With Arlington Public Schools’ Stratford Program getting ready for a big move, school leaders are giving students (and their parents) a choice about where they’ll spend the next year learning.
The program, which serves secondary-level special education students, is set to relocate into a new building in Rosslyn for the 2019-2020 school year. But its current space on Vacation Lane, which it shares with the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, will soon be renovated to become a new middle school, forcing Stratford students to temporarily find a new home.
APS officials initially planned to send Stratford over to the Reed School building in Westover for a year, but a few weeks ago they began seeking feedback from parents on a plan to move the program to Yorktown High School instead.
In a letter to Stratford parents Monday (June 4), Stratford principal Karen Gerry revealed that APS settled on a compromise solution between those two proposals. Families will now have the option of sending students to Yorktown or Reed for the 2018-19 school year; summer sessions in both 2018 and 2019 will be held at Reed, regardless of which option families choose, however.
“While we understand that this may mean some students within the Stratford program are educated in different locations for the 2018-19 school year, we also know that the needs of our students are different,” Gerry wrote. “We will provide the staffing and supports expected in the program at either location and will work with families on specific needs.”
Families have until June 15 to complete a survey on where they’d prefer to send their students.
Gerry added that “we want to reassure you that the Stratford Program will continue and our plan to move to the new building on Wilson in the fall of 2019 is moving ahead.” Some rumors circulated a few weeks back that APS would seek to eliminate the Stratford program instead, but officials have insisted there are no such plans in the works.
The full letter from Gerry to Stratford parents is after the jump.
‘Indivisible Arlington’ Event Wracked By Division — “A town hall with local Virginia lawmakers dissolved into chaos Saturday and police were called after Latino activists confronted Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) about his previous consulting work for a private company that operates detention facilities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
No County Board Candidate for Arlington GOP — No one filed by the May 9 deadline to run as a Republican against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt, the Arlington GOP announced over the weekend. Vihstadt, an independent, was endorsed by the local GOP when he first ran in 2014.
ACPD Sergeant Tapped as School Police Chief — Sean Bryson, a 20-year veteran of the Arlington County Police Department, has been named the chief of police for the Upper St. Clair School District, outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a homecoming for Bryson, who graduated from Upper St. Clair High School. In addition to his police work, Byson co-founded and has served as race director for the annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K. [Trib Live]
Arlington Public Schools is shooting down rumors that the Stratford Program is going to be “dismantled” while also announcing that a new, temporary location is under consideration.
Stratford serves secondary-level special education students and is currently co-located with the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program on Vacation Lane. Both programs are set to move to a new facility in Rosslyn for the 2019-2020 school year, but Stratford will be moving to a temporary home during the next school year to facilitate the renovation of its current building into a neighborhood middle school.
In a letter to parents today, Stratford principal Karen Gerry said that APS is now reconsidering a plan to house Stratford in the Reed School building in Westover for a year. For various reasons, APS says Yorktown High School may be a better temporary location, and the school system is kicking off a hurried outreach effort with parents to discuss the new option.
Gerry, in her letter, also acknowledges a false rumor that had been spreading via email that APS was planning to eliminate the Stratford Program.
“It seems that Arlington County has made a decision to dismantle the Stratford Program and that we will not be joining HB Woodlawn at the new site in Rosslyn, as planned,” said the email, which was sent by a parent and later obtained by ARLnow.com. “Several Stratford parents are concerned that this decision has been made without consultation with the wider Stratford community.”
“Over the last few days, there have been many community conversations, emails and statements posted about our plans for next year, and unfortunately, much of it has included misleading or incorrect information,” Gerry wrote. “We want to reassure you that regardless of the one-year location for Stratford students in the 2018-19 school year, the Stratford Program is not being dismantled and our plan to move to the new building on Wilson in the fall of 2019 has not changed.”
The full letter from Gerry to Stratford parents is after the jump.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at Arlington’s high schools walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting.
