Arlington, VA

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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Morning Notes

Happy Trails to Barry TrotzArlington resident and Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the Washington Capitals. (A number of Caps coaches and players call Arlington home, given that the team’s home base is the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.) [Washington Post, WJLA]

Crash Closes Departures Roadway at DCA — A vehicle crash and the subsequent cleanup effort closed the departure level roadway for an extended period of time yesterday. “A car with three occupants accidentally ended up on a jersey wall and rode along it for approximately 100 yards before coming back down,” an Arlington County Fire Department spokesman told ARLnow.com. “One occupant had minor injuries, but none were transported.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Neighborhood Battles to Save Tree — “Another development-preservation battle is gearing up in Arlington, this one focused on the fate of a dawn redwood on Ohio Street… A petition was recently initiated by Todd Murdock who lives several houses away from the tree. In a day the petition had 500 signatures and by June 10 the number of signatures had grown to more than 700.” [Arlington Connection]

Kaine on Housing Affordability, Amazon — U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) swung by Clarendon on Monday to speak at a forum on housing affordability. He believes localities like Arlington that are dealing with skyrocketing rents need help from the federal government, but he lamented that the Trump administration’s policies could be actively making the problem worse. Afterwards, he told a reporter that rush hour traffic may be a significant detriment to Northern Virginia’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Wawa Coming to Georgetown — Rosslyn residents and workers may be able to walk — or take a gondola? — to the next D.C. Wawa. The convenience store chain plans to open in the former Restoration Hardware space on Wisconsin Avenue NW. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy @NineTiger

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Morning Notes

L.A. Bar and Grill Reopening — After closing for renovations (and because it was late in renewing its state alcohol license) Columbia Pike watering hole L.A. Bar and Grill is planning to reopen this weekend, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. [Facebook, Facebook]

The D.C. Case for the Rosslyn Gondola — “The Gondola will provide anyone within the Metro catchment area a faster trip to Georgetown. With the Gondola, the total travel time to Georgetown drops to less than 30 minutes for a much larger part of the region, including areas of the District with the greatest need for employment opportunities, giving them a faster way to connect with jobs in Georgetown.” [D.C. Policy Center]

Petition Against iPads in Middle School Cafeterias — An online petition, signed by nearly 100 people, seeks to have Arlington Public Schools strengthen its rules regarding iPad use in middle schools. Specifically, the signers want iPads to be used in classrooms and not during lunchtime or recess. Such a policy, the petition creators wrote, would “ensure that APS electronic resources enhance, and do not detract from, the learning process of middle school students.” [Change.org]

More ART Arrival Info IssuesOnce again, Arlington Transit is having problems with its real-time bus arrival system. Officials told ARLnow.com that a technical issue with the contractor that provides the system was to blame. [Twitter]

Native Plant Sale This Weekend — The Long Branch Nature Center will host a sale of “plants that are accustomed to local climate and wildlife” on Saturday afternoon. [Arlington County]

Scott McGeary Lauded — “Decades ago, Scott McGeary’s parents would take him to occasional celebratory dinners at the Key Bridge Marriott, where they would enjoy both the food and the vistas of the nation’s capital… On May 2, McGeary was again at the hotel, this time in the 14th-floor ballroom as he was inducted into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame.” [InsideNova]

Four Mile Run Dye Testing — Arlington County is conducting dye testing along S. Four Mile Run Drive today. Traces of green and red dye may be seen in Four Mile Run as a result. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Petition in Support of Affordable Housing Project — The website Greater Greater Washington is helping to promote a petition that intends to counter resident complaints about a proposed affordable housing project on the former Red Cross site along Route 50. Neighbors are concerned that the project might “defile” the Buckingham neighborhood, with increased traffic and school overcrowding and a loss of green space. [GGW, GGW]

‘A Friend’ Writes Thank You Note to ACPD — From the Arlington County Police Department Twitter account: “To the citizen who left this unexpected note on one of our cruisers, thank you. ACPD is grateful for the support we receive from the community and small gestures like this mean a lot to our officers.” [Twitter]

Arlingtonian Places 23rd at Boston — Among other impressive finishes by Arlington residents at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Graham Tribble finished 23rd with a time of 2:30:06, the fastest among the D.C. area contingent at the prestigious race. [RunWashington, Patch]

