Date Set for Yellow Line Work — “Yellow Line Tunnel and Bridge Rehab, beginning Sept. 10, 2022: This work will require a shutdown between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations, closing the Yellow Line crossing of the Potomac River for seven to eight months.” [WMATA]
No APS Boundary Change Drama — “With Arlington’s student enrollment now projected to be considerably lower in coming years than once anticipated, School Board members this week are likely to call off a planned elementary-school-redistricting process that had been slated for the fall. ‘Small boundary adjustments’ may still be needed, but a countywide look at elementary-school-boundary switcheroos would be off the table.” [Sun Gazette]
Concern for Missing Arlington Woman — “The Arlington County Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance locating a missing Arlington woman. Lindsey… 38, was last seen on February 28 in the 4100 block of Fairfax Drive. Police and family are concerned for her health and welfare. [ACPD]
It’s Wednesday — Rain in the morning and early afternoon. High of 48 and low of 38. Sunrise at 6:30 am and sunset at 6:11 pm. [Weather.gov]
The Arlington School Board will vote on boundary changes tomorrow (Thursday) targeting two overcapacity schools in South Arlington.
This fall, Superintendent Francisco Durán launched a “limited” fall 2021 boundary process to relieve overcrowding at Abingdon Elementary School, Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School.
The newest version of the plan postpones changes to Abingdon, where enrollment is currently manageable for next year, according to Durán. Students would have been moved from the school in Fairlington to Charles R. Drew Elementary School in nearby Green Valley, echoing a similar proposal in 2018 that became controversial.
Gunston and Wakefield are still over-capacity, so some planning units will be moved to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Washington-Liberty High School.
“The proposed changes are manageable among the identified schools that we’ve talked about and we’ve engaged with. The planning units included in this process should not need to be moved again in the next few years, and this limited process provides some additional to understand enrollment fluctuations we’re seeing caused by the pandemic, and any shifts in projects we may see,” he said during the Nov. 16 School Board meeting.
APS also proposes to change which neighborhood schools feed into Arlington’s Spanish-immersion schools, following previous boundary changes and the relocation of one immersion program, Key School.
“We want to make sure access to immersion schools is convenient to families and students nearest the location,” Durán said.
Relief for Gunston and Wakefield
The boundary changes for Gunston and Jefferson will reassign 140 third- to fifth-graders while the Wakefield and W-L changes will reassign 162 students.
The changes will impact the Penrose, Foxcroft Heights, Arlington View and Columbia Heights neighborhoods.
The proposal to move Wakefield students to W-L comes as the latter is about to unveil a new wing of the school — the former Education Center administrative offices — with room for up to 600 students.
APS says the extra space at the Education Center will provide enrollment relief for Wakefield and cut down on W-L’s waitlist for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
“The number of applicants to the IB Lottery and number on the waitlist has increased each year over the last four years,” according to the 2021 boundary process website.
APS may consider targeted transfers from Wakefield to Yorktown if forthcoming enrollment projections for 2022-23 suggest unmanageable levels at Wakefield — even with the boundary adjustment.
The new high school boundaries would reverse moves made in 2016 to address overcrowding at W-L, but those who were moved away from W-L in 2017 will not be moved back.
In 2017, APS redirected Boulevard Manor kids from W-L to Yorktown High School. Students say when they graduate from Kenmore Middle School and head to Yorktown, they lose many of their middle school friends. To avoid that, they apply for W-L’s IB program or for a neighborhood transfer.
“I can make new friends, but the point is that it’s completely reasonable that I want to go to high school with my friends — just like all the middle schoolers in Arlington,” said Kenmore eighth-grader Xavier Anderson, during the Nov. 16 meeting.
Local candidates offered differing takes on police oversight and demographic disparities in public schools during a candidate forum last night.
The Arlington branch of the NAACP hosted Monday’s forum, featuring the four Arlington County Board candidates — incumbent and Democrat Takis Karantonis and independents Mike Cantwell, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo — as well as School Board candidates Mary Kadera and former Congressional candidate Major Mike Webb.
More than 100 people were in virtual attendance.