The 10 a.m. walkout was planned nationally, on the one month anniversary of the shooting, and in Arlington it was the second such protest in as many months. Washington-Lee, Yorktown, Wakefield, Langston and H-B Woodlawn were among the schools participating. Students at Kenmore Middle School also walked out, according to the school’s Twitter account.
At Washington-Lee, hundreds — if not thousands — of students gathered on the football field amid cold, blustery weather for a solemn remembrance of the slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and teachers.
A group of students sat in the bleachers, holding signs with the names and photos of the victims, while another group of students read each of their names and a bit of biographical information, one by one, about one per minute. The gathered students stood still, in silence only broken by a brief applause at the end, before returning to the school.
A couple dozen administrators and teachers watched over the event, along with a pair of Arlington County police officers, there to provide security. A few W-L graduates, parents and local residents also attended, some holding signs.
During Yorktown’s walkout, meanwhile, students wrote letters about school safety to members of Congress
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy said late last month that today’s walkout would be the last walkout in which participating students would be granted a blanket excused absence.
As plans for a new building for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program move forward, members of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) say the design is not inclusive enough for students with disabilities.
In emails sent to the Arlington School Board, ASEAC and other groups expressed concern about a separate entrance intended for disabled students in the Stratford Program.
“The current design still appears to envision Stratford students entering the school through a separate door on the ground level of the building’s northwestern corner, next to the Stratford offices, with the main entrance being at the center of the building one level up, next to the H-B Woodlawn offices,” said a Jan. 14 email from a coalition of individuals and groups, including the Arlington Inclusion Task Force.
“Designing a building that has a separate entrance for students with significant disabilities reinforces the idea that students with disabilities are inferior, second-class citizens to be kept out of sight and out of mind,” the email continued. “Separate entrances emphasize difference, encourage isolation, and erect barriers, rather than fostering connections and providing opportunities for engagement. Separate entrances are an affront to Arlington’s inclusive values.”
The School Board responded in another email that all three entrances to the building will be accessible to all students.
The new facility, which will replace and demolish the Wilson School property in Rosslyn, has an estimated cost of around $100 million and is expected to be complete in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
ASEAC also criticized what it said was a lack of communication with community members during the design process.
“Feedback from parents, the Inclusion Task Force, and this committee appears to have had little, if any, impact on the final design. Concerns were raised and provided in writing to the School Board and APS staff in October 2015, allowing reasonable opportunity for these concerns to be accommodated,” ASEAC members wrote.
Universal Design principles, as defined by the Disability Act of 2005, were not applied to the new building and should not fall on the responsibility of parents to uphold, ASEAC said. Members called for the school to consider making the best of inclusive spaces such as the cafeteria, library and other common spaces.
In a letter, School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen said Universal Design was included throughout the design process and feedback from parents, administrators and faculty were considered throughout as well.
“We wish to confirm that design and operation of the new school on the Wilson will comply with the principles of Universal Design and inclusion and that students in the Stratford, ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will not be segregated from one another,” the School Board responded.
The full response to ASEAC, after the jump.
H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program students were evacuated earlier today (Thursday) after a small fire in a science lab.
The Arlington County Fire Department responded to the school at 4100 Vacation Lane just after 12 p.m. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said some paper caught on fire during an experiment in the lab.
The fire was quickly put out by the teacher before firefighters arrived, with students evacuated as a precaution. A fire department spokesman said firefighters monitored the air and checked for hazards, but no issues were found. The smoke cleared naturally, the spokesman said.
There were no injuries and there was only minor damage to the equipment being used. Students returned to classes soon after.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 26, 2017
The HVAC problems at W-L struck on one of the hottest days of the year so far.
Separately, the air conditioning system for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program was down this morning, but workers were able to get the chiller “back up and running,” according to an Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman. Classes there remain in session.
Washington-Lee’s principal sent the following email to parents this morning.
Dear W-L Families,
We appreciate your children’s patience and resilience as we deal with the HVAC issue in the building.