High Schools Students Learning How to Spot Fake News — “At Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington, some high school seniors are bent over their laptops, engaged in a digital course called Checkology that helps them figure out what makes news and information real, misleading or just plain false.” [Voice of America]

Elementary Girls Heading to Int’l Problem Solving Competition — “An all-girls engineering team from Glebe Elementary School is heading to the 2018 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals where they will compete with students from nearly 25 countries… The team of fourth graders from Glebe, who are all ages 9 or 10, became state champions last weekend at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind competition, which was held April 14 in Newport News.” [Arlington Public Schools]

ACPD Forms ‘Restaurant Liaison Unit’ — The Arlington County Police Department has formed a “Restaurant Liaison Unit” to work with local bars to tamp down on drunken and sometimes violent incidents. One Clarendon bar in particular had police responding to it for a call almost every other day in 2017. [Washington City Paper, Twitter]

Glebe Lane Closure Causes Backups — Commuters heading northbound on Glebe Road today faced major backups due to a lane closure near Ballston. Washington Gas has been performing emergency repairs in the roadway since Wednesday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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Two residents have launched a petition to try to change the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance after the Board of Zoning Appeals denied their plan to add a story to their home.

John and Gina Quirk, who live on 20th Road N. in the North Highlands neighborhood north of Rosslyn, had an application to convert an unused attic at their duplex home (pictured above) into a third-story bedroom rejected by the BZA late last year.

John Quirk said the “minimal” addition to make more room for their expanding family had the support of all their neighbors. It also had the support of some BZA members, who said at their December meeting that the fact that it stayed within the property was laudable.

“I think this is a really wonderful attempt to gain more space without increasing the footprint, and if we don’t grant these kinds of variances, then we’re faced with variances where they want to expand with the footprint,” said BZA member Charles Smith. “I think this gives developers and builders a [really] good model on how you can gain more with less.”

But the BZA voted down the proposal by a 3-2 margin on the grounds that the R2-7 zone for the property, a residential zone for townhouses and two-family homes, does not allow for such expansions by homes that were built before the Zoning Ordinance took effect. This home was built in 1939.

Such extensions are allowed for homes in other, similar residential zones, but in the Quirks’ zone it requires a special exception from the BZA.

In denying the extension, BZA members urged the Quirks to petition the County Board to change the Zoning Ordinance to allow the extensions in the zone where their home is.

“There’s hundreds like you, so maybe it could be a worthwhile community project for you to be the poster child for,” said BZA member Peter Owen, who also said the Zoning Ordinance is “broken.”

So the Quirks have done just that, and launched an online petition that has 91 supporters so far. The pair said their efforts could help the county address its lack of affordable housing and help people not be priced out of the county when they need more space.

“New county initiatives champion Missing Middle Housing as a strategy to support walkable, urban neighborhoods,” they wrote. “Duplexes are a perfect example of Missing Middle Housing if they can be improved to be compatible in scale to single family homes.”

Image via John and Gina Quirk

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Construction to expand a federal training facility has closed a walking trail near Alcova Heights Park.

The trail between 6th Street S. and S. Quincy Street closed permanently yesterday for construction on the State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center (4000 Arlington Blvd).

NFATC trains members of the nation’s foreign service, and is seeking to expand its campus in Arlington to include a new training and classroom facility, childcare center and other buildings. The project is expected to be completed in October 2018.

As planned, the expansion would extend the perimeter fence farther south, and, in the process, swallow up a pedestrian path that connects George Mason Drive and S. Quincy Street.

The decision to close the path came under fire earlier this year from local residents, who signed a petition to try to save it. At the time, critics said pedestrians would be deprived of a way to walk from one end of the Alcova Heights neighborhood to another.

The petition was signed by more than 130 people and urged the General Services Administration, which is responsible for the project, to “build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S,” among other demands.

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A group of local residents have launched a petition against an Arlington County plan to remove more than 80 trees at the Donaldson Run Nature Area.

The nature area, part of Donaldson Run Park at 4020 30th Street N. between Military Road and N. Upton Street, is set to have a section of its stream restored early next year.

