Amazon and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation are standing up a new STEM center at Randolph Elementary School (1306 S. Quincy Street).
“The center will provide new state-of-the-art STEM equipment and furniture for students to learn and play,” a spokeswoman for the Baltimore-based Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation said. “Giving elementary and middle school kids access to STEM learning is a priority of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.”
There will be a ribbon-cutting event today (Tuesday) at noon during which students can try out the educational activities.
“Students [will] take part in a hands-on learning activity with the Sphero BOLTs, led by Amazon robotics experts to explore the STEM equipment the new center has to offer,” the spokeswoman said. (The Sphero BOLT is a spherical robot with programmable sensors that kids can control with an app.)
Amazon’s second headquarters is under construction just a few miles from the elementary school. Since it announced its HQ2 plans, the tech giant has donated money and facilities to Arlington Public Schools, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It has awarded grants to individual schools, funded a new STEM lab at Wakefield High School and announced plans to co-locate Arlington Community High School within HQ2.
Meanwhile, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, founded in 2001. has placed a greater emphasis on STEM education in recent years. Since 2016, it has started 261 operational, turnkey STEM programs in 19 states, the spokeswoman said.
The nonprofit, which honors the legacy of the Baltimore Orioles player and manager — and father of baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr. — provides programs and parks for at-risk youth.
Randolph Elementary School’s PTA is hosting an online charity auction to support classroom and extracurricular programs, auctioning off local business deals, unique experiences and gift certificates today through Feb. 15.
There are over 200 auction items up for grabs, with prizes ranging from a veterinary check-up to an Annapolis sailboat ride valued at $500. One lucky bidder could even win a homemade baby back rib dinner for four at Arlington Public Schools board member Reid Goldstein’s home, for a minimum bid of $75.
Or perhaps you’d rather just relax at home and let Randolph Elementary principal Dr. Donna Synder and assistant principal Ms. Rebecca Irwin Kennedy take over the bedtime story routine one evening for a minimum bid of $15.
Holly Jeffreys, the Randolph Elementary PTA auction chair, says that all auction proceeds will fund field trips, classroom supplies, field day, and literacy programs like the Summer Mailbox book program. She noted that Randolph is a Title I school, a designation indicating “high percentages of children from low-income families,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Approximately 73.6% of students at Randolph qualify for free or reduced price meals, according to an October 2017 Arlington Public Schools report.
The auction has taken place in previous years. New this year, according to organizers, the auction website will accept credit card payments — via PayPal — from auction winners, in addition to checks.
File photo via Arlington Public Schools
Reminder: Inauguration Closures Today — Many Arlington County facilities are closed today, Inauguration Day, and parking meters are not being enforced. Traffic is light around Arlington but drivers should expect closures and delays approaching the District. [ARLnow]
Arlington EOC Open — Arlington’s Emergency Operations Center is open and fully functional today for the inauguration. [Twitter]
Two Local Neighborhoods Among D.C.’s Hottest — Arlington Heights, between Columbia Pike and Route 50, and Yorktown in north Arlington, are No. 2 and 3 respectively on real estate firm Redfin’s list of the hottest Washington, D.C. area neighborhoods for 2017. [Redfin]
Schlow May Open Arlington Restaurant — Restaurateur Michael Schlow, the man behind Tico and The Riggsby in D.C., is “close to a deal” to open a new restaurant in Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]
School Bus Accident — There was a minor collision between two school buses at Randolph Elementary yesterday afternoon. According to initial reports more than a dozen students were evaluated by medics, but ultimately no injuries reported. [Twitter]
Schmuhl Sentenced for Home Invasion — Former lawyer Alecia Schmuhl was sentenced to 45 years in prison for her role in the home invasion attack on her former boss and his wife. Leo Fisher, a shareholder in Arlington law firm Bean, Kinney & Korman, was held captive by Schmuhl’s husband, who shot, stabbed and tased the couple during a three hour torture session. [NBC Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
More on Randolph Principal Controversy — Some Randolph Elementary parents are still upset that the school’s well-liked principal has been removed with little explanation and demoted to assistant principal at Abingdon Elementary. [Washington Post]
Aerial View of Arlington — Arlington County has created a video of aerial footage of Arlington, shot during a recent ride on the U.S. Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter. [Facebook]
‘Dog Days of Summer’ Donations — Rosslyn eatery Bistro 360 is donating 25 percent of sales from a special “Dog Days of Summer” menu to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. [Facebook]
Late Civic Activist Celebrated — The Nauck community will hold a special celebration of the life of the late civic activist John Robinson this coming Saturday. Robinson, who died in 2010, fought against racism, against injustice and for education, and was the publisher of the Green Valley News for more than 40 years. [InsideNova]
Suspicious Package at Ballston Metro — Updated at 9:15 a.m. — Metro Transit Police investigated a suspicious package at an elevator entrance to the Ballston Metro station this morning. The entrance was blocked off with police tape for a period of time.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Hundreds of have signed a petition calling on the county to keep Randolph Elementary School’s principal in place after she was told to step down this month.
