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Work Complete to Expand Barcroft Gymnastics Facility

A project to expand the gymnastics facilities at the Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center (4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive) is largely complete, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for next week.

The work doubled the space for gymnastics into a second room by converting the center’s gym, while adding new equipment to both rooms. Girls teams now have more space in which to practice, while county parks staff said it could help spur more registrations for boys teams.

Staff said the project was carried out due to “overwhelming demand from Arlington residents” for more space for gymnastics.

The existing gymnastics area also received a revamp, as well as the existing women’s locker room. Staff lockers were installed nearby, while the building got a new roof and had three HVAC systems replaced.

County staff and other officials will celebrate the completion of the project on Wednesday, September 13 from 5-6 p.m. at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The project had a total budget of $3.54 million, paid for by Pay As You Go Capital funds and bonds approved in the 2016 referendum. The County Board approved a construction contract last December worth just over $1.7 million.

Nearby Tucker Field at Barcroft Park is also set for upgrades in the coming years after the Arlington County Board approved a 10-year extension to its partnership with George Washington University, which hosts baseball games at the field.

GW will fully fund the construction of a new clubhouse as well as indoor and outdoor batting cages, which are also available for community use. Earlier this year, the university received an anonymous $2 million gift to fund the new clubhouse. GW also contributes funding each year for the field’s ongoing maintenance and repairs.

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Parents Petition for Better Treatment of Gymnastics Program Staff

Gymnastics programs at Barcroft (photo via Arlington County)(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) More than 250 people have signed a petition calling for Arlington County to provide retirement benefits and paid time off to year-round gymnastics program employees currently classified as “temporary” workers.

The gymnastics instructors are employed by Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation, though they coach the Arlington Aerials and Arlington Tigers teams, which are privately supported.

The petition says that only two out of 50 gymnastics staff members are classified as permanent employees, while the rest are considered temporary, “making it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff.”

“While a temporary classification is appropriate for staff who truly are temporary, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who work year-round coaching the team and teaching classes,” the petition says.

Both the Arlington Aerials Parents Association and Arlington Tigers Parents Association are supporting the petition.

“Gymnastics is a fully self-supporting program: the fees paid by those in the program fully offset its costs,” the petition notes. “All additional costs of fairly compensating the coaches would be absorbed within the gymnastics cost center, and borne by the families whose children participate in the program.”

Arlington’s gymnastics programs are hosted at the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center. The County Board this month approved a plan to expand the gymnastics facilities due to high demand.

The full text of the petition is below.

Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) employs on average 50 staff members each session in its gymnastics program. Of these, only two are classified as permanent employees. The remainder is designated as temporary and denied the full package of benefits given to permanent County staff, making it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff. The Arlington Aerials Parents Association and Arlington Tigers Parents Association strongly believe the safety, well-being and success of the gymnastics program is a direct function of the program’s ability to attract and retain the best coaches.

While a temporary classification is appropriate for staff who truly are temporary, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who work year-round coaching the team and teaching classes. Many of these staff have been employed by the County for many years, and work year-round with few breaks in their schedule. Ten of the gymnastics staff have worked for the County for seven or more years.  Yet because of their temporary designation they are ineligible to receive retirement benefits or paid vacation days or holidays.  They also lack job security–unlike permanent staff, temporary employees can be terminated at any time, for any reason.

In the last year alone, three long-tenured staff have left their positions, citing among their primary reasons the lack of benefits.  One of these staff members said: “I adored teaching gymnastics for Arlington, but couldn’t keep working a job that didn’t recognize my efforts. Being newly married I had to consider not only myself but my husband and our desires for a family one day. The need for benefits had to outweigh my love for the job. Not having the option of maternity leave or paid time off and not getting paid in the winter every day the County was closed became too costly.”

