(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools staff have named seven elementary schools that could host countywide “option” programs in the coming years, as officials move ahead with their reevaluation of elementary school boundaries scheduled to wrap up this fall.
Yesterday (May 1), APS released an updated draft analysis of potential changes to county elementary schools, with the bulk of the document addressing which schools could someday offer option programs — meaning they are open to student applicants from all over the county. APS currently is eyeing seven possible locations, but aims to keep a total of five schools as option program sites.
Staff indicate that Campbell, Carlin Springs and Patrick Henry Elementary Schools are all likely to earn their recommendation to either become or remain option sites. Barcroft, Claremont and Nottingham Elementary Schools and the Arlington Traditional School are also cited as possibilities to fill the final two available slots, though APS doesn’t plan to offer final recommendations to the board until sometime this fall.
APS currently has five option schools at the elementary level: Arlington Traditional School and Campbell, Claremont, Drew and Key Elementary Schools. The rest are all “neighborhood schools,” meaning only students who live within set boundaries are eligible to attend.
With two new elementary schools set to open over the next three years, the School Board asked APS staff to work up two proposals for policymakers to consider. One would leave all the option and neighborhood school designations the same and adjust attendance boundaries; the other would change both the school designations and the boundaries.
Staff will offer the board a definitive set of recommendations about how the mix of option and neighborhood schools might change. The May 1 analysis explores a host of factors to guide those choices, such as how changing those designations would affect transportation options and the proximity of Spanish-language programs to Spanish-speaking students.
The School Board has already agreed to move the county’s “Montessori” program from Drew Model School to Patrick Henry Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year, with Drew changing to a neighborhood school, so at least one option site is guaranteed to change. In the May 1 analysis, APS staff suggest that the board could keep the “Expeditionary Learning” program at Campbell Elementary School and establish a new Spanish immersion program at Carlin Springs.
That leaves two spots for option programs empty, and the analysis suggests that the school system could maintain Claremont or Arlington Traditional School as option sites, or convert Barcroft or Nottingham Elementary Schools.
Staff floated the possibility of running option programs at three schools in close proximity — Barcroft, Carlin Springs and Claremont — in order to achieve “greater transportation efficiency” when busing in students from around the county.
“The main concern with Barcroft is placing four option programs in South Arlington,” APS staff noted. “Currently two options programs, Key and [Arlington Traditional School] are located in North Arlington. If North Arlington families continue to access option programs, then it may stress capacity in South Arlington schools.”
Another factor for staff to consider will be public backlash against any attempt to tinker with a school’s designation; parents at Nottingham have started a petition resisting any change to the school’s status as a neighborhood school, over concerns that many students currently walk to Nottingham and an option designation would result in more busing instead.
Yet APS officials wrote in the May 1 analysis that setting up an option program at a Northwest Arlington school like Nottingham would provide a bit more geographic diversity to the school system’s option offerings. Staff also notes that some students currently walking to Nottingham are also eligible to walk to the nearby Tuckahoe and Discovery Elementary Schools instead, reducing the need for some buses.
Staff stressed in the analysis that “all schools remain on the table,” even if they are honing in on the seven aforementioned schools. They plan to further examine the attendance and traffic impacts of these possible changes in the coming weeks and months.
Anyone interested in commenting on these proposals can do so on the APS website. School staff will offer final recommendations to the board later this fall ahead of a slated November vote on the matter.
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) The Arlington School Board could soon change which students are allowed to attend Nottingham Elementary School, and some parents are pushing back on the proposal.
Arlington Public Schools staffers see Nottingham as a candidate to become an “option school,” meaning that students from around the county would be able to attend the Northwest Arlington school, and it would offer specialized programs. APS also is considering converting three other schools to option schools as it re-examines attendance boundaries ahead of opening two new elementary schools over the next three years.
Right now, only students living in a set area near Nottingham can attend the school, and some in the community hope to keep it that way. An online petition created by a user known as “Nottingham Community” on April 19 is urging the board to spurn a recommendation from school staffers and maintain Nottingham’s status as a “neighborhood school.”
