School Board member Barbara Kanninen, serving the first year of her term, proposed pausing what’s called the “1:1 Initiative” during the School Board’s budget deliberations last week. Her motion failed, 2-3, with Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez voting in favor.
The initiative has already provided second- and sixth-graders with iPads and freshmen with MacBook Airs. Next year, devices will again be provided to students in those grades.
“We have conducted a very large pilot project this year in terms of this initiative,” Kanninen said, estimating about 3,000 devices are now in the hands of students. “That is a very large and potentially very informative data set. I made this motion because I believe it is now time to evaluate how it’s working and ask some basic questions. Is it helping students learn? Is it helping teachers teach?”
The Board and Superintendent Patrick Murphy had extensive discussions the week leading up to their meeting about the initiative, and the majority, including Murphy, agreed that an evaluation can be completed while pushing forward with handing out devices.
“I have moved from thinking we needed to pause to believing we can do that evaluation and do that assessment at the same time as we continue forward,” Board member Nancy Van Doren said. “Many people have called me about the problems we’ve been having … When I suggest pausing the program, I was surprised people said ‘don’t pause, just do it better.'”
Many of the complaints around the devices have focused on teachers not being adequately trained to use the devices, preventing an optimal environment for the students. Murphy said many teachers have “emerged as leaders” in using the devices while other teachers are more hesitant.
“I will say, with any new initiative, there have been a variety of issues with the rollout,” Murphy told the School Board. “We need to continue to strengthen our training models. I think we’ll continue to focus on professional development, working with families so they understand and working with safety, so students aren’t spending an excessive amount of time in front of these devices.”
The 1:1 Initiative is budget neutral because it is funded by diverting money away from APS’ annual technology replacement funds. While Murphy and the School Board majority acknowledged hiccups with the rollout, Kanninen pushed for a more detailed look at what went wrong.
“One of the main reasons a pause would be necessary is we also need to ask, “are we implementing this model the right way?'” she said. “There are other models and ways we could be rolling this out. By taking a pause here, we then can work on developing curricula, designing professional development programs, developing our principles for use, clarifying our budget implications.”
School Board member Abby Raphael said many of the concerns expressed in the community have been alleviated by a more thorough explanation of the program.
“It’s all about personalizing learning, it’s not about the devices,” she said. “I agree that we can continue to roll this out and evaluate what we’re doing, because I really do think this is a very valuable tool in eliminating the achievement gap.”
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) The Arlington School Board has approved a proposed $555.9 million budget for the 2015-2016 school year, requesting $6.18 million more than County Manager Barbara Donnellan proposed in her budget.
The School Board’s approved cuts of $7.4 million from Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s budget, unveiled in February. Some of those savings have come from updated revenue figures, but others have come from slashing Murphy’s budget, including cuts to the Arlington Public Schools central office staff.
Other savings came from moving money around, funding replacement buses and new technology with one-time funds from last year’s closeout budget as opposed to ongoing funding.
“We have now shrunk by $6.2 million, and that’s been a lot of hard work,” School Board member Abby Raphael said at the decisive meeting last week. “Everyone was asked to really scrub their budgets and make changes, so we’re making some hard cuts and some hard choices … I think it is very reasonable, very responsible.”
The Arlington County Board will vote on its budget next week, and in the process it could either approve the School Board’s budget, or force APS to make further cuts. If the School Board is not granted the $6.2 million, the next cuts to make would be step increases for staff, eliminating early release from the four elementary schools who still have it. APS could also increase class size by one, which would cut 55 jobs.
If the County Board approves the Board’s adopted budget, all early release programs at Arlington elementary schools would be a thing of the past, paving the way for broader implementation of the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program.
The adopted budget would mean a cost-per-pupil of $18,558, APS’ lowest since FY 2012 and third-lowest since FY 2008. The Board and staff managed to reduce the cost from Murphy’s budget by $131, while adding new positions along the way.
“We’ve worked well together and stuck to our common values, which is what’s important,” School Board member Barbara Kanninen said. “The changes we’ve made, every one has been careful and deliberate with thought to the taxpayers dollars. When we made a new addition, it’s because we need it.”
