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Screenshot from video of a fight at a cafeteria in Arlington Public Schools (courtesy anonymous)

Over the last four days, fights involving kids and weapons broke out near Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools, while Wakefield High School had multiple trash cans set on fire.

Those are the most recent incidents in what some parents — mostly to middle schoolers — say is a rash of fights, threats of violence and other concerning behaviors happening in the public school system.

Earlier this month, for example, a mother told the School Board her daughter at Gunston Middle School was attacked by other students.

“My daughter’s eye is messed up,” Shana Robertson told the Arlington School Board on March 10. “She was jumped by two boys and two girls, and nothing has been done.”

A parent, Shayna Robertson, speaks out about unsafe conditions in Arlington Public Schools (via APS)

ARLnow spoke to multiple parents who say these issues are happening across the school system. We also reviewed several videos of brawls on school grounds, or near them, recorded by students this year.

Arlington Public Schools confirms to ARLnow that the school system has, in fact, noticed an increase in the number of reported fights and incidents this school year.

“This rise in concerning behaviors follows the national trend that is not unique to Arlington, as students re-acclimate to being back in school and face increased stress and anxiety, as well as other mental health and social-emotional challenges due to COVID and the trauma students experienced as a result,” APS spokesman Andrew Robinson said.

The trend has prompted some parents to call for more disciplinary actions for students and a renewed conversation about whether to reinstall Arlington County Police Department School Resource Officers, who were removed over the summer out of concern for racial disparities in juvenile arrests.

Opinions on reinstalling SROs are mixed. Some say this would help keep students in line and some say they may help — but they will not address the root cause. Others say SROs would not only fail to address the root cause, but they would also needlessly drive up the number of arrests.

“This is happening across the country, even at schools with police officers,” says Symone Walker, a member of the Arlington branch of the NAACP’s education committee and a former ARLnow columnist. “You really have to start addressing the emotional needs, the physical needs, the academic needs. Of course, there’s stuff going on at homes where families are stressed. Parents are angry and the kids are soaking it all up — it’s a much deeper problem.”

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Morning Notes

A man rides a personal watercraft in Boundary Channel near Columbia Island Marina (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

APS Enrollment Down — “Despite intensive efforts to get them back, Arlington Public Schools has about 4 percent fewer students in class than it did pre-pandemic, according to new figures. Superintendent Francisco Durán on Oct. 14 said the school system’s official count for the 2021-22 school year is 26,911 students, based on enrollment Sept. 30 that will be submitted to state officials as is required by law. That’s down slightly from the 26,932 students reported on hand at the start of classes in August.” [Sun Gazette]

Update on Metro Woes — “While Metro aims to provide service consistent with the announced basic service plan through the rest of the week, customers should anticipate trains every 15-20 minutes on the Red Line and every 30-40 minutes on all other lines to account for any unplanned disruptions. There is currently no capacity to fill unforeseen gaps, which will result in longer wait times. Crews are working as quickly as possible to put more trains into service.” [WMATA]

County: Update Your Bookmarks — “With the launch of our new website, your favorite page or service has a new home! While we have redirect links for our most visited and discussed pages, we couldn’t do it for all 5,000+ pages. But the content you want is still there!” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Birds Banging into Arlington Windows — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “We’re starting to see a lot of migratory birds come into the shelter, likely due to hitting windows as they fly. But we are here to help! This little Golden-Crowned Kinglet stayed with us overnight before heading off to a licensed rehabber this morning!” [Twitter]

IPO for Local Multinational Company — “Renewable energy storage firm Fluence Energy Inc said on Tuesday it is aiming to fetch a nearly $4 billion valuation in its U.S. initial public offering, as investor interest in such technologies soars alongside growing calls to limit climate change… Arlington, Virginia-based Fluence serves major utilities, developers, as well as commercial and industrial businesses, promising increased efficiency through its digital platform designed for renewables.” [Reuters]