The petition, which currently boasts more than 500 signatures, notes that roughly 82 percent of Nottingham’s student body is eligible to walk to school, but converting the school to an option facility would require expanding the bus program to bring in students from other parts of the county.
“Nottingham is tucked away in an upper corner of the county and inside a neighborhood making traveling to and from other parts of the county cumbersome, with potentially very long bus rides,” the petition reads. “Option schools should be centrally located to allow equal access from all parts of the county.”
APS officials stressed at an April 12 School Board work session that other factors are at play in their analysis of Nottingham. For example, they noted that if students are bused to Nottingham from other parts of the county, many existing Nottingham students could be redistributed and walk to other nearby schools — Tuckahoe and Discovery Elementary Schools — instead.
Lisa Stengle, the APS director of planning and evaluation, pointed out that APS may run into trouble drawing new school boundaries in the area once a new elementary school opens at the Reed School site in Westover. APS is currently planning to open that building in 2021, and Stengle believes converting Nottingham to an option school could ease the process of divvying up students in the region.
“Otherwise, we may be developing these boundaries that go long and narrow down the county, which requires lots of buses,” Stengle told the board.
Stengle added that APS is projecting that northwest Arlington’s student population will continue growing rapidly in the coming years, which could put even more of a strain on Nottingham if it remains a neighborhood school.
She added that no final determination has been made about which other schools will be recommended to the School Board for conversion to option schools, although Claremont, Carlin Springs and Arlington Science Focus are strongly being considered. County staff plan to release a full draft list of recommendations for neighborhood and option school designations next week, on April 30, then collect community feedback through May 10. APS staff plan to release final recommendations this fall.
“This is really saying that every neighborhood school is at play, but every option school is as well,” said School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen. “It’s really equalizing the stress we’re feeling across the community.”
Photo via Google Maps
Amazon Could Change Conversation — If Amazon were to establish its second headquarters in the D.C. area, it could have wide-ranging effects, including tightening the commercial real estate market and easing antitrust pressures on the company. Writes the Economist: “Having 50,000 employees going to the same country clubs and putting children in the same schools as government officials is a shrewd strategy if Amazon wants to fend off government attacks.” [Washington Business Journal, The Economist]
One Hospitalized During Hazmat Incident — An employee at a catering business was hospitalized after a reported chemical spill at a warehouse along Four Mile Run Drive. [Twitter]
Principal on Leave at Nottingham — Nottingham Elementary School Principal Mary Beth Pelosky is “currently on leave” and former Arlington Public Schools administrator Connie Skelton is taking over as acting principal, according to an email to parents from APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy. No explanation was given for Pelosky’s sudden departure.
No More Early Cherry Blossom Bloom — Initially expected to happen later this week, the peak cherry blossom bloom is, due to cold weather, now expected to occur at the end of March and possibly the beginning of April. [Capital Weather Gang, WTOP]
APS May Take Advantage of Recess Law Change — “The chairman of Arlington’s School Board appears optimistic about a change in state law that will permit school districts to squeeze more recess into the existing school day.” [InsideNova]
Photo via @thelastfc
The stars of the Arlington County Police Department’s viral synchronized swimming video will again be showing off their acting skills.
This coming Saturday, December 9, ACPD’s “Operation Santa” will visit at least 10 neighborhoods throughout December, spreading holiday cheer to children and adults in the community. Among the stops is the parking lot at Nottingham Elementary School (5900 Little Falls Road) at 11 a.m.
A blurb on the event said it “features many popular characters including, Santa, Rudolph, the Grinch and others. This event will offer members of the public an opportunity to experience the show, get to know the officers who make it happen each year and take photos with the characters and officers following the performance.”
ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the same officers who starred in the swimming video will don costumes for the performances, which are free to attend. Members of ACPD’s Community Policing District Teams work with neighborhoods to designate dates, time and locations and help promote to the children in the community.
“It is an opportunity for the Department to give back to the community, spread holiday cheer, share an important message about the holidays and give the community another opportunity to get to know the men and women of the Arlington County Police Department,” Savage said.