The forum addressed two dozen issues facing the county and its communities of color. County Board topics ranged from support for minority-owned businesses to accountability for developers that neighbors say violate construction terms. Schools topics spanned the unequal distribution of Parent-Teacher Association resources to improving outcomes for students of color.
But the sharpest distinctions among County Board candidates came out during a discussion of the powers endowed to the new police oversight board.
This summer, the Arlington County Board established a Community Oversight Board (COB) with subpoena power and authorized the hiring of an Independent Policing Auditor able to investigate community complaints about police officers. The decision, came amid sharp disagreements over whether board had too much, or too little, authority.
“The overall perception from many of the members, [and] people I know who are not NAACP members… is that the board is aligned with interests that are not the ones that the community is telling you we want,” said moderator Wilma Jones Kilgo.
When asked if the COB aligns with their visions, only Karantonis said it did.
“It aligned mostly with [my] vision,” Karantonis said. “We now have to nominate the board, make it work, fund it and staff it.”
Cantwell said the board shouldn’t have subpoena power or investigatory power.
“Elections are where you should hold people accountable,” he said. “You should hold the current County Board, who appoints the County Manager and the police chief, accountable, and vote them out.”
But Theo and Clement said the Community Oversight Board isn’t independent enough.
“I’m glad we got the subpoena power, but it fails utterly with not being able to properly investigate and not being able to follow through with discipline,” Theo said. “It needs to be independent. Right now, it’s still under the County Manager, that isn’t enough.”
Clement, who supports giving the board subpoena power, nonetheless called it “a toothless tiger.”
“In situations where the oversight board exercises concurrent jurisdiction with the police department in a personnel matter, I believe COB should have binding authority, as the likelihood of the police chief honoring a recommendation of the COB that goes against his own decision is nil,” she said.
She also expressed concern that the County Manager, who hires the police chief, also hires the independent auditor.
Later, Karantonis said the County Board has put some pressure on the state to change the law that gives Arlington the power to hire a police auditor.
“It is a flaw that the County Manager formally chooses this person,” he said. “We have asked the General Assembly to change that and fix other flaws in this [provision].”
Meanwhile, Jones pressed Clement and Theo on other issues they raised related to policing and the criminal justice system.
Tower of Light Returns — From Dave Statter: “The Tower of Light at the Pentagon began tonight & continues through September 12 in honor of those killed when the United States was attacked 20 years ago Saturday.” [Twitter, Fox 5]
Road Closures for Memorial 5K — “The Arlington Police, Fire, Sheriff and ECC Memorial 9/11 Memorial 5k race will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 11, 2021. The Arlington County Police Department will close the following roadways around the Pentagon and in Crystal City to accommodate the event.” [ACPD]
Some Boundary Adjustments Coming — “Arlington’s public-school leadership has so much on its return-to-classrooms plate already – ya think? – that a massive boundary-adjustment process is just not in the cards for now. School officials are planning for ‘only those adjustments that must be done,’ said Lisa Stengle, the school system’s executive director of planning and evaluation, during an Aug. 26 briefing to School Board members.” [Sun Gazette]
Feds Add Rep from Arlington to Metro Board — Updated at 9 a.m. — A new alternate Metro Board member from Arlington was sworn in yesterday. Assistant County Manager & Director of Communications and Public Engagement Bryna Helfer is a federal appointee to the Board. Helfer previously worked for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. [U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Twitter]
Biz Booming for Local Tattoo Shop — “As more Americans resolve to change their lives after a tumultuous year and a half, many are choosing to get tattoos: D.C.-area tattoo-shop owners are reporting a boom in business, even though the pandemic all but shuttered other industries. Inside Lady Octopus, in Arlington, Virginia, artist Gilda Acosta shades in a touch of light green on the leaves of a primrose. Client Meg Little, of Alexandria, booked this appointment seven months ago.” [WTOP]
Higher Ed Booms With Amazon Arrival — “With the arrival of Amazon and a proliferation of other tech companies in fields ranging from big data to cybersecurity, candidates like Bhatia are in high demand. The problem is, there aren’t enough to go around. Universities are trying to change that, and in the process, sparking an academic explosion in and around Arlington… Virginia Tech, Mason and the University of Maryland are preparing to open gleaming new facilities here.” [Arlington Magazine]
An attempt by Arlington Public Schools to balance enrollment without resorting to a boundary change did not go as planned.