APS has decided to release students early. We will follow these procedures:
Buses will operate per usual routes.
Walkers will make their way home as normal.
Students who are unable to depart at the new dismissal time may remain on campus — a room in the trailer, where HVAC is unaffected, is available.
APS Facilities and Operations are currently in the building trying to address the problem.
Thank you to our families for their flexibility and support during this unusual situation.
Dr. Gregg Robertson
Principal, Washington-Lee High School
Photo via Google Maps
Williamsburg to Implement Block Scheduling — Williamsburg Middle School will, in fact, be implementing a block schedule for classes next year, an Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com. While Kenmore has a modified block schedule for sixth grade, and Gunston is “exploring moving to a flexible schedule for next year,” Jefferson and Swanson are not considering moving to a block schedule, we’re told.
Home Prices Decline in Arlington in 2016 — Per WTOP’s Jeff Clabaugh and listing service MRIS: “The median price in Arlington County last year was down 1.8 percent from 2015. Arlington and Alexandria were the only local jurisdictions to see declines in 2016 prices versus 2015.” [WTOP]
Grand Opening for Pamplona — New Clarendon restaurant Pamplona is holding its grand opening celebration tonight. The Spanish tapas restaurant is set in a self-described “sultry and sophisticated space, featuring colorful Spanish tiled floors, unique murals… and of course, an arsenal of bullheads.” [Facebook]
H-B Photography in Richmond — Work by H-B Woodlawn photography students is on display in the Richmond offices of Del. Patrick Hope. Hope plans to highlight one piece a day during the legislative session. [Twitter]
Multi-Generational Housing Construction — A 1950s ranch home near Bishop O’Connell High School is being torn down to make way for a new multi-generation house for a couple, their daughter and husband, and their grandchildren. [Falls Church News-Press]
When You Don’t Want Someone to Take Your Parking Cone — South Arlington is “so rough you have to lock up your cones,” as a photo apparently taken yesterday demonstrates. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
(Updated at 6 p.m.) Local high school students have been spreading messages of love to counter an otherwise gloomy post-election atmosphere in deep-blue, multicultural Arlington County.
During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump made statements that many felt were hurtful and threatening to immigrants, Muslims, people of color and, perhaps to a lesser extent, LGBT individuals — communities that are well-represented in Arlington. In response, students have their own message.
“Love and respect all life,” “stronger together,” “united not divided,” “forever forward,” and “love trumps hate,” are a few of the messages Washington-Lee High School students have written in chalk on the Stafford Street bridge near the school. There are also quotes from Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela.
Elsewhere in Arlington, a message to students at H-B Woodlawn (below) has gone viral on social media.
The message of reassurance, to women and minority communities, has spread on social media and received nearly a quarter million likes after pop star Lady Gaga posted it on her Instagram account.
Both heartbreaking and inspiring — this from a high school in Arlington, VA pic.twitter.com/gsrWbh4GMk
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) November 10, 2016
At Wakefield High School, chalk messages outside the school entrance today included affirmations like “smile,” “you matter” and “be the change.”
Post-it notes on the school’s doors (below) also offered positive, personal messages for students, who were encouraged to take one on their way into school.
Arlington was not totally immune to a national wave of hateful messages, however. In the wake of the election there were some isolated reports of racist (confirmed by police; link is NSFW), anti-gay (not confirmed by police; link is NSFW) and anti-Trump graffiti around Arlington.
The following graffiti incidents have been reported since last Tuesday’s election, according to an Arlington County Police spokeswoman.
GRAFFITI, 2016-11090173, 2700 block of S. Nelson Street. On November 9 at approximately 2:16 PM, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti in the area. Officers located a delivery truck vandalized with black spray paint but the words were not clearly written and officers could not determine what the graffiti stated. There are no suspect(s) descriptions.
