Arlington, VA

On Thursday, Arlington Public Schools revealed its plan for resuming remote learning following spring break, which ends today.

The summary: given the difficulty in ensuring that all students can learn new concepts at home during coronavirus pandemic, nothing new will be taught through the remainder of the school year.

“Resuming April 14, teachers will reinforce previously introduced learning from the first three marking periods to ensure all students have mastered key concepts,” APS said on its website. “Students will also have opportunities to enrich and extend their learning through a variety of activities.”

For grades 3 and above, students have their own school issued electronic devices — iPads and laptops — and will participate in the enrichment activities electronically. For grades 2 and below, parents will receive monthly packets of learning materials.

More from an APS email to parents:

APS is fortunate that our students in grades 3-12 have their own devices, which allows us to deliver learning opportunities to them in a streamlined and efficient manner. As part of our commitment to ensuring equity of access to new learning for all students, concepts that students would have normally learned during the fourth quarter will be introduced in September, at the start of the 2020-21 school year. […]

As students in grades PreK-2 do not have APS-provided devices, their plan is a packet of learning activities for the month of April. The materials will be available electronically through ParentVUE in the Documents section on Monday, April 13. Printed packets will also be available for pick-up at APS grab-and-go meal sites starting on April 13. The learning packet for May will be available later this month.

The idea of students being stuck at home and not learning anything new, while parents scramble to try to act as de facto homeschool teachers, is not sitting well with some.

“Parents are fired up,” one teacher told ARLnow. “General consensus is: This plan is a joke, especially for K-2 students.”

The APS plan is a hot topic on the DC Urban Moms and Dads message board, with about 150 messages posted to a thread from Thursday entitled “If not everyone can learn, no one should learn (APS).”

“This new APS plan really irks me,” wrote one parent. “I don’t expect them to do all-day virtual classroom. But a choice board that lumps together K-2nd graders? That’s ridiculous. Other school districts far larger than ours — that pay FAR less per student– have figured out a way to actually teach kids. It’s ridiculous that ours can’t even figure out a way to do lessons by grade.”

In a letter to parents, the principal of Jamestown Elementary said educators are making the most of a difficult situation.

“As teachers, we want children to enjoy and be engaged in learning too,” wrote Principal Michelle McCarthy. “Trust that we will do the best we can to make that happen while also strengthening skills previously taught to prepare them to start with fourth quarter skills when we return in September.”

“Please be reassured that students will continue to learn and grow as they reinforce skills that were introduced but not yet mastered when we unexpectedly left school on March 13,” she added “There are many skills that need continued practice. Together, we can use this as an opportunity to strengthen foundations of learning.”

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Students and staff have been evacuated from Jamestown Elementary School in North Arlington after smoke reportedly filled the school’s boiler room.

The evacuation comes amid frigid temperatures below 20 degrees.

Arlington County firefighters are investigating the smoke and believe it may be the result of a mechanical issue, according to scanner traffic. Police are blocking off streets due to the fire department response.

Those evacuated from the building are expected to be let back in soon.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn Lands Trump HQ2 — President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign will be opening a satellite office to its Trump Tower headquarters at a Rosslyn office building. Arlington has previously been home to a number of presidential campaign headquarters. [Politico]

Popular Popcorn Purveyor Opens at DCA — Chicago’s Garrett Popcorn Shops now has a second location in Arlington. Garrett’s new shop is now open in the pre-security section of Reagan National Airport near Terminal C. [Twitter]

New APS Weather Plan — “Superintendent Patrick Murphy on Dec. 6 announced a new plan for dealing with tricky-to-forecast winter storms, after the school system kept schools open for an unexpectedly potent November snowfall, a decision that sent many parents into spasms of outrage… If inclement weather threatens for the following day, Arlington school officials will announce a two-hour delay by 6 p.m. the previous evening.” [InsideNova]

Jamestown No. 1 on Best Teacher List — Arlington’s Jamestown Elementary School is No. 1 on a new list of “Greater Washington’s best public school teachers.” [Washington Business Journals]

APS Fails to Get Easement for Construction Crane — “Arlington School Board members on Dec. 20 are slated to approve an increase in the construction contract for the new elementary school being built adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School totaling just over $292,000. The project initially assumed that the contractor would be able to use a tower crane on the site, but the school system was unable to come to terms with nearby property owners for the necessary easements.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington County Police broke up an alcohol-fueled “powder puff” football game at Jamestown Elementary School over the weekend.

ACPD says they responded to the school grounds around 1 p.m. Saturday “for a report of 20-30 teenagers drinking.”

Upon arrival, officers “encountered numerous teenagers playing a ‘Powder puff’ football game,” according to a post from a police lieutenant on the Nextdoor social network site. “Some members of the group fled when they saw police. One student was found heavily intoxicated and required medical assistance. A small group of juveniles was detained by police. “

“Evidence of alcohol consumption was located at the scene,” the post said. “The police department will be working with county school administrators and parents to identify all involved juveniles and ensure service referrals and appropriate enforcement actions are completed.”

The lieutenant who posted the report said she “wanted to make all parents aware of [the] incident.”

File photo

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Arlington Public Schools has released preferred and alternative plans for its revision of the North Arlington elementary school boundaries.

Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.

The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.

