Arlington has long had a childcare shortage problem. During the pandemic, strangely, that helped its programs survive.
Although childcare programs across the nation have shuttered due to the coronavirus, in Arlington, only three licensed programs have closed, said County Board member and childcare advocate Katie Cristol. One is reopening in a new location better equipped for social-distancing, while two others closed permanently (one of those closures was virus-related).
“The good news is, what has been one of the biggest challenges of the landscape of Arlington has been an asset,” she said, adding that demand remained strong locally, buoying Arlington’s centers, “most of which have faired fairly well.”
Amid the three closures, Cristol — who helped launch the county’s Child Care Initiative in 2017 — helped welcome a new addition to Arlington’s stock of early education and childcare options this week. Looking to help address Arlington’s demand for early education options, two sisters, Saniya Dhala and Zahra Isani, opened Primrose School of Arlington in the Courthouse area yesterday (Thursday).
“There continues to be a great need for high-quality early education and child care options in our community and Primrose Schools delivers that in a convenient setting, close to neighborhoods and businesses,” Cristol said.
It is independently owned and operated by Dhala and Isani, who quit their jobs in the finance and food industries to open this Primrose School location, the 450th nationwide. The school at 2107 Wilson Blvd can accommodate up to 185 children.
“The pandemic has been devastating to so many businesses and industries, and the childcare industry is no exception to that,” the sisters tell ARLnow. “Some schools have had to shut their doors, and some have had to reduce hours and capacity. As we start to return to normalcy things are opening back up, many schools are ready to welcome families again and we are excited to be opening a high-quality option in an area where it’s needed.”
This location is one of five Primrose locations scheduled to open in the D.C. area — joining 11 existing outposts — in the middle of a pandemic that has shined a light on deep problems in the industry, such as a shortage of spots, high staff turnover and thin operating margins.
There are some signs of relief, however. President Joe Biden announced that $39 billion of the American Rescue Plan will help sustain these programs, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $203 million to expand eligibility for the Commonwealth’s Child Care Subsidy Program.
While Dhala and Isani said they started the process of opening their franchise location before the pandemic hit, the coronavirus did reinforce their decision to open a school.
“Being in the process of opening during the pandemic allowed us to be agile and adjust our space on the front-end to ensure we met and innovated around all the new safety guidelines,” they said. “Childcare is essential to our workforce and to our nation’s economic recovery, not to mention to prepare our next generation of leaders for the future.”
The pandemic made more people realize the dearth of options available, as waves of women have exited the workforce to take care of their children full-time, Cristol said. The county initiative she helped launch is still working to address the high demand and low supply of options.
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.
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.
(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.
Arlington Dems Reject Bipartisan Redistricting — “Despite criticism from within the party that the move would be seen as blatantly partisan as well as bad policy, the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s membership on Aug. 6 voted to oppose the state constitutional amendment that, if enacted, would set up an independent redistricting commission.” [InsideNova]
Marymount Announces Reorganization — “In its latest strategic initiative, Transform MU, Marymount University is restructuring its existing academic programs into three highly focused Colleges, each combining disciplines to create broader educational and research opportunities.” [Press Release]
Diocese Announces New Virtual School — “The Catholic Diocese of Arlington announced it will offer a fully virtual school for grades K-8 in the 2020-2021 academic year, which begins in early September. The school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, provides a new option to parents interested in enrolling their children in local Catholic schools. All 41 brick-and-mortar Catholic schools in the Diocese, which serve 17,000 students, have announced they will reopen in the fall for either safe-distance full-time in-person instruction or a combination of in-person instruction and e-Learning. St. Isidore offers families an option for full-time virtual learning.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
Local Teen Raises Money for Yemen — “Since July 1, an Arlington teenager has raised $300 for Saba Relief. The organization helps people affected by the crisis in Yemen. Emily Tesone started hand sewing plushies for her friends when the pandemic began. Her hobby grew more meaningful after she learned about what was happening in Yemen.” [WDVM]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Over forty trees are planned to be removed to make way for a new elementary school in Westover, but Arlington Public Schools is hosting one last meeting about potential tree-saving solutions before construction starts.
A discussion is scheduled with neighbors on Monday (Sept. 16) at the edge of the grove will involve discussion of whether any of the trees can be saved. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the basketball court on the Reed site (1644 N. McKinley Road).