GRAFFITI, 2016-11110113, 6600 block of Little Falls Road. On November 11 at approximately 11:34 AM, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti in the area. Officers located the words “Truck Frump,” “Bet,” “LMOA” and an obscenity spray painted on the football field. There are no suspect(s) descriptions.
GRAFFITI, 2016-11120136, W&OD Trail – Rt. 66 at N. Ohio Street. On November 12 at approximately 11:33 AM, police were dispatched to Bluemont Park for the report of graffiti in the area. Officers located numerous graffiti markings including the words “Trump,” “U.S. Border,” “Caution huge,” and a derogatory term spray painted on the pavement and wall. There are no suspect(s) description.
Fire Station 10 will be temporarily relocated to the corner of N. Quinn Street and 18th Street, not far from the current fire station, which is set to be torn down. The old, stand-alone station will be replaced with a modern fire station at the bottom of a new mixed-use development; developer Penzance will be paying for its construction.
A number of alternative temporary fire station locations were considered but found to be lacking. In approving the location — despite the objections of H-B Woodlawn parents — County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement that the Board made the best choice in a difficult situation.
This was a very tough decision for the Board. And we know that there will be members of the community who are disappointed. I think everyone will agree, however, that we listened to the community’s concerns and launched a thorough search for an alternative that would meet the criteria of providing fire protection and emergency medical services to Rosslyn, at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. We acknowledge that this solution will need to be accompanied by serious efforts to mitigate the impact of the fire station on the Wilson school site and the students who will be learning there. We have always said the redevelopment of Western Rosslyn is complex and difficult, but in the end, it will result in benefits for our entire community. We will have a wonderful new urban school, new, integrated open space, including a park that the developer has agreed to pay for, a fire station that the developer will build, affordable housing and a commercial building.
Also on Saturday, the County Board approved a “coordinated open space plan” for Rosslyn Highlands Park — a plan that will come to full fruition after the temporary fire station is removed to make way for a new field.
According to the plan, the renovated park will include:
- Multi-use, lighted court for basketball and other sports
- Sloped green lawns for added tree canopy, picnics, seating and play
- Lighted, synthetic turf field at Wilson School
- Planted/permeable field boundary with trees
- Playgrounds for tots and school age children across the street from the main park
- Community access to Wilson School indoor amenities including gym, cafeteria and theater
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending that the Board stick with the original plan: to build and operate a temporary fire station on the Wilson School site while Fire Station 10 is torn down and a new permanent fire station is built in its place as part of a private redevelopment.
That plan drew criticism from parents of H-B Woodlawn students, who worried that the temporary station would be built on what would otherwise be a field for the school, which will be moving to a new building on the Wilson School site in 2019.
In addition to concerns about the temporary loss of what little open space there is adjacent to the school, concerns were also raised about students being picked up on busy Wilson Blvd while the temporary station is in operation.
Parent outreach prompted county officials to examine alternative locations, but only two other viable alternatives were identified.
One, Rhodeside Green Park, was unpopular with local residents, who started a petition against it that garnered more than 750 signatures. A second, along Lee Highway near the Rosslyn Holiday Inn, was determined by county staff to be too small and challenging from a construction standpoint.
An online poll posted on the county’s website resulted in 420 votes for the Wilson School site. The Rhodeside Green Park site received 299 votes and the Lee Highway property 113 votes.
“After extensive analysis and additional community outreach, staff confirms its recommendation that the Wilson School site be selected as the location for the temporary fire station,” says a staff report. “While there is no perfect location, the Wilson School site is recommended.”
More excerpts from the staff report, after the jump.
(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) With the notable exception of Barcroft Elementary, which opened on Aug. 1, today was the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools students.
Kids and parents flocked back to local elementary, middle and high schools this morning, as the APS bus fleet traversed local roads. There were no major hiccups reported, save perhaps a fire alarm that was set off in the teacher’s lounge of Taylor Elementary around 10 a.m. (No smoke or fire was found.)
