Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Big Jump in Local Home Sales — “The red-hot summer real-estate market that evolved out of the springtime COVID crisis showed no signs of abating in September across Arlington. If anything, the market last month doubled down – literally. Home sales across the county totaled 274, up 44.2 percent from the 190 transactions recorded in September 2019.” [InsideNova]

Dems Protest Outside Trump HQ — Democrats protested outside of Trump reelection HQ in Rosslyn yesterday morning, criticizing the president for not agreeing to a virtual debate with Joe Biden. They came with signs and a large “Baby Trump” balloon. [Twitter]

Photos: Outdoor Coworking Space in Rosslyn — “Like dining out and birthday parties, coworking is now an outdoor activity thanks to the pandemic. At least it is in Rosslyn. Today, the new O2 pop-up (short for Outdoor Office) opens in Gateway Park by the Key Bridge.” [Washingtonian]

Amazon Employees to Keep Teleworking — “Amazon.com Inc.’s corporate offices may not return to pre-pandemic staffing levels until the middle of next year, with some managers telling their teams that they can continue to work from home until summer 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tonight: Town Hall with APS Superintendent — “Dr. Durán will be hosting a community virtual Town Hall on Friday, October 16, from 5-6 p.m., to address the Return to School Plan. The Superintendent will address questions already received and take questions during the live event using Microsoft Teams or Facebook Live.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Ballston Private School Tackles Racism — “The Sycamore School (TSS), an independent nonprofit school serving 5th-12th grades, has invested in a year-long contract with nationally regarded educator and trainer Dr. Deborah Stroman as part of their continuing commitment to address issues of systemic racism.” [Press Release]

ART Bus Ridership Down — “For the fiscal year ending June 30, the ART system – funded by the Arlington government but operated by a private contractor – reported an average daily bus boarding total of 8,224, down 12.8 percent from the 9,434 reported for the previous fiscal year.” [InsideNova]

ABC Stores Are Doing Just Fine — “From March to September, [liquor sales in Northern Virginia] were up almost 17 percent over the year before: an average of nearly $37 million per month. March remains the month with the highest dollar amount of liquor sales in NoVa, at $39.3 million. July wasn’t far behind, with $38.5 million.” [Washingtonian]

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(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is seeing a sharp decline in enrollment this year as families cope with remote learning during the pandemic.

From September 2019 to September 2020, PreK-12 enrollment fell from 28,020 to 26,895 — a 4% drop — according to APS’ official Sept. 30 count. That’s an even bigger drop than the preliminary numbers at the beginning of September, which showed enrollment of 27,109.

The drop comes after years of enrollment growth. As of earlier this year, enrollment fall enrollment was projected to be 29,142, a 4% increase over 2019.

The change is sharpest in the elementary schools, and levels off in the secondary schools. Elementary schools in more affluent North Arlington neighborhoods — including Ashlawn, McKinley and Jamestown — have some of the biggest drops.

PreK enrollment alone is down 270 kids versus last year, the APS numbers show, while K-5 enrollment at elementary schools is down by 843 students.

“The elementary is where you see the story,” said Lisa Stengle, Executive Director of Planning and Evaluation for APS, adding that kindergarten alone has seen a drop of about 300 students.

Anecdotally, officials in public and private education say families are opting for parochial and private schools that are offering more in-person instruction. Currently, APS is fully remote, though moving towards “hybrid” in-person learning in the coming months.

Stengle said staff have told her that families are deciding to wait a year, homeschool their kids or switch to private and parochial schools.

About 74 new students enrolled at Our Savior Lutheran School in Barcroft, which Principal Joshua Klug described as a “huge increase.” His school offers daily in-person sessions in the morning or afternoon, with have no more than 10 children per class.

Normally, the largest increases are in kindergarten, with 15 to 20 new students. This year’s surge crossed grade levels, he said. Enrollment is now 126 students, up from 113 last year.

“We get new families every year, but it’s a greater percentage this year than in past years,” he said. “We lost more than we would normally lose because of the pandemic, but we definitely gained more than we normally do.”

Klug said he’s not sure whether all of the new students will stay when public schools reopen their buildings for all students. But there might also be an influx of students when conditions feel safer.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

Stengle said the fluctuation is not a sustained pattern, but “the effect of the pandemic.” Still, that decline is not as sharp as it may appear, she said.

“We’re lower than projected, but we’re not a lot lower than our actual enrollment,” she said. “Next year, I expect to see growth when we return to a normal school setup.”

Some schools saw increases, including Wakefield High School, which is located in one of Arlington’s fastest-growing areas for student enrollment.

