happened Friday night around 8:30 at the Gunston Middle School soccer fields. Police say two men were having a verbal argument when one of them brandished a pocket knife and cut the victim across the face, from the corner of the mouth to the ear.

The slash caused “a fairly large laceration,” according to police, and resulted in significant bleeding due to a cut minor artery. The victim was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where he received 60 stitches.

The suspect fled the scene and the investigation “is ongoing.” The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, about 6’3″ and 220 lbs. At the time of the incident was wearing a pink Nike polo shirt and blue jeans, police say.

The argument started when the men began debating the “worth and importance of a college education,” police say. The suspect became angry during the argument, at which point he pulled out the pocket knife. A crime report did not specify whether the suspect was arguing for or against the value of higher education.

File photo

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