Arlington, VA

Arlington Public Schools says any in-person return to classrooms will be phased, bringing back certain student groups before others.

That was revealed in a School Talk message sent to APS families on Tuesday. Officials also announced plans to help connect working families in need of childcare during remote schooling with local options.

The email, sent by Superintendent Francisco Durán, said students with disabilities would be the first to return once APS determines that it’s safe to resume some in-person instruction. Students in Pre-K through 3rd grade, as well as English Learner students, would phase in next, followed by all other students who opt in to the hybrid model of two in-person instruction days per week.

To decide when a hybrid model can safely begin, APS is looking at metrics like family and employee preferences, global availability of PPE and custodial supplies, and COVID-19 health metrics at local to national levels, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

“As we prepare for distance learning, I want to reiterate that we remain in close contact with state health officials and the Arlington County Public Health Division to monitor health data and evaluate opportunities to gradually phase in hybrid, in-person instruction,” Durán wrote. “I will notify you well in advance as plans progress and circumstances change.”

The letter also said Arlington County’s Department of Human Services (DHS) has identified 328 available slots in childcare centers and family day care homes located throughout the county.

These facilities are not affiliated with APS and families would have to pay to send their children there. The department is currently looking for additional slots and ways to expand options for low-income families.

“APS is providing childcare for staff only in our buildings. We are not providing childcare for families in our facilities,” Bellavia said. “Instead, APS is working with Arlington County to identify current childcare centers and in-home childcare facilities that can accommodate additional children.”

DHS is working for a way to prioritize children and families with the highest need when filling these slots, according to Bellavia.

More from Durán’s letter:

We know childcare is a major challenge for working families. We are working with the County to make some options available. The Department of Human Services has been working to expand availability among existing childcare providers, encouraging closed centers to reopen, and helping potential providers overcome obstacles such as licensing and land use processes. Through this work, DHS has identified more than 300 available slots through existing providers, based on numbers reported at the end of July:

  • Childcare Centers (63 total): 32 currently open with approximately 145 slots available
  • Family Day Care Homes (120 total): 109 currently open with approximately 183 slots available

More than 20 of these providers have indicated interest in expanding their hours and age ranges to accommodate school-aged children. DHS is supporting those efforts and creating a process to prioritize available slots to support children and families with the highest need. We are also working with the YMCA and other local non-profits and to expand options for low-income families. More details and how families can access these childcare options will be communicated through APS and the County as this work progresses.

The new school year is set to start online only, on Tuesday, Sept. 8. In July, Durán said he hoped to start transitioning students back in-person instruction in October.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Large snow pile in the parking lot for Virginia Highlands Park

Williamsburg Zumba Studio Featured on ‘GMA’ — FITLoose Health and Fitness in the Williamsburg neighborhood was featured on ABC’s Good Morning America. The segment highlighted the studio’s Zumbini classes — a variation of Zumba for children 0-3 years old and their parents. [Yahoo! News]

Hybrid Tax Repeal Passes — Legislation to repeal Virginia’s $64 annual tax on hybrid vehicles has passed both houses of the General Assembly. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) says he will sign the bill, which was introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D). [Virginian-Pilot]

Herring Announces Run for Moran’s Seat — Virginia Democratic Party Chair Charneile Herring is stepping down to run for the Congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Herring, who has represented Alexandria in the House of Delegates, is considered a party  “rising star,” and was Virginia’s first African-American Democratic party chair. [NBC Washington]

Arlington’s Shopping Scene Profiled — “Shopping in Arlington is always a bit of an adventure,” writes the Washington Post’s Jura Koncius. “As you dodge auto body shops, towering corporate headquarters, tanning parlors and trendy eateries, you’ll discover stores that stock just about everything you need for your home. But you might find yourself lost in the process. Hop over a bridge from the city and you’ll roll through slick shopping centers punctuated by shops nestled in funky farmhouses that represent the disappearing Arlington of old.” [Washington Post]

Eads Street Was a Former Canal — Crystal City residents might not realize it, but most of S. Eads Street, a main thoroughfare, used to be a canal. The street was built above the old Alexandria Canal, which connected Alexandria to Georgetown by way of an aqueduct bridge.

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Protesters join State Sen. Adam Ebbin in push to repeal hybrid vehicle tax (courtesy photo)Hybrid car owners and climate advocates joined State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) on Monday as the lawmaker announced an effort to repeal the state’s new hybrid and electric vehicle tax.

Ebbin and Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mt. Vernon) both plan to introduce bills to get rid of the tax during the 2014 legislative session.

“Hybrids already pay gas taxes and the mileage of both hybrids and non-hybrids vary significantly,” said Ebbin. “There are gasoline-only autos that get better mileage than some hybrids, and some hybrids, including SUVs, that do not get mileage as good as many gas-only powered cars. The punitive annual hybrid tax was not well thought out and hastily passed.”

The $64 tax went into effect yesterday as part of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation bill. As a compromise between McDonnell and the state General Assembly, the amount was reduced from the originally proposed $100 hybrid tax. The measure is expected to raise about $5 million out of the $1.4 billion budget.

The more than 91,000 hybrid vehicles registered in Virginia make up about one percent of all vehicles in the state. Around 80 percent of the hybrids are registered in Northern Virginia.

Earlier this year, Ebbin and Surovell circulated a petition requesting the removal of the tax from the transportation bill. That petition picked up around 8,000 signatures but did not prevent the tax from being included.

The two lawmakers plan to introduce the bills to repeal the hybrid tax on the first day of the state’s new legislative session, which is January 8.

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