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County Board Plans New Childcare Subsidy, Policy Changes Before Year’s End

Arlington officials are moving closer to setting up a new financial assistance program to help families afford childcare, with overhauls to zoning and parking requirements for daycare facilities possible before the year is out.

The County Board signed off yesterday (Tuesday) on a final version of a “Childcare Action Plan” it’s been eyeing since late last year, setting the stage for leaders to address the affordability and availability of childcare in Arlington following years of debate.

In the near term, the county will work with local businesses and nonprofits to set up a program to defray childcare costs for families who don’t qualify for state subsidies, similar to existing efforts in Alexandria and D.C. Staff also plan to study the county’s childcare needs and shortcomings in more detail, building on work they’ve done over the last year or so, and make the county’s online resources for childcare providers a bit more streamlined.

By December, the Board plans to rewrite some of its zoning ordinances to make it a bit easier for daycare centers to open and operate in the county, with the goal of bringing costs for parents down in the process. That same month, the Board will propose changes to the county’s childcare codes, with a vote on the edits soon afterward.

Leaders haven’t quite finalized what all of those changes will look like, with community engagement and public hearings to discuss the specifics set for the coming months, but they’re broadly aiming to give parents more affordable options for daycare around Arlington.

“We’ve come a far way, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey pointed out that Arlington parents foot the highest average annual bill for childcare for an infant and a 4-year-old out of any locality in the region. The county’s average cost of $42,705 per year, compared to $40,521 in D.C. and $37,787 in Alexandria per staff’s findings, left Dorsey “gobsmacked” and eager to see what the Board could do to bring that figure down.

“I can’t imagine our rents are higher than they are in D.C.,” Dorsey said. “The District has just as much supply-demand pressure, yet we’re more expensive… I’m not interested in Arlington exceptionalism when it comes to this.”

One contributing factor could be the county’s parking requirements for daycare facilities. Deborah Warren, the deputy director of the county’s Department of Human Services, noted that Arlington currently requires providers to have one parking space for each employee, in addition to space for pickups and drop offs.

The Board could tweak that requirement to make it easier for more facilities to open in the county’s densest neighborhoods, or even let smaller, family daycare providers avoid the lengthy process of applying for a special use permit before opening their doors.

“If it takes less time, there’s less of a process to go through, hopefully we can increase the number that’s out there,” said Kimberly Vacca, an associate planner with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

With roughly 13,435 children under the age of 5 in the county and 6,894 spaces in licensed daycares, as of 2015, county leaders recognize they have an urgent need to somehow attract more providers to the area.

Dorsey urged the Board not to lose sight of the county’s focus on using its regulations to enforce high standards at all of its daycare facilities, yet the entire Board expressed a desire to see some of those requirements somehow loosened by the time this process wraps up.

“To the extent that the pendulum swings between affordability and quality, the pendulum might’ve swung a bit too far away from affordability here,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

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Arlington Youth Triathlon Kicks Off Next Week

The fifth annual Arlington Youth Triathlon will kick off next Sunday, June 10, at the Washington-Lee High School pool.

The public event hosted by the Arlington Triathlon Club will feature swimming, running and biking among children ages 7-15 and will start at 7:30 a.m.  The Arlington Youth Triathlon is a part of the USA Triathlon Mideast Region Youth Triathlon Series, where young triathletes from Ohio to Tennessee will come to Arlington to participate.

The triathlon will include a pool swim, a bike ride on closed streets around the school and a track finish. Each event features short distances to include kids of all abilities.

This year’s triathlon will be held in honor of Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident who died April 9 in a car crash striking a deer on I-85 in South Carolina. Viviani, 68, was a world champion triathlete and coach.

Registration for the Arlington Youth Triathlon is open until June 9. It costs $75 to register before May 15, and $85 afterward.

Photo Courtesy Arlington Triathlon Club

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Nearby Residents Voice Concerns About Proposed Courthouse Child Care Center

A proposed child care center in Courthouse is likely to be approved by the County Board at this weekend’s meeting, but it is not without some controversy.

Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominiums have raised concerns about the proximity of the proposed Bright Horizons child care center to Arlington’s Homeless Services Center, according to the county staff report.

Several tenants of the Courthouse condominium building publicly opposed the homeless shelter prior to its construction due to safety and property value concerns.

The 24-hour homeless shelter is at 2020 14th Street N., and the child care facility would be at 2000 14th Street N. That’s a distance of less than 330 feet, according to a Google Maps estimate.

Pending approval, the child care center would also be near Ragtime restaurant, as well as Arlington County Police headquarters, the county jail and the county courthouse.

The center is slated to have a maximum permitted enrollment of 136 children, but the number could be set lower by Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services if deemed necessary.

County staff concluded that “the proposed location of the Bright Horizons child care center is not anticipated to cause an undue adverse impact on the surrounding community and will provide a valuable service at the proposed location.”

The report added that the site has adequate parking spaces and public transportation access. The child care center would convert 10,868 square feet of office space into child care use. An outdoor plaza would be converted into a 4,645 square foot outdoor play space enclosed by a five foot fence.

The Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association did not object to the child care center and several nearby apartment buildings did not respond to county staff’s notification, according to county documents.

The child care center would help with the county’s lack of available child care services. The shortage of child care options — particularly affordable options — relative to demand prompted the launch of the county’s Child Care Initiative in December.

Bright Horizons has agreed to operate from Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. The child care chain has three locations in Arlington already — in Rosslyn, Ballston, and Crystal City — and has dozens across the country.

Attempts to reach a current representative of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association were unsuccessful.

Photo via Arlington County

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Ellen Surprises Arlington Woman Who is the Surrogate of her Best Friend

Ellen DeGeneres surprised two Arlingtonians via live shot today (March 13) after one wrote to the show asking to share their surrogacy story.

After Katelin Buchanan suffered from five miscarriages, her best friend Erica Huston offered to be a surrogate for Buchanan and her husband. She’s now pregnant with the couple’s twins.

Ellen DeGeneres Show correspondent Jeannie Klisiewicz met with the best friends and surprised them with a live streamed meeting with DeGeneres. DeGeneres gifted Buchanan and Huston tickets to a live taping of the daytime talk show, and added that Buchanan would receive the prizes from the upcoming Mother’s Day show giveaway.

Buchanan spoke of her longtime friendship with Huston and how watching The Ellen Degeneres Show helped her cope with her infertility struggles.

Feeling helpless watching her best friend go through miscarriage after miscarriage, Huston added on the program that she jumped at the opportunity to surrogate for Buchanan.

“The moment that I hand those babies over to Katelin and her husband will be the best moment of my life,” Huston told Degeneres during the live shot. “And then, I’m going to pour myself a big glass of wine.”

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Date Set for Feel The Heritage Festival

The annual Feel The Heritage Festival, a black history month tradition now in its 26th year, is scheduled for Saturday, February 24.

The county-sponsored festival, held at the Charles Drew Community Center in Nauck, will host its first-ever soul food cook-off, with prizes for category winners. That’s in addition to dozens of vendors, music and dance acts, and fun for the kids.

Emceed by former WPGC 95.5 FM radio host Dr. Justine Love, a range of dance and musical groups will perform throughout the day, including a Joy of Motion dance center youth hip-hop group, and Elijah Jamal Balbed’s Chuck Brown-inspired The Jogo Project. Motown, hip-hop, gospel, and traditional African performers will also take the stage.

Festival organizers are touting dozens of artisan vendors selling jewelry, clothing, and more. Local African-American citizen associations and organizations, such as the Black Heritage Museum, will bring historical artifacts and photos for display in a “hall of history.”

Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company’s food truck will be parked outside of the community center, and the Nauck Youth Enterprise will sell hot dogs, half smokes, and more.