The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.

Many of the students that will likely move to McKinley will stay in their originally intended schools in 2015 before moving to McKinley in 2016, when the school’s 241-seat expansion opens.

APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.

The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.

“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”

Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.

“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”

Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.

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APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy's proposed boundary changes(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Just 18 months after Arlington’s School Board approved a new elementary school boundary plan for North Arlington, an influx of more new students is prompting the Board to reconsider those plans.

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says 652 additional Pre-K and elementary students came to the district this year, outpacing APS’s growth projections by 52. That, along with variances on a school-by-school basis, has caused APS to explore “possible refinements to the boundaries.”

Following a series of three community meetings, the School Board is scheduled to fast-track a vote on a new boundary map for the 2015-2016 school year in January.

The process for determining the new school boundaries will begin with a community meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at Williamsburg Middle School. There, APS staff will present data showing the need for the boundary change, demonstrate the online tool that parents can use to recommend their boundary maps and “begin work with the community to refine boundary options,” according to an APS press release.

The schools whose boundaries will come under review are the under-construction elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School, Glebe Elementary, Tuckahoe, Ashlawn, Nottingham, Taylor, Jamestown and McKinley.

The approved boundary change from May of last year reassigned 900 students and resulted in five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Tuckahoe, McKinley and Nottingham — sitting at more than 100 percent capacity, but no school above 105.1 percent capacity. The decision was reached after an eight-month community process, and previous boundary realignments have resulted in tension among parents.

The boundary revision process, from the first School Board information session to its scheduled adoption, will take two and a half months.

“After we received updated enrollment projections based on Sept. 30 enrollment numbers, the Superintendent directed staff to begin looking at refinement of the 2015-16 boundaries,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com in an email. “The projections confirmed that we will have enrollment imbalances within the those schools and there is a need to do boundary refinements for a relatively small number of families.”

At tomorrow night’s School Board meeting, APS staff will present their newest school population projections and outline the need to revising the boundaries. From Nov. 18 to Dec. 5, parents and community members will be able to go online and submit their boundary recommendations for staff to consider. Staff will review those recommendations at another community meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, in the Williamsburg auditorium.

The community meetings will provide an opportunity for the families that may potentially be impacted to work with staff to develop recommended adjustments using the Online Boundary Tool originally introduced in the boundary process two years ago,” APS said in a press release. “Individuals will be able to see the possible moves that can help to further balance enrollment for these schools. Information shared at all community meetings will help shape the discussion and prepare individuals to use the Online Boundary Tool.”

In January, the School Board will take up the issue. First, with a work session on Jan. 5, then with an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before voting on a new boundary alignment on Jan. 22. All of the School Board meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. at 1426 N. Quincy Street.

File photo via APS

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Arlington Public Schools (APS) has agreed to move several relocatable classroom trailers at Jamestown Elementary School. The move comes about a month after residents and parents started loudly complaining about the placement of the trailers.

The relocatable classrooms were originally placed near N. Delaware Street, adjacent to a playground. Several members of the Jamestown PTA wrote a strongly-worded letter to the School Board in response, saying the trailers took up “valuable green space” in a “high traffic area,” were “in direct line of sight of over a dozen homes in the neighborhood,” and “sully the atmosphere of the heart of the Jamestown community.”

Parents also complained about a lack of notice before the trailers were placed on school grounds. Last night parents were notified that, in response to their concerns, the trailers would be moved closer to 38th Street N.

“It’s in the same area, it has just been set back farther,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. No word yet on whether the decision will fully assuage the PTA members’ concerns.

In a letter to Jamestown principal Kenwyn Schaffner, APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said the decision was made in response to feedback from the community and from school staff.

Dear Ms. Schaffner:

In response to your request for additional classroom space to meet the rising enrollment at Jamestown Elementary School, and the subsequent pleas from your community that the placement of the modular units be reviewed, and based on feedback I have received from you and the Facilities & Operations staff, I have accepted the recommendation that the units be placed on the Option B location. That is, the units will be moved from their current site to closer to the gym and 38th Street North.

I appreciate your efforts to manage the crowding conditions and to ensure that student learning is at the forefront of our efforts. I also appreciate your response to community concerns and the suggestions you have put forward.

Please extend to your community my wishes for a positive end to the school year and a restful summer break.

Sincerely,

Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
Superintendent

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Update at 7:45 p.m. — Arlington School Board Chair Abby Raphael has responded, in writing, to the PTA letter.

The Jamestown Elementary School PTA has fired off an angry letter to county officials after new relocatable classroom trailers were placed in a field near the school’s playground.

The PTA says the community was not consulted about the placement of the trailers, and that the loss of green space will be detrimental to the school.

“This lack of communication on the County’s part is disrespectful, rude, and flies in the face of the Arlington tradition of ‘respectful dialogue,'” the Jamestown PTA said in a letter addressed to the Arlington County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy and the Arlington County Board.

The incident is similar to another recent controversy, in which parents at Tuckahoe Elementary School protested the placement of classroom trailers on the school’s playground blacktop. The temporary trailers have become increasingly necessary as Arlington Public Schools deals with a capacity crisis.

The PTA is requesting a meeting with the school board “before we are faced with a fait accompli.” See the complete PTA letter, after the jump.

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