Arlington saw a slight dip in Covid cases mid-month, during the Arlington Public Schools spring break, but cases are back on a relatively slow upward trajectory this week.
After the seven-day moving average broke the 100 daily case mark last week, that same figure stands at 110 cases per day today, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.
Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, has reported 195 student cases over the past week, including 23 at Jamestown Elementary alone. The North Arlington school has the highest seven-day case total of any Arlington public school, after Yorktown High School and its 14 reported cases.
Jamestown informed families about 17 new cases in an email yesterday.
Arlington County remains in the CDC’s “Medium” Covid level classification due to the volume of cases, but reported hospitalizations remain low.
In his weekly public Facebook post on Friday, Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman said the hospital is not seeing a notable increase in severe disease from Covid infections.
Although COVID numbers are continuing to increase in the community, we have seen a leveling off of COVID in both the emergency department and the hospital. Although new diagnoses of cases has increased the last several weeks in the ER, it never reached a critically high level. This week, the numbers actually dropped a touch as did the percent positivity rate in the emergency department as well. The hospital just has a handful of patients who are COVID-positive. I think we are seeing the clear benefits of vaccinations and boosters.
However, we have seen an increase in the community rate in Arlington County and this rate is slightly above 10%. This represents a pretty high transmission level in the community. Fortunately, patients are not getting sick and requiring hospitalization but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to be cautious in our interactions. And while some people may expect that getting COVID is inevitable, I think we still have a lot to understand about the long-term consequences of COVID.
The wider Arlington community’s Covid test positivity rate, meanwhile, has started declining. It currently stands at 10.8%, down from a recent peak of 12.4% three days ago, according to VDH.
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Jamestown Elementary School is having an early dismissal today due to a “significant water leak.”
The announcement was made in an email to families.
“There is a significant water leak at Jamestown Elementary which requires us to close school early,” the school’s principal wrote. “Students will have early release at 1:00 PM so that the county can shut down the water. Lunch will be served to all students before they leave.”
“There will be NO Extended Day,” the email continued. “I apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you updated on repairs and plans for tomorrow.”
Jamestown, the northernmost public school in Arlington, was built in 1953.
Following the school’s announcement, a social media post from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said there is a water main break at or near the school and that some homes in the area may also be affected.
Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crew working on 6-inch main at 3700 N Delaware St. Some 50 customers could be affected. Estimated time for completion: 12/2/2021 6:00 PM. Traffic diverted around work site. Questions: 703-228-6555. https://t.co/i3mMGFOQ1z pic.twitter.com/oTdvr36ny7
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) December 2, 2021
With one month to go before school starts, parents are being urged to enroll their kids in some Arlington public schools amid a continued drop in enrollment.
Screenshots and emails provided to ARLnow indicate some elementary schools, including Discovery and Jamestown, need just a few more kindergarteners before they can officially get one more kindergarten class. The correspondences say the extra class would reduce class sizes and keep teachers at the school they were teaching at last year.
“If you have a rising Kindergartener, please register your child ASAP!” one woman wrote on Nextdoor. “I heard through the grapevine that [Discovery is] 3 kids shy of a third class… which means they may have to let an amazing teacher and assistant go! Help spread the word to any new families in the neighborhood!”
An email to Jamestown families pleaded with families to “pretty, pretty please” register their children as soon as possible, as the elementary only needs 10 more students to add a fourth class.
School starts on Monday, Aug. 30 for most students. The vast majority will be in-person five days a week, though APS is offering a full-distance model this year for families still unsure about returning to school amid the pandemic, as cases rise and as the state recommends all students wear masks at the elementary level.
The encouragement to enroll comes on the heels of new enrollment numbers APS released earlier this month, showing a continued drop in APS students since the start of the pandemic. The new data indicates so far, there are 26,052 students registered for the fall. Of those, 891 will be full-time distance learning, and 25,161 students will be in-person full-time. In June of this year, there were 26,502 students enrolled, and in June 2020, 28,142 students were enrolled.
APS attributed the drop last year due to the pandemic, when many families decided to wait a year, homeschool their kids or switch to private and parochial schools. Since then, officials have said the schools should prepare for enrollment to bounce back.
Enrollment numbers will be made official in October. Lower summer numbers and encouragement to register are both annual phenomena, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.
“Every year at this time, we encourage families to register as there are always families new to the area, rising kindergarten students, military and embassy families,” he said. “We typically see a large bump in registrations in August and even September.”
Two years ago, Ashlawn Elementary School was slightly below projections and then saw 49 students register on the Friday before school started, he said.
As for the emphasis on class sizes, that’s because APS had to increase class sizes at all levels due to budgetary decisions made earlier this year.
Enrollment is also fluid within APS’s two programs, in-person and fully virtual.
“The total enrollment in the Virtual Learning Program has decreased by more than 300 students since June, when we announced that virtual families can transition to in-person school at any time,” spokeswoman Catherine Ashby said.
Bellavia said teachers at schools that lose classes due to lower enrollment won’t lose jobs, but will instead be transferred to where they’re needed.
“We are committed to retaining the excellent teachers that we have, and look for opportunities in their current school or to re-assign teachers to school where enrollment requires additional teachers,” he said.
Move over Jazz, there’s a new heir to the cute crown in Arlington.
On Easter Sunday at about 5 p.m., an adorable baby red fox — a kit — was caught on camera in the backyard of a residence in the Rock Spring neighborhood, near Jamestown Elementary School.
Sally Granade was at Jamestown Park with her daughter when she got a call from her husband.