Savage said the officers involved are all currently working nights, so were not available for additional comment.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 2, 2017
Kids have apparently been doing too much fidgeting, because at least two schools — and likely more — have addressed the issue in emails to parents.
A parent who did not wish to be identified said emails have been sent to her from Williamsburg Middle and Nottingham Elementary schools, saying that schools are cracking down on the toy, which was originally intended to help students relieve stress and concentrate in class.
Here’s an excerpt from the WMS email:
We need your help with two issues. First, the entrepreneurial spirit has hit Williamsburg! And not necessarily in a good way. We have noted students selling spinners and slime to other students. This activity takes the focus off of learning and we are making every effort to stop it. On a somewhat related issue, we are continuing to see an explosion in the number of spinners. The spinners are getting larger, more complex and increasingly distracting. Unless your child has an accommodation to use a spinner, please encourage them to leave the spinners at home.
There has been “no guidance from central office as of yet” regarding spinners, said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Principals handle this sort of thing and make decisions based on what they are seeing in schools.”
(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
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) About 100 residents packed the auditorium at Nottingham Elementary School last night, less than three weeks after a mother placing a child in her minivan was killed by a dump truck in front of the school.
Arlington County Police Chief Doug Scott gave members of the Williamsburg Civic Association updates on the investigation into the death of 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson, and he took questions from more than 20 residents, most of whom demanded action to increase pedestrian safety in the area.
Scott said the driver of the truck was neither speeding nor distracted when his vehicle struck Lawson’s minivan.
“The driver has been very cooperative with the investigation,” Scott said. “We’ve done a forensic exam of his cell phone and that was not an issue… This was not a cut-through traffic situation. This gentleman was doing contract work in your neighborhood. He had been in and out of the neighborhood a couple of times that day.”
“It was a matter of inches,” he said.
Speakers said the police presence in the area for a few days after the collision has since disappeared, leading many to criticize the police’s presence along Lee Highway nearby, where cars are frequently stationed for hours. Scott said that squad cars are placed where there are the most complaints, but even if they were in the residential neighborhood, “a majority of the tickets we write are to people who live in those communities.”
Julie Monticello, a mother of six who lives on N. Ohio Street across from the school, said members of the community have to also look inward after the accident.
“I couldn’t sleep that night not only because of Jen, but also because of that dump truck driver, because it could have been any of us,” she said, while fighting back tears. “I know that’s so hard to say. That man is not a murderer, everyone should say a prayer for that man, because he’s not a murderer.”
Monticello was not the only person to get emotional while speaking on the microphone. Richard Sheehey, who lives on N. Kensington Street, choked up several times during his plea for speed bumps and a lower speed limit on his street and throughout the neighborhood. There had been a traffic calming committee a few years ago, Sheehey said, but they were one vote from approving changes and the committee has since been disbanded.
“I get very emotional about this,” he said. “I don’t want to see what happened to Jen happen to any one of our kids… Nobody likes speed bumps, but it’s the No. 1 way to slow traffic down. If a car hits a child at 25 mph, that child has a good chance of survival. If a car hits a child at 35 mph, that kid’s going to die. So please help us.”
Del. Patrick Hope (D) was in attendance, and told the civic association that he plans to introduce a bill in the House of Delegates next year that would allow localities to lower their speed limits below the state minimum of 25 mph to 20 mph. A majority of the speakers agreed that even 20 mph was too fast for the streets in the area.
“Fifteen miles-per-hour just tells people that there are people crossing the street,” Monticello said. “When there’s children crossing the street constantly, the speed limit has to be 15. Twenty-five doesn’t send the message.”
Speakers also expressed frustrations with the Arlington County Board, saying that they’ve been asking for safety improvements for years, even after a child on a bicycle had been struck. County Board Chair Jay Fisette was rumored to be coming to the event, but no Board members were in attendance, and Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz spoke briefly expressing condolences and promising to listen.
