Arlington, VA

(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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McKinley Elementary School, in Arlington’s Madison Manor neighborhood, will open the next school year 131 percent over capacity due to construction delays, school officials told parents this week.

McKinley is in the midst of a $22 million expansion project that was approved in 2014. The expansion will add 241 seats to the school, which opened this school year with a capacity of 443 and an already-burgeoning enrollment just north of 600 students.

APS is adjusting school boundaries to move students from Glebe and Tuckahoe elementary schools, which are both also well over capacity, to McKinley this fall. The idea was to balance capacity utilization across the schools, taking advantage of McKinley’s expansion.

There’s only one problem: the expansion, which was to wrap up this summer, is now not expected to be completed until November or December. And APS is moving forward with its boundary adjustments regardless, bringing a projected student body of 712 to McKinley in the fall.

In a presentation to parents and the community, APS said its contractor encountered a number of unexpected problems, including the discovery of an underground spring, old building footings and undocumented utility lines.

Those problems are delaying the expected substantial completion of “Phase 3” of the expansion project — a three-story addition with a number of classrooms and other facilities — until late November.

To bridge the gap, over the summer APS will be re-installing a “six-plex” classroom trailer complex that it had removed over spring break, to allow for the installation of an underground storm water management system. APS was able to meet capacity needs without the trailers thanks to the completion of “Phase 2” — a one-story addition with four new classrooms — over the winter.

A few concerned parents have emailed ARLnow.com about the construction snafu, concerned about APS proceeding with the boundary changes. However, APS’ numbers show that capacity utilization will actually be slightly lower even without the Phase 3 addition.

McKinley was 136.6 percent over capacity when it opened last fall, according to APS. It is projected to be 131.1 percent over capacity when it opens this fall, thanks to a 100-student boost in capacity via the completed expansion work.

Once classes move into the three-story addition over winter break, the school will be 104 percent over capacity: a capacity of 684 for 712 students. That compares to the projected 112.4 percent capacity level at Glebe Elementary and 107.5 percent at Tuckahoe Elementary.

“APS believes that moving the students from Tuckahoe and Glebe to McKinley as planned this fall provides the best continuity of instruction and relieves crowding at both Tuckahoe and Glebe,” Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick told ARLnow.com.

Parents are also concerned about a lack of recreation space for students at McKinley. A new gymnasium won’t be ready until Phase 3 is completed and the fields around the school are now not expected to be restored post-construction until April 2017. This fall, physical education classes will take place in a trailer in the school’s parking lot.

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Morning Notes

On approach to Reagan National Airport (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Elementary Student Fascinated by Fallout Shelters — Nathan Eberhart, a McKinley Elementary student, has been trying to unravel the mysteries of school fallout shelters for his school’s student newspaper. Eberhart thinks the Cold War relics could be better put to use nowadays “as a community-activities storage area for things like Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, recreational sports and enrichments.” [InsideNova]

Protest Planned in Rosslyn — The Mayday Project will be protesting outside the Infectious Diseases Society of America headquarters in Rosslyn today and tomorrow. The organization wants Lyme disease recognized as a chronic illness. The protest will be held from about 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the 1300 block of Wilson Blvd. [Twitter]

Four Mile Run Cleaning Planned — Starting in a few days, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria will begin a joint project to remove excess vegetation from the Four Mile Run flood control channel, which extends from I-395 to the Potomac River. “Residents will see crews working in or near Four Mile Run, removing trees, shrubs, and other vegetation growing in the channel,” the county noted in a press release. [Arlington County]

Washington Blvd Lane Closure — A northbound lane closure on the Washington Blvd bridge over Route 110 was put in place overnight, according to VDOT. A southbound lane closure, similarly reducing the number of lanes on the bridge from three to two, is expected to be put in place next week. The lane closures were originally planned for this past Monday.

Another County Board Straw PollAnother straw poll in the race for the Democratic County Board nomination was held last night at Del. Alfonso Lopez’s campaign kick-off event at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. The reported results were: Christian Dorsey 27%, Peter Fallon 23%, Katie Cristol 22%, James Lander 15%, Andrew Schneider 12%, Bruce Wiljanen 1%.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File photo via APS

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McKinley Elementary School (photo via Arlington Public Schools)McKinley Elementary School will grow by about 241 seats thanks to a $20.5 million expansion approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting on Saturday.

The expansion will add a 33,040-square-foot addition in the northeast corner of the school, at 1030 N. McKinley Road, and smaller additions in the southwest corner and at the main entrance to the school. The project is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

An expansion of this size would, according to the county’s Zoning Ordinance, necessitate that Arlington Public Schools add 108 parking spaces. But because open space and a number of mature trees surround McKinley, the County Board approved plans to add just 20 spaces to the existing 36 spaces. Even those 20 spaces were the source of controversy; the county’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission recommended adding no spaces and instead using street parking to accommodate the additional staff and parent vehicles.

Advocates from the school and community who were a part of the planning process, including McKinley Principal Colin Brown, spoke in favor of adding the 20 spaces.

“I’ve said from the start that we enjoy a fantastic day-to-day relationship with the neighbors and the community,” Brown told the Board. “At this point, the neighborhood is able to handle the volume of staff and parents parking on the street given the current capacity of the parking lot. We’re at a tipping point. We need to maintain a fine and delicate balance.”

Ultimately, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended keeping the 20 spaces in the plan, and the County Board approved it unanimously. Only three members of the general public spoke, two of whom, School Board candidate Audrey Clement and Jim Hurysz, decried APS’ inability to expand schools “up, not out,” which would save green space. Despite that opposition, County Board Chair Jay Fisette marveled at the lack of animosity toward the plan, which marked the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School.

