A Staples in Virginia Square could become a Spanish immersion daycare and preschool for more than 100 children.
The proposed change in use for the 62-year-old, one-story commercial building has area residents and civic associations on edge about hours, traffic and noise.
Two Northern Virginia businessmen have chosen the location for a franchise of Tierra Encantada, a national preschool provider offering Spanish immersion, hands-on education and from-scratch meals and snacks. It would operate Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and serve up to 150 children.
A use permit associated with their proposal is set for a discussion by the Arlington County Board for today (Tuesday), after being pulled from its consent agenda — intended for non-controversial items — on Saturday.
A county report notes that the Staples will close in the near future after a long search for a replacement tenant.
“The property owner has been searching for a new tenant for the property for some time and seeks to lease the space to the childcare center,” the report said.
An employee at Staples said he was unaware of the potential closure and an attorney handling the proposal did not return a request for a clearer closing time frame before this article’s deadline.
Ahead of the Board’s vote today, residents and nearby civic associations sent letters to the county raising their objections and requesting relief if the permit is approved.
“The hours, size, and traffic flow of Staples are an excellent fit for our residential area. We believe the current proposed number of students for Tierra Encantada will cause too much traffic and noise for the awkward location and poor access of the Staples site,” a letter from several Ashton Heights residents said.
“We would prefer to not have a daycare center at the site (especially of that size), but if the center is approved, we want to make sure that steps are taken to mitigate the potential impact on neighbors. Including: ensuring that traffic flows properly, parents cannot park on neighborhood streets, and the playground is constructed to mitigate noise,” the letter continued.
Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association members noted that they have observed speeding and “other dangerous vehicle behavior” on N. Oakland Street, related to the traffic signal at Wilson Blvd, according to joint letter from this civic association and the Ashton Heights Civic Association.
“We share these concerns that parents rushing to drop off/pick up the projected capacity of 148 children at the new child care center could well exacerbate these existing problems,” the letter said.
In response to these concerns, franchisees Mustafa Durrani and Zargham Amid have agreed to build a 6-foot fence, which will provide privacy and sound mitigation when children are playing outside.
County staff say they understand the use change will be an adjustment but argue other tenants could generate more traffic and noise.
Update at 12:25 p.m. — The all clear was given, police told ARLnow around 11 a.m. “The school had elected to evacuate out of an abundance of caution. The all clear has since been given and officers are returning to service,” an ACPD spokeswoman said.
Earlier: The Children’s School, a preschool for the employees of Arlington Public Schools, has been evacuated after a threat.
Numerous police vehicles are on scene near the school, located inside an office building on the 4400 block of Fairfax Drive in Ballston.
“Police are investigating the credibility of a telephone threat,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.
Savage was not able to elaborate on the nature of the investigation, nor the location to which students in the school were evacuated. The initial police dispatch suggested that person who called in the threat sounded like a teenager.
A permanent location for The Children’s School is currently under construction along Langston Blvd.
The Goddard School — a private early-childhood education franchise — is planning to open a pair of linked childcare facilities 350 yards apart on Lee Highway.
A decision on permits for the facilities at 5328 and 5222 Lee Highway are docketed for the County Board meeting this Saturday, July 13.
The larger of the two projects is a childcare center and school at 5328 Lee Highway, which will host up to 208 children.
“The child care center will serve children ranging from two (2) to five (5) years of age, in addition to before/after school services for school age children ages five (5) to ten (10) years,” says a county staff report. “The applicant proposes to reconfigure the existing office space to create 14 classrooms, one of which can also operate as an indoor gymnasium, as well as several ancillary rooms, including a pantry, teacher resource room, and two offices.”
A portions of the building, which most recently served as an office building, had previously been approved as a child care facility in 2017, but the staff report noted that the proposed facility never opened. The property is attached by a breezeway to United Bank, which the report says is expected to continue operating alongside the school.
Meanwhile, the proposed childcare facility at 5222 Lee Highway will have up to 60 children, ranging from 6-weeks to 2-years-old. The building will replace the former Chevy Chase Bank and drive-thru, which has been vacant for two years.