The current plans call for the removal of roughly 42 trees to facilitate construction that will add to the building that houses the Westover Library and, soon, a new neighborhood elementary school.
Residents have expressed concerns about the removal of the grove, which includes a variety of maple, cedar and mulberry trees. A presentation on the project noted that an inventory of the trees was prepared by a certified arborist and tree removal was recommended.
According to the presentation:
Decisions on tree removal balanced: Building location and required excavation, site improvements (play areas, universally accessible walkways, etc.) and underground utilities (sanitary, storm, geothermal, etc.).
The designs for the site include adding 82 replacement trees, well above the 49 trees required to be planted according to county regulations.
But the plans have drawn some criticism from neighbors and local environmentalists. County Board candidate Audrey Clement specifically addressed the County Board’s approval of the project for its destruction of the trees at a debate this past Monday (Sept. 9). Many of the trees are larger, like a silver maple tree 4.5 feet wide.
At the meeting next Monday, the presentation says neighbors will be invited to discuss the removal with an arborist and county staff.
But any moving of the remaining trees will have to occur quickly: construction of the new school is scheduled to start by the end of September.
“Stormwater structures and basins are much enhanced from what exists on-site now as per current state stormwater requirements,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
Map via Arlington Public Schools
The school year for Arlington Public Schools starts up again on Tuesday (Sept. 3), and there are a variety of traffic changes around the county for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to be aware of.
There are several new traffic patterns around new and newly-repurposed schools. At Dorothy Hamm Middle School in Cherrydale, there are new traffic signals and signs, crosswalks and crossing guards near the school at 4100 Vacation Lane. At The Heights Building on Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, students will be arriving at buses on 18th Street N., which will be closed to the public The Montessori Public School of Arlington on S. Highland Street is now a countywide school, meaning more buses will be at the school.
Drew Elementary School and the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School are both neighborhood schools now, meaning pedestrians and cyclists to the school are more likely.
According to the press release, drivers across the county should remember to:
- Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
- Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
- Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
- Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers. Violations could result in a fine of $250.
- On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
- On a multi-lane paved road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
- On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bust must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
- Have all vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts.
- Pick-up and drop-off students in designated kiss and ride locations.
Pedestrians are reminded to only cross the street at the crosswalk and follow the instructions of crossing guards.
Bicyclists ages 14 and under are required to wear helmets, while helmets are recommended for everyone. Cyclists should keep to the right and ride with traffic, then to lock up the bicycle when not in use.
New school enrollment projections have reignited the long-dormant debate over the wisdom of building a fourth comprehensive high school in Arlington, as officials plot out the best strategy to educate a student population that won’t stop growing.
The issue reemerged in earnest late last month, when Arlington Public Schools planners unveiled some startling new data that could upend the School Board’s long-term construction plans.
It was not exactly breaking news when planners revealed that the school system’s enrollment is projected to grow by about 24 percent over the next 10 years. APS has added an average of 800 students annually for the last five years, after all.
But school leaders were a bit surprised to see that growth continuing apace, after initially expecting the number of students flowing into the county start falling through 2028, not rising. Even more notably, the new projections show about 2,778 additional elementary schoolers set to enroll in Arlington schools over the next 10 years, about 1,000 more than school planners projected just a year ago.
Considering how young those students are, that number could demand a major reexamination of the school system’s plans to add new high school seats.
The Board decided back in 2017 to build room for 1,300 high schoolers split between the Arlington Education Center and the Arlington Career Center, avoiding the expensive and difficult task of finding space for a fourth comprehensive high school in the county. But these new projections have some Board members wondering if that will be enough to meet these enrollment pressures.
“One of the bottom lines of this is that the 1,300 high school seats is not enough,” Board member Barbara Kanninen said at the group’s Jan. 24 meeting. “This looks, to me, like we’re really going to need that full, comprehensive high school after our Career Center project. And, to me, that means we need to start thinking about what that package of high school seats is really going to look like.”
New County Board member Matt de Ferranti also raised some eyebrows by suggesting in his introductory remarks on Jan. 2 that the county should fund a new high school, but not all of Arlington’s elected leaders are similarly convinced.
Superintendent Patrick Murphy urged the Board to “take a breath, look at this one year, and see if these patterns begin to play themselves out over a long period of time,” and some members agreed with a more cautious approach to the new projections.