Some of Murphy’s proposed cuts the School Board elected to restore, including the World Languages distance learning courses, and its six associated positions. The Board also added three facilities and operations positions to help with the ever-continuing school construction.
The Board also made community outreach a priority, adding a full-time family and community engagement coordinator and allocating $67,000 for “communications support” for the Board.
Arlington’s Population to Decline? — Contrary to the conventional wisdom that Arlington’s population will continue to rise over time, one University of Virginia forecast predicts that Arlington’s population will fall — from 229,302 people today to 197,065 by 2040 — as millenials grow up, have families and seek refuge from urban life and affordable single family homes in the exurbs. The forecast predicts a 56.8 percent increase in population for Loudoun County and a 141.4 percent increase in population for Stafford County. [Washingtonian]
DCA Name Disputes Continue –Many locals still cannot agree on what to call what Congress has named Ronald Reagan National Airport. Some people, particularly Democrats, prefer just to call it “National.” The name change happened 17 years ago. President Clinton didn’t veto the change, his press secretary recalls, in part because “in February 1998 we were rather occupied at the White House with a young lady named Monica.” [Washington Post]
Japanese Artist at DCA — As part of the National Cherry Blossom festival, local artist Yoshiko Oishi Weick will demonstrate the art of Japanese ink painting from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. today at Reagan National Airport’s B/C terminal.
Tenant At Last for National Gateway — The German discount grocer Lidl, which has its sights on the U.S. market, has purchased 217,500 square feet of office space in the National Gateway I building at 3500 S. Clark Street for $56.6 million. The office building, near Potomac Yard, has lacked an office tenant since it was built seven years ago. [Washington Business Journal]
Low-Key School Board Debate — The two candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board faced off at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey both said they would raise teacher salaries, but would not commit to specifics. They also both voiced support for additional art education. [InsideNova]
(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) While new apartments and condos make up the vast majority of new housing units in Arlington, most of the growth in Arlington’s booming public school population over the past decade has actually come from single family home neighborhoods, county and school officials said Wednesday night.
At a meeting of the Arlington Community Facilities Study Committee, staff from Arlington Public Schools and the county Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development reviewed the housing trends that have fueled explosive school growth over the last decade. Despite the constant influx of millennials into newly-constructed apartments and condos in the county’s Metro corridors, single-family homes remain the driver of APS capacity issues.
Currently, every 100 apartments in a building with an elevator produces only about 8 students, according to APS. For condo buildings it’s even lower — 3 students for every 100 units.
However, in an interview today, APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said that might not always be the case.
“That’s what really worries us,” he said. “The county is encouraging developers to build larger units, and in places like Brooklyn and Queens, families living in high-rises is the norm … Our very low [student] generation rates could really increase. If they do, we could be in real trouble.”
That growth hasn’t happened yet, although Chadwick said APS watches those numbers “very closely” so the district is not surprised if the trends shift. Until then, staff, committee members and observers from the community all agreed that the cause of growth among students in the county requires further study.
According to U.S. Census data gathered by Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, the average size of single-family households has increased by 0.3 people among homeowners since 2000, and 0.6 people among home renters.
Several representatives of civic associations at last night’s meeting said they want the county to use data from single-family house teardowns that get rebuilt as substantially larger homes, as well as large additions. A parent in the Nottingham Elementary Parent Teacher Association said APS should adjust their projections based on the recent uptick in average household size among single-family homes.
“What’s happening in my neighborhood is there’s a huge stock of houses that were built in the ’50s are being knocked down, they’re being replaced by new large homes, all bought by younger families with lots of school kids,” the parent said. “We really need to dig into growth, not looking backwards at what did happen… You cannot assume that looking backwards is going to tell us the future.”
County-wide, 100 single-family homes generate about 42 students, according to APS data. But, Chadwick said, some neighborhoods are as high as 60 or 70.
A staffer at the meeting, when asked about predictive models based on house tear-downs and additions, said the data Arlington has is unreliable for school projections.
“The [demolition] permitting system was set up to collect fees, it wasn’t set up to project students,” the staffer said. “Unfortunately there’s limitations to that data … we’ve assembled it and that’s something we’re looking into with a similar question: can it be predictive given the constraints that we have?”