This year, the school system encouraged families to apply to transfer from Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington, which is projected to be at 119% capacity this fall, to Drew Elementary School in Green Valley, which is projected to be at 76% capacity. The schools are about two miles apart.
The application window closed two weeks ago, and so far, only 12 students are taking the “targeted transfer” option, which includes transportation to the new school, APS project planner Sarah Johnson said during last week’s School Board meeting.
Families can still apply and the school will admit families on a case-by-case basis, administrators said. If the option does not yield more transfers, APS will likely begin discussions this fall to modify the two schools’ boundaries, said Gladis Bourdouane, another project planner with APS.
These changes would come on the heels of the smaller-scale boundary process the board approved in December and ahead of a projected, larger-scale boundary process planned for as early as 2022.
In 2018, another boundary process proved controversial after parents at Abingdon and Henry elementary schools objected to proposed boundaries that would have sent some students at both schools to Drew.
Responding to the lack of interest in transferring this time around, School Board members urged administrators to review the voluntary transfer effort. They were divided, however, over whether this option could work in the future.
“I find this targeted transfer thing wholly inadequate,” Board Member Reid Goldstein said, adding that as far as he is concerned, it has “fallen on its face.”
Goldstein said he was “extremely distressed” when the boundary process last fall did not include Abingdon, despite being overcrowded for years. Instead, he said, the boundary changes last fall mostly adjusted neighborhood schools in the northern half of the county and did not take into account overcrowded schools in South Arlington.
“Twelve students are not going to go a long way toward balancing the huge overcapacity at Abingdon and the under-capacity at Drew,” he said. “I’m going to ask you, [Superintendent Francisco] Durán, to try and put some more aggressive measures in place to try and beef up only 12 students who are going from our most overcrowded school to our least crowded school, and not wait another two years before they get relief.”
As of now, administrators have no plans to keep advertising the transfer option, said Lisa Stengle, the executive director of planning and evaluation for APS.
The school system’s marketing efforts included setting up a website and releasing School Talk messages, while the two schools published information on their websites and mentioned the option during back-to-school events, Johnson said.
“We did make significant outreaches to the Abingdon families,” she said.
Despite the closed application window, APS is still encouraging families to apply. Whether students are accepted will depend on school capacity, staffing and finances, and not every family who applied thus far was eligible, she said.
(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) New elementary school boundary changes released last week would relocate more than thousand students and increase the number who can walk to school, according to Arlington Public Schools.
The changes are part of the third boundary proposal that APS released before Thanksgiving. Community members responded to the proposal with mixed reviews in a hearing on Tuesday night, ahead of a planned School Board vote on Thursday.
Incorporating adjustments from the School Board, the new plan reassigns a projected 1,040 students to other neighborhood schools — mostly in the northern half of the county — and adds a projected 650 more walkers, school officials said during the public hearing.
Some students will be eligible to stay at their current school. Tuckahoe students in one planning unit who are reassigned to McKinley can stay until the next boundary process, and all rising fifth-graders at McKinley, Ashlawn, Arlington Science Focus School (ASFS) and Taylor can finish elementary school where they are today, school officials said.
The boundary process, which was initiated to mitigate enrollment increases projected in 2018, was revised twice this fall to lessen the stress on families burdened by the pandemic. The first version would have relocated 1,400 students. In response to parents’ concerns, ranging from further academic disruption to a loss of community, the second version slashed the number moving to 800.
This third version adds some planning units to the new Key school and places all schools within their attendance zones, school officials said.
One big change included moving to Key some units in eastern Lyon Village currently at ASFS, and moving to ASFS some units in western Lyon Village scheduled for Taylor. One parent, Claire Kelly, told the School Board she appreciated the hard work APS put in, and supported the decision to rezone these families for ASFS.
“We can see ASFS from our front door,” she said. “Like many working families, we rely on extended day before- and after-school care, which means we are on the hook for transportation and we don’t benefit from buses. Asking parents, some of whom don’t have a car, to Uber or take a bus with their children twice a day, when we live across the street from ASFS, was really unthinkable.”