Event to Mark Genocide Anniversary — “November 4, 2021 will mark exactly one year to the day that the Ethiopian & Eritrean regimes waged a devastating and ongoing genocide on the people of Tigray. You are welcome to visit our Arts & Photo Exhibition ‘Call It A Genocide’ which runs from November 5 to 7, 2021 at the ECDC in Arlington.” [Eventbrite]

Halloween Bike Ride for Families — “The Kidical Mass Arlington Halloween ride is BACK! Meet Sun 10/24 4pm at Zitkala’Sa (nee Clay) Park Costumes and decorations encouraged! Enjoy some pizza from our friends @TrekBikes Clarendon after the ride.” [Twitter, Facebook]

It’s Wednesday — ☀️ It’s another sunny day today, with a high near 76. West wind 5 to 7 mph. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 6:22 p.m. Tomorrow is will be sunny, with a high near 78.

Join the ARLnow Press Club and get the Morning Notes via email, four hours earlier.

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The Arlington County Fair kicked off Wednesday afternoon complete with rides, games and deliciously high-calorie fair food. And there’s more fun ahead this weekend.

The fair is open from 2-11 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S.

Baby goat yoga classes, introduced in 2019, return to the fair this year. Classes start at 9 and 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and cost $40 a session.

There will also be robotics demonstrations today, tomorrow and Sunday in the gymnasium.

And, for $5, folks can enter the fair’s pie-eating competition on Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. Contestants will compete to see who can eat a slice of Triple Berry Pie, from Arlington-based Livin’ the Pie Life, the fastest.

Synetic Theater will also perform its show, The Miraculous Magical Balloon, for the second and final time at the fair tomorrow at 4 p.m. This kid-friendly performance tells the story of a traveling actor and his magical trunk through pantomime and choreography.

The fair will continue to feature rides, games, food vendors, axe throwing and musical performances.

In addition to transit options, this year’s event will have some on-site parking spaces for fairgoers in the Alice West Fleet Elementary School garage on 115 S. Old Glebe Road. Overflow parking will be available at the Faith Lutheran Church (3313 Arlington Blvd).

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Live music, theatrical performances and fair food are all on tap as Arlington County Fair returns two weeks from today.

After being canceled due to the pandemic, the event will return to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S. The fair kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. and concludes at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22.

“We weren’t sure we were going to be able to have the Fair this year but we made the decision a few short months ago and have been working tirelessly ever since to plan some exciting things for our community to enjoy,” said Arlington County Fair Board Chair Barbi Broadus.

For five days, people can experience county fair classics such as face painting and bounce houses, or try newer, trendier activities, such as axe throwing and goat yoga.

Fair attractions include:

  • Goat yoga — Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
  • New District Brewing Company beer garden — opens Wednesday and Thursday at 5 p.m, Friday at 3 p.m., and noon on Saturday and Sunday
  • Robotics demonstrations — Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • The Miraculous Magical Balloon performance from Synetic Theatre — Thursday at 5 p.m. and Saturday 4 p.m.
  • Pie eating championship — Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m.

All things kids can be found at the “kids court,” where there will be face painting, bounce houses and magic performances from Drew Blue Shoes.

Meanwhile, attendees can browse exhibitions of talented bakers and artists, who will receive awards on Saturday at 7 p.m.

While admission is free, rides and activities may require tickets that can be purchased on-site or online, where a detailed schedule of events can also be found.

After living through shutdowns, attendees can expect sizable crowds.

“For the past 45 years, the fair has been one of the largest free events on the East Coast with over 84,000 attendees from Northern Virginia and the Washington metro area,” said a fair representative in a press release.

The fair is working with Arlington County to ensure the event is as safe as possible, according to a press release. Federal and state Covid-19 guidelines will be followed.

In Arlington, case rates are starting to rise and Northern Virginia health officials are recommending people wear masks regardless of vaccination status. There is no renewed statewide mask mandate, however.