Hiring and replacing experienced coaching staff is not a simple matter–gymnastics is a demanding and highly technical sport, and staff must have experience to successfully and safely teach the sport. Staff must have in-depth knowledge of skills and techniques, and the ability to breakdown and teach progressions; an understanding of injury prevention and first aid; and skill working with youth. Advanced level and team coaches, in particular, need USA Gymnastics (USAG) certification to coach gymnasts and mentor lower- level coaches. Retaining highly qualified staff is mission critical for DPR in light of the significant enrollment in the gymnastics program, as well as the upcoming expansion of the Barcroft facility and accompanying increase in the number of gymnastics classes to meet the high demand for gymnastics instruction in the County. To remain competitive and successfully expand its gymnastics program, DPR needs to be in a strong position to attract and retain highly qualified staff.

Gymnastics is a fully self-supporting program: the fees paid by those in the program fully offset its costs. All additional costs of fairly compensating the coaches would be absorbed within the gymnastics cost center, and borne by the families whose children participate in the program. The changes could be phased in over time to allow for a more gradual escalation in fees.

Arlington County’s children have benefited greatly from DPR’s team of committed gymnastics staff. Over the years, they have taught our children persistence, flexibility, strength, discipline, and a love of the sport.  We must ensure that this program is adequately staffed by well-qualified, fairly compensated employees who will be directly responsible for growing and sustaining an expanded and excellent gymnastics program. We urge the County to reclassify the Arlington County gymnastics coaches and instructors as permanent staff.

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Morning Notes

Rainy night (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

High School Boundary Change Petition — Matthew Herrity, the Washington-Lee student who penned a widely-shared open letter to the School Board regarding its recent high school boundary change decision, has now started an online petition. The petition, which calls for increasing diversity at Arlington’s high schools, has more than 1,000 signatures. [Change.org]

Community Center, Gymnastics Contracts Approved — At its meeting on Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a $3.9 million contract to plan and design a new four-story Lubber Run Community Center, with a gymnasium, playgrounds, offices and underground parking. In response to heavy program demand, the Board also approved a $1.7 million addition of a second gymnastics area at the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]

Ebbin on Trump and Other Topics — “Trump is making me nostalgic for Reagan,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) during a wide-ranging interview on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Friday. Ebbin also discussed casino gambling, with the opening of the new MGM casino in National Harbor, and Confederate monuments in Alexandria, among other topics. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

D.C. Police Misconduct Story Has Arlington Connection — There’s an Arlington connection to one of the misconduct allegations against Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, the head of the D.C. police Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Liaison unit. Hawkins reportedly took two underage summer interns to Freddie’s, the LGBT bar in Crystal City, and laughed about one using a fake ID. She’s now facing possible disciplinary action for that and for allegedly showing the interns a homemade sex tape on her phone. [Fox 5, Fox 5]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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County Could Lower Non-Resident Sport Fees

Swim meet at the Dominion Hills pool (Flickr pool photo by Ddimick)(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board is scheduled to decide on Saturday whether to reduce the surcharge for non-residents who participate in gymnastics and swimming  leagues that use county facilities.

When the Board adopted the FY 2015 budget in April, it approved a 50 percent surcharge for participants not living in Arlington to participate in clubs like the Arlington Aerials, the Arlington Tigers and the Arlington Aquatics Club. According to the county, the surcharge resulted in annual fee increases for those clubs of between 12.9 and 30 percent.

The Board will deliberate over County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to reduce that surcharge from 50 to 30 percent in FY 2015, with plans to increase the charge to 40 percent the following year and up to the adopted 50 percent in FY 2017.

“[The Department of Parks and Recreation] recognizes these increases may produce undue hardships on families with participants in these team programs,” the county staff report states. “The option of grandfathering current non-resident participants at former non-resident surcharge rates was considered and is not a viable option as it creates a preference that cannot be applied to all non-resident participants.”

Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the county received a fair amount letters and complaints about the adopted price increase, which led the staff to reconsider.

“Parks and rec staff met with a group to come together with options to move forward,” Kalish told ARLnow.com.

The reduced surcharge would bring the average change in season fee down from $886 to $326 for the Arlington Aerials, $870 to $378 for the Arlington Tigers and $171 to a decrease of $19 for the Arlington Aquatics Club.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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