A 61% majority of Arlington Public Schools teachers prefer to continue distance teaching or telework, according to a survey recently conducted by APS.
Almost 4,300 employees, or 63% of APS staff, completed the survey. Teachers and assistants had the highest participation rates, 87% and 86% respectively, and while teachers had a stronger preference for distance learning over in-person teaching, assistants were split 50-50.
Those results were compiled and presented to the Arlington School Board by Superintendent Francisco Durán during the school board meeting on Thursday night.
Administrators say the information will be used to match teaching and learning preferences as the school system slowly brings back students, prioritizing students with disabilities and younger students who struggle more often with distance learning. Overall, 55% of all APS staff prefer telework to in-person work due to ongoing concerns of contracting the coronavirus.
During the meeting, Arlington School Board Vice Chair Barbara Kanninen asked Durán what will be done with the results, as there will potentially be more in-person students than staff to teach them.
“It continues to be that teacher preferences are not a match to family preferences,” Kanninen said. “More families are wanting to return to hybrid than there are teachers. What happens with that mismatch?”
Durán said staff in the human resources department, as well as supervisors and principals, will be talking to those who prefer not to return, but do not qualify for accommodations that would keep them fully remote.
“We’ll be working with those staff around what are their needs to make sure they feel safe,” Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Staff Dan Redding said.
Durán told board members that the figures in the presentation will not correspond to the final number of staff inside school buildings as APS continues to reopen.
Among other employee categories, those in food service, transportation and maintenance said they would prefer to report for work in-person.
Surveys were also sent out to select families who could be coming back this November, and those surveys were extended through Friday due to the APS internet outage on Wednesday. The school system will rely on this information to map out bus routes, since there is not much available room on reduced-capacity buses, Durán said.
The Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington teachers, was not available to comment.
Western Smoke Causing Hazy Skies — “The local National Weather Service office pointed out today in its technical discussion that the smoke is caught in the jet stream and moving overhead around 20,000 to 25,000 feet high. Smoke from the historic fires out West now covers much of the country, and it is expected to continue to be an issue in the days ahead.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Board Approves Road Project — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 12 approved a contract worth up to $805,000 for improvements to the intersection of 18th Street North with North Glebe Road and North Wakefield Street, aimed at providing a better walking and biking experience for children and others headed to Glebe Elementary School.” [InsideNova. Arlington County]
Ret. Deputy Seeking Answer to 9/11 Mystery — “Nineteen years after the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon, a retired Arlington Sheriff’s deputy still doesn’t know if the badly injured man he pulled from the burning building survived. He doesn’t know his family or even his name — and Art Castellano still cries about it whenever something reminds him of that day. Now, WUSA9 is trying to help reunite the two men.” [WUSA 9]
Teacher Seeking Desk Donations — “Students across Northern Virginia are turning homes into classrooms, so Arlington art teacher Jeff Wilson decided to rally the community to help. Wilson posted a request online for people to donate their old desks to help students who are learning from home.” [WJLA]
Local Business Legend Dies — “Russell A. Hitt, who helped transform the family business into one of the nation’s largest and most successful general contracting firms, died Sunday at his Falls Church residence. The 85-year-old Arlington native is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joan; four children and 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, many of whom now work at Hitt Contracting Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]
No, the FBI Didn’t Conduct a Raid in Rosslyn — “The FBI’s Washington field office says it did not raid the home of Arlington conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman, despite a Washington Post story that apparently took Burkman’s word that his home had been tossed by federal agents.” [Washingtonian, Daily Beast, Washington Post]
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) An increasingly vocal group of parents and teachers are calling on Arlington Public Schools to scrap plans to have most students return to classrooms twice per week.
The current APS “hybrid” plan calls for two cohorts of students each going into school two days per week, while wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. It also allows parents and students to opt for online-only learning.
Nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition that instead pushes for a “#OneAPS” model that starts all students with online-only classes in the fall and eventually allows a return to school for teachers and students who opt to do so.
“This will keep APS as one, united school system; protect the health and safety of students, teachers and staff; will not force teachers into options that might precipitate mass resignation; and support our most vulnerable learners,” says the petition, an excerpt of which is below.
Under the #OneAPS model:
- APS will create a robust online learning platform and provide training for how to teach virtually. (See this article and Driver #3.)
- All students begin school online and receive synchronous (live) online instruction four days a week (Tuesday through Friday) after Labor Day. The delayed start allows for intensive teacher training.
- Mondays remain planning days for teachers, intervention days for small groups and asynchronous (independent) learning days for the majority of students.
- When public health officials deem conditions safe to reopen, survey teachers to see who is comfortable returning to school for in-person support. NO teacher will be forced into this option.
- Depending on the number of teachers available for in-person support, calculate the number of seats available. Allot those seats to our most vulnerable students
Other groups of teachers and parents have been organizing in opposition to a return to classrooms in the fall, similarly citing health and safety concerns.
One group — which is”advocating for a full distance learning model until Arlington County sees 14 days with no COVID-19 cases” — is planning a protest of Thursday night’s School Board meeting.
A Twitter account called “APS 14 Days No New Cases,” meanwhile, has been posting what it says are pleas from school staff not to reopen Arlington schools in the fall.