In the the current school year, 55 percent of students come from single-family homes, 22 percent come from garden apartments, 10 percent come from high-rise apartments and 13 percent come from condominiums, townhouses and duplexes combined. Those proportions have held over the last years, despite overall county population growth concentrated in the Metro corridors.
While single-family detached homes make up most of the land in Arlington County, those homes only make up 26 percent of the housing stock.
School Board Candidates Sound Off — The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board, Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey, formally announced their candidacies last week, making the case to fellow Democrats for why they should be on the board. The Democratic School Board caucuses will be held in May. [InsideNova]
Arlington Explains Salt Shortage — Updated at 1:15 p.m. — Arlington County officials are explaining last week’s road salt shortage. County officials say a 4,000 ton order for salt placed by the county on Jan. 19 was never filled, due to high demand for salt among eastern seaboard states that have been buried by heavy snowfall this winter. The county was expecting a 2,000 ton salt delivery from Pittsburgh Friday evening. An Arlington official explained the shortage but did not apologize for it, as earlier reported, according to a county spokeswoman. [WTOP]
100 Montaditos Files for Bankruptcy — The company that owns 100 Montaditos, the Spanish mini-sandwich restaurant in Rosslyn, has filed for bankruptcy. No word yet on whether the restaurant or its other chain locations, in Florida, will remain open. [Miami Herald]
Barbershop Owner Profiled — Jim Moore, the owner of Moore’s Barber Shop on Lee Highway in the High View Park neighborhood, is profiled in an article that also chronicles the shop’s 55 year history. [Arlington Connection]
Snow Chance Today — Arlington may get some snow, sleet and freezing rain this afternoon. The area is under a Winter Weather Advisory, although forecasters think areas north and west of Arlington are at more of a risk of wintry weather and slippery roads. [Weather.com]
Two Dems Running for School Board — The deadline for candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement for school board was last night and two candidates filed before the deadline: Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey. The Arlington County Democratic Committee will hold its school board caucus on May 14 and 16.
Opower Losing Money, Hiring — Courthouse-based Opower, a publicly-traded energy software company, reported its latest financial results yesterday. For 2014, the company reported $128.4 million in revenue, a 45 percent increase over 2013. Its operating loss was $40.8 million. The company is continuing its hiring spree, adding employees locally and at its offices in London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Singapore. [DC Inno, Yahoo Finance]
Armed Bank Robbery in Falls Church — A Wells Fargo bank in Falls Church was robbed yesterday by two armed men known as the “Black Hat Bandits.” The men are suspected of robbing seven other banks around the D.C. area. Arlington County police assisted Falls Church police in looking for the suspects immediately after the robbery. [Falls Church News-Press]
Old Map of Arlington — An 18th century map of what is now Arlington County shows mills along Four Mile Run and the “Road To The Falls,” known now as Glebe Road. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
New Gymnastics, Aquatics Fee Structure — In her FY 2016 budget, County Manager Barbara Donnellan is proposing a new fee structure for gymnastics and aquatics teams. The fees will recover “no more than 100 percent of direct costs,” and would be a savings of around 15 percent compared to the current fees. [Arlington County]
Tighter Security at Fort Myer — Some bicyclists are worried that tighter security measures put in place this week at Fort Myer will limit non-military personnel from accessing the base. Cyclists often use Fort Myer to travel safely between south Arlington and north Arlington without having to ride on Columbia Pike. Arlington County, meanwhile, has been working on some trail projects that would make north-to-south and south-to-north bike travel safer. [Greater Greater Washington]
Goldstein Announces School Board Run — Reid Goldstein has announced that he’s running for Arlington School Board. Goldstein, a “longtime Arlington schools, County and neighborhood advocate,” will seek the seat of the retiring Abby Raphael. “We must be honest and diligent stewards of our community’s money and trust as we work to preserve and improve the high quality of Arlington’s schools, even as enrollment increases,” Goldstein said in a press release.
