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Cardinal Elementary School is the official name of the new school under construction at the Reed site in the Westover neighborhood.

During the Arlington School Board meeting Thursday night, members unanimously chose Cardinal, a name they expressed a preference for during a meeting in March.

Last month, a naming committee presented the School Board with two possible names: Westover Village and Cardinal. The former was a last-minute addition in response to feedback a naming committee received in a survey, through NextDoor and neighborhood email lists.

Board members did not debate the name options further last night. During the previous School Board meeting, they strongly opposed Westover Village due to the possible association with Westover Plantation. It was owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The best way to learn from this history is to not continue to allow it to live in the names of our institutions, especially the names of our schools, where students are meant to learn,” Board Chair Monique O’Grady previously said.

When the naming committee first met to brainstorm new monikers, members initially nixed Westover on those grounds, too. The top five names were Cardinal, Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport.

The committee had also already ruled out names of people, living and dead. Members reasoned that it would be better to avoid names of people whose character could, later on, be called into question.

That meant the school site’s current name — for Dr. Walter Reed, an Army physician who studied and treated yellow fever — was out. The name had, however, been mentioned 133 times, according to a community survey.

The no-people rule also excluded McKinley. Most of the students who attend the new school, at 1644 N. McKinley Road, will move from McKinley Elementary School, with others moving from Tuckahoe Elementary School.

President William McKinley is associated with imperialist policies that hurt Indigenous people, such as buying the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico and annexing Hawaii.

Cardinal Elementary School will open this fall and will accommodate around 725 students.

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A last-minute possible name for the new school under construction at the Reed Elementary School site did not go over well with Arlington School Board members.

Members of the Reed School naming committee presented their top two choices, Westover Village Elementary School followed by Cardinal Elementary School, during the regular school board meeting last night (Thursday).

Westover Village is a new addition borne from feedback the committee received in a survey, through NextDoor and neighborhood email lists. Cardinal was one of five names the committee had initially planned to choose from — the others being Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport.

“The Westover name recognition came from the hope that this school would be a community-based school and a neighborhood school,” McKinley Elementary Assistant Principal Gina Miller said.

The committee decided to push past the possible association with Westover Plantation, which was owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The committee felt naming it Westover Village alleviated the concern of Westover due to concerns of connection to the plantation,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.

Arlington School Board members, however, disagreed. They condemned using the name Westover for the new school at the Reed site — even with “Village” tacked on, the name still bears the association with Westover Plantation, they said.

“I do understand that the community is so excited to have a community school once again,” Board Chair Monique O’Grady said. “With that fresh start, however, I think it’s imperative that we look at our values, our push to ensure that we have equity, that we embrace all students, that they feel safe and valued and that we do not continue to raise up the name of institutions that built their success on the backs of people of color.”

Arlington has “far too many examples” of holding onto historical references that need to be left in the past, she said.

“The best way to learn from this history is to not continue to allow it to live in the names of our institutions, especially the names of our schools, where students are meant to learn,” she said.

Board members Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy and Board Vice-Chair Barbara Kanninen raised similar concerns and voiced their support for the name Cardinal. They are slated to vote on the name on Thursday, April 8.

Diaz-Torres recalled the Wakefield High School students who alleged racist behavior on the football field less than three weeks ago.

“I understand the rationale conceptually of adding the word Village to separate the connotation with the Westover plantation but that doesn’t erase the fact that Westover would be at the front of the name,” she said.

Diaz-Torres added that she is “disheartened that members of civic associations decided to encourage rejecting the preference of 1,100 community members” over the 73 who suggested Westover in the comment section of the survey.

The new school at 1644 N. McKinley Road will open this fall and will accommodate 725 students. Most of the students will move from McKinley Elementary School, with others moving from Tuckahoe Elementary School.

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(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) A new name is on the horizon for the elementary school at the Reed site in Westover, which is under construction and slated to open in August.

A naming committee, formed in January, is asking students, parents, staff and community members to narrow down five possible names: Cardinal, Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport. Respondents can pick their top three and share their perspectives.

The committee will then pick a first choice and an alternate, which will go to the School Board on Thursday, March 25. The board will pick a name on April 8.

The new school is part of the multi-school shuffle Arlington Public Schools approved in February 2020. Arlington Traditional School is moving to the McKinley building and 94% of McKinley students — and all staff — are moving to the Reed site, along with 43 K-4 Tuckahoe students.

Construction continues on schedule, according to a school spokesperson, and the building is expected to be completed on July 25.