APS predicts that ASFS will be at be at 121% capacity, including Pre-K classes, and will need portable classrooms to accommodate the students, which worries other parents. Key could be at 103% capacity in 2023, and might need portables as well.
“This plan puts ASFS significantly overcapacity, when others are significantly under-capacity,” Dima Hakura said. “It is imperative that you reduce the number eligible to attend ASFS and that it operates at capacity.”
To make room for new students at Key, some current students have been rezoned for Taylor.
Anjy Cramer said during the hearing that APS listens to the loudest, most empowered, voices.
“APS led the desegregation of public schools in Virginia, and yet today, our schools are functionally segregated — again,” she said. “These limited changes will only benefit families in Courthouse and Rosslyn.”
Critics of the changes also said the new plan creates overcrowding while APS is seeing a 4% drop in enrollment during the pandemic.
Gillian Burgess said a vote for the changes would put Key, McKinley and Reed at overcapacity. When another, more comprehensive boundary process begins in two years, these schools will either not be included — making it harder to redraw the boundaries — or kids will be forced to move twice.
“Both are bad choices,” she said. “Alternatively, you can just stop. Next fall, one school will be overcapacity, but taking into account some children will remain remote, and ASFS saw a 14% drop in enrollment this year, those projections are unlikely to be accurate.”
The latest Arlington Public Schools elementary boundary process earned some public plaudits, a relative rarity, after the number of students who would have been assigned to new schools was cut nearly in half.
The superintendent’s recommended plan makes enough changes to accommodate the new Reed and Key elementary schools, which open in the fall of 2021. Twenty-two planning units, or about 800 students, will be reassigned among Arlington Science Focus School, the Key school site, and Ashlawn, McKinley, Taylor and Tuckahoe schools. The move increases the number of students who can walk to school by 600.
Originally, some 1,400 students were to have been reassigned.
The larger set of boundary changes was first proposed in early October. A public hearing on the superintendent’s new proposal will be held on Dec. 1, before the board considers adopting it on Dec. 3.
A separate countywide boundary process is slated for as soon as 2022.
The new plan presented on Thursday night was drafted after APS staff received numerous messages from parents who requested that the process avoid impacting children’s friendships and relationships with teachers, which have been harder to develop and maintain during distance learning.
Staff told the School Board that Superintendent Francisco Durán’s new boundary recommendations make minimal adjustments and preserve flexibility for a broader process to come.
Many parents who spoke at the meeting commended the school system for the changes.
“It’s clear stakeholders listened to community feedback, took it on board and made real effort to try to align boundaries to minimize disruption and better utilize space in available schools,” said Katie Geder
For another parent, Mike Flood, the recommendations checked all the boxes: limited disruptions, balanced enrollment, stability and proximity to neighborhood schools.
June Locker said parents in her planning unit were surveyed and a majority believe that APS has addressed their concerns, she said.
School Board members were divided on how to alleviate the crowding not addressed in the new plan, and with enrollment declining, questioned how severe overcrowding will be next fall.
Board member Reid Goldstein said the plan leaves too many planning units alone.
“While we’re doing virtual [learning] is the perfect time to make the necessary capacity changes,” he said.
Both Goldstein and board vice-chair Barbara Kanninen said they were nervous the countywide boundary process would not happen in 2022 as planned, and asked Durán for a commitment to one.
Durán said the goal in providing additional flexibility is to have a broader, countywide boundary process.
“There is that commitment to do that,” he said.
Board member Tannia Talento disagreed with the calls for bolder boundary changes, saying the system needs flexibility in the event that capacity needs are lower than projected in the next few years.
Board member Nancy Van Doren predicted that enrollment will bounce back because most of those who opted out this year are in prekindergarten and kindergarten, ages when it is easier to keep kids home.
“We may have more of a pop back, quickly, than we might be concerned about,” she said.
In February, the School Board approved an elementary school building swap to account for the new Reed School building in Westover, as well as the former home of the Key Spanish immersion program near Courthouse being converted to a neighborhood school to account for population growth in the area.