Among nearby school systems, Fairfax County Public Schools also saw a decrease in enrollment, by about 8,000 students. In his opening of schools report on Sept. 18, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said 181,477 students enrolled in this year, compared to the 189,837 students projected in the budget.

Alexandria City Public Schools also recently had a high-profile instance showing the draw of private schools. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. recently confirmed that one of his two children has enrolled at the private Bishop Ireton High School since the start of the pandemic. Hutchings confirmed the decision to Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School paper.

“I can confirm that our family made a decision to change my daughter’s school this school year,” Hutchings told Theogony. “Decisions like these are very personal family decisions and are not taken lightly. This in no way impacts my absolute lifelong, commitment to public education, to which I remain as personally dedicated as ever.”

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(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Of Arlington’s eight private schools that offer a level of K-12 education, seven have announced plans to bring students to the classroom either five days a week or in a hybrid model.

Full Circle Montessori School is the only school that told ARLnow it is not planning on opening for in-person instruction.

All reopening schools have said they will implement plans aimed at curbing the coronavirus’ spread as cases continue to rise in Arlington. Required mask wearing, physical distancing and general compliance with Virginia’s Phase 3 guidance for schools were the most common strategies schools said they will use.

In other parts of the country, some schools that have reopened to in-person learning are already reporting coronavirus outbreaks. A recent study from South Korea found that while children under 10 are less likely to spread the disease, those ages 10-19 spread it “at least as well as adults do.”

The following list provides a brief outline of each local school’s plan. Only schools where the majority of education is at a K-12 level were included.

Full Circle Montessori School:

Full Circle has an elementary school for 1st-6th grades near Bailey’s Crossroads and Montessori schools at three locations throughout Arlington.

Tatjana Vichnevsky, head of school at Full Circle, told ARLnow in an email she is “not planning on opening Full Circle Montessori School until — at the earliest — the week of October 5.”

Vichnevsky added that her husband, an epidemiologist, is directing the school’s reopening plan using COVID-19 metrics for the D.C. region and Arlington’s population.

Our Savior Lutheran School:

Our Savior offers kindergarten through 8th grade instruction to about 120 students at its Barcroft building.

Its reopening plan is based on a modified hybrid model. Students who do not want to return in person can choose distance learning, but classroom lessons will not be available virtually and these students will instead work with an online liaison to their classroom teacher.

Only staff and students will be allowed in Our Savior’s building, and everyone will have their temperature checked upon arrival.

Students must wash their hands when they enter the classrooms and everyone in the building must wear a mask. Socially distant breaks will be provided during the day for students to be without masks.

Rivendell School:

Rivendell School, located on Lee Highway in the Yorktown neighborhood, has K-8 education for about 150 students.

A spokeswoman said Rivendell “is planning to be at school with a modified schedule and mitigation strategies.”

Parents will also have the option of keeping their students at home for distance learning.

The Sycamore School:

The Sycamore School, based in Ballston, enrolls approximately 60 students in 5th through 12th grades.

According to the school’s website, it announced on July 21 plans to resume in-person instruction five days a week in the fall.

No visitors, including parents, will be allowed in the school. The school’s meetings and community workshops will be conducted over Zoom.

Arlington’s four other K-12 private schools are under the direction of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington

St. Agnes School, St. Ann Catholic School, and St. Thomas More Catholic School:

These three K-8 schools — with student body sizes of approximately 460, 220 and 400, respectively — will open five days a week for in-person instruction, according to Joseph Vorbach, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

Vorbach said the schools’ reopening plans are primarily based on Virginia’s Phase 3 school guidance. The state encourages schools to require face coverings, limit gathering sizes, restrict classes and groups of students from mixing, and mandate six foot distancing whenever possible.

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Morning Notes

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

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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.”

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St. Thomas More Cathedral School is an authentic Catholic learning community that promotes spiritual, moral and intellectual excellence for students in Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade.

Prospective families are invited to attend an Open House on Sunday, November 4 at 11 a.m. and Wednesday, November 7 at 9 a.m. to meet faculty and explore the school on tours led by student and parent ambassadors. RSVP for this event by clicking here.

St. Thomas More is recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School and recently became the first elementary school in the world to launch a CubeSatellite. There is a focus on high-interest projects which encourages students to stretch their knowledge and motivates them to attempt hands-on activities.

Teachers at St. Thomas More differentiate instruction in the classroom by meeting with students in small groups to reach all levels of learners. The curriculum includes The Comprehension Toolkit featuring Daily 5 and CAFE, Writer’s Workshop, Words Their Way and the Everyday Mathematics program.