In a June 15 petition to the Arlington School Board, more than 330 Randolph parents, school employees and their supporters said they are “deeply concerned” about the panel’s decision to give principal Renee Bostick a new, unspecified role at Arlington Public Schools July 1. She has led the school at 1306 S. Quincy Street since 2004.
APS told the Randolph community her removal was due to “test scores,” but didn’t elaborate, according to the petition.
“The Randolph community is in total disarray,” the document says. “Students and staff are distraught. We have many unanswered questions, not least why a beloved, experienced, dedicated, and effective principal is being shown so little respect.”
In a letter he sent to the Randolph community today, APS superintendent Patrick Murphy didn’t address the petition, but he wrote that APS is slated to hold a meeting at the school with parents next Monday, June 27, at 7 p.m. to discuss the principal hiring process.
Interviews for Bostick’s successor are expected to begin in early July, Murphy wrote. By August, he anticipates the school board will appoint a new principal.
“We will keep you posted throughout the process and look forward to working with the Randolph community in the coming weeks,” Murphy wrote.
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
Murphy Finalist for Superintendent of the Year — Arlington Public Schools’ Dr. Patrick Murphy is one of four finalists for national superintendent of the year from the School Superintendents Association. Murphy, who was hired in 2009, has previously been recognized as Virginia’s superintendent of the year. [Washington Post]
Optimism for Office Vacancies in Arlington — There’s good news for owners of commercial office buildings in Arlington. Despite high vacancy rates, “Arlington’s location close to D.C. and its numerous transportation amenities give property owners an advantage in attracting potential tenants from other locations in the region,” especially Millennials, writes Keara Mehlert, a business development manager for the county-run Arlington Transportation Partners. [Mobility Lab]
Additional Package Thefts — Arlington County police say additional package thefts occurred in Arlington overnight. That’s after a number of package thefts were reported in Ballston last week. [Twitter]
Kindergartner Makes a Run for It — A five-year-old kindergarten student at Randolph Elementary ran away from school yesterday afternoon, prompting a response from Arlington County police. The student reportedly led staff members on a chase and made it to the area of Four Mile Run as police began arriving in the area to look for him. The youngster was finally nabbed by school staffers who had hopped into a Honda to find him. “He is safely back at school with his mother,” a school spokesman told ARLnow.com after the incident.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Although a final decision has not been made on where more elementary school seats will go in South Arlington, the options have now been narrowed to two.
First, a plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a project which has come under criticism for its reduction of the green space next to the TJ Community Center.
Second, a plan for building $54 million of expansions onto Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. The Arlington School Board approved the expansion plan at its meeting last night as the alternative to the TJ plan. Whichever option is built is expected to open by September 2018.
The Board will vote in January on which option it will move forward with. Arlington voters approved $50.25 million toward the new elementary school seat plan on Tuesday as part of the $106 million school bond package.
Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said last night that there could be measures APS takes to bring the two expansions closer to the $50.25 million budget.
Two parents spoke out last night against the plan to expand Barcroft and Randolph, telling the School Board they should focus expansion efforts on schools that don’t lag far behind the rest of the school system in state testing. School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez echoed those parents’ concerns, and was the lone vote against the alternative plan.
“When we look at adding more seats, we keep on talking about seats. We’re not talking many times about students,” she said. “We’re not talking about instructional programs and options we have before us. The part of the county where Barcroft sits and Randolph sits, we have serious instruction issues when we have low achievement of Latino, African-American, students with disabilities, low-income students not perfomrming as they should. We have a problem.”
The other School Board members countered with the fact that APS capacity issues will affect every building in the school system, and performance issues can be addressed during expansion. School Board member Abby Raphael suggested that concerns about the schools’ performance are being overblown.