Under local ordinance, the larger of the two facilities would be required to have 26 parking spaces, but only 18 are available in the parking lot behind the building. The staff report says The Goddard School is asking to have the additional parking be provided off-site at the 5222 Lee Highway location. That proposal has been met by concerns from neighbors.
“Yorktown Civic Association which is adjacent to the subject site, is in support of the proposal, however, has concerns regarding circulation and turning movement around the site,” the staff report says.
The report said pick-up and drop-off would occur from the parking area, accessible via two existing curb cuts, and staff recommended that the County Board find the circulation and parking issues sufficiently addressed.
If approved, the facilities would be the first locations for The Goddard School in Arlington.
Another childcare center — VINCI Early Learning School — has been proposed for 3508 Lee Highway and is also on Saturday’s County Board agenda. Consideration of that facility, however, is expected to be deferred until September “to allow the applicant additional time to meet with the community and address any concerns that they may have with the proposed use.”
The former Long and Foster offices in Fairlington may become a preschool.
The real estate company vacated the building at 4800 31st Street S. last year. Now, the Fairlington Villages condo association says the building’s owner has interest from a preschool operator to move in.
The association is holding a special Board of Directors meeting on Monday (June 17) at 7 p.m. to discuss the proposal.
The demand for childcare in Fairlington is high. An existing preschool a block away, the STEM Preschool at 3120 S. Abingdon Street, is planning a significant expansion.
There will be a Special Meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday, June 17, 2019 at 7:00 pm.
Realty Fair General Partnership will present its proposal to build a preschool in the building previously occupied by Long and Foster.
— Fairlington Villages (@NFairlington) June 13, 2019
The STEM Preschool at 3120 S. Abingdon Street in Fairlington is planning a sizable capacity increase.
According to an application filed on this Saturday’s Arlington County Board agenda, the facility is proposing an expansion from 66 children to 106 and employee increase from 15 to 22.
The new capacity is nearly double the 55 children originally approved by the County Board in 2014. In October 2015, the board approved a use permit amendment, allowing the facility to expand to its current capacity of 66 children.
In a report on the project, staff said the facility can accommodate the number of children proposed with the expansion.
Staff noted that the facility also has adequate parking under current zoning and has more than it would need under a new zoning ordinance taking effect on July 1, which would shift the parking measurement from one space per staff person to one space per eight children.
In the report, staff recommended approval of the application.
“The operation of the existing child care center has not and is not expected with the increase in capacity to adversely affect the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood and is not in conflict with the purposes of the master plans of the County,” staff wrote. “Overall, staff believes that the amended use will continue to be a quality addition to the community and have minimal impacts on neighboring areas.”
If you’re new to the area or seeking a new daycare/pre-school option for fall, Rosslyn Children’s Center (RCC) currently has a limited number of openings for infants, toddlers, 2 year-olds, 3 year-olds and Pre-Kindergarten.
We have recently relocated to a brand new center in the heart of Rosslyn, with our main entrance just past the Kent Street entrance to Freedom Park.
RCC has been a member of the Arlington community since 1991. An experienced administrative team works alongside a dedicated and tenured teaching team to provide developmentally appropriate experiences which foster growth, curiosity and development for children birth through six.
Each classroom is staffed with teaching teams to create a collaborative teaching approach that provides a rich learning environment.
RCC proudly offers an emergent curriculum, guiding children’s learning through play. Our lesson plans are not necessarily driven by a calendar, but are determined by what is relevant and interesting to the children.
Teachers who successfully work with an emergent curriculum must have not only a deep understanding of typical developmental stages and early brain development, but also the confidence, skills and experience to allow children to participate in their own learning.
The RCC community is very active within Rosslyn. All classrooms visit Freedom Park each week, with older classes exploring our urban setting regularly, including visits to the Farmers Market, the sandbox at Gateway Park, and Rosslyn community events. Regular community events and weekend “Parents’ Night Out” events make for a tight-knit and welcoming community.
To learn more, call 703-524-0202 or click here to request more information.
Arlington County officials are seeking the public’s input on how to improve the accessibility and quality of childcare at a community meeting on Thursday.
The meeting is part of the county’s Child Care Initiative, which aims to promote the development of an inclusive, integrated child care system that serves Arlington County families, especially vulnerable populations.