This morning at Abingdon Elementary, which is being renovated and expanded, students were greeted by a number of newly-installed relocatable classroom trailers on the field next to the school. Several Arlington County police officers were stationed at the intersection of 29th Street S. and S. Abingdon Street, to help keep cars moving amid a new traffic pattern for dropping off students.
At Carlin Springs Elementary, meanwhile, administrators literally rolled out a red carpet for new and returning students. At the new Arlington Tech, the program’s first 40 students arrived and began classes. At the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, upperclassmen formed tunnels for freshman students on their first day.
Arlington County Police and APS are urging drivers to be extra cautious on the roads as school gets back underway.
ACPD and APS officials, School Board members and school administrators were busy ringing in the first day of school on Twitter this morning. More back-to-school tweets, after the jump.
The H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program is gearing up to move to a brand new building in Rosslyn for the 2019-2020 school year, but a new wrinkle in that plan is worrying parents.
On Friday, Arlington County announced that it was collaborating with Arlington Public Schools on a money-saving plan: a temporary fire station will be placed on the school’s field while developer Penzance constructs two new mixed-use buildings next door, on the county-owned site of the current Fire Station No. 10.
The development will provide a new, permanent fire station and 100 underground parking spaces for the school — when it’s completed in 2022. In the meantime, the temporary fire station will be placed on the field at the corner of N. Quinn and 18th streets, and Arlington County will provide off-site fields and parking for the school.
The county says the plan will save it $20 million and will save Arlington Public Schools $5 million — thanks to Penzance paying for the parking, the new fire station and a new Rosslyn Highlands Park, adjacent to the development.
“We realize that opening the school without a field will inconvenience students and staff,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “We chose this site because the parking provided to APS for schools will save a considerable amount of money for the school project, and it is the best location by far for the temporary fire station. We believe that when the project is finally completed, this site will not only be a great new home for H-B and the Stratford Program, but will also provide many, many benefits to our community.”
Members of the H-B Woodlawn Parent Advisory Committee, however, were none too pleased with the idea of opening the school without a field and other factors that could have “an adverse impact on our children.”
In an email to members, the committee urges parents to reach out to County Board and School Board members before each considers approving the plan at their July meetings.
Dear Members of the H-B Woodlawn Community:
Our apologies for sending this message out on the Friday before a three-day weekend, but we thought it was important to bring this issue to your attention as soon as possible.
The School Board and County Board announced today that they are in negotiations to build a temporary fire station on the planned athletic fields at the new home of the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, at the Wilson site. This plan is being rushed through with very limited public input and without serious consideration of its impact on students, staff, and visitors, in the name of saving money. A press release regarding this proposal can be found here: Press Release
We strongly urge you to express your opposition to this proposal to members of the County Board ([email protected]) and members of the School Board ([email protected]). Your emails should be addressed to County Board Chair Libby Garvey and School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren, and will be distributed to all members of each respective board, including H-B Woodlawn’s School Board member liaison Reid Goldstein. The County Board plans to vote on this issue on July 16th and the School Board on July 21th.
Here are suggested points to make in your communications with Board members:
- I strongly urge you to oppose the proposed licensing agreement that would allow a temporary fire station to be built on the planned athletic field at the Wilson site.
- H-B Woodlawn and Stratford students’ instruction would be seriously compromised by the elimination of all outdoor physical education classes for three years or more if this proposal went forward. The idea of bussing students to parks almost a mile away is unworkable, as the entire class period would be spent loading and unloading busses and driving back and forth.
- The safety of HB Woodlawn and Stratford students, as well as staff and visitors, would be put at risk as the planned covered drop off and pick up entrance would be obstructed by an active fire station. There has been no analysis of the transportation impact of this major change that will result in students being dropped off and picked up on Wilson Blvd., an idea the stakeholder representatives serving on the Wilson project design committee and APS already rejected.