“I think it is quite a testament to this process that we had three speakers,” he said. “This is one of the easiest things I’ve seen to come before the Board.”

To make way for the school expansion, 78 trees will be removed — 12 of which are gingko trees that will be transplanted elsewhere in the county. Nearly 150 trees will be planted once construction is complete, according to APS Director of Design and Construction Scott Prisco.

“We feel strongly this is a sensitive approach to the neighbors, and it will meet our needs as a school system,” Prisco said.

In total, the expansion will mean a net increase of 32,250 square feet and include 10 new classrooms, two art rooms, two music rooms and expand the gymnasium to have enough space for the entire, expanded school. The expansion will also add a stage. Construction will include pedestrian improvements on N. McKinley Road and 11th Street N.

Photo via APS

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The Arlington School Board adopts its FY 2015 budget 5/22/14(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) The Arlington School Board adopted its 2015-2014 Capital Improvement Plan last night, and it includes a controversial plan for a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).

The School Board will ask the Arlington County Board to approve $106 million bond referendum this November to fund several elementary school capacity projects and an addition to Washington-Lee High School.

More than $50 million of the proposed bond is slated to build either a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson grounds, the School Board’s “preferred plan,” or to construct additions to two South Arlington elementary schools. According to Arlington Public Schools staff, the new school would add 725 seats by September 2018, while the two additions would add 500 seats for the same price in the same timeline.

Separately, the bond request also includes additions to McKinley and Abingdon Elementary Schools.

The new school next to Thomas Jefferson has drawn the ire of some residents. The Sun Gazette reported “angry community members” spoke at length at Monday’s School Board meeting, and a group called the Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park sent out a press release this morning declaring they were “outraged” with the School Board’s decision.

“The School Board voted to take land purchased for parks and pave it for parking lots and new buildings. This was not what voters wanted when they approved park bond issues,” Jim Presswood, a leader of the Friends group, said in the release. “All versions of the Arlington School Board proposal reduce green space, children’s playgrounds, and fitness options for the public. This reduces outdoor options at the moment our growing country needs them most. Many citizens spoke in opposition to the TJ Park proposal at the meeting and dozens more provided visible support.”

Thomas Jefferson Middle School (photo via APS)The School Board resolved in its CIP to decide which plan to move forward with by January 2015. If the Board decides on the Thomas Jefferson site, it will decide whether to make it a neighborhood school or a choice program by April 31, 2015.

“This doesn’t make a final decision,” School Board Chair Abby Raphael said last night. “It sets in motion a process.”

A month before the School Board decides the fate of Thomas Jefferson Park, it will decide where to put a planned, 1,300-seat secondary school. There is no site currently identified in the bond motion, but APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said a new school at the Wilson School site in western Rosslyn and moving the H-B Woodlawn program are still on the table.

The School Board resolved to make a decision on where the seats will be placed no later than Dec. 31, 2014. It has requested $4 million for planning and design of the new school in the CIP.

Major projects approved for inclusion in the Capital Improvement Plan last night were:

  • A $5 million, 300-seat expansion at Washington-Lee High School, to be completed by September 2016. All funds to come from the 2014 bond referendum.
  • A $20 million, 241-seat expansion at McKinley Elementary School to be completed by September 2016. The School Board is requesting $7.47 million in 2014 bond funds, and the rest will be funded by a $12 million 2012 bond resolution and $633,500 in other construction funds.
  • A $28.75 million, 136-seat expansion at Abingdon Elementary School, to be completed by September 2017. All funds to come from the 2014 bond referendum.
  • A $153.4 million, 1,300-seat expansion at the Arlington Career Center for a secondary school, to be scheduled in three phases, completing for the start of the school years in 2020, 2021 and 2022. No bond funding was requested for 2014.
  • $70.11 million for minor construction/major renovation funding. $10.31 million to be requested in the 2014 bond referendum.

Photo (bottom) via APS

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Morning Notes

"Parked at Penrose" by Ddimick

Lavern Chatman Running for Congress — Lavern Chatman, former president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, has announced that she’s running for the 8th District seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). “We need leaders who understand the struggles and joys of raising and educating children and the benefits of providing them opportunities for economic empowerment,” Chatman, a Democrat, said in a statement. [Blue Virginia]

TandemNSI Launches — TandemNSI, Arlington’s initiative to bring national security technology companies together with government agencies and universities, officially launched Tuesday night. The $525,000 public-private partnership is being launched at a time when Arlington is still smarting from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation. [Bisnow, DoD Buzz]

McKinley Elementary Expansion — A plan to add 225 seats to McKinley Elementary School by the fall of 2016 is moving forward. Arlington Public Schools hopes to complete the design of the addition by the end of 2014 and begin construction by mid-2015. [Sun Gazette]

Restaurant Challenge Begins — The Ballston Business Improvement District is now accepting applications for its Restaurant Challenge. The BID is seeking the area’s “next signature restaurant.” The winner of the challenge will receive an interest-free loan and an 11-year lease on the former Red Parrot Asian Bistro space at 1110 N. Glebe Blvd. “This new program is designed to activate commercial space and showcase the community of Ballston as a magnet for discovery and innovation,” the BID said.  [Ballston BID, Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Creates Redskins Gear for Women — Fashion design students at Marymount University in Arlington have created new fashion-forward Washington Redskins apparel for women. The student project was initiated in response to what a professor saw as a lack of stylish options for female Redskins fans. [Marymount University]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

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