James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.
On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.
Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.
Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.
The full letter is below.
Dear Mr. Severn:
I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).
The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.
The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.
We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community. Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period. However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event. We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.
Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.
James Lander, Chair
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.
The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.
This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.
“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”
Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.
While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.
“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”
Severn said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.
“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”
Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.
Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.
“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”
Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.
(Updated at 1:00 p.m.) The spring sports season is over for all but the elite teams, like Washington-Lee boys soccer and Yorktown boys lacrosse, which are still hoping to raise more banners in their gyms.
The Generals’ boys soccer team is in the midst of one of its best seasons ever, sporting an undefeated 16-0 record with three ties. It took home the Liberty Conference 6 championship last week and continues its march to the state tournament at home against Stonewall Jackson tomorrow night.
Washington-Lee girls soccer (10-3) also took home the Conference 6 title, defeating Yorktown before losing in the opening round of Region 6A North action, 4-2, to Centreville last night. The Patriots soccer squads both lost just three times this season, and their years wrapped up in similarly heartbreaking fashion: both squads lost in double-overtime last night in the opening round of the regional tournament, the boys to Centreville and the girls to Robinson Secondary School.
Wakefield’s boys soccer team is still playing after turning around what could have been a disappointing season. The Warriors were the runner-ups in the Conference 13 tournament after losing six straight games before the tournament began. They play Leesburg’s Tuscarora in Region 5A North action tomorrow night to try to keep their improbable postseason alive.
Yorktown’s boys lacrosse team, after losing to state powerhouse Langley in the conference champion, secured a huge win last night in the opening round of the regional tournament, blowing by Oakton 12-5. They’ll face South County at a neutral field, Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, tonight at 7:00 p.m. The Patriots girls lacrosse team — also a Conference 6 runner-up — saw its season come to an end last night at the hands of Robinson, 22-12.
Washington-Lee baseball, despite going just 11-11 in the regular season, managed to make a deep run in its conference tournament and qualify for regional play. Arlington’s only remaining baseball team in action will hope to keep its season alive at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow in Chantilly.
Wakefield’s softball team is also still alive after a 10-9 season and a 15-1 loss to eventual conference champion Marshall in the Conference 13 semifinals. Their season continues on the road in regional tournament play tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. against Massaponax.
After the jump, the records and results for Wakefield, W-L and Yorktown’s major varsity team sports. (more…)
Currently, the county collects fees from all leagues that use county fields — for youth, it’s $8 per resident and $20 for non-residents. It’s $100 per team per season for adults — but there is no dedicated funding stream for the improvement of baseball and softball fields. The fees have, to this point, been used to fund the replacement of soccer and other rectangle fields with artificial turf.
If approved, the Field Fund would be segregated, and fees collected from using diamond fields would be reserved just for those fields. In addition, staff is asking the Board to dedicate $85,000 in seed funding for the field improvements.
Funds will be assigned to projects following recommendations from Parks and Recreation staff and the county’s Sports Commission. The County Board is expected to vote on the plan this weekend.
‘Luxury’ Apartment Rent Falling in Arlington — Rents for Class A apartments in Arlington and Alexandria fell 4.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013, “a clear sign that the supply of new apartments is catching up to demand.” The average Class A rent in Arlington and Alexandria is $1,973 a month. [UrbanTurf]
Kroger Buys Harris Teeter — Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger has purchased Harris Teeter. So far, the company is not planning any significant changes for Harris Teeter stores, which will retain their branding and management. [Washington Post]
Still No Tenants for Rosslyn Skyscraper — The new 35-story office building at 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn — now the D.C. area’s tallest building other than the Washington Monument — is set to open in October. However, the building, which was built “on spec” by owner Monday Properties, could open without a single tenant. [WJLA]
All-American Honors for DJO Softball Stars — Bishop O’Connell softball stars (and recent graduates) Tori Finucane and Jillian Ferraro have been chosen as All-Americans by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Flash Flood Watch Today — A Flash Flood Watch is in effect today for Arlington and the rest of the region. Rain showers and thunderstorms are expected to dump 1-3 inches of rain on the area through this evening. [National Weather Service]