There will be plenty for kids to do, from creating a traditional African art inspired animal mask to face painting, balloon art, and oversize games of checkers and Connect Four. Colgate, the toothpaste company, will also be on-site from 2-6 p.m. to conduct free dental screenings and treatment referral for children up to 12 years old.

Photo via Arlington County

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Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents Coming to Market Common

Can’t wait until April to get your Washington Nationals first home game fix? You’re in luck, sort of, because the Nationals’ racing presidents are coming to Clarendon.

The Nats mascots will be racing around The Loop at Market Common this Sunday, Feb. 18. Celebrating President’s Day a little early, George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy will race at 3 p.m.

The event starts at 12:30 p.m. with a presidential photo booth, complimentary hot cocoa from Nicecream, and a prize wheel for children to spin to win a paper president ($5 bill).

This fall the mascots came to Arlington to pay tribute to Abingdon Elementary students who donned elaborate “little presidents” costumes for the Fairlington Halloween parade.

Courtesy photo

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Randolph Elementary PTA Holds Online Auction Fundraiser

Randolph Elementary School’s PTA is hosting an online charity auction to support classroom and extracurricular programs, auctioning off local business deals, unique experiences and gift certificates today through Feb. 15.

There are over 200 auction items up for grabs, with prizes ranging from a veterinary check-up to an Annapolis sailboat ride valued at $500. One lucky bidder could even win a homemade baby back rib dinner for four at Arlington Public Schools board member Reid Goldstein’s home, for a minimum bid of $75.

Or perhaps you’d rather just relax at home and let Randolph Elementary principal Dr. Donna Synder and assistant principal Ms. Rebecca Irwin Kennedy take over the bedtime story routine one evening for a minimum bid of $15.

Holly Jeffreys, the Randolph Elementary PTA auction chair, says that all auction proceeds will fund field trips, classroom supplies, field day, and literacy programs like the Summer Mailbox book program. She noted that Randolph is a Title I school, a designation indicating “high percentages of children from low-income families,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Approximately 73.6% of students at Randolph qualify for free or reduced price meals, according to an October 2017 Arlington Public Schools report.

The auction has taken place in previous years. New this year, according to organizers, the auction website will accept credit card payments — via PayPal — from auction winners, in addition to checks.

File photo via Arlington Public Schools

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Friday Children’s Class to Combine Nature and Yoga

Kids aged 7-10 can combine a walk among nature with yoga and relaxation at a class this Friday (August 11) at the Long Branch Nature Center.

The class, entitled Yoga in the Nature Center, begins at 10 a.m. at the center at Glencarlyn Park (625 S. Carlin Springs Road). It first begins with a short walk, then attendees return to practice poses that represent the plants and animals they find.

A short relaxation period follows the yoga session, with the entire event expected to wrap up around 10:45 a.m. Organizers said no prior yoga experience is needed and yoga mats are not required, although those that have one are encouraged to bring them.

Registration is available online or by phone at 703-228-4747. The session costs $5 each.

Summer is a popular time for yoga in Arlington for young and old. As well as the new “Yoga at the Fountain” sessions in Crystal City, a sunset yoga session is set for tonight (August 9) at the Ballston Bocce Park at the intersection of N. Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Flickr pool photo by James L.

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Morning Notes

Greens Endorse McCullough — The Arlington Green Party is backing Charles McCullough, an attorney who lives in Nauck, in his run for Arlington County Board. McCullough is “a young progressive who will bring new ideas” to county government, said Green Party head John Reeder. [InsideNova]

Arlington Cops Jump Rope with Kids — The Arlington County Police Department’s Twitter account posted photos of police officers hula hooping and jumping rope with kids at the Gates of Ballston affordable housing complex yesterday. [Twitter]