WCA President Ruth Shearer asked at the end of the meeting, getting visibly upset, why the Board has been silent.
“Tell us why the County Board does not support the bill to reduce the speed limits,” Shearer said, directing her gaze at Schwartz. “I have not heard why. Why does the Board not want to execute its own implementation option? We need answers.”
The first speaker from the community — after Shearer, Scott, Schwartz and the county’s new Transportation and Engineering Bureau Chief Larry Marcus spoke — was Susan Silver Levy, a friend of Lawson who said Lawson’s children “play every day in my front yard.”
“I’m even more upset because I’ve been trying to get the county’s attention for years about this intersection,” Silver Levy, a former Nottingham PTA member, said. “Last year there was a three-car, high-speed collision at the [Williamsburg Blvd and N. Ohio Street] intersection. It seems like near-misses are often perceived as victories here as opposed to warnings of what could happen.”
“The traffic control sign on Williamsburg Blvd hasn’t worked for seven months,” she continued. “We boast that Arlington is a gold-level walk-friendly community, but I think we still have a ways to go. Until you’ve walked the streets, you just don’t know them. In the past two weeks, I have often wondered whether a four-way stop sign or speed bumps might have saved my friend’s life. Every afternoon I recommit to do everything I can to make the streets safer. It could have been anybody, even you.”
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A memorial fund has been established for Jennifer Lawson, the Arlington mom who was killed after being struck by a dump truck in front of Nottingham Elementary School yesterday morning.
Lawson, 39, was placing her two-year-old daughter in the rear seat of her minivan, after volunteering at the school, when the truck struck her and the side of the van. Her daughter was unhurt. Her two sons, who attend Nottingham, were inside the school at the time.
The family had recently returned from a vacation to Costa Rica, we’re told.
A close friend of the family, Trent Livingston, has set up a fund to “help offset the unforeseen costs of this tragic event” and to benefit Lawson’s three children. He hopes to raise $5,000.
“[Jennifer] was such a great mom, so devoted to her husband and her family,” Livingston told ARLnow.com from his home in Seattle. “She leaves behind so many friends who love her so much. This has just been so shocking and so terrible.”
As of 11:30 a.m. the fund had raised $620. As of 3:15 p.m. it had raised $7,439.
So far, no charges have been filed against the driver of the dump truck. That could change at any minute, though.
“Because of the nature of the accident, the investigation is going to take a little longer,” according to Arlington County Police spokesman Lt. Michael Watson. “It’s much more in-depth than most accident investigations.”
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) A woman has died after being struck by a dump truck on N. Little Falls Road, in front of Nottingham Elementary School.
The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. as the woman was placing a young child in the rear seat of her minivan, which was parked on the side of the street, according to police. The force of the collision sheared off the van door but the child was uninjured.
The woman, identified as 39-year-old Jennifer Lawson, was reported to be unconscious when paramedics arrived. She was rushed to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital but died this afternoon, police said.
The child was not a student at the school, but Lawson does have other children who attend the school, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Lt. Michael Watson. The child, a little girl, could be seen being picked up from the school by a friend or family member about an hour after the incident.
Little Falls Road was shut down for most of the day as police investigated the accident. It as since reopened.
The truck belongs to Titan Erosion Control of Manassas. So far there’s no word on any pending charges against the driver.
“The investigation remains ongoing,” Watson told ARLnow.com around 5:00 p.m. Witnesses who have not yet talked to officers are being encouraged to call police.
“Police are asking that anyone with any information regarding this accident contact Arlington County Police Detective Mohammed Tabibi at (703) 228-4618, or at [email protected],” ACPD said via a press release.