This year’s event will have some on-site parking spaces for fairgoers in the Alice West Fleet Elementary School garage on 115 S. Old Glebe Road. Overflow parking will be available at the Faith Lutheran Church (3313 Arlington Blvd).

For those looking to help out, the fair is looking for board members, volunteers, donations, sponsorships and local vendors.

The hours for the fair are:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 18: 5-10 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 19: 5-10 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 20: 2-11 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 21: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 22: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Outdoor entertainment consists of a daily lineup of musicians, from jazz and funk to rock and pop. The music schedule is below.

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Arlington Storm ballplayers meet U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (courtesy photo)

For the first time, a team of 9-year-old baseball players from the Arlington Babe Ruth League is going to the league’s version of the World Series.

The team, dubbed the Arlington Storm, is headed to Florida’s Treasure Coast today (Wednesday) to compete for the national title. The trip comes after winning the Virginia state championship and the Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Championship last week in Snow Hill, North Carolina.

“We’ve got some really good ball players, [and] they’re becoming really good teammates, most importantly,” said team captain Jeff Groharing, who is an attorney with the Department of Justice by day, and a baseball coach by morning (practice starts at 7:30 a.m. daily).

The boys will face several other teams from across the country in a series of games leading up to the championship on Thursday, Aug. 5.

“I’m burning up all my leave, but there’s no better way to spend it,” said Groharing, who says the kids have been having a whirlwind of a time since they won regionals.

After their victories the team received encouragement from Rep. Don Beyer and even visited the U.S. Capitol and met with Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

Getting attention from the Senators is neat for the boys,” Groharing said. “Both Senators Warner and Kaine seemed to enjoy spending time with the boys as well.”

Groharing started coaching the team when his son, who is on the team, was 7. He says parents love sending their kids to practice because they start their days early and learn values, such as teamwork and discipline.

“I don’t think they realize how much of an accomplishment it is for them to get it this far,” he said.

Arlington was well-represented down in Florida last weekend by another youth sports team. The Arlington Soccer Association’s team of 15-year-old boys won the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships on Sunday, and three players received individual awards, we are told.

https://twitter.com/vayouthsoccer/status/1419712632794370057

https://twitter.com/arlingtonsoccer/status/1419711801030332421

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For Dr. Andrew Wu, summertime normally means he’ll see more kids with sunburns, insect bites, poison ivy, stomach viruses and dehydration — all related to being outside.

But this summer, the pediatrician affiliated with Virginia Hospital Center said he and his colleagues are seeing an uncharacteristic number of respiratory viral illnesses unrelated to COVID-19. Specifically, doctors are seeing “a sharp uptick” in the number of cases of the common cold, croup and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, he said.

The trend is playing out elsewhere, particularly in the South and Southwest, as COVID-19 cases recede, the Washington Post recently reported. In Arlington, where nearly 61% of adults are fully vaccinated, the seven-day average of net coronavirus cases is zero, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory alerting clinicians and caregivers and encouraging broader testing for RSV, which causes cold-like symptoms but can lead to bronchial infections and pneumonia in children younger than one.

These illnesses typically peak in the fall and winter when children return inside and to school, Wu said. Last year and into this spring, however, many pediatricians saw few cases of the flu, RSV and the common cold. While this summer surge is likely a side effect of the pandemic, he says families ought not to worry — provided their kids are vaccinated against the more serious, and potentially lethal, bacterial and viral illnesses.

“Fitting the trend this past year and a half, during which nothing has been typical, respiratory virus season seems to have come out of hibernation about six months late,” he said. “I suspect that the current out-of-season increase stems largely from two factors: Many virus-naive children coming out of isolation and rejoining the larger world in daycares and preschools, and the general loosening of social restrictions by public health officials.”

So, what should parents do to protect their children?

Wu, a parent himself, said he empathizes with parents who are worried about sending their children back to preschool and daycare, knowing that their child will likely develop a few respiratory illnesses in the first couple of months.