A draft action plan created in December outlined ways to make childcare more accessible for all income levels. Recommendations included creating a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs and updating the county’s zoning ordinance to create more facilities.
At the meeting, officials will hear feedback before the draft plan heads to a county workgroup. Attendees will circulate through different stations to provide written and oral feedback. At one station, attendees can also give first-hand, personal accounts of their experiences with childcare.
The meeting will take place at the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Registration is requested online.
Caitlin Hutchinson, an assistant director with the county’s Dept. of Human Services said Arlington County has a unique opportunity to enact policy changes that drive meaningful progress.
“We’re one of the few jurisdictions in the state in that we can enact our own child care code. We really have an opportunity to think about what we want to look like as a community,” she said.
In March, a 22-member Leadership Roundtable will review the revised action plan. A final plan is expected to come before the county manager and board in April. Implementation of recommendations will begin in late spring, county staff said.
The plan highlighted “significant gaps between supply and demand” for childcare. There are only 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but more than double the number of children under the age of five in the county.
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said the child care initiative is one of her top priorities this year. In a Jan. 2 speech, Cristol said policy changes are necessary to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington County residents.
“I anticipate that some long-awaited steps will be before the Board soon, such as a potential re-examination of our local codes for alignment with the Commonwealth’s; potential zoning changes to increase the availability of affordable places for, and decrease barriers to entry of, childcare centers; and new partnerships to increase the supply of trained childcare workers,” she said.
In addition to attending the meeting, community members can share feedback by Feb. 2 in the following ways:
A draft action plan on child care in Arlington County has found that it must be more accessible to all income levels, have more spaces available and have better quality and safety for all.
Among other things, it suggested developing a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs, updating the county’s zoning ordinance to encourage more facilities and supporting more professional development for child care providers.
The plan found that there are 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but 13,435 children under the age of 5 in the county. Of those, approximately 1,400 live at or below the federal poverty level.
It also found that some areas of the county — particularly in some southern neighborhoods — are underserved right now. In the last few months, the Arlington County Board has approved a slew of new daycare facilities, with one on Lee Highway the subject of a lawsuit brought by neighbors opposed to the new facility.
“There are indications from the community that there is a significant gap between supply and demand,” the plan reads. “Challenges to starting new child care businesses and expanding existing ones have also been reported.”
The draft action plan follows a study begun this fall by county staff. Under the fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee joined the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.
Yesterday (Tuesday), the county announced the launch of its Child Care Initiative, as well as a CCI Leadership Roundtable and a CCI Work Group. The Roundtable, a collection of 22 people with knowledge of local and state regulations, will meet each quarter, while the Work Group will meet each month. Both will look to refine the plan ahead of County Board approval in the future.
County staff will host a kick-off meeting for the initiative on January 25 at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to opening the doors for a community conversation about how to achieve our goal of a childcare system that effectively serves and supports all Arlington County families. This draft action plan offers specific ideas and concrete steps to meet that goal,” County Board vice chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “We’re inviting everyone in to give feedback and help fine-tune this action plan, and to be part of the solution to the childcare challenge facing our families and local economy.”
Community members can share feedback in the following ways:
After hearing from residents and prospective providers, Arlington will formally explore ways to add child care options in the county.
Under the recently-approved fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee will join the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.
The County Board also directed $50,000 be spent on an independent study to determine gaps in child care offerings by age and location.
County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, an advocate for more child care options in Arlington, said zoning ordinance tweaks could be key in adding more centers.
“I am strongly of the opinion, having formed it from talking to a lot of providers or would-be providers, that our biggest obstacles are within the zoning ordinance in terms of the number of parking spaces required by childcare centers or the amount of indoor vs. outdoor space,” Cristol said. “It makes it very hard to find a space for rent in Arlington County that will actually meet the requirements.”
Cristol said the independent study, done in parallel to any work tweaking the zoning ordinance, should give more data on where the gaps in the market lie. WTOP reported in February that children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
“There are some things we know and there are some things that we don’t know, so we want to get a little bit more specific about where the geographic areas are where childcare is most lacking,” Cristol said. “We have some hypotheses about that but not as much data.”
