Some members of the Washington-Lee High School Parent-Teacher Association are concerned that the Arlington School Board may re-purpose the adjacent Arlington Education Center into an elementary school instead of adding high school seats, as was previously decided.
The concern stems from a working session on April 12 centered on the Arlington Public Schools Capital Improvement Plan, in which School Board members briefly discussed the costs of potentially converting the Education Center into elementary school space rather than up to 800 high school seats.
John Chadwick, Arlington Public Schools assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said that the cost determination was done in anticipation of the possible need for swing space in the future, to make sure the numbers are correct from the get-go.
The Washington-Lee PTA circulated an email last week noting that changing the Arlington Education Center plans would make it “extremely likely that boundaries will be redrawn.” If a boundary re-working were to occur, it could knock some Washington-Lee families out of the school’s district, the PTA stated.
At the April 12 working session, School Board members Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento both voiced concern about confusion within the community about actions that the School Board may take.
“I’m very concerned that we have two months to make this decision,” said Van Doren at the working session. “This is a compacted time frame and a very complex set of decisions… I’m worried that we need to take the community along as we make that set of decisions.”
Talento added that the Board “cannot be vague” about its future plans, and that the community should be kept apprised of the entire process, even just casual discussions about future facility repurposing. She noted that many families might have already tuned out of school planning discussions because they assumed that nothing would change dramatically, which could cause confusion for those just hearing about a possible Education Center plan change. In fact, Talento said that she herself is unclear on where the Board stands on the matter at this point, and she asked for direction.
“I’m happy to consider, if we’re reconsidering the use, I just need to know and we need the community know that we’re reconsidering,” Talento said.
The email from the WLHS-PTA added that if a re-worked Education Center plan were to come to fruition, the future of and use guidelines for certain facilities — like sports fields and the planetarium — is an open question.
More from the PTA’s email:
In June 2017, the School Board voted to create 500-600 high school seats at the site of the Ed Center building, next to W-L by the planetarium and to create 700-800 high school seats at the Career Center. While the program details for the Ed Center site was not decided at that time, there was a strong possibility that they would have been added as an expansion of WL. If this occurs, W-L would likely get additional benefits such as a black box theater (which YHS and WHS have today, but we don’t) and the capacity to expand our IB program to offer it to any Arlington student who wants it. (Note: For the freshman class entering W-L in 2018, we could accept less than half the students who applied.)
During the April 12 School Board work session, it was revealed that APS staff has been working to determine costs for using the Ed Center site as a Middle School or an Elementary School and to move ALL the new high school seats to a comprehensive neighborhood school at the Career Center school. If this actually happens, it is extremely likely that boundaries will be redrawn such that some W-L families will no longer be in the W-L district. Furthermore, it is not known whether W-L students who can currently take advantage of classes offered at the Career Center would still be allowed to do so. There are questions about facilities such as fields – will we have to give up some of our sports fields to be used by a Middle or Elementary School? What other ramifications are there if a MS or ES is built at this site? Will the planetarium remain or will that be destroyed to make room for parking, a playground, or something else?
It is urgent that W-L’s community be aware of this possible change in plans because the timeline for finalizing decisions is extremely short, and the board is bypassing the typical community engagement process to which we are accustomed. The school board vote to finalize its decision is June 21.
School Walkouts Today — Student walkouts are planned at Arlington’s high schools today, part of a national demonstration against gun violence. The walkout is happening at 10 a.m., is expected to last 17 minutes, and is being treated as an excused absence by Arlington Public Schools. Middle schoolers at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, meanwhile, have organized a 2:30 p.m. prayer service to honor the victims.