The project on Tributary B is designed to help prevent erosion by creating a new natural stream and re-connecting it with the flood plain. Opponents said the project would remove 81 trees, endanger another 52 and remove vegetation along 1,400 feet of Donaldson Run. Work to restore the stream’s Tributary A was completed in 2006.

But a group of residents have launched an online campaign against what it described as the “rapid loss of trees on public and private lands” and urged the county to reconsider.

“The Donaldson Run Tributary B [stream] restoration project, costing taxpayers over $1 million, sacrifices broad local natural environmental benefits for a narrow distant storm water purpose,” the petition reads. “This project must be put on hold until… comprehensive technical and cost/benefit reviews can be completed that include better alternatives that use the money most effectively to meet all the community’s goals.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had received 14 signatures.

Opponents of the project will host an event on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the nature area to hand out free saplings to “expand our urban forest.”

Photo No. 4 via petition, photo No. 5 via Google Maps.

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Morning Notes

Last-Minute Eclipse Glasses in Crystal City — PBS, which is based in Crystal City, will be giving out the remainder of its supply of eclipse glasses at the Crystal City Water Park this morning at 9 a.m. (Update: They’re all gone.) [Twitter]

W-L Grad Studying Eclipse — Arlington native Adriana Mitchell, a 19-year-old University of Arizona student and Washington-Lee High School graduate, will be studying this afternoon’s eclipse as part of “an unprecedented effort to help solve some of the mysteries surrounding our home star.” [University of Arizona]

Whitlow’s Also Hosting Viewing Party — In addition to the sold-out eclipse viewing party at Don Tito’s in Clarendon, Whitlow’s will be hosting a viewing event at its rooftop tiki bar, featuring “a limited number of eclipse glasses” and half-priced burgers. [Event Calendar]

Petition to Keep W-L Name Gains Support — An alumni petition calling for Washington-Lee High School to keep its name as-is, despite a push to remove Robert E. Lee’s last name and a School Board effort to consider name changes, has collected more than 700 signatures. “Washington-Lee has been part of the lives of Arlington school children since the 1920’s and has been one of the top high schools in the country throughout its existence,” the petition says. “To change the name of the school now is not reflective of W-L spirit nor W-L pride.” [Get Petition]

Wardian Still Good at Running, Humaning — Arlington’s own Michael Wardian is not only keeping up his impossible, superhuman distance running schedule, at the age of 43, but he’s also continuing to be a really nice guy in the process. [DelmarvaNow]

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The much-loved Shirlington Dog Park could get much smaller under plans being discussed by the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Three alternatives have been put forward for the park along Four Mile Run, including one that would reduce it by 75 percent to approximately 27,000 square feet, known as Alternative 1. The park would be cut in half at the current S. Oxford Street entrance, with the area west of Oxford Street reforested and the park running between S. Oxford and Oakland Streets.

The other two proposals would have the park at around 55,000 square feet (Alternative 2A) or 47,000 square feet (Alternative 2B). Both incorporate a proposed, expanded portion of parkland along S. Oakland Street.

A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said that new plans are being explored for the dog park due to concerns around stormwater management. Jennie Dean Park and Shirlington Park are also being planned as part of the working group’s wider look at Four Mile Run’s future and a parks master planning process.

The possible reduction in size of the dog park is not quite as drastic a change as earlier rumors — that the county was planning to “move the dog park and make it much smaller, or do away with it” — had suggested. It has, however, sparked loud opposition from supporters of the dog park on social media, including on the park’s unofficial Facebook page.

“Just out of curiosity, what happened to the chorus of reassurances we got from the board reps just a couple of weeks or months ago about them not touching the park?” wrote one supporter. “I don’t know what bothers me more; the fact they continue to push initiatives that put the park at risk or that they misled supporters to believe the park was safe as-is.”

An online petition against the proposal has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

“4 Mile Run Shirlington Dog Park is the best dog park in Northern Virginia,” wrote one signee. “One of the biggest reasons is its current layout. The small dog area, the water access, and the lengthy, open run area, as well as the seating, provide the best experience. Please do not alter this dog park!”

“It is an all too rare NOVA stress reliever that should be protected, not changed or reduced in size,” wrote another.

A separate Facebook group has also been started dedicated to saving the dog park and energizing supporters.