Rosslyn BID Helped to Woo Nestle — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District played a significant role in helping to convince Nestle to move its U.S. headquarters to Rosslyn. In a bit of a departure from typical functions of a business improvement district, the BID “helped coordinate a series of neighborhood tours for Nestle employees weighing whether to move east with their jobs, showcasing the various restaurants and shops in Rosslyn, brokering discounts and exclusives to local restaurants and playing the overall role of ambassador.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Touts State Dept. Lease — “The federal government’s decision to keep its State Department offices in Rosslyn for another 15 years and create a mini campus there is the latest win for what has been an exciting 2017 for Rosslyn and all of Arlington’s business community,” Arlington County said in a press release. “The State Department, long a fixture of Rosslyn’s economic footprint, is keeping its 280,000 square feet in its existing Fort Myer Drive building, and adding 60,000 square feet of space next door at 1200 Wilson Blvd., which it will share with one of its contractors already in that building.” [Arlington County]

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Capitals Offer Free Playoff Yoga Classes

The Washington Capitals might be stressing about their chances against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but fans can de-stress with free yoga classes during the NHL playoffs.

Team yoga instructor Kelly Moore will lead classes on the rooftop of the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston every morning the Caps have a playoff game. The first hour-long class takes place tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. and the next one is on Saturday, April 15.

Although the likelihood of doing a downward facing dog pose next to a Caps player at one of the free classes is incredibly slim, the players do practice yoga, the Washington Post reported.

Caps fans are also encouraged to attend the team’s practices and take part in special activities throughout the week. Kids can visit the mezzanine level at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for face painting and balloon art. Team mascot Slapshot and the Red Rockers also will be there. The practice schedule is updated weekly online.

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‘Miracle on 23rd Street’ Holiday Event Planned for Friday

Miracle on 23rd Street flyerSanta is coming to town — specifically, to the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, near Crystal City, on Friday.

Linden Business Resources (750 23rd Street S.) is again hosting its family-friendly Miracle on 23rd Street holiday event. It’s scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Dec. 2.

The tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for 6:25, Santa is expected to arrive via fire truck at 6:30 and a 50/50 raffle will take place at 8 p.m. Unlike past years, this year’s event will be held completely outside.

There will also be food trucks and holiday music and entertainment. The event is free and open to the public.

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Rosslyn Sandbox Has Reopened

The Rosslyn sandbox is back open for the season, after it debuted last year.

The children’s sand play area is located in Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway), in what used to be a fountain. The former fountain is now filled with white sand, painted with colorful designs by local artists and decorated with small stone figures of woodland creatures.

“Staff from Arlington Parks and Recreation recently cleaned and opened the largest sandbox in Arlington County for the spring and summer,” the Rosslyn BID said on its website. “It’s a terrific option for anyone looking for a fun and safe place for kids to play.”

The sandbox has been stocked with plastic pails, shovels and other communal toys. There are also adirondack chairs around the play area for parents and caregivers.

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Outdoor Berlin Wall Exhibit in Rosslyn to Become Children’s Play Area

What is now a peculiar outdoor tribute to the fall of the Berlin Wall is slated to become a play area for children.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday will consider a site plan amendment that would allow the Rosslyn Children’s Center, a childcare facility at 1401 Wilson Blvd, to move down the street to the office building at 1101 Wilson Blvd. The Board will also consider a lease agreement that would lease a small parcel at the rear of the building, facing N. Kent Street, to the center.

The parcel is owned by the county and is currently leased to the Newseum, which closed its former location at 1101 Wilson Blvd in 2002. (Artisphere has since come and gone from the former Newseum space.) It’s considered part of Freedom Park, which was originally designed as a vehicle overpass but later converted to a park after significant engineering problems were discovered.

The parcel used to be an outdoor display of sections of the Berlin Wall — the largest display of the wall outside Germany. With the portions of wall having been moved to the new Newseum in D.C. in 2008, what stands today is a large mural behind a fenced-off and weed-filled lot. In front of the fence, exhibit labels are still largely intact, explaining the history of an exhibit that no longer exists.

Under the terms of the proposed 15-year lease, the Children’s Center will convert the space into an outdoor playground.