National Airport Hits Passenger Record — Reagan National Airport set a new record for passenger traffic in 2014. Some 20.8 million passengers used Reagan last year, a 2 percent increase. With traffic decreasing at Dulles International, MWAA plans to share as much as $300 million in revenue from Reagan to Dulles over a 10 year span. [Washington Business Journal]
New Marine Corps Sergeant Major — Assuming they’re not deterred by the cold, the Marine Corps will hold a ceremony this morning at the Iwo Jima War Memorial, celebrating the appointment of Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green. Green will serve as the Corps’ 18th sergeant major, its highest enlisted rank. [Marine Corps Times]
Nick Anderson Leaving Arrowine — Former ARLnow.com “Beermonger” columnist Nick Anderson has announced that he is leaving Arrowine. Saturday will be his last day at the Lee Highway beer and wine store. [Arrowine]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
School Board Says No to Wilson School Historic Status — Any hope preservationists had of salvaging pieces of Rosslyn’s Wilson School are likely dashed. The Arlington School Board voted last night, during an abbreviated meeting, to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board’s proposal to give the Wilson School, built in 1910 at 1601 Wilson Blvd, historic protections. It has been renovated in the interim, and school officials contend the renovation diminishes its historic value. [InsideNova]
Cops Looking for Crime-Fighting Cabbie — Arlington police are trying to find a cab driver who helped them make an arrest in Pentagon City Tuesday night. An officer was trying to chase down a man suspected of stealing from a store in Pentagon City mall when the cab pulled up and the driver told the officer to hop in. The cab drove up to the suspect and the officer got out and made the arrest — but the driver left the scene before police could thank him and pay the fare. [WJLA]
Happy Hour Advertising Bill Passes — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow Virginia bars to list the names of drinks they’re offering when advertising happy hour specials. Current ABC laws prohibit ads that use language like “beer and wine specials” or “discounted margaritas.” Even under the new legislation, however, bars would still be prohibited from listing the actual prices of happy hour specials in their advertising. [WTOP]
Rollover Wreck on Washington Blvd — An SUV reportedly ran into two parked cars and then rolled over on Washington Blvd last night. [Twitter]
History of Glebe Road — Why is Glebe Road so named? The road, which dates back to the mid-18th century, is not, as one might think, named after a person. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Pedestrian Struck Near Eden Center — On Saturday around noon, a pedestrian was struck by an SUV in front of the Eden Center in Falls Church. The pedestrian became trapped under the SUV, prompting an Arlington County Fire Department technical rescue company to respond to the scene. [Twitter]
Power Outage at Pentagon City Mall — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City closed two hours early Saturday night due to a power outage inside the mall. Police assisted in the evacuation of the mall, which was largely orderly but resulted in traffic jams at the exit to the parking lot due to non-working parking gates. [MyFoxDC, WUSA9]
Board Support Unlikely for Wilson School — The Wilson School in Rosslyn, which was built in 1910 but underwent significant changes in the 1950s, is unlikely to receive support for a historic designation from the Arlington School Board. Preservationists have been lobbying to save the school, but School Board members have expressed skepticism about whether the school actually is historic in its present state and whether it would be practical to preserve it. A vote is expected on Feb. 17. [InsideNova]
In response the Arlington County Board’s decision to say “not now” to APS’ plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, the School Board delivered a joint statement last night, agreeing to work with the county to find creative solutions to fit the hundreds of new students coming to the county every year.
“We appreciate the County Board’s commitment to partnering with the School Board to provide a minimum of 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington not later than the start of school in September 2018, using a combination of interim and permanent solutions,” the School Board’s statement reads. “This commitment increases the variety of options available. The County Board has offered to provide technical support to identify and evaluate County buildings and private commercial spaces that might help meet our capacity needs on an interim basis.”
The School Board took turns reading from parts of the statement at its meeting. The five members said they will start another community engagement process of their own, including directing Superintendent Patrick Murphy to work with County Manager Barbara Donnellan on identifying county- and privately-owned sites that could accommodate school uses.
Murphy is also charged with, according to the School Board’s statement, outlining “a process and timeline for considering solutions that enable us to meet our deadline of providing a minimum of 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington by the start of school in September 2018.” That includes spending the approved $50.25 million bond funds, approved in November for the purpose of a more South Arlington elementary school seat.
Murphy has been directed to return before the School Board by April 30 with a status report on his conversations with the county and community engagement. The Board did not set a deadline for a complete recommendation or when it would make a decision.
The School Board also asked Murphy and APS facilities staff to “update APS feasibility studies of APS properties, as appropriate.” One of the County Board’s criticisms of the schools’ recommendations was a lack of study of the broader impact of a new school.