Parks department spokeswoman Martha Holland said there are no “short term” plans to change the park, but didn’t rule out longer-term changes due to state water runoff rules.

“Currently there is no immediate funding or intention on changing the configuration of the Shirlington Dog Park in the short term, however as capital renovations happen in the future or significant maintenance is needed in the parks, state mandated stormwater management standards will need to addressed,” she said. “County staff is working with the County-Board appointed Four Mile Run Valley Working Group on developing a plan for the park to meet state requirements and community interests.”

The County Board is set to have a work session on Four Mile Run Valley planning on May 30. Holland said that at no stage has removal of the park been on the table.

“The county recognizes that the Shirlington Dog Park, one of eight Arlington County dog parks that residents and their pets enjoy, is a tremendous and much-beloved resource for the county and there has never been any intention to remove it from the area,” she said.

The County Board is set to adopt the parks master plan for the three parks early next year. Public input on the draft concepts will be taken in July.

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Just days after local parents launched a petition favoring building a high school next to Kenmore Middle School, others have begun a petition of their own against the plan.

The petition against the Kenmore plan raises concerns about the impact on traffic on S. Carlin Springs Road, which it says would increase the number of students that attend nearby schools from 2,200 to approximately 3,500.

“Carlin Springs Road is one of the County’s few north/south arterials and a major commuter thoroughfare,” the petition reads. “There is no reasonable alternative to Carlin Springs Road for many people using this route. Adding students would add vehicular traffic in the form of school buses, and cars for students and staff. The increase in traffic and the increase in the number of students crossing Carlin Springs Road will increase the threat of accidents involving students.”

The School Board recently whittled down a list of nine possible sites for the county’s new public high school to three. Under the Kenmore plan the current middle school would remain on the 33-acre campus, and adjacent property would be used to build a new 1,300-seat high school.

The other two options remaining are to develop a ninth-grade academy on the site of the Education Center next to Washington-Lee High School, with the International Baccalaureate program expanded and a World Languages site created, or build at the Arlington Career Center site to co-locate with Arlington Tech.

The petition was also critical of the process to determine the site of the new high school.

“The planning process by the County and the School Board to engage in more proactive planning is appreciated,” it reads, “but it appears that the effort to site the 1,300 [seat] high school seats is short circuiting the process.”

Another School Board work session is scheduled for May 15 at the Education Center, with the Board set to discuss the options and adopt one in June.

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Morning Notes

McDonald’s to Open Next Week in Rosslyn — The new McDonald’s restaurant in Rosslyn is expected to open on Monday, May 8. It will feature “mobile and kiosk ordering, with six touch-screen kiosks,” as well as “table service, with servers bringing customers their food after orders are placed using the screens.” [Washington Business Journal]

Petition Against Proposed APS Policy — Among those signing a petition against a proposed new school enrollment and transfer policy is former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra. He writes: “We need to be expanding, not restricting access to Arlington’s award-winning, integrated elementary school science curriculum! Counter to the data-driven ‘Arlington Way,’ this proposal is inappropriately rushed with debate or impact analysis. Sad!” [Change.org]

ACPD Officer to Be Added to Memorial — Arlington County Police Cpl. Harvey Snook is being added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in D.C. Snook died last year of cancer caused by his service during the recovery effort at the Pentagon following the 9/11 attack. Snook will also be added to Arlington’s Peace Officers Memorial on May 10, the first name added since 2005. [WTOP, Arlington County]

Arlington Woman, 109, Still Stays Up Late — Viola Graham, a 109-year-old resident of Arlington, says she still feels young and still doesn’t go to bed until midnight. Graham also “takes no medicine, besides the occasional Tylenol.” [WUSA 9]

Britt McHenry Goes Off the Air — Arlington’s own Britt McHenry is among the mass layoffs at ESPN. Though the sportscaster is going off the air, she said last week via Twitter that her fans would see her again on TV “soon.” McHenry formerly worked for WJLA (ABC 7) in Rosslyn. [Florida Today, Twitter]

Gubernatorial Candidates in Arlington — Democratic candidates for governor in Virginia, Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello, will be debating at a progressive forum in Ballston tonight. [Facebook]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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