The site plan amendment calls for the Children’s Center to occupy 10,140 square feet of space at 1101 Wilson Blvd, including 8,800 square feet of former office space and 1,340 square feet of soon-to-be-former parking garage space. The center will serve up to 121 children.

Rosslyn Children’s Center is moving from its 1401 Wilson Blvd location due to a planned redevelopment of the office building.

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County Board to Vote on Two Playgrounds

Conceptual design of Long Bridge Park playgroundArlington County may get a new playground after the next County Board meeting.

The board will vote to approve construction contracts for two playground projects — one at Long Bridge Park and one at Tyrol Hills Park — on Saturday.

The Long Bridge Park playground will be located at the south end of the park by 6th Street. If approved, it is expected to cost just under $1.1 million to construct. All told, with design and project management costs factored in, it comes with a $1,324,300 price tag.

The proposed playground will offer an area for children ages two to five and one for ages five to 12. The play area for preschool children will include a shade structure, according to the County Board’s report.

The new playground will also have:

  • a cooling “fog” system
  • sculpted play forms
  • tunnels and bridges
  • fencing where the park meets the street
  • benches

According to the planned layout of the park, kids can expect new play structures like a play tube, a play cocoon, tube slide and a double slide.

The playground was included in the already-approved master plan for the park, and the playground’s conceptual design fits in with the current aesthetic of the park, the report said. The county also gathered input from children on what should be included at the new playground.

“The sessions were lively and produced interesting feedback,” according to the report.

Tyrol Hills Park playground conceptual design

The County Board will also vote to approve a playground project at Tyrol Hills Park expected to cost $878,635. The project will replace current playground structures with new equipment.

The new improvements will include new equipment, new porus pavement, a new picnic shelter and accessible playground surfacing.

The Tyron Hills Park playground will also have a play area for children ages two to five and one for children ages five to 12.

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Police Swear In ‘Chief-for-the-Day’ Contest Winner

A 9-year-old boy wearing an Arlington County Police Department t-shirt may not seem like a symbol of authority. But for today, he is.

This morning Police Chief M. Douglas Scott swore in Patrick Omberg, the winner of the inaugural “Chief-for-the-Day” essay competition.

“Today is National Night Out, so Patrick you’re going to work until about 10:00 or 11:00 tonight,” Scott joked during his speech at the ceremony.

Outside the police department in Courthouse, 9-year-old Patrick Omberg took an honorary police oath, read an excerpt of his winning essay and received a commemorative plaque before standing for pictures with police and his parents.

On July 8, the Arlington County Police Department announced the contest, which they plan to hold every year from now on. ACPD asked for essay submissions from children, ages 8 to 12, that answered the question: “What does it mean to be a police officer?”

“Based on his essay, it was a pretty easy selection for us,” ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said. “Even at 9 years old, he seemed to have a good understanding of the police and for our role in the community.”

Omberg said that he wrote about how “the police keep people safe” in his essay, and although he doesn’t know if he wants to be a police officer, he was having fun as an honorary chief. He didn’t have to wrangle drunken pub-crawlers or chase down criminals, but Omberg did get a glimpse at the inner workings of the police department.

“We wanted to show him what life in the Arlington County Police Department could be like,” Sternbeck said. “We want to build positive relationships in the community. It’s been a great experience for us just as much as [it has been] for him.”

Before the ceremony, police picked up Omberg from his house in a patrol car and guided him on a tour of the police station, where they took his fingerprints and introduced him to their K-9 unit.

“My favorite part was seeing the dogs,” Omberg said.

“Do you remember what his name was?” Omberg’s father, Peter, asked his son.

“Drogo,” Omberg said, although the rising fourth-grader didn’t seem to get the “Game Of Thrones” reference in the name.

To cap off his day, Omberg would look at the station’s booking department with the sheriffs and have lunch with Scott, Sternbeck said.

“I can use all the help I can get,” Scott said at the ceremony. “So having someone like you help me [for today], is very much appreciated.”

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