That process, and past school boundary change processes, have frequently been met by criticism from parents, in contrast to the encouragement from most speakers at Thursday’s meeting.
(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) About 1,400 elementary students would be reassigned to new school buildings next fall, according to a proposed change in boundaries that Arlington Public Schools released Monday evening.
The boundary proposal follows an elementary school building swap approved by the School Board in February, to account for the new Reed School building in Westover coming online and the former home of the Key Spanish immersion program near Courthouse being converted to a neighborhood school.
The proposal includes new neighborhood boundaries around Arlington Science Focus School.
The boundary changes are part of the school system’s effort to prepare for an estimated 30,000 students in 2021, including a surge in new students near the Courthouse neighborhood.
APS is looking to redraw the boundaries of most, if not all, of its 24 elementary schools in the near future to address a growing imbalance between where enrollment is increasing and where there is spare school capacity, while taking equity and walkability into consideration.
APS redrew boundaries for some elementary schools in 2018, and before that in 2015 and 2013 — all were, to some degree, contentious processes.
The School Board is scheduled to vote on the latest boundary proposal on Dec. 3.
The 1,400 students — 13% of K-5 neighborhood school students — would be reassigned from Ashlawn, ASFS, Glebe, Long Branch, McKinley, Taylor and Tuckahoe schools, APS said.
“Our long-term priority is to address capacity needs informed by a plan that puts equity and instruction front and center, and that ensures we consider the overall needs of our students and school division rather than focus on an individual school, department or topic,” Superintendent Francisco Durán said in a statement.
He added that the district must make this change “as we move from being a system of schools to a school system.”
APS had planned to address boundaries for most elementary schools in 2020, but the pandemic disrupted education and strained families to the point that Durán decided to keep students together as much as possible.
The new boundary change approach keeps more students at their current schools and adds 800 students to school walk zones, reducing the need for busing at a time when only 11 students can ride each bus at a time. One downside: there will be an increased need for portable classroom trailers.
APS says it will continue to plan for increased school capacity where enrollment is spiking, particularly at the western end of Columbia Pike, with the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Improvement Plan.
Virtual community meetings on the boundary proposal will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) and next Wednesday, Oct. 14. Community members can provide input this fall through a community questionnaire, available through Oct. 20.
APS staff will present the superintendent’s final proposal to the School Board on Nov. 5, and will hold a public hearing on Dec. 1, before adoption on Dec. 3.
More from an APS press release, below.
A lawsuit has been filed against Arlington Public Schools’ controversial elementary school swap.
The swap, which was approved by a 4-1 School Board vote in February, would move Key Elementary students and staff to the current Arlington Traditional School, Arlington Traditional students and staff to the current McKinley Elementary, and McKinley students and staff to a new school being built in Westover.
The suit was filed in March by Louisa Castillo, an Arlington resident and Key Elementary parent, against the School Board. It claims the School Board violated a Virginia law “when it adopted a proposal to relocate thousands of Arlington County elementary school students… rather than engaging in the necessary process to enact a school boundary change.”
Specifically, the suit alleges that the School Board failed to take into account six factors — financial efficiency, student proximity, educational stability, student alignment, school demographics, and and boundary contiguity — when considering the changes.
The swap was done before a planned boundary change process, which is set to start this fall. Like past boundary processes, it is likely to be contentious.
School Board members who voted for the swap said it was a tough decision but agreed with APS staff that it was the option that would impact the smallest number of APS students, at a time when the school system continues to build and expand schools to keep up with rising enrollment growth.
Steven Krieger, who finished a close third in the recent Democratic School Board endorsement caucus, emailed supporters last night to encourage them to support the lawsuit with donations.
Krieger, who was critical of both APS decisionmaking and the caucus process, said the suit will give the School Board “another opportunity to correct a wrong decision.”
“This decision won’t solve our capacity issues, and moving forward with this proposal without a proper review of its impacts is intellectually dishonest,” he wrote. “Despite the current pandemic and corresponding budgetary issues, APS is still planning to spend about $3 million to move these three schools.”