JBG Talks HQ2 in Quarterly Earnings — Property owner JBG Smith has stayed largely mum about its wooing of Amazon — until now. In its quarterly earnings report, JBG said it believes that its Crystal City properties are well-positioned to win the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. The D.C. area’s tech prowess “combined with our blend of walkable places, in-place infrastructure and low-cost housing makes Crystal City a compelling location,” the company wrote. “Our holdings alone can accommodate Amazon’s entire long-term space requirement and we have a cost advantage over our competitors given the existing in-place parking and substantial infrastructure.” [Washington Business Journal]
Lobbyist Claims Attack at Local Hotel — Jack Burkman, a “conservative lobbyist known for his controversial positions” who in January told police he was pepper sprayed outside his house near Rosslyn, is alleging another attack. Burkman claims, in a press release, that he was “run down by a large, black SUV” last night while “working with an FBI whistleblower” at the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. [Twitter]
Two Charged in Murder of Arlington Man — Two suspected gang members from Maryland have been charged in the fatal stabbing of an Arlington resident in Oxon Hill, Md. on Feb. 25. [Town of Morningside]
Arlington House Closing for Rehab Project — Arlington House, the iconic historic mansion at Arlington National Cemetery that was formerly home to Gen. Robert E. Lee, “is closing to the public beginning Monday, March 19, so it can undergo a monthslong rehabilitation project… part of a $12.35 million restoration plan.” [WTOP]
National PTA Meeting in Arlington — The National Parent Teacher Association is holding its annual legislative conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City this week. The conference runs from March 13-15 and kicked off yesterday with a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. [National PTA]
The scam attempts “have been ongoing for several months,” a tipster tell ARLnow.com. It involves official-looking emails asking the organization’s treasurer to wire money.
On Friday, the Virginia PTA sent the following warning about the fraud to local organizations:
Please note there are fraudulent emails going to PTA units asking treasurers to transfer (wire) money to unknown accounts. Because they look to be sent from your PTA’s officers email addresses, please do not respond or wire money to unknown accounts without first doing due diligence on the request. This is happening quite often — even I receive them. They get names and email addresses from websites.
The tipster, who did not want to be identified, said that civic associations are also now receiving the scam emails.
“Recently the scammers have branched out to neighborhood associations,” said the tipster. “The citizens association that I am involved with has also gotten these emails.”
Last year, Oakridge Elementary parents used donations and sponsorships to buy pedal desks, standup desks and yoga ball chairs to help fidgety kids learn while staying active.
Now, parents are back trying to raise money to expand the program, which received both local and some national attention.
On Tuesdays this month, starting tomorrow, the Oakridge PTA is hosting four evening fitness programs for adults, featuring local fitness and wellness businesses like SpecOps Fitness and Mind Your Body Oasis.
“These adult May fitness classes are one of two fundraising efforts we are currently doing to raise additional funds for the kinesthetic equipment,” explained Dana Dougherty, a mother of three and substitute teacher. “All donations will go toward our mission, all classes are sponsored by the individuals teaching.”
“We have had incredibly positive feedback from parents, students and teachers — they want more!” she told ARLnow.com. “Depending on the funds raised, we will look at adding pieces the teachers would like to add. You can see tons of different options at www.kidsfit.com… there are several great options under kinesthetic classroom desks.”
Money for the initiative will also be raised at the PTA’s Spring Fling on May 22, where teachers and administrators will be dunked for the cause.
“We will have a dunk tank with favorite teachers, principal and perhaps even a school board member participating,” said Dougherty.
Because of changes to local grocery stores’ policies in the last two years, donations that have come from shoppers signing up to donate a portion of their purchase to schools have almost disappeared. According to Drew PTA President Evan Thomas, grocery store donations accounted for $22,700 of the PTA’s $30,000 budget in the 2012-2013 school year.
This year, the PTA projects $495 in revenue from the two stores that it has received money from, Harris Teeter and Safeway.
A manager at Harris Teeter said their program hasn’t changed, but schools are no longer allowed to sign up shoppers on the way in, which has hamstrung participation, Thomas said. According to a manager at Safeway, the chain was just purchased, and in the lengthy negotiations over the past two years, the “program has changed some.” According to Safeway’s website, donations through its eScrip program aren’t taken from credit card purchases.
Thomas doesn’t begrudge the grocery stores, he said, but the fiscal reality of the PTA’s current budget is inescapable.