“Barcroft is a wonderful school. Students are achieving, there’s a wonderful staff. Of course we can do more,” she said. “Because of our growing enrollment, our elementary schools are going to reach 725 students, and we’re running out of land. Ideally, we’d love to have a number of very small elementary schools, but we just simply don’t have the land and the money to achieve that.”
The School Board’s “preferred plan” remains building a new elementary school next to TJ, but that plan is opposed by community group Friends of TJ Park. The group says the new school would reduce crucial parkland, including the community garden. TJ Middle School students spoke up at a School Board meeting last month to advocate for keeping the garden.
“I am so proud to work in the TJ Garden and seeing it every morning reminds me of how important it is to our community and school in Arlington,” seventh-grader Lucy Robinson said. “If the TJ garden were separated from the school, fewer people would go there and be involved. The TJ community would be hurt by this. Please leave our garden in its current location.”
The TJ plan would add 725 seats with the new school, while the two expansions would add a total of about 500 seats, according to APS estimates. The disparity may make the decision clearer after APS released its new set of student growth projections last night.
APS Director of Facilities Planning Lionel White told the School Board that APS figures to grow by 19 percent, or 4,957 students, in the next five years. According to the district’s projection model, APS will hit 30,000 students in 2020. Because of this growth, APS is considering refining elementary school boundaries for next fall.
“This year we had our highest kindergarten class on record, 2,196,” White told the Board. “Next year we’re anticipating [more than] 2,200.”
Many of the students affected by the school district’s boundary changes will be attending the new elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School. Last night the School Board approved the school’s name: Discovery Elementary School.
“When you go into successful schools, they use language like ‘discovery’ and ‘creativity’ to spark inspiration in the children,” School Board Chair James Lander said. “The fact that Discovery is the recommended name really pleases me.”
Photo (top) via Arlington Public Schools
Some parents of Barcroft Elementary School students are concerned about Arlington Public Schools’ plan to expand the school if a controversial plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School falls through.
The School Board says it’s their preference to build a new school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Amid protests from those who want to preserve the parkland next to the school, the School Board has appointed a working group to determine the feasibility of that plan. The group will present its findings to the School Board in January.
If the TJ site cannot be developed, APS’ backup plan is to expand Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street) is currently at a 460-seat capacity and the expansion would add 265 seats. Randolph (1306 S. Quincy Street) has a 484-seat capacity and would expand to seat 725 students.
While APS struggles to keep up with rising school enrollment, county and school officials have warned that there’s precious little open land left in Arlington to build new schools.
Some Barcroft parents, however, are crying foul over being targeted for expansion. They’re worried about the effect it would have on the surrounding community and how the school would be able to adjust to the influx of space and students.
“Barcroft has tireless, dedicated administrators and teachers, but they face serious challenges,” one parent, Sarah Freitas Waldman, told ARLnow.com in an email. “I feel the top issue is whether it is fair for the community and the students and whether it is responsible policy for APS to propose a plan that places the entire burden of South Arlington’s overcrowding on two small schools with ongoing issues of student performance.”
Barcroft’s performance on the state Standard of Learning exams has been dwindling in recent years, culminating in only 71 percent of students passing the English reading exam and 68 passing math, compared to the state average of 74 percent for each subject and the Arlington-wide average of 81 percent in reading and 83 percent in math. Randolph performed about the same as Barcroft, with 61 percent passing English reading and 70 percent passing in math.
“Barcroft consistently underperforms the County in terms of student achievement on the Virginia SOLs,” Waldman wrote. “Is it wise educational policy to expand a program by 50 percent when it is already struggling to meet the needs of its students?”
Waldman said parents were distributing flyers in the neighborhood this past weekend, including bilingual flyers, to notify residents and other parents of APS’ plans. APS facilities staff will be conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. Barcroft to inform parents of the process to address the district’s capacity crisis. For those who can’t make it, there will be another meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 22.
APS Identifies Elementary Schools to Possibly Expand — Arlington Public Schools named two schools that could be expanded as a “plan B” if the proposal to put a new school on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School campus doesn’t go through. If the new school cannot be constructed, APS has suggested expanding Randolph Elementary School and Barcroft Elementary School. The County Board commissioned a working group last month to look into the possibility of building a new school on the Thomas Jefferson campus. [InsideNova]
Voter Registration Deadline — Today is the deadline to register to vote, both in person and absentee, in the special election next Tuesday, August 19. Voter registration can be done online. [Arlington County]
Free Tacos at California Tortilla — California Tortilla is giving away free tacos today to celebrate being voted readers’ favorite Mexican in Washingtonian magazine’s “Best of Washington 2014” issue. Arlington’s three locations, as well as all locations nationwide, will offer one free taco per customer all day.