“He called and said ‘Oh, this baby fox has been staggering in the yard, I got a bowl of water and put it out and now it’s following me around,” Granade tells ARLnow.
Animal control officers arrived in less than 15 minutes, says Granade, and told the family the baby fox was neither sick or injured, simply very young and a bit lost.
It’s thought the kit had wandered from the den, which Granade now believes was under her shed, when mom was out of the house.
“It’s likely that the mom was either out hunting, or she was relocating her kits from one den to another, and the kit happened to make enough noise for the homeowners to notice him,” writes Chelsea Jones, AWLA’s spokesperson.
AWLA believes the kit was only a few weeks old, meaning it was born in the litter season of late March to early April. They were unable to confirm the sex of the baby, though.
Animal control officers requested a four-sided box to gently place the fox in there, so that it couldn’t wander more and mom could find it when she arrived back.
All Granade had was a wicker basket, hence a cute video of the baby fox squawking in a basket.
The officers departed with a request to keep an eye out for the mother.
Sure enough, only about an hour or two later, the family spotted her.
“We saw what was probably the mother sulking around the background… and, by morning, the baby was gone,” says Granade.
Jones says that Granade and her family did exactly what they should have done, which was to not touch the wild animal and call the professionals immediately.
“It’s very important that the public NEVER touch a wild animal unless they absolutely have to because there are zoonotic diseases that can pass from animal to human,” writes Jones. “If you have to touch the animal (it’s in a very dangerous spot, it’s severely injured, etc.), it’s very important to wear thick gloves or use a towel.”
Foxes are certainly not uncommon in Arlington, but in the past year AWLA has received more calls about them and other wildlife. This has more do with humans than the animals.
“We have had more wildlife calls overall in the past year because so many more people are home during the day and seeing more wildlife that they would normally miss because they are at work,” writes Jones.
This is the time of the year that kits begin venturing out of the dens, so it’s normal to spot them in mid-April, Jones notes.
In general, foxes do not pose a threat to humans, however, if they have rabies, they can be dangerous to pets. While they’re fun to watch, do it a safe distance to keep foxes, pets, and humans all safe, Jones says.
For Granade, it was a memorable Easter Sunday evening for her and her family, helping to reunite a baby fox with its mom.
“I was really impressed with the good job that the Animal Welfare League did,” she says. “They even came back to get the basket.”
Photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington/Facebook
(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is seeing a sharp decline in enrollment this year as families cope with remote learning during the pandemic.
From September 2019 to September 2020, PreK-12 enrollment fell from 28,020 to 26,895 — a 4% drop — according to APS’ official Sept. 30 count. That’s an even bigger drop than the preliminary numbers at the beginning of September, which showed enrollment of 27,109.
The drop comes after years of enrollment growth. As of earlier this year, enrollment fall enrollment was projected to be 29,142, a 4% increase over 2019.
The change is sharpest in the elementary schools, and levels off in the secondary schools. Elementary schools in more affluent North Arlington neighborhoods — including Ashlawn, McKinley and Jamestown — have some of the biggest drops.
PreK enrollment alone is down 270 kids versus last year, the APS numbers show, while K-5 enrollment at elementary schools is down by 843 students.
“The elementary is where you see the story,” said Lisa Stengle, Executive Director of Planning and Evaluation for APS, adding that kindergarten alone has seen a drop of about 300 students.
Anecdotally, officials in public and private education say families are opting for parochial and private schools that are offering more in-person instruction. Currently, APS is fully remote, though moving towards “hybrid” in-person learning in the coming months.
Stengle said staff have told her that families are deciding to wait a year, homeschool their kids or switch to private and parochial schools.
About 74 new students enrolled at Our Savior Lutheran School in Barcroft, which Principal Joshua Klug described as a “huge increase.” His school offers daily in-person sessions in the morning or afternoon, with have no more than 10 children per class.
Normally, the largest increases are in kindergarten, with 15 to 20 new students. This year’s surge crossed grade levels, he said. Enrollment is now 126 students, up from 113 last year.
“We get new families every year, but it’s a greater percentage this year than in past years,” he said. “We lost more than we would normally lose because of the pandemic, but we definitely gained more than we normally do.”
Klug said he’s not sure whether all of the new students will stay when public schools reopen their buildings for all students. But there might also be an influx of students when conditions feel safer.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Stengle said the fluctuation is not a sustained pattern, but “the effect of the pandemic.” Still, that decline is not as sharp as it may appear, she said.
“We’re lower than projected, but we’re not a lot lower than our actual enrollment,” she said. “Next year, I expect to see growth when we return to a normal school setup.”
Some schools saw increases, including Wakefield High School, which is located in one of Arlington’s fastest-growing areas for student enrollment.
Among nearby school systems, Fairfax County Public Schools also saw a decrease in enrollment, by about 8,000 students. In his opening of schools report on Sept. 18, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said 181,477 students enrolled in this year, compared to the 189,837 students projected in the budget.
Alexandria City Public Schools also recently had a high-profile instance showing the draw of private schools. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. recently confirmed that one of his two children has enrolled at the private Bishop Ireton High School since the start of the pandemic. Hutchings confirmed the decision to Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School paper.
“I can confirm that our family made a decision to change my daughter’s school this school year,” Hutchings told Theogony. “Decisions like these are very personal family decisions and are not taken lightly. This in no way impacts my absolute lifelong, commitment to public education, to which I remain as personally dedicated as ever.”
On Thursday, Arlington Public Schools revealed its plan for resuming remote learning following spring break, which ends today.
“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.”
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
(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