“We felt fortunate that we were able to work within the program as we were before those changes were made,” he told ARLnow.com today. “It’s just a reality of where we are, and we’re just trying to look for ways to move forward and fundraising without doing it on the backs of our families.”
The PTA has responded by hosting a Spring Fair next Saturday, May 16, to draw families to the school and raise a few thousand dollars.
The fair will take place on the school’s grounds (3500 23rd Street S.) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There will be foods from a variety of food trucks, a moon bounce, a cake walk game, and raffles. There will also be carnival style games, with the price of participation going to the Drew PTA.
“We’re really hoping the Spring Fair can serve as a signature event so we can have a little more certainty going into each year to allocate comfortably,” Thomas said.
The PTA has received help from its counterpart at Nottingham Elementary School in North Arlington. The Nottingham PTA has chipped in $1,500 to offset costs and provided mentorship and support — Drew is hoping to model the Spring Fair after Nottingham’s annual MayFest.
As for the drastic downturn in PTA revenue, Thomas said purchases the group has made in the past, like smartboards for classrooms and a climbing wall, will no longer be feasible. Thomas said 65 percent of Drew students are on a free or reduced lunch program. APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said it’s one of nine schools in the county that have at least 40 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunches.
Image, top, courtesy Drew Model School PTA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps
The Jamestown Elementary PTA wrote to County Board Chair Jay Fisette on Monday, asking him to work with the School Board on a middle school construction plan as part of the County Board’s 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan.
The PTA is peeved that APS waffled in its recently-passed CIP, punting a decision on the location for a new middle school to December and only including planning funds instead of construction funds. It comes at a time when the county’s student population — especially on the elementary level — is burgeoning, thanks to more young families moving to or staying in Arlington to raise their kids.
If a new middle school is not built soon, current kindergarteners could enter middle school in 2020 at a time when Arlington middle schools are over capacity by more than 1,000 students, with most of the overcrowding focused in north Arlington, the PTA said.
“The proposed CIP can only be regarded as an APS plan knowingly to overcrowd Williamsburg and other middle schools in north Arlington and degrade the learning environment for thousands of the county’s middle school students,” Jamestown PTA president Thomas Jensen wrote.
The School Board has eyed both the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and the building that currently houses the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program as possible locations for a new 1,300 seat middle school. Both proposals have met community criticism.
The Wilson School and H-B Woodlawn options are still on the table, according to a school spokesman, and the School Board says it will make a decision no later than Dec. 31. But the PTA wants more decisive action and planning.
“Lack of unanimity about use of the Wilson site is not an adequate reason to allow Williamsburg and other middle schools to become even more overcrowded,” Jensen wrote.
The full letter, after the jump.
‘Trolley Pub’ Bill Fails in Richmond — A bill that would have allowed patrons of Arlington’s Trolley Pub to drink alcohol while on board has been passed over indefinitely in the House of Delegates. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), who introduced the bill, said there were “too many significant issues” around the bill. [Patch]
Middle School PTA Peeved at Bus Inequality — The Thomas Jefferson Middle School PTA is upset that North Arlington schools appear to be getting preferential treatment when it comes to bus service for students inside the standard 1.5 mile perimeter for secondary schools. The PTA president says S. Glebe Road is dangerous for middle school students to cross and the school system should provide bus service for students who have to cross it. [Sun Gazette]
Settlement to Fund Surveillance Cameras — Arlington will use $55,000 from a federal settlement to fund the purchase of portable digital video surveillance cameras. The cameras will be used “to enhance security at large scale events.” The funds from from the $1.5 billion federal settlement with Abbott Laboratories Inc. in 2012 over unlawful promotion of a prescription drug. [Arlington County]
Freedom Rider Shares Memories — “Freedom Rider” and Arlington resident Joan Trumpauer Mulholland spoke earlier this month about her experience in trying to promote civil rights and racial integration in the deep South in the early 1960s. Mulholland was also the keynote speaker at Arlington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration on Sunday. [Falls Church News-Press]
Man Survives Key Bridge Plunge in 1929 — A quirky bit of local history: In September 1929 a drunk 26-year-old man fell off the side of the Key Bridge, landing on his side in the water 120 feet below. Miraculously, he was rescued by a police officer and a boat club employee and “appeared none the worse for his experience.” But alas, it wasn’t a completely happy ending: five weeks later the stock market crashed, leading to the Great Depression. [Ghosts of DC]
Photo courtesy @carmstrong07
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.