“Louisa Castillo, a Key parent, hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the School Board. Logistically, her son may not be able to move with the program to ATS and does not know what school she will be zoned for because the school moves decision was separate from the boundary decisions,” Krieger continued. “Many other families at Key, ATS, and McKinley are living with similar levels of uncertainty about where their children will attend school when we return to in-person instruction.”
“Instead of doing the right thing and analyzing the school moves in conjunction with the boundary process, the School Board hired a large law firm to fight Louisa’s lawsuit,” wrote Krieger.
So far the GoFundMe campaign has raised just over $300 of a $20,000 goal.
County Scaling Down Capital Improvement Plan — “As the County continues to experience the economic impacts of COVID-19, County Manager Mark Schwartz intends to present the Arlington County Board with a short-term proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) rather than the traditional 10-year plan.” [Arlington County]
Metro May Require Masks — “Metro riders may not see service fully restored until spring 2021, but the WMATA is now making plans to gradually get trains and buses running more frequently. News4’s Adam Tuss has learned that officials are considering requiring all riders to wear face masks on buses and trains and applying social distancing measures.” [NBC 4]
Real Estate Market Falters — “Home sales across the region took a tumble in April as the first impacts of COVID-19 were felt… The District of Columbia (down 31 percent) and Arlington (down 25 percent) were hardest hit, but all jurisdictions except the small city of Fairfax posted double-digit declines in closed sales.” [InsideNova]
APS Asks for Public Feedback on Data — “Beginning May 12, APS is inviting community members to review the data that will be used in the Fall 2020 Elementary School Boundary Process. This review of data by Planning Unit — the geographic building blocks APS uses to establish school attendance zones — will help ensure that the final data reflects what you know about your neighborhood.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Swim Season Cancelled — “With the logistics to pull off the 2020 Northern Virginia Swimming League season proving too numerous and complicated in a COVID-19 world, officials have pulled the plug on summer competition.” [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy of Peter Golkin
Students and staff at three North Arlington elementary schools will be moving to new buildings, starting in the fall of 2021.
The School Board voted 4-1 Thursday night to approve the controversial school swap, despite vocal opposition from parents, including a petition against it that received more than 2,000 signatures. As with last night’s school calendar vote, Reid Goldstein was again the lone vote against the proposal.
Under the superintendent’s recommended school moves, the following will happen:
- “Majority of McKinley students move with principal and staff to Reed site”
- “All of Arlington Traditional community can move to McKinley site”
- “All of Key Immersion community can move to ATS site”
- “Key site becomes a new neighborhood school”
Those against the moves expressed concerns about longer drives to school, breaking up school communities and making it more difficult for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to stay at their current schools.
“Taking away a Spanish-speaking families’ choice to send their children to [the Key Spanish immersion school] removes a primary life line for support and in many cases for survival,” said one parent. School administrators argued that moving the Key program to ATS actually puts it closer to more Spanish-speaking families.
“The numbers don’t even work,” said another upset parent. “You’re proposing to move 758 students from McKinley schools to 725 seats in the new Reed school. The numbers don’t add up.”
There were also speakers in favor of the moves, including a father whose young kids will soon be entering Arlington Public Schools. He argued that the moves make sense, despite some short-term pain for current parents, and are better than the alternatives presented by APS.
Administrators said about twice as many students would be assigned to new schools under boundary changes alone, compared to the adopted school swaps. That’s in part the result of population growth along the Orange Line corridor, near Key Elementary.
“Approximately 4,000+ or 38% of all neighborhood elementary students would be reassigned to a new school” without the school moves, APS said.
Some School Board members were apologetic in voting yes on the proposal.
“I’m so sad that as we all come together to figure out how to handle our boundary issues we wound up having so much hurt over trying to figure out how to fill our new schools,” said Monique O’Grady.
“I am making the difficult decision that I believe is right for the whole county,” School Board Chair Tannia Talento said. “This is the best decision we can make at this time… ensuring that there is minimal impact on all schools.”
“I know this is hard and I’m sorry it’s not turning out as many of you would like,” Talento said.
There’s more hard work ahead for the School Board. Next up, the Board will tweak elementary school boundaries to balance enrollment at other schools, and will create new neighborhood attendance zones for some of the schools involved in the swap.
The full Arlington Public Schools press release about the decision is below, after the jump.