Kindergarten students experience a robust program with STEM embedded in their day, 3 recesses daily and special performance events throughout the year such as America Sings and Manners Tea. Each grade level selects a service project to help others in our community, with kindergarten supporting HOPE in Northern Virginia, a non-profit organization committed to empowering women facing unplanned pregnancies

Students come to St. Thomas More Cathedral School from Arlington, as well as Alexandria, Fairfax County, the District of Columbia and Maryland. The diverse backgrounds and experiences of our families contribute to the welcoming spirit you will find at Saint Thomas More.

The Diocese of Arlington and the STM School and parish community are committed to making a Catholic education attainable for all who seek it. Families are encouraged to apply for tuition aid if assistance is needed, 30% of families receive a form of financial aid.

Visit our website for information regarding the admissions process, learn about the after school Enrichment Program, extended day care and more. St. Thomas More Cathedral School is conveniently located at 105 N. Thomas Street, in the center of Arlington near the Pentagon, Ballston, Ft. Myer and the National Guard.

To schedule a tour on an alternate day, call 703-528-6781,  extension 242 or email [email protected].

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Arlington County’s only nonprofit secondary school is set to expand and add three new grade levels for the 2018-2019 school year.

The Sycamore School will add 4,225 square feet of space at its current location at The Arlington Center (4600 Fairfax Drive, Suite 300) in Ballston, the school said in a press release. That extra space will include a math and science suite, black box theater, an engineering room and an additional electives room.

In addition, the school will expand to include students from fifth to 10th grade next school year. It opened in September 2017 with an inaugural class of students from sixth to eighth grade.

School officials said that despite the growth in grades, enrollment will be capped at 60 students for 2018-2019 “to maintain the very low teacher to student ratio.” The school plans to grow to be grades 5-12 school in the next three years.

“We hear overwhelmingly from prospective and current parents that fifth grade was immensely stressful for their children. Our educational priorities are skewed when too much importance is placed on test scores and grades versus teaching children how to think, how to learn and the value of a productive struggle,” said Dr. Karyn Ewart, TSS founder and head of school, in a statement. “We’re seeing more and more students who are overly perfectionistic and risk averse, which leads to higher instances of anxiety and depression.”

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Curious Students. Expert Teachers. Endless Potential.  

At BASIS Independent McLean, a PreK-12 private school in Tysons Corner, students are inspired daily to discover their passions and learn at the highest international levels. Passionate expert teachers, a curriculum built from global best practices and an array of engaging extracurriculars, all unite to foster a joyful learning culture where all students can excel.

Join BASIS Independent McLean on November 4 for the first Open House of the school year, and experience our engaging teachers, dynamic classrooms and acclaimed program inaction!

Saturday, November 4 | 10 a.m.
8000 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, VA 22102

Register here.

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Morning Notes

‘Hate Group’ Holding Conference in ArlingtonACT for America, which describes itself as the “nation’s largest non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots national security organization” — but which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group — is holding its annual conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City next weekend. Marriott is refusing calls to cancel the event, saying: “We are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space. Acceptance of business does not indicate support or endorsement of any group or individual.” [Slate]

Private Middle School Opens in Arlington — A ribbon cutting was held earlier this week for the grand opening celebration of The Sycamore School, a new, private middle school in Arlington. “More than 80 percent of our inaugural students are coming from public school,  which tells me that our community is aching for smaller class options and more individualized learning,” said the school’s founder. [InsideNova]

Another Arcing Insulator Outside of Rosslyn — A track issue caused problems yet again between the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom Metro stations this morning. The initial call for a possible arcing insulator went out around 5 a.m. Normal service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines was restored around 7 a.m. [WJLA]

First Day of Fall — Grab your maple lattes, today is the autumnal equinox and the first day of astrological autumn. The equinox will happen just after 4 p.m. Eastern time. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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By Karyn Ewart, PhD.

Stressed out, overwhelmed, anxious. Sound familiar?

I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about your kids!

As families prepare to take a much needed spring break next week, now is a good time to talk about why our kids are more burnt out than some corporate executives, and how parents can help their kids chill out on spring break, and even when they return to school.