As is true for the Key School site, which could be named Innovation or Gateway, this naming committee is not considering historical figures’ names. The preference for concepts comes after renaming Washington-Liberty High School and as Arlington attempts to remove names of Confederate generals and soldiers and slave-owners from roads and parks.

The committee “decided not to name the school after a person because of the possibility that their past could be called into question in the future,” according to notes from a February committee meeting.

Some members objected to McKinley because of the hurt Indigenous communities experienced from President William McKinley‘s imperialist policies, the notes said. McKinley is known for buying the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico and annexing Hawaii.

The decision comes despite some community support for McKinley: Of 152 staff and parents who responded to internal questionnaires, 75% supported McKinley. The site’s current name, Reed, which is named for Dr. Walter Reed, an Army physician who studied and treated yellow fever, also has supporters, according to the notes.

The committee also nixed Westover, which members said could reference Westover Plantation, owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The committee decided the school should not be named after any of these options to represent the new beginning for the school, especially since in the future, the school will welcome students from other neighborhood schools,” the survey said.

While construction continues, the county is building a stormwater detention vault under the athletic fields of the Reed site to help the Westover area with its flooding problem. The first phase has started and will be completed before August, according to a February presentation to the PTA.

The second phase is currently being designed and is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2022, and the fields could be ready by the spring or summer of 2023, the presentation said.

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(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.”

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Morning Notes

Hope for Arlington Summer Camps — ” As summer is approaching, we know many families are anxiously awaiting information on Summer Camp 2020. While we hope to operate summer camp this year, the ultimate decision will be based on our ability to operate safely within national and state guidelines.” [Dept. of Parks and Recreation]

County Board Primary Cancelled — “The Democratic Primary for County Board, originally scheduled for June 9, 2020 and subsequently delayed until June 23, 2020, will not be held… Accordingly, Libby T. Garvey is the Democratic nominee for County Board in the General Election to be held on November 3, 2020.” [Arlington County]

Call for More Coronavirus Transparency in Va. — “Several Virginia legislators are calling for the release of information regarding specific long-term care facilities, saying the public has a right to know how many residents and staff have tested positive or died at each location… ‘In a situation like this, transparency is very important,’ said Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th District, of Arlington.” [NBC 4]

GGW, Blue Virginia Endorse Takis — “This week, a select group of Arlington Democratic party members will choose a nominee for the county board seat held by Erik Gutshall, who tragically died of brain cancer in April… We recommend eligible party insiders select Takis Karantonis as their first choice and then Nicole Merlene or Chanda Choun as second and/or third choices in the ranked-choice ballot.” [Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia]

Parade for McKinley Teacher — “Arlington County students and their parents held a drive-by parade to honor their third-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. Almost a dozen cars drove by the home of Amanda Herr, honking their horns and holding signs” [Patch]

Dutch Foundry Working on New Carillon Bells — “It took more than a week for the big bronze bell to cool. Over that time, a glowing crucible full of molten alloy was transformed into a 7,595-pound behemoth nearly six feet in diameter that next year will sing out across Arlington. The big Netherlands Carillon is getting bigger.” [Washington Post]

Bayou Bakery Has Provided Thousands of Free Meals — “Since the beginning of March, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington has been feeding Arlington County kids and their families for free. Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery enlisted Real Food for Kids to partner with him to serve free, plant-based meals 5 days a week.” [WJLA]

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Parents opposed to a proposed four-school swap, set for a School Board vote on Feb. 6, are ramping up pressure to scuttle the plan.

A new coalition calling itself “No School Moves” has gathered more than 1,700 signatures on a Change.org petition launched earlier this month, calling for the School Board to vote “no.”

The group opposes an Arlington Public Schools plan, endorsed by the interim superintendent, to move Key elementary students and staff to the Arlington Traditional School building, while moving Arlington Traditional students and staff to McKinley and McKinley students and staff to a new elementary school building in Westover. That would free up the Key school building near Courthouse, currently used by a Spanish immersion choice program, to become a neighborhood school as the elementary-aged population in that area continues to grow.

People who signed the petition, however, are not buying the APS rationale for the moves, which would reportedly result in more than 2,400 students moving to a new building.

“Moving schools is not creating more seats,” said one. “It’s a temporary bandaid and there is no data to support these moves.”

“These changes can have profound effects on students who get moved to new schools, and the current process is so flawed,” said another. “It could easily lead to even more rounds of redistricting in the near future.”