But he encouraged parents to send their kids to daycare or preschool anyway — and not just for the benefits of quickening development, increasing socialization and improving emotional skills.

“I tend to think of introduction to childcare the same way we approach food allergies. Namely, early introduction is better than late introduction, but not too early,” he said. “While no one wishes illness on a child, these illnesses tend to be minor and provide opportunity for a child’s immune system to do what it was designed to do: fight infection.”

Extending the analogy, Wu said the longer that parents voluntarily withhold potentially allergenic foods from their young children, such as peanuts, the more likely the child is to develop an allergy to that particular food.

“A child’s immune system could become dysregulated if not provided enough opportunities to fight infection, and could respond by developing moderate to severe allergies or autoimmune conditions,” he said.

Arlington County Public Health Department spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said “it’s not surprising” to see a rise in the common cold, with masks coming off and gatherings and travel increasing the spread of germs.

She also advised making sure kids and adults are up to date on recommended vaccines, and taking other basic preventative measures.

“We encourage Arlington residents to practice healthy habits that prevent the spread of all diseases — such as washing your hands often, staying away from others when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes,” she said.

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After suffering a career-ending injury playing college football, Graham Kelley stepped off the field for a while and spent several years working in software sales.

Last year, he decided to return to sports — this time turning his attention to helping young athletes and former athletes like him working desk jobs.

At Capital City Sports Academy, his new gym just over the Arlington County border in Bailey’s Crossroads, Kelley is helping young athletes train safely and encouraging adults to get back into shape. The 4,500-square-foot facility at 3431 Carlin Springs Road had its grand opening on Saturday after a soft opening for a handful of new members last month.

“[The gym] is designed for young athletes in two focuses: speed and agility to develop athleticism, and strength and conditioning to develop core stability and muscle mass necessary for younger athletes as they grow,” he said.

Kelley said his location, close to several high schools in Arlington and Fairfax counties, as well as Alexandria, will benefit a large number of athletes who are requiring more intense, specialized training at younger ages.

“I wish I had a facility like Capital City when I was in high school,” Kelley said. “Thinking back to when I was 10, 11 years old and developing my athleticism, a place like Capital City to learn the fundamentals would have been instrumental in my development. I think the opportunity could have helped me avoid the injury I incurred.”

Training will be overseen by Head Coach and General Manager Chad Ward, who Kelley described as “the most positive person I’ve ever met.”

“Our athletes have responded well, parents are extremely happy with him. It’s been really exciting to see,” he said. “We want to build something special and help local kids shine.”

The facility also offers boot camp-style and circuit-based classes to help former athletes get active again.

“Getting the adult to move again like they’re the athlete they were in the past has shown tons of positive health benefits to counteract the sedentary lifestyle of sitting at a computer for eight hours a day and staring at our phones,” said Kelley.

These classes are open to adults who have never played a sport as well.

“We don’t discriminate,” said Kelley.

The gym offers team training packages for high schools or organizations and also has monthly membership options. Kelley said costs vary by sport and school, so those interested in getting an estimate can email Capital City through its website.

It will be open Monday and Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Park and Langley Photography 

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Morning Notes

Mom Inspires Sons to Join Vax Effort — “Quitting their jobs to help end the pandemic. That’s what some Springfield, Virginia men did after being inspired by a public health nurse who has been on the front lines responding to COVID-19. The nurse that inspired them to change careers is their mom,” who works at Arlington County Public Health. [WJLA]

Library Launching New Outdoor Storytime — “Outdoor Storytime is a fun and interactive program, presented by youth service librarians, and combines activities such as read-aloud stories, songs, rhymes, fingerplays and flannel boards. A kick-off event will be held on Tuesday, May 18, 10 a.m., at Central Library adjacent to Quincy Park, with special guest Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh.” [Arlington Public Library]