The “Space of Her Own” art-based mentoring program will partner with two Arlington elementary schools for the 2014-2015 school year to give fifth grade girls an open ear and a creative outlet.
SOHO will provide Hoffman-Boston Elementary and Randolph Elementary students from low-income homes with mentors, who will guide them through art projects like creating a mosaic mirror and refurbishing a desk, Mentoring Coordinator Ashley Snyder told ARLnow.com today. The mentors will then team up with the girls and their families to personalize their at-home study areas with the finished projects during a “renovation weekend” at the end of the yearlong program.
“That’s a very powerful tool we think, giving each girl a space where she can feel confident and comfortable,” Snyder said. “And we’ve empowered her to create that space for herself.”
SOHO’s Arlington program will operate like its predecessors in Alexandria, Snyder said. Twelve girls, selected from Hoffman-Boston Elementary and Randolph Elementary, will have a “life-skills session” at the beginning of each meeting to discuss problems they encounter in school or at home. Afterward, they will journal about the session with their mentor before eating dinner and beginning an art project.
During some meetings, girls may also engage in community service with projects like clearing litter from the Potomac River or making no-sew blankets for the homeless.
During SOHO’s past years in Alexandria, mentors tasked the girls with creating a “dream board” collage of their future aspirations. The dream board is important for the students because it forces them to “map out their future in a way they haven’t before,” Snyder said.
The goal of the program, which started in Alexandria in 2003 and gained 501(c)3 status in 2010, is not only to foster girls’ creativity and confidence, but also to pair them with someone that they can build a lasting bond with, Snyder said.
“This program gives them the opportunity to have a mentor to help them with their goals,” Snyder said. “It’s building a really strong foundation for these girls and their mentors.”
SOHO hopes to recruit 12 female volunteer mentors, and will also recruit male and female volunteers to give art demonstrations and help set up before the meetings, Snyder said. Meetings will be at Hoffman-Boston Elementary every Thursday, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Informational sessions for potential volunteers will be held Thursday, July 24 and Thursday, August 14 at 5:30 p.m. at Hoffman-Boston Elementary. SOHO asks that attendees register in advance.
Photos courtesy Ashley Snyder
Death Sentence Recommended for Torrez — A federal jury on Thursday recommended that former Marine Jorge Torrez be put to death for the 2009 murder of Navy Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. A judge is scheduled to formally sentence Torrez on May 30. [Washington Post]
Van Doren Picks Up Endorsements — Arlington School Board candidate Nancy Van Doren announced over the weekend that she has picked up the endorsements of the Arlington Education Association PAC, which represents Arlington teachers, and of current School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.
Republicans Pick Congressional Nominee — Marine Corps veteran and former congressional staffer Micah Edmund has captured the GOP nomination for congress in the race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Edmund won 51 percent of the vote in a party convention held Saturday at Bishop O’Connell High School. [InsideNoVa]
Autistic Boy Punished at Randolph Elementary — The mother of a 7-year-old Randolph Elementary student is crying foul after a teacher moved his desk as punishment for bad behavior. The boy has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and his mom is trying to get him transferred to a different elementary school. [WUSA 9]
Wardian Wins Big Sur Marathon — Six days after his impressive Boston Marathon performance, elite distance runner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian has won the Big Sur International Marathon with a time of 2:27:45. Wardian’s time set a record for the 40-and-over age group in the Big Sur marathon and he also set a record for best combined time in the Boston and Big Sur marathons, with 4:51:17. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Problems for Potomac Yard Metro — The location of a future Potomac Yard Metro station is in doubt after the National Park Service raised concerns about the station’s visibility from the George Washington Parkway. Changes to the station’s location are expected to cost more than $50 million and delay the project by three years. [WAMU]
Route 50 Courthouse Interchange Update — Several long-term closures associated with the Route 50 Courthouse interchange project have been lifted. Among the routes that have reopened by VDOT are: 10th Street to eastbound Route 50, and Courthouse Road and N. Fairfax Drive to westbound Route 50.