Arlington Public Schools (APS) has agreed to move several relocatable classroom trailers at Jamestown Elementary School. The move comes about a month after residents and parents started loudly complaining about the placement of the trailers.
The relocatable classrooms were originally placed near N. Delaware Street, adjacent to a playground. Several members of the Jamestown PTA wrote a strongly-worded letter to the School Board in response, saying the trailers took up “valuable green space” in a “high traffic area,” were “in direct line of sight of over a dozen homes in the neighborhood,” and “sully the atmosphere of the heart of the Jamestown community.”
Parents also complained about a lack of notice before the trailers were placed on school grounds. Last night parents were notified that, in response to their concerns, the trailers would be moved closer to 38th Street N.
“It’s in the same area, it has just been set back farther,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. No word yet on whether the decision will fully assuage the PTA members’ concerns.
In a letter to Jamestown principal Kenwyn Schaffner, APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said the decision was made in response to feedback from the community and from school staff.
Dear Ms. Schaffner:
In response to your request for additional classroom space to meet the rising enrollment at Jamestown Elementary School, and the subsequent pleas from your community that the placement of the modular units be reviewed, and based on feedback I have received from you and the Facilities & Operations staff, I have accepted the recommendation that the units be placed on the Option B location. That is, the units will be moved from their current site to closer to the gym and 38th Street North.
I appreciate your efforts to manage the crowding conditions and to ensure that student learning is at the forefront of our efforts. I also appreciate your response to community concerns and the suggestions you have put forward.
Please extend to your community my wishes for a positive end to the school year and a restful summer break.
Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
Update at 7:45 p.m. — Arlington School Board Chair Abby Raphael has responded, in writing, to the PTA letter.
The Jamestown Elementary School PTA has fired off an angry letter to county officials after new relocatable classroom trailers were placed in a field near the school’s playground.
The PTA says the community was not consulted about the placement of the trailers, and that the loss of green space will be detrimental to the school.
“This lack of communication on the County’s part is disrespectful, rude, and flies in the face of the Arlington tradition of ‘respectful dialogue,'” the Jamestown PTA said in a letter addressed to the Arlington County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy and the Arlington County Board.
The incident is similar to another recent controversy, in which parents at Tuckahoe Elementary School protested the placement of classroom trailers on the school’s playground blacktop. The temporary trailers have become increasingly necessary as Arlington Public Schools deals with a capacity crisis.
The PTA is requesting a meeting with the school board “before we are faced with a fait accompli.” See the complete PTA letter, after the jump.
On a per student basis, Arlington is spending more on administrative functions and less on instruction than almost every other school district in Northern Virginia, reports Michael Lee Pope of the Arlington Connection.
Here’s an excerpt:
Alexandria and Arlington spend less for instruction per capita than every other school division in Northern Virginia. And the two jurisdictions spend more on administration per capita than most other localities in the region.
These are the findings of a recent report issued by the Auditor of Public Accounts in Virginia, numbers collected from various jurisdictions during their annual budget process. School officials and elected leaders in Alexandria and Arlington admit they might not have the economy of scale of Fairfax County, a division with about 170,000 students. But with 20,000 students in Arlington and 12,000 students in Alexandria, they say the trade-off is a more personalized environment.
“Am I satisfied? No. I always think we can do better,” said Arlington School Board Chairwoman Libby Garvey. “But I will say that I think we deliver a very good value for the dollar.”
“There’s a general perception that more money in the classroom is more critical than money for administration,” said John Vigstadt, a member of the Arlington Council of PTAs. “I think we need to take periodic look at what these administrators do to make sure all these positions are justified.”