The county’s child care ordinance could also be in for another examination, especially in light of Virginia’s statewide regulations not being revised upwards. Cristol said she had been hopeful of the Virginia Department of Social Services revamping its regulations around child care centers, and improving standards that she said could be “almost criminally low.”
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its own child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions, which were seen as overly-prescriptive. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
State officials decided at the end of last year to leave Virginia’s regulations alone, and while Cristol said Arlington’s continue to be tougher, a fresh look led by the county’s Child Care Licensing Office could help.
“I think after the version you saw in early 2016, which was roundly understood and emphasized by myself and other Board members to be a huge overreach, there are opportunities to look afresh at what are the high expectations that we have and want to communicate, and what do we actually require as a condition of opening a childcare center,” Cristol said.
The study will begin sometime after the start of the fiscal year, on July 1, while Cristol said she anticipated any zoning ordinances changes will come before the community and County Board in around 18 months.
Locals who want to put their kids in preschool or daycare programs might have to wait for months before an opening appears. At Early Steps Bilingual Preschool in Lyon Village, the wait list for the upcoming 2017-18 school year is between 20 and 30 names long. And that’s fairly average, according to the preschool’s director, Michelle Clark.
“I have many parents who come to me before they have given birth who put their children on the wait list,” she said. “When parents ask me what the probability is of getting in, I tell them it’s kind of a strange science.”
What’s the problem? For one, says Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, there’s just too many kids and not enough daycare facilities. Cristol, who won her seat in 2015 after running on a policy platform that included child care, has long spoken out about the lack of affordable options in the county.
“Arlington has a child care supply problem, resulting, at least in part, from high commercial rents and growth in demand,” Cristol said.
The number of kids in Arlington vastly exceeds local availability. As WTOP reported this month, children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
But the supply problem isn’t only frustrating parents. In Cristol’s view, not having enough child care options can hurt the county’s prospects attracting and retaining young workers who either have a family or want to start one soon.
“Limited childcare supply creates not only personal strain on individual families, but also a problem for Arlington’s long-term economic competitiveness,” she said. “Our highly-educated young workforce is a key selling point for new businesses and organizations to locate, or existing organizations to expand, here.
Another issue is the lack of space for providers. Tatjana Vichnevsky, who heads the Full Circle Montessori School, said she’d like the county to rework the regulations that surround opening a new child care center. Specifically, Vichnevsky said rules regarding parking and green space at a daycare need updating.
“If you’re in Arlington and you want to open a school, not only do you have the state standards, but there’s also another layer of regulations and bureaucracy,” she said. “Just finding the space is an absolute nightmare.”
Arlington’s child care ordinance, Chapter 52 of county code, was last updated in 1981 and was primarily written in the 60s. In 2013, then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget-cutting proposal to adopt Virginia’s child care regulations and eliminate three county regulators was met with widespread parent outrage. The proposal was eventually scrapped, but attempts to update Arlington’s child care regulations have also been problematic.
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
Moving forward, Cristol said her goal will be to look for ways to “clear obstacles to, and support, the provision of more high-quality childcare in Arlington.”
She added that the county’s upcoming 2018 budget could be an opportunity to advance that priority.
“Strategies include more technical assistance to new providers as they locate and develop their small businesses, exploration of land use and zoning strategies to increase the number of commercial spaces available for rent by childcare providers and reduced regulatory burden while still protecting quality,” Cristol said.
(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) Firefighters are on the scene of a fire at a church along Columbia Pike.
The smoky fire broke out at the Arlington Presbyterian Church at 3506 Columbia Pike around 5:30 p.m.
Initial reports suggest the fire started in a closet at Funshine Preschool, the child care center that’s housed in the church, before spreading to a hallway.
The flames were quickly brought under control after firefighters arrived on scene, but not before the building filled with smoke.
Additional fire department resources from Fairfax County and Fort Myer were requested to assist with the firefighting and subsequent ventilation efforts.
The church is set to be torn down and replaced with an affordable housing development with a new worship space. Its congregation has temporarily moved to the Arlington United Methodist Church (716 S. Glebe Road) in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
In June we reported that the preschool’s lease had been extended through December, ahead of the planned demolition.