Middle and high school students are under pressure:

  • Social pressure is high and social acceptance can now be measured by social media stats. Worse yet, kids never get a break from the social pressure, even after their school day is over. The Sycamore School is addressing social issues by giving students a place to talk about socialization as well as adolescent development and explicitly teaching students skills to increase self-awareness, self-regulation and effective communication skills.
  • Extracurricular pressure is mounting. Particularly in our highly competitive region, our kids are pushed to do more, do better and distinguish themselves. Kids are expected to not only be on teams, in clubs, service organizations, or enrichment, but if they want to get into a good college, they need to demonstrate leadership now.
  • Academic pressure is intense. Northern Virginia and the greater D.C. region are home to amazing schools — but with them comes expectations of high performance. From a very young age, our kids are grouped, labeled and tracked; if our students aren’t on the accelerated learning track, we feel they are falling behind. Our middle schoolers are pushed to start preparing for college starting in sixth grade; by eighth grade our kids are getting high school credit; by 10th grade they are earning college credits. For many kids, earning average grades triggers tutoring or supplemental instruction (god forbid a C!) while with others, they fall through the cracks, get lost in large classes and are unable to get the help they need to reach their potential. As a community, we don’t accept average, and that creates incredible stress for our children. The Sycamore School’s small classes coupled with experiential learning and student choice of assignments and assessments will support students at all levels of their academic journey, and allow students to recognize how they learn best. By providing a supportive environment, students can advance at their own pace, without the pressure of a standardized system.

Our culture of more-better-faster has created an academic environment that is unhealthy for children’s development; kids are not able to be kids. The impact of stress on adolescents can be seen in the rise of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use and abuse.

So what is the alternative? Parents have choices, but first they have to own that it is a choice to perpetuate the culture of pressure that is suffocating our kids.

  1. Let kids make their own choices — it’s ok if they don’t want to take 4 AP classes, or to take accelerated English, or join the science team. Let your kids develop their own interests: that is what will spark a love of learning.
  2. Lay off the “if you don’t do this now you’ll be shutting doors for later” language. That is your own anxiety talking and it’s not fair to put that pressure on your kids.
  3. Explore alternative education options. I founded The Sycamore School for the purpose of flipping education priorities upside down to let kids be kids, and develop learners who are problem solvers, independent thinkers and team players.
  4. Say “no” to our culture of acceleration. If you let your kid be the age they are and the developmental level they are, they will experience NOW instead of living for a maybe-one-day future.
  5. Be present for your kids. Slow down your own frenetic drive and take time to listen, observe and enjoy the moments you have with your children now.
  6. Play for the sake of playing. It’s OK if the game is silly and doesn’t reinforce a skill or developmental milestone. Laugh.

You can learn more about how The Sycamore School is turning education upside down in Arlington by attending an interactive open house, or subscribe to our newsletter for more insights into education and adolescent development.

Karyn Ewart, PhD. is Founder and Head of School at The Sycamore School in Arlington and is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in public and private schools for over 15 years. Dr. Ewart has a doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She has extensive experience working with adolescents in schools, including students with learning differences. She believes that engaging students to be active members of a community, within a school setting, serves as a catalyst for developing positive relationships, facilitating growth and effecting change.

The preceding was sponsored by The Sycamore School.

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Looking for a small, affordable, private, Christian day school with a small town community feel? Can you appreciate a school which begins each day with the students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee?

Then please come visit the winter open house at Our Savior Lutheran School, which will be held Saturday, January 28 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Come see a hidden gem of a school which has been in the heart of Arlington providing education and service since 1952. The school is conveniently located close to the Pentagon and Route 50 in Arlington.

Grades Pre-K (age 4 by September 30) through 8th grade are offered with very small class sizes (only 20 students per class). The elementary school grades have self-contained classrooms, while the middle school is departmentalized. The school also has one of the lowest tuition rates in Northern Virginia. The dedicated, caring teachers work hand-in-hand with an active community of families which make this school thrive.

Students are encouraged to start a life of service through various opportunities:

  • Weekly chapel offerings are designated to various groups in need for our neighbors in Arlington and around the world.
  • Walk for the Homeless and preparing bag meals for A-SPAN.
  • Letters to penpals (elderly members of the church congregation).
  • Stop Hunger Now — the entire school helped prepare dry meals to send overseas.
  • Pairing middle schoolers and kindergarteners as chapel buddies.
  • Sixth graders begin and start the day by raising the American flag and assisting with the kiss-n-ride line.

In addition to the school’s trading skill building curriculum which includes a foreign language program for middle school students, art and many extracurricular activities including a music and a choral program; Our Savior offers various after school clubs that include foreign language (Spanish and French), baking club, dance and chess.

If you are interested in what Our Savior has to offer and why this school shines, please come by the winter open house on Saturday, January 28 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. or call to schedule a tour any other day. The school is located at 825 S. Taylor St., Arlington, VA 22204. Our phone number is (703) 892-4846 and our web address is osva.org.

The preceding was written and sponsored by Our Savior Lutheran School.

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