- There has been no public input to this last minute, backroom deal with a private developer. Indeed, the APS School Board is considering this significant change to the new building without even asking the architects for revised schematics to understand the impact on the building design, without knowing what the temporary fire station would look like or how its colocation could impact instruction, and without a new traffic analysis to determine the safest and most efficient ways for bus, auto, pedestrian, bicycle, and emergency traffic to flow on and/or around the new campus.
- The County should relocate the temporary fire station to another location that doesn’t have such an adverse impact on our children.
We will keep you informed as we gather more information about this proposal and its potential impact.
The group “had graphic signs, they filmed students, parents and staff members, attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion,” according to the following letter to parents, sent by the school’s principal.
This afternoon, at dismissal, members of an anti-abortion group appeared in the auditorium parking lot and then on bus loop sidewalk in front of H-B Woodlawn. No advance notice was given to Arlington Public Schools or to H-B Woodlawn and this was not an approved event. HBW administrators and the Arlington police asked the group to move off of school property, but they claimed that they were in the public domain on a public sidewalk.
They had graphic signs, they filmed students, parents and staff members, attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion. It is unfortunate that they chose that type of confrontational method to express their views to students who are mostly ages 11-18. Please be assured it is not anything we would ever approve of or encourage, and we regret that the events took place. We will continue to have conversations here amongst staff and students about our procedures should they return.
The Arlington County Board, during an hours-long meeting on Saturday, debated whether to include a controversial driveway feature in the design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale.
Though the Arlington School Board approved the school’s design in November, the project’s designers, county staff and some neighbors have come to an impasse on whether that design should include a one-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive.
Proponents of the plan with the driveway — including its designers and some locals — argued the one-way avenue is needed to mitigate traffic in the area and would give the new school a much-needed area for pickup and drop-off. But opponents of the plan said building the driveway would negatively impact the environment by removing 166 trees from the site and would send hundreds of vehicles directly onto Old Dominion Drive, among other concerns.
Among those arguing against building the driveway is Dennis Leach, deputy director of transportation for Arlington County.
“The driveway causes adverse environmental impacts to the site and is not essential for transportation access,” he said.
But Vern Torney, a traffic expert hired by a community organization dubbed the Coalition for a Safe Stratford, said the driveway plan would actually help the environment, albeit in a different way.
“With the driveway, you’ll see that the fuel consumptions seven percent less and the noxious emissions range from one to ten percent less than the without driveway scenario,” argued Torney. “It’s my professional opinion that the with driveway scenario offers an advantage over the alternative.”
Members of Arlington Public Schools’ Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) also supported the plan to build the driveway, citing reduced risk of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and better accessibility and emergency access.
After hearing hours of concerns and comments from members of the community and other interested parties, the Board’s members made their opinions known.
“It’s clear to me that reasonable people with good motives can still have profound disagreements about an ultimate proposal that’s before you,” said Board member Christian Dorsey. “I am comfortable with the driveway option as being the most prudent to address all of the concerns that the renovation of stratford has at this point.”
Board members John Vihstad and Katie Cristol also agreed that building the driveway was ultimately the right course of action in a complicated decision.
The lone voice of dissent came from Board member Jay Fisette.
“I think we can accomplish and maximize the benefits in the longer term… by not including the driveway,” Fisette said. “The best way to do that is changing the modal split.” But Fisette acknowledged that, “either way, we’re going to have a much better outcome.”
County Board Chair Libby Garvey had the last word on the matter.
“I do believe in the end that building the road will be helpful to the environment, will improve safety and will encourage more students and their families to be walking instead of driving to school,” Garvey said.
In total, the Board spend about 4.5 hours on the discussion, even though it was just a “Request to Advertise” on the “Consent Agenda” for non-controversial items. Most of the time was spent in an impromptu County Board work session; a vote on the matter is expected to take place at a subsequent Board meeting.
The Stratford school building is slated to be renovated after its current primary occupant, the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, moves to the Wilson School in Rosslyn.
Photo via APS/Quinn Evans Architects