Norovirus Outbreak at Nottingham Elementary — Dozens of students at Nottingham Elementary School have been sickened in what is believed to be an outbreak of norovirus. The contagious stomach illness causes serious nausea and vomiting. So far, Arlington Public Schools officials have not responded to a request for more information from ARLnow.com. [WJLA]
County Board Not Interested in Meals Tax Changes — In response to a speaker at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting who was critical of the county’s 4 percent meals tax, County Board members said they’re not inclined to make any changes to the tax. The meals tax is levied on restaurant bills and on the purchase of prepared meals from grocery stores, on top of the state’s 5 percent sales tax. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Org Targeted By IRS — The Clarendon-based Leadership Institute, a conservative training organization, says it was among the conservative groups targeted for audits and extra scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service. [Washington Free Beacon]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Starting tonight and continuing each day this weekend, races will temporarily close down some Arlington roads.
The Arlington County Police Department is assisting with controlling traffic during a 5K and 10K race around Yorktown High School on Sunday, April 14.
The following restrictions will be in effect from 7:30-11:00 a.m.:
- Yorktown Blvd will be closed to westbound and eastbound traffic from N. 30th Street to N. Edison Street
- N. 28th Street will be closed to northbound and southbound traffic from Yorktown Blvd to N. Greenbrier Street
- Yorktown Blvd will be open to eastbound traffic from N. Edison Street to N. 26th Street
Residents are asked to park their vehicles in driveways instead of on the street in order to reduce the congestion in the affected areas. Anyone with questions or concerns regarding the impact to the community can contact Lieutenant Bob Medairos at 703-228-4160.
Roads will also be closed temporarily for the Nottingham Elementary 5K on Saturday (April 13) and the Crystal City 5K Friday tonight. Drivers are advised to find other routes during the affected times.
Several north Arlington streets will be closed Saturday for the annual Nottingham Elementary 5K run/walk.
The race will be kicking off around 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 13 at Nottingham Elementary (5900 Little Falls Road). Registration is $25 if booked by the end of the day today, then $30 thereafter. Proceeds from the race will go toward Nottingham Elementary School PTA programs.
Arlington County Police will close the following lanes and roads Saturday morning.
- Williamsburg Boulevard will be closed to eastbound traffic from Little Falls Road to N. Harrison Street from 7:30 – 10:30 a.m.
- Little Falls Road will be closed from Williamsburg Boulevard to N. Harrison Street from 7:30 – 10:30 a.m.
- N. Ohio Street will be closed from N. 26th Street to Williamsburg Boulevard from 7:30 – 10:30 a.m.
“Along the race course, temporary road closures will be necessary as the race moves throughout the neighborhood,” police said in a press release. “Residents of the affected areas will be escorted through the traffic closures to minimize the impact on the community. All road closures will be reopened by 10:30 a.m.”
“Residents are asked to park their vehicles in driveways to reduce the congestion on the affected streets to allow more runners through the neighborhood as quickly as possible, which will result in a return to normal conditions,” the police department added.
Last American WWI Vet Buried in Arlington — Army Cpl. Frank Buckles, the last surviving U.S. World War I veteran, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. Earlier in the day, President Obama and Vice President Biden stopped by to pay their respects as Buckles lay in repose in a cemetery chapel. [American Forces Press Service]
Underground Explosion Rocks Pike Townhouse Complex — An underground explosion caused a manhole cover to fly across the backyard of a townhouse complex near Columbia Pike yesterday morning. Firefighters are still trying to determine what caused the blast, but a strong gasoline-like odor could be smelled in the area. The gas also apparently caused fires to start near water heaters inside the townhouses. The complex is across the street from an auto repair shop and next to Four Mile Run. [ABC 7]
County Offers Tree Grants to Neighborhood Groups — Arlington is offering grants to local groups that want to plant trees on private property in the county. Grant applications are due in July, but groups must file a notice of intent next month. [Sun Gazette]
Pike Apartment Community May Be Redeveloped — Renovations or an out-and-out redevelopment may be in the works for the Greenbrier Apartments at 4975 Columbia Pike. The garden-style apartments were built in 1949 and are considered market-rate affordable. Arlington recently revised its affordable housing goals. [Pike Wire]
Nottingham PTA 5K This Weekend — The Nottingham Elementary PTA 5K Run/Walk is being held this weekend, with a course that will wind through part of North Arlington. Registration for the race ends tomorrow morning. [Active.com]