APS Receives ‘SRTS’ Grant — Arlington Public Schools has received a $67,600 state grant that will be used to fund a new “Safe Routes to School” coordinator position. The SRTS program will help “enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school.” It also seeks to make walking and bicycling to school safer while reducing traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution near schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
DJO Pitcher Honored by Gatorade — Bishop O’Connell High School softball pitcher Tori Finucane has been named the 2012-2013 Gatorade Virginia Softball Player of the Year. Finucane is now eligible to be named the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Martin Humm
‘Virginia Room’ Reopens With New Name — The former Virginia Room at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) has reopened following renovations. Meanwhile, the room has been renamed the “Center for Local History.” [Arlington Public Library]
Phoenix Bikes Plans Move — The nonprofit Phoenix bike shop has been raising money for a planned move. The new location will be larger than the current classroom-sized shop. Like the current shop, it will be located on public property — at S. Walter Reed Drive and Four Mile Run Drive, next to the W&OD Trail. [Arlington Mercury]
Haute Fabrics Now Open Near Ballston — Marshall, Va.-based fabric shop Haute Fabrics has opened a second location, near Ballston. The new location is located at 730 N. Glebe Road and offers two floors worth of fabrics. [My Notting Hill]
Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone
Thousands of Armed Protesters Expected on July 4 — Pro-gun activists are planning an open carry protest march from Arlington National Cemetery, across the Memorial Bridge and into D.C. The protest, which is being organized on Facebook, is to take place on July 4. Participants are encouraged to march with loaded rifles slung across their backs. More than 2,000 have indicated their intention to participate in the “non-violent event.” [Huffington Post]
DJO Softball Finishes 24-1 — The elite Bishop O’Connell softball team has finished the regular season with a 24-1 record after consecutive victories against Yorktown and Paul VI. The nationally-ranked Knights will now advance to the playoffs. [Sun Gazette]
Too-Tall Parking Meters Being Replaced — A manufacturer of Arlington’s multi-space parking meters is replacing 16 meters that don’t meet current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements because they’re too tall. The replacements are being done at no cost to the county. [Arlington Mercury]
New Bus Shelters Vandalized in Arlandria — There has been a wave of vandalism directed toward new glass-paned bus shelters in the Arlandria section of Alexandria, adjacent to Arlington. [The Arlandrian]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
The new Washington-Lee High School softball field will open for its first game on Monday.
The $1 million field, under construction since last summer, is located on the corner of Washington Blvd and N. Quincy Street. It was built after parents of softball players threatened to file a Title IX complaint if the school system did not upgrade the no-frills field they were using at the time to include the same amenities of the boys baseball field.
The new softball field has “seating for 280 people, lighting, a press box and a removable fence so that the space can serve multiple uses,” according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.
Arlington Outpaced in Home Sale Prices — Falls Church, Alexandria, Fairfax County and D.C. have all outpaced Arlington when it comes to growth in home sale prices. Prices in Arlington increased only 1.1 percent year over year in March, and year-to-date prices are down 1 percent, according to data from RealEstate Business Intelligence. The median home sale price in Arlington hit $515,000 in March. [Washington Post]
O’Connell Defeats Stone Bridge — The highly-ranked Bishop O’Connell softball team defeated their closest competitors in Virginia, Stone Bridge, by a score of 3-0 last night. The Knights improved to 10-0, and remain ranked No. 2 in the region. The team will face No. 9 McLean and No. 1 Northern (ranked second in the country; DJO is ranked third) later this month. [Washington Post]
Kanninen Wants More Responsiveness — Barbara Kanninen says she’s running for Arlington School Board because she wants the board to be more responsive to the concerns of parents. “There’s a lot of parent dissatisfaction,” she said in an interview with the Sun Gazette. Of her opponent, incumbent James Lander, she said “it truly isn’t about him, specifically.” [Sun Gazette]
Remembering WEAM — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark takes a trip down Memory Lane and remembers the Arlington-based AM radio station WEAM. The station used to play pop and rock hits from a studio located “above Minor Hill, off Williamsburg Blvd.” [Falls Church News-Press]
The Bishop O’Connell softball team went 27-1 last year, capturing their 17th Virginia Independent Schools state title in 19 years and their 9th straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship.
The team seemingly has no place to go but down. In fact, in preseason rankings by MaxPreps.com, there are only two teams in the country with higher expectations. The Knights ranked #3 in the national rankings, just below Northern (Owings, Md.) and Amador Valley (Pleasonton, Calif.).
All-American pitcher Tori Finucane and catcher Jillian Ferraro, who have committed to Missouri and UNC respectively, are back for their senior seasons. Finucane was named to the MaxPreps 2013 preseason All-American first team, and Ferraro to the All-American second team.
Finucane had a improbable 0.09 ERA and 332 strikeouts last year, and Ferraro chalked up a .542 batting average, 55 RBIs and 8 home runs.
According to a school-issued news release: “Other mainstays in this year’s lineup promise to be Hayley Metcalf (.488 batting average), Amanda Ehlers (.438) and Mary Burk (.310) with newcomers Olivia Giaquinto and Jenna Spille expected to contribute right away.”
Spring softball practices are now in full swing and O’Connell will open its season at home at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 in a game against St. Mary’s Ryken. The rest of the school’s softball schedule can be found on the Bishop O’Connell website.