In addition to objections to the process, an alleged lack of supporting data, and inadequate communication from school staff, opponents say the moves would make diversity in the schools “more difficult to maintain.”

Per the petition:

The school move proposal exacerbates the county’s broader struggle with diversity. As in other communities, Arlington’s historic housing patterns have effectively segregated low-income and minority families, and its schools reflect those same patterns of segregation. Yet despite repeated requests from PTAs and parents across the county — and in the immediate aftermath of a recent settlement between Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the Justice Department over English language learners — APS staff has not performed any detailed analysis of how proposed school moves would affect the demographics of those school populations.

In a recent survey, more than 60% of Spanish-speaking families currently part of the Key Immersion school community have said they won’t be able to move with the program to its proposed new location. APS argues that Key Immersion would draw more native Spanish speakers if it were in a more central location — but their evidence for this is entirely anecdotal.

What’s more, moving the Arlington Traditional School and its VPI preschool program to the McKinley building would adversely affect low-income families who rely on public transit. Families trying to reach the school on a Metrobus could double their commute time. This would discourage enrollment for families without cars, negatively impacting the diversity of a school that has demonstrated results in closing the achievement gap for high-needs students.

Arlington Public Schools is planning to hold a public hearing on the plan on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd) at 7 p.m., ahead of the scheduled Feb. 6 School Board vote.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson is recommending an elementary school swap involving four schools, a more modest of two proposals presented in October.

Both proposals have received considerable pushback from parents, but in a presentation to the Arlington School Board last night administrators said it’s the best option for dealing with projected increased in enrollment in certain parts of the county.

“As we look at our projections and we look at the growth that’s coming along,” a school staffer said, “the area where we see the biggest growth is on the eastern side of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.”

The recommended proposal would make the following changes, starting with the 2021-22 school year:

  • Move most McKinley Elementary students, plus most faculty and the principal, to the new school under construction at the Reed site in Westover.
  • Move students, faculty and the principal of Arlington Traditional School (ATS) — a “choice” school — to the larger McKinley building.
  • Move students, faculty and the principal of Key Elementary, a bilingual English/Spanish immersion program, to the current ATS building.
  • Make the current Key building a new neighborhood elementary school, to support growth in the area.

Administrators say moving Key to the ATS building would put it closer to more Spanish speakers and “allow for long-term growth in the program.”

A number of parents from each of the potentially affected school spoke out against the swap at the School Board meeting, for a variety of reasons, following the presentation.

The presentation also included discussion of an “alternate scenario,” that would change elementary school boundaries rather than swap schools. The decidedly unpalatable alternative called for about 4,000 students — 38% of the elementary population — to be assigned to a new school. On top of that, it would require more busing.

“To fill schools to manageable capacity, boundaries would require more students to be assigned to schools farther away instead schools closer to where they live,” the superintendent’s presentation said.

Next up in the process, the School Board is expected to hold a public hearing before taking action on the proposal in February.

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools may shuffle nearly a quarter of its elementary school students around to combat the county’s persistent overcrowding problems.

During a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, school officials proposed moving the majority of McKinley Elementary School students to the new Reed Elementary School, among other switches.

The Arlington School Board is expected to take action on one of two final proposals during its meeting on February 6, 2020. If approved, it would take effect for the 2021-22 school year, per APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

“Some of our schools can’t manage the student’s lunch time, we have students who eat lunch as early as 10 a.m. and as late as 2 p.m.,” said Lisa Stengle, executive director for the APS Department of Planning and Evaluation.

“We like to keep kids together. The more we can keep groups of kids together, the better,” she said.

The first proposal idea APS shared with parents would mean:

  • The majority of current McKinley students would move to Reed.
  • The Arlington Traditional School (ATS) program would move to the McKinley building.
  • Key Immersion School would move to the Arlington Traditional School building.
  • The Key building would become a neighborhood school.

According to officials, 40% of McKinley students live in the Reed School walk zone, meaning more students who are currently riding the bus would have the option to walk to school. In addition, it would provide 100 additional seats for new ATS students.

The second proposal calls for the same McKinley, Reed, and ATS switches, plus:

  • Campbell Elementary School moving to the ATS building
  • Key, along with its immersion program, would move to the Carlin Springs Elementary School building
  • The majority of students at Carlin Springs would move to the Campbell Elementary School building
  • Campbell building becomes a neighborhood school
  • The Key building becomes a neighborhood school

Both plans are expected to affect some 20-30% of Arlington elementary school students.