“APS enrollment is growing faster than the available funds we have to address our growth, for operating needs (teachers, textbooks, buses) as well as for capital projects (building and expanding schools),” School Board Chair Reid Goldstein wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “It’s important to remember that student enrollment and projections are just a snapshot of one major factor. That’s why we will continue to emphasize flexibility in our planning so we can be responsive and adaptable to address our future community and operating landscape.”
But, for some parents who have long demanded a new comprehensive high school in the county — joining Wakefield, Yorktown and the newly renamed Washington-Liberty — the new projections only underscore the urgency of what they’ve been asking for this whole time.
“I think the data have been suggestive for quite some time that Arlington will need a fourth high school, and it seems to make the most economic sense to do that project all at once and not in pieces,” Christine Brittle, a market researcher and APS parent who has long been active on school issues, told ARLnow via email.
But Brittle did add that it was “surprising” that Kanninen sees a need for a new high school even after the Career Center project is finished.
It remains an open question just how the Career Center will look once the school system can add 1,050 new seats there, work that is currently set to wrap up by 2025 or so. As part of deliberations over its latest 10-year construction plan last year, the Board agreed to build some of the same amenities at Arlington’s other schools at the Career Center.
But the county’s financial challenges meant that the Board couldn’t find the cash to build all of the features to make the Career Center entirely equivalent to a comprehensive high school, and a working group convened to study the issue urged the Board to open it as an “option school” instead of requiring students in the area to attend a school without the same amenities as others elsewhere around the county.
Accordingly, Brittle would rather see the Board simply expand its plans for the site instead of setting out to build a whole new school.
“I’m actually agnostic about whether the Career Center is the correct location for a [fourth high school], so perhaps APS is going to revisit that decision in light of these new projections,” Brittle said. “However, assuming they are going forward with the Career Center project, it certainly makes the most sense to do that project now as a full, fourth high school.”
Such a switch would come with its own complications — as the school system’s Montessori program leaves Drew Model School, it’s currently set to move into the old Patrick Henry Elementary, which sits next to the Career Center. Any move to transform the site would likely require finding a different home for the Montessori students instead, at least in the long term.
“It would be far cheaper to find some additional, offsite-but-nearby field space, add a pool to the already robust Career Center plans, and find another building to repurpose for elementary Montessori, rather than building a large choice high school, which they may or may not fill, and then having to turn around and build a fourth comprehensive high school elsewhere (with money Arlington does not have),” Megan Haydasz, an APS parent who’s advocated for more amenities at the Career Center, told ARLnow via email.
However, Kristi Sawert, the president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association and a member of the Career Center working group, pointed out that APS is already pretty far down the path when it comes to moving the Montessori program to the Henry building. The Board recently agreed to reprogram hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the building to prepare for the Montessori students’ arrival, which she sees as an admission that “APS has no plans to tear it down to create a full-scale fourth high school (especially given that APS has a huge money deficit).”
“But I could be wrong,” she wrote in an email.
Still, that sort of option may well be on the table. Some Board members saw a need for more high school seats, but they didn’t share the same conviction that a fourth comprehensive school is the only way to achieve that goal.
“We’re going to have to put [these students] in a high school,” said Board member Nancy Van Doren. “1,300, 1,400 seats, that’s not enough, and we don’t have a school for all those kids in the [Capital Improvement Plan].”
Yet part of what drove Kanninen’s conviction that APS needs both new seats at the Career Center and a new high school is her belief that the county’s 10-year enrollment projections don’t tell the whole story.
Many of the new students planners expect to see in the coming years are young enough that they won’t be reaching high school by the time 2028 rolls around, convincing Kanninen that the data don’t paint a full picture of the school system’s in the distant future.
“The future kindergarteners you’re projecting won’t be in high school in 10 years, it’ll be 20 years,” Kanninen told APS staff at the Jan. 24 meeting. “We’re not seeing in this projection how many high school seats we are going to need… We need another high school down the road. We really need to clarify that story, and it’s really clear from this data in a way it never has been before.”