Photo via Bishop O’Connell
Parents Speak Out Against New Bus Policy — Some parents spoke out against Arlington Public Schools’ new voucher-based school bus policy at last night’s School Board meeting. The policy will result in some students no longer being able to ride the bus to school. School Board member Abby Raphael said the changes are necessary: “Our school system is growing,” she said. “We have to adapt and make changes. It’s very expensive to add a bus and a bus driver.” [Sun Gazette]
APAH Asks For School Supply Donations — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is seeking donations of school supplies. APAH will fill backbacks with the supplies and give them to about 250 disadvantaged students ahead of the first day of school. [Arlington Mercury]
W-L Softball Field Approved — The Arlington School Board formally approved a new softball field at Washington-Lee High School at its meeting last night. The softball field will cost about $1.3 million. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Gamble
W-L Softball Field Approved — The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved use permits for a new softball field at Washington-Lee High School. The $1 million field will include lighting, grandstands, and a press box.
Comcast Doubling Internet Speeds — Arlington is one of the areas where Comcast is increasing its internet speeds this week. The company says it’s doubling the internet speeds of Arlington customers who currently have the Blast 25 Mbps or the Extreme 50 Mbps internet service, at no additional cost. “This is the seventh time since 2002 that Comcast has increased speeds for its customers,” Comcast spokeswoman Alisha Martin said.
Encore’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’ Reviewed — The Encore Stage and Studio production of “The Pirates of Penzance” — currently playing at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater at 125 S. Old Glebe Road — is “two hours of solid entertainment for all ages,” according to a newspaper review. [Sun Gazette]
Members of the Nauck community gathered last night (Wednesday) for a softball game featuring radio personalities from WPGC (95.5 FM).
The game — between the WPGC “Naturals” softball team and a team of local residents — was part of the radio station’s “Knocking Violence Out the Park” campaign. The Naturals have previously faced off against teams of police officers and residents in various parts of D.C. and Maryland as part of the campaign.
There was a police presence at last night’s game, which was held at Drew Model Elementary School; a member of the Arlington County Police Department’s gang unit played on the Nauck community team.
Former candidate for County Board Terron Sims, who helped WPGC organize the event, said the game was all about bringing the community together in a fun way.
“This has been great,” he told ARLnow.com. “Everyone came together, we were able to get the permits we needed at the last minute for the field, the station came out, we were able to get the vendors to come out, the community’s out here… having a good time. ”
“The message is… about unifying the community in all our actions, whether it’s taking care of our kids, or crime prevention, or anything of that nature,” Sims continued. “It takes the community as a whole to move forward in a positive manner.”
In addition to the game itself, the event featured food vendors, kids activities, and a voter registration drive.
The Arlington School Board approved the $1 million softball field project at its Nov. 15, 2011 meeting. According to a project timeline published earlier this year, construction on the new field is expected to begin as soon as next month, and should wrap up by late winter or early spring 2013.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed that the new field is expected to be ready by the next softball season. The $1 million cost will be split between the school system and Arlington County, he said.
The new field will be built at the corner of Washington Boulevard and N. Quincy Street, on the Washington-Lee High School campus, next to the school’s football field. Currently, both the W-L softball and baseball team play on county-owned land at Quincy Park, across Washington Boulevard from the campus. Last summer parents of W-L softball players waged a campaign for better girls softball facilities, threatening to file a Title IX complaint if the school system did not upgrade the field, the bleachers and other amenities to the standards of the boys baseball field.
The new softball field will include a natural grass playing field, a 192-square-foot press box, 230 grandstand seats, dugouts, bullpens, a batting cage, a practice field, a scoreboard, and focused “dark sky” lighting.
“This proposed project [will] improve the existing combined softball and practice field at the Washington Lee High School which was part of the original design for the school,” according to a project overview document. “Growing APS and County needs and requirements have caused the need to consider improving this portion of the original school design.”
In a memo, school staff said the new field will benefit both the school and the community.
If a new field is built at W-L, the school will have a truly dedicated softball field similar to Wakefield and Yorktown, W-L will have increased options for sports activities on the new field for Physical Education and both APS and the County will have increased use on the Quincy field and add diamond sports as well as other PRCR programs to the W-L field. APS staff has met with County PRCR staff about shared community use and programming for the proposed WL field. The results of these discussions resulted in a 50:50 Schools/County shared use agreement for the W-L field that provides W-L priority use for softball play. In order for W-L itself to have the greatest use possible for this new field, it is expected that a new field would have a removable fence like the boys baseball field has so that the outfield can be utilized to its greatest extent after the softball season is over both for APS and County activities.