“The School Board is optimistic that more options will serve our community better,” the School Board statement reads. “We are moving forward in collaboration with the County Board and will work to build community consensus around capacity solutions. Together with Dr. Murphy, APS staff, the community, and the County Board and its staff, we are confident that we will maintain our focus on student achievement as we meet our capacity challenges.”
School Board Chair James Lander said “blood, sweat and tears” went into the School Board’s statement, and the five-member panel met at a retreat on Saturday to finalize the language. It is meant to come from “one board and one voice,” he said. (more…)
A County Board vote Tuesday night threatens to turn elementary schools south of Route 50 into virtual trailer parks — as Arlington Public Schools administrators scramble to come up with ideas, studies and public support for new school construction.
The County Board voted 4-1 to say “not now,” to the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on county-owned land next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Libby Garvey, a former School Board chair, cast the dissenting vote.
The School Board previously vowed to provide 725 new elementary school seats in South Arlington by September 2018, but last night’s decision has put that goal in doubt. Those voting against the school said APS didn’t make enough of a case to the community that the TJ site was the best option.
“I don’t think the School Board organized the data and presented the data in a way that everyone in South Arlington can say ‘I see what they’re doing… this is the best they’re going to be able to do,'” County Board Chair Mary Hynes, also a former School Board hair, told ARLnow.com today. “The broader community does not understand that.”
Garvey, however, blasted the decision.
“South Arlington needs a new elementary school and they need it now,” she told ARLnow.com.
According to a press release, the School Board can re-submit their request to the county to build next to TJ, but only after it provides a full analysis of sites and potential additions in South Arlington, including “feasible non-construction strategies.” The analysis must include, Mary Hynes said, “tradeoffs with parking, green space and traffic implications.”
The School Board must also have “as close to final estimate” of what funding it needs from the county on top of the $50.25 million approved in the 2014 bond referendum. Initial estimates peg an underground parking deck at $7 million, money not included in the bond question.
The School Board has already approved an alternative plan for South Arlington elementary schools: building additions onto Randolph and Barcroft elementary schools. But School Board member Abby Raphael told ARLnow.com that it’s far from certain that the Board will move forward with those plans.
“In light of what the County Board’s decision is, the School Board is going to have to consider what our next steps are,” Raphael said.
If no permanent seats are built by 2018, elementary schools south of Route 50 will be over capacity by 894 students, according to APS projections. If no alternative, temporary solutions are found, that would mean 45 more relocatable classrooms would have to be installed at South Arlington elementary schools, more than double the 38 currently in use.
In APS’ presentation for the County Board last night, schools staff laid out the realities of South Arlington’s enrollment growth. Based on current projections, the area needs either two new elementary schools, one new school and three additions on existing schools, or six additions by 2024. APS projects that 1,384 additional students will need elementary school seats in South Arlington in the next 10 years.
“I thought the schools did a spectacular job in their presentation and clearly addressed the concerns that had been expressed,” by opponents, Garvey said today. “I was extremely disappointed… We’re building a new school in North Arlington and now we’re telling South Arlington ‘oh well, never mind.'”
Raphael said the County Board’s decision was “frustrating” and felt the School Board had done more than enough to inform the community and justify its decision.
“I’m not sure that the County Board and maybe some of the community have a full appreciation of the work we’ve been doing since 2011,” Raphael said. “There’s extensive documentation on all the feasibility studies we’ve done. I don’t know what else the county is expecting us to do for that.”