“[Moving schools allows] APS to use all schools to maximum capacity, keep together as many students in each school community as possible, and keep as many students as possible walking to their neighborhood schools,” officials said in a press release.

The proposals are a larger part of the APS Elementary School Planning Project, which calls for the planning of capacity solutions as Arlington’s elementary student population is expected to exceed 30,000 by 2023 — with significant growth in the Rosslyn, Ballston, and Columbia Pike areas.

The fiscal impact of either proposal remains to be determined, according to APS Transportation Planning Director Kristen Haldeman.

Alternatively, per the planning website, if APS chooses to only redraw elementary school zoning districts without moving schools, it would affect up to 41 percent of Arlington’s elementary school population and incur additional transportation costs.

In addition, Spengle noted the county will need to build up to three new elementary schools by 2029 in order to accommodate growth, including in and around Pentagon City.

The school system will spend the next several months collecting community feedback before the School Board makes a final decision, with public meetings on:

  • November 5: An online information session on APS Engage in English and Spanish
  • November 5-24: An online community questionnaire at APS Engage
  • November 15 and 22: “Friday Facebook Live” sessions with new FAQs answered.

Several community forums are also scheduled for December, plus a School Board public hearing on January 30 at 7 p.m. in the Syphax Education Center.

The discussions come after APS redrew the boundaries of eight elementary schools last year in order to accommodate the opening of Alice West Fleet Elementary School.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Woman Sues Moby Dick House of Kabob — “An Arlington woman is suing Moby Dick House of Kabob after a salmonella outbreak related to hummus made at least 17 people sick in Maryland and Virginia since September 10.” [WTOP, Bethesda Magazine]

Driver Cited for Striking Cars at McKinley Elementary — Per an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “At approximately 4:28 p.m. on October 3, police were dispatched to the 1000 block of McKinley Road for the report of a hit and run just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver of the striking vehicle hit three unoccupied parked vehicles in the parking lot. The driver of the vehicle was identified, the incident was determined to be a medical emergency and the driver of the striking vehicle was issued a summons for violation of Arlington County code § 14.2-17 Vehicle to be Kept Under Control.”

Arlington: Too Crowded for Some — Arlington has “grown crowded enough to prompt even deep-rooted residents to escape ever farther out to nature. Take my friends Tim and Beth Reese… They’re now ensconced on a 77-acre grow-your-own-organic-food farm a 90-minute drive out in Capon Bridge, West Virginia (pop. 371).” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fire Prevention Week Reminders — “It’s Fire Prevention Week, and this year the Arlington County Fire Department and fire departments across the country are working to educate their communities about the small but important actions everyone can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Amazon Opening Store in D.C. — “Amazon.com Inc. is preparing to grow its brick-and-mortar retail presence along one of D.C.’s growing retail corridors: 14th Street NW.” [Washington Business Journal, PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Mi and Yu Opening Update — According to its website, Mi and Yu Noodle Bar, which was originally expected to open in September in the revamped Ballston Quarter mall, is now slated for a February 2019 opening. The opening of the mall — and the numerous new restaurants that will call it home — was at last check delayed until late October. [Mi and Yu Noodle Bar]

Improvements for McKinley Road — “Arlington County Board members on Oct. 20 are expected to award a contract worth up to $426,700 for modify curbs and intersections and establish a median along McKinley Road from Wilson Boulevard north to 11th Street North. The project is designed to improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in the corridor, including students attending McKinley Elementary School.” [InsideNova]

Memorial Bridge Work, Woes — Rehab work is well underway on the Memorial Bridge, but long-term lane closures are continuing to cause — in the words of one commuter — “insane” traffic backups during rush hour. [Twitter, Twitter]

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More than 100 students were out sick today (Thursday) at McKinley Elementary School after a stomach bug swept through campus.

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said 135 of the school’s 800 students were out, after about 85 were absent yesterday (Wednesday).

The spokesman said that while it sounded like a “typical [stomach] bug that makes its way around this time of year,” he said he could not be sure that all the absences were related to it.

Multiple anonymous tipsters reported the spread of the illness through the school at 1030 N. McKinley Road in Madison Manor.

The School Health Bureau within the county’s Department of Health sent a letter to parents warning of an “increase in reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness,” and urging parents to make sure children wash their hands and stay home if they develop vomiting or diarrhea.

Parents throughout APS can expect to receive a letter soon about winter illnesses in the community, which the spokesman said is “typically sent each December to our families as a reminder.”

The School Health Bureau’s letter to McKinley parents is after the jump.

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