Dog Pee Causing Parking Meter Problems — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Pooches, please: Take your aim game to more rustic targets. You’re jamming the parking meter coin doors.” [Twitter]

GOP Gov. Nominee on HQ2 — “[Republican nominee for governor Glenn] Youngkin supports Amazon’s big HQ2 project in Arlington, but argues he ‘would have cut a heck of a better deal.'” [Axios]

Nature is Healing — “After more than a year of reduced operating hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) stores will return to pre-pandemic operating hours on May 14, 2021. All stores will open by 10 a.m. every day, apart from some stores which regularly open later on Sundays.” [Press Release]

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It’s tough to run a restaurant or a fitness studio during the pandemic, but it’s even tougher to run an indoor children’s bounce gym.

Jumping Joeys, which opened at Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) just a few months before the pandemic, appears to have closed for good.

An item on the County Board agenda for this weekend recommends that the Board discontinue a daycare permit issued to the business, which allowed it to provide a “Parent’s Night Out” childcare service.

“The operator of this use permit, Jumping Joeys, has closed and is no longer in operation,” the Board report notes. Attempts by ARLnow to reach the owner of the business, which formerly operated out of a more modest space across from Washington-Liberty High School, were unsuccessful.

The company’s website simply says it is “closed until further notice.” A Google listing for a second Jumping Joeys location on W. Broad Street in Falls Church says it is “permanently closed.”

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If you’re looking for a kid-friendly outdoor adventure, parks and rec employees just left 17 winter-themed chalk obstacle courses at parks around Arlington.

The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation’s “Super Squad” has been leaving chalk obstacles for kids throughout the pandemic. They should last for a week if the weather holds, according to department spokesperson Susan Kalish, though some rain is in the forecast for Sunday.

“These festive obstacle courses are specifically designed to provide fun physical activity and important sensory input that aids in self-regulation,” Kalish told ARLnow. “By placing chalk obstacle courses in a variety of locations we will be providing a self-facilitated fun physical activity that can be accessed at any time.”

Clues for obstacle locations can be found on one of the department’s Facebook pages.

Below is a video from the Super Squad in action in October.

Screenshot via Arlington County

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For several decades, hundreds of members of the Arlington community have gathered at Melwood’s Arlington campus to kick off the holiday season. While the community won’t be able to come together in person for this time-honored tradition because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Melwood is keeping the Miracle festivities alive in a new way.

For local Arlington families who are looking for ways to keep their children entertained while they’re stuck at home, “Miracle on 23rd St in a Box” contains all the supplies needed to make reindeer food, a holiday wreath and decorate festive cookies. To make these activities even more festive, children can follow along with some special holiday guests as they walk thru each activity on Melwood’s Facebook page.

Each box is $10 and Melwood recommends one box per child. The purchase of each box will go toward funding Melwood’s mission to advocate for and empower individuals of differing abilities to transform their own lives through unique opportunities to work and play in the community.

You can purchase a “Miracle on 23rd St. in a Box” online, and information on Melwood’s contactless pick-up process can be found here.

Melwood is also ensuring that the neighborhood’s annual visit from Santa and tree lighting continues. On Friday, December 4, Melwood will be joined by the Arlington County Auxiliary Police, Arlington County Fire Station 5 and a very holly-jolly guest as they drive thru the 23rd St. community to spread some holiday joy. Residents who live near 23rd St. and S. Grant Avenue in Arlington can expect to see Santa in the neighborhood between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Then, Melwood invites everyone to join them virtually as President and CEO Larysa Kautz lights the historic Christmas tree — which is the largest in Arlington. At 6:45pm on Friday, December 4, Melwood will end the Miracle on 23rd St. event with the traditional tree lighting. You can visit this Zoom link to watch.

In compliance with Arlington County COVID-19 guidelines, Melwood is actively discouraging neighbors from gathering near the campus for the tree lighting.

For questions or more information, please contact Marchesa Whittington at [email protected] or Kirsten Dillon at [email protected].

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