School Boundary ‘Refinements’ Approved, Parents Peeved — The Arlington School Board on Thursday approved a series of small “refinements” to elementary school boundaries in North Arlington by a 3-1 vote. The changes will impact a few dozen current McKinley and Tuckahoe elementary students over the next two school years, transferring those students to other nearby schools. Several parents whose kids are affected have contacted ARLnow.com, calling the process and subsequent decision “short sighted,” “pointless” and “a sham.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Big, Tire-Eating Pothole on Wilson Blvd — An Arlington resident says he got a flat tire after driving over a monster pothole in the left-hand lane of westbound Wilson Blvd at N. Patrick Henry Drive. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services responded to the man’s tweet, saying repair crews have been notified. [Twitter]
ACPD Assists with Bust of Diner Owner — The owner of a popular Baltimore diner has been arrested in a cocaine sting that Arlington County police helped to arrange. Prosecutors say Anthony Vasiliades, owner of the Sip & Bite diner, which was featured on the TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” tried to buy $50,000 worth of cocaine from an undercover Arlington detective. [Baltimore Sun]
Casting Call for Arlington Cyclists — More than 50 people have signed up for a casting call for a promotional campaign that will highlight “everyday Arlington citizens who use a bicycle as means of commuting and/or recreation.” The casting call for the county-sponsored campaign, which will feature six short documentary films, ends today. [Modacity, Twitter]
County Planning Effort Launches — The Arlington County and School Boards have jointly appointed a 24-member “Facilities Study Committee” that is tasked with building “a consensus framework regarding the community’s future funding and facility needs.” The launch of the committee comes as Arlington Public Schools faces push back from residents as it tries to find county-owned land on which to build badly-needed new schools. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Brendan
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The working group charged by the county to help decide the fate of the green space next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School says it was unable reach a final consensus.
Arlington Public Schools is eyeing land surrounding the middle school as the site for a new $50 million, 725-seat elementary school for south Arlington. Those funds were adopted by the School Board as part of the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan last June, and approved as part of the schools bond referendum by Arlington voters in November.
The 20-member Thomas Jefferson Working Group was formed by the Arlington County Board last year, after APS announced the middle school’s surrounding area was its “preferred” location for a new elementary school. The group has met 10 times over the last five months but still couldn’t reach an agreement on how best to proceed.
“While the group could not reach full consensus within tight constraints, we do agree on strong guidelines under which a new school, if approved, could be fitted into this important site without harming TJ Park or the many community activities there,” working group chair Carrie Johnson said in a press release.
An advocacy group, Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park, formed soon after APS announced it was considering the TJ site, and the Friends group has been expressing vocal opposition to the placement of a new school on existing parkland at the 27-acre site.
“Building adjacent to the middle school ignores the county’s future recreation needs by permanently converting parkland and valuable open space to non-park and recreation uses,” Friends group President Jim Presswood said in a December press release. “We agree that Arlington needs more seats for students, but we should not have to choose between schools and parks.”
The group now leaves the decision of whether to build on the site up to the County Board. If the Board elects not to build on the site, the elementary school seats the school could have provided to South Arlington would come from additions at Barcroft and Randolph Elementary Schools, an alternative plan the School Board has already approved but is more expensive than building a new school.
Johnson will present the working group’s recommendations to the County Board at its Saturday meeting, and the Board is expected to respond during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27. During its deliberations, the working group engaged the community with open meetings, surveys and involving local civic associations in the discussion.
Any plan to build a school at the site needs County Board approval because part of the land is owned by the county, not Arlington Public Schools.
The complete working group report is available online. The group found that it’s feasible to build an elementary school site to the west of the existing middle school and it would have a relatively minor impact on current recreational uses. However, the group says building on the site removes it from consideration for future parkland — for which it’s currently slated — and it would pre-empt the comprehensive study the County Board is launching this year of all county- and school-owned properties for future use.
The Arlington County Board’s chief priority for 2015 will be a new, broad plan to solve the county’s school capacity and land shortage problems.
New Board Chair Mary Hynes announced yesterday that the County Board and School Board are launching a joint study to assess Arlington’s facility needs and solutions.
The County Board’s annual New Year’s Day meeting has traditionally been used by the incoming County Board chair to announce the new year’s political agenda, and this year was no different. Hynes said “we must develop systemic strategies to meet our array of community facility needs rather than address any particular need or any particular site in isolation,” and introduced the county’s plan for the study.
In the coming year, Hynes said, each board will select members of Arlington’s residential and business community to be on the committee for the “Arlington Community Facilities Study — a Plan for the Future.” The committee will determine criteria and needs for facilities planning and to develop a framework for the county’s 2016 Capital Improvements Plan.
“I believe we are always better when we listen to each other, seek to understand the breadth of the challenges we are facing and work together to adjust our course,” Hynes said. “Our framework will acknowledge that, as our population grows, change is unavoidable; that challenges loom as we work to reinvigorate our economy; and that the reality of our physical space limits some possible solution sets.”