New Elementary School at Reed Site Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a new elementary school for up to 732 students at the Reed site, 1644 N. McKinley Road, in the Westover neighborhood. The Board voted unanimously to approve a use permit amendment for Arlington Public Schools to renovate and expand the existing Reed School/Westover Library to create a neighborhood elementary school.” [Arlington County]
Here’s Where Amazon is Coming, Exactly — Amazon will be leasing office space at three JBG Smith buildings in Crystal City: 241 18th Street S., 1800 S. Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. Amazon also agreed to buy two JBG-owned land parcels in Pentagon City that are approved for development: PenPlace and the remaining portion of Metropolitan Park. [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Discusses Legislative Priorities — “A highlight of the County’s package is a call for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution that was proposed by Congress in 1972. Both the Arlington League of Women Voters, and the Arlington Civic Federation have called on the General Assembly to ratify the ERA.” [Arlington County]
Arlington Projects Win at NAIOP Awards — Nine of the 29 real estate development projects lauded at the Best of NAIOP Northern Virginia Awards on Nov. 15 were Arlington projects. [NAIOP]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Funded — “The Arlington County Board today approved $2.9 million in Neighborhood Conservation bond funds for projects in Cherrydale and Arlington Forest… The $1.84 million Cherrydale project will improve N. Monroe Street, between 17th Street North and 19th Street North… The $1.08 million Arlington Forest project will make improvements to Edison Park.” [Arlington County]
How DIRT Chose Ballston — “DIRT co-founders @jlatulip and @jamcdaniel visited many parts of D.C. and the greater DMV area before deciding to open in Ballston. ‘We noticed very quickly that this was a special community, one that we could call home and grow with. We love the energy of the neighborhood — Ballston is a young, active community, which fits DIRT perfectly.'” [Instagram]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Construction could soon get started on the new elementary school planned for the Reed School site in Westover, as the project looks set to earn the county’s approval this weekend.
The County Board is set to vote Saturday (Nov. 17) on a few zoning and easement tweaks for the property, located at 1644 N. McKinley Road. Arlington Public Schools is hoping to open the building in time for the 2021-2022 school year, and it will serve at least 732 students in all.
The school system’s plans call for the demolition of part of the existing school on the site, in order to allow for the construction of a new “two and four story school building, containing approximately 112,919 square feet, on the northeast side of the existing building,” according to a staff report prepared for the Board.
The School Board signed off on designs for the $55 million project back in August, and the plans have since earned the endorsement of the Planning Commission as well.
The lone change county planners are recommending is an alteration of a walking path to connect the school to Washington Blvd.
Originally, the path would run through an existing parking lot, up a small slope. But the slope was large enough to prompt some concerns about its accessibility for pedestrians with disabilities.
Accordingly, planners are recommending an alternative design to run the path parallel to the parking lot instead. To do so, the school system will have to cut back on nine parking spaces in the lot (bringing its total down to 133 spaces) in order to keep costs for the project down, a key concern for the School Board.
Both county staff and planners are recommending that the County Board adopt these plans, including the path alteration.
Family Surprised to Learn Pet Was a Snapping Turtle — “An Arlington family took in a box turtle to be the new family pet recently — only to find out that it was actually a snapping turtle. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington tweeted out a photo of the turtle, noting that their officers had seized the turtle from the unwitting family.” [Patch, Twitter]
APS Delays Release of Construction Cost Report — “Arlington residents will have to wait a little longer for an analysis of the reasons behind the high costs of school construction in the county. The audit committees of the County Board and School Board had been slated to meet Aug. 7 in a joint session to discuss a report by school-system auditor John Mickevice on school-construction costs. That meeting, however, was called off.” [InsideNova]
TSA Keeps Finding Guns in Carry-ons at DCA — Earlier this month, in two separate incidents, TSA agents at Reagan National Airport seized loaded handguns from two men trying to carry them onto planes. The guns were the seventh and eighth seized at the airport so far this year. The men are now facing weapons charges. [Patch]
Jail Holds Creative Writing Contest — A 26-year-old man who’s in jail on a heroin possession charge won the Arlington County lockup’s first-ever creative writing contest yesterday. His prize-winning poem, in part: “I dream about the future. I dream about the past. I dream about the mountains. I dream about the sea. I dream of all the places that I would rather be.” [NBC Washington]
InsideNova Not Available in Europe — More than 1,000 U.S. news websites are blocking users from Europe after the EU implemented strict new privacy regulations known as GDPR on May 25. Among the sites that are no longer accessible from Europe, as seen in this screen shot from last month: InsideNova, which publishes articles from the Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper. [Nieman Journalism Lab]