Hynes said the committee will address the following questions:
- For the foreseeable future, what are our facility needs for schools, fire stations, recreation, and transportation vehicle and other storage?
- How do we pay for these needs?
- What criteria should we use to help us decide where to locate them?
- In the context of changing demographics and economics, what opportunities and challenges are there in our aging affordable and workforce multi-family housing stock?
- What do changes in the Federal government presence and the residential and private commercial marketplace mean for County revenues?
Hynes and County Board member John Vihstadt — elected twice in 2014 while presenting himself as an alternative to longtime Board members Hynes, Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada — will serve as the Board’s liaisons to the study committee. The School Board will also have two liaisons to the committee.
“People talk about tension or discord on the Board, but I don’t look at it that way,” Vihstadt said in his year-opening remarks. “We have our disagreements, heated at times. We may have different perspectives, and it is right to air those perspectives … But I’d like to think that, as a collective body, we are working better together and being more productive than our federal and state counterparts across the river and down Interstate 95.”
The Board and School Board will appoint members of the committee later this month, according to a county press release. The committee will answer the above questions, Hynes said, with the understanding that “significant new funding is unlikely” and that “no new land is being created.”
Full details of the facilities study and plan will be made available shortly, Hynes said.
Affordable housing will again be a key priority for the County Board. Along with the facilities study, Hynes highlighted affordable housing and “business vibrancy” as her other two priorities, and new Vice Chair Walter Tejada said affordable housing will be his top priority once again.
“I will redouble my unwavering commitment to supporting affordable housing and maintaining Arlington’s diversity in these challenging times,” Tejada said. “This is a necessary effort to help secure our future as a successful community.”
Tejada, Libby Garvey, Vihstadt and Fisette all noted that securing a new transit plan for Columbia Pike and the Route 1 corridor in Crystal City is a must in the near future.
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board voted last night to move the H-B Woodlawn program from its home on Vacation Lane to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.
The Wilson School, which preservationists launched a petition to save last year, will be torn down and replaced with an estimated 775-seat facility house H-B Woodlawn, the Stratford program, and other, smaller programs that had been housed in the Stratford building.
The demolition and new facility will cost an estimated $80.2 million and be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
As part of the School Board’s goal of building 1,300 new middle school seats by 2019, it will be constructing a $29.2 million renovation of the Stratford building and convert it into a neighborhood middle school with 1,000-seat capacity.
Arlington Public Schools staff will also determine which sites to recommend spending up to $16.6 million on renovating or building additions for 300 more middle school seats. Where those seats will be, according to APS staff, will be decided “no later than the next” Capital Improvement Plan process.
The plan the School Board approved is similar to the one endorsed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month. They elected the plan over building a neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site and building a middle school at the Reed/Westover building.
School Board Chair James Lander and Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said they opposed building a neighborhood school in Rosslyn two months ago.
“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez said at the time. Lander said the site is “not one that would be my first option.”
School Board member Abby Raphael, who said at that same meeting that she would be open to seeing a neighborhood school at the Wilson site, voted against the motion.
“I myself believe that a 1,300-seat, or even 1,000-seat, neighborhood school at the Wilson School was the best option for us,” Raphael said. “We have students in that area, it is a growing neighborhood, many students would have been able to walk to that school, it would have been one project, and it would have been cost effective.”
During a community meeting on the middle school capacity options in October, parents expressed support for using the Wilson School as a facility.
“I don’t know what should go in there, but I think that [the Wilson School] needs to be considered,” Ponappa Paleyanda, who lives near the site in the North Highlands neighborhood, said at the time. “It’s urban, and we live in an urban setting. It would give kids the ability to be put in settings they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in school.”
The motion carried 3-1, with Lander, Violand-Sanchez and Nancy Van Doren voting in support.
“I think the vast majority of this, we have a consensus on, and I think we should all take a breath and realize we’ve done really, really well here,” Van Doren said, emphasizing the lengthy community process and a final decision that appears to bring “1,300 secondary school seats, within budget, on time, by 2019.”
The School Board’s decision will be disappointing to preservationists, who have argued that the 104-year-old Wilson School is historic in nature and should be preserved.