“I worry about the mental health of our students when they know that they, their peers, their teachers, and their families are get infected, sick, and possibly dying.” #14daysnonewcases #RefuseToReturn #ReopeningAPS @APSVirginia @APSVaSchoolBd
— APS 14 Days No New Cases (@14_aps) July 10, 2020
“I just updated my life insurance policy in preparation to return to school in the fall. This is not my typical back to school shopping.” #refusetoreturn #14daysnonewcases #apsisawesome @APSVirginia @APSVaSchoolBd @ARLnowDOTcom @SuptDuran @ArlingtonVA
— APS 14 Days No New Cases (@14_aps) July 9, 2020
On the opposite side of the spectrum from the #OneAPS petition, a new group called “Arlington Parents for Education” has been formed to oppose the hybrid plan and push for five-day-per-week, in-person classes. The group argues that not returning to in-person schooling on a full-time basis disproportionately hurts low-income and single-parent households, and carries “economic and educational performance” risks.
A recent unscientific poll conducted by ARLnow found that a plurality of respondents — just below 40% — support the APS hybrid plan, with the rest nearly split between those favoring five-day-per-week classes and online-only classes.
(The “APS 14 Days” account, mention above, criticized ARLnow for conducting the poll. “Shame on you for farming the reopening crisis for clicks,” the anonymous account tweeted.)
A recent Arlington Public Schools survey found that only 7% of school staff were comfortable, with no reservations, about returning to school on a normal schedule, while 39% were “not comfortable at all” and 54% were either “comfortable with concerns” or “somewhat comfortable.”
The top concern of APS staff, according to the survey, is “public health regulations not being followed.”
Among other major D.C. area school systems, Montgomery County public schools are expected to start the school year fully online, while Fairfax County public schools are planning a hybrid model but facing teacher pushback.
Monday afternoon, after the initial publication of this article, the Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington teachers, issued a statement calling for remote learning to start the school year.
The Arlington Education Association Executive Board believes re-opening Arlington Public Schools this fall puts students, educators, and staff, at an exponential risk of COVID-19 that can lead to illnesses and death. We believe, this fall, all learning should continue online from home. This is the only way to keep all educators and students safe and healthy.
According to the recommended guidelines from the CDC and plans chosen by Arlington Public Schools the plans will not protect the health and safety of all students and staff. While the plans sound good, they and have not been proven safe and there are too many unknowns.
AEA further urges APS to look at professional development for all educators, to provide a consistent platform for virtual teaching and learning. Professional development is needed immediately, and instructional assistants must be included as it will be their responsibility to reinforce lessons and skills taught by teachers.
APS families have until next Monday, July 20 to select either the hybrid option or the distance learning-only option for the return to school on Aug. 31.
‘BLM’ on Fairlington Bridge Restored — Residents of the Fairlington area used ties to restore a Black Lives Matters message on the bridge over I-395 over the weekend. The letters “BLM” had previously been placed on the bridge’s fence but later removed by an unknown party. Also this weekend, below the BLM letters someone scrawled “Trump 2020,” but that was later covered and “Black Lives Matter” written over it in chalk. [Twitter]
ACPD Details De-Escalation Training — “In response to community questions, ACPD has created this fact sheet highlighting how we train officers to de-escalate incidents and safely resolve situations.” [Twitter]
Update to Jim Pebley Obit — Per an email from former county treasurer Frank O’Leary: “You will be pleased to hear that, due to the actions of former commanders of our County’s namesake ship, it appears that Commander Pebley’s ashes will be spread at sea by the USS ARLINGTON. This is a singular honor and reflects the high respect the Navy feels for Jim. Nothing less than he deserves. There is an old adage, ‘The Navy takes care of its own.’ Perhaps, the same can be said of Arlington.”
Candidates on the Arts — “Arlington County voters will go to the polls on July 7 to determine who will fill the County Board seat of the late Erik Gutshall. In order to help voters understand each candidate’s stand on the importance of arts and culture in the County, Embracing Arlington Arts sent out a questionnaire for the three candidates to complete covering several issues pertaining to the arts in Arlington.” [Press Release, Embracing Arlington Arts]
TTT Now Serving Unlimited Weekend Brunch — “There’s a new all-you-can eat brunch in town. TTT in Clarendon, which stands for Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, has joined its Street Guys Hospitality brethren, including beloved Ambar, in offering unlimited eats on weekend mornings.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Reminder: Metro Stations Back Open — “Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.” [ARLnow]
Nearby: Fairfax Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]
A Wakefield High School teacher has been honored by a national organization for her role in promoting news literacy among her social studies students.
Every year since 2016, the nonprofit News Literacy Project (NLP) has selected one journalist and one student for their role in promoting news literacy and understanding. This year, for the first time, the organization has selected an educator — Patricia Hunt — as well.
“Patricia has set the gold standard as the first recipient of our educator of the year award,” said Alan Miller, NLP founder and CEO. “She’s… developed engaging activities to enhance her students’ ability to learn and apply news literacy skills, and her passion for improving the well-being of her students is contagious and inspiring. We are so proud to give her this award and spotlight her as a champion for news literacy education.”
Hunt said in a video that her goal as a social studies teacher is to help prepare her students to verify their sources and become informed voters.
“I started teaching in 1993,” Hunt said. “There were no cell phones, no internet. And today, the amount of information students have at their fingertips is quite daunting. Students struggle with being able to discern what is credible and what is entertainment or an ad. My goal as a social studies teacher is to get students to be skeptical of what has been laid down as the truth.”
Hunt said students leave her classroom questioning each other, questioning her, and able to engage with the news in a meaningful way.
“Preparing my students to be voters is why I’m there,” Hunt said.
Hunts efforts were also featured in an NPR article about combating fake news in the classroom.
“My goal as an educator is to give students the tools that they need to become lifelong learners,” Hunt said in a statement. “My hope would be for them to continue listening to the news, to continue checking their news feed against other news feeds, to stop and pause before sharing.”
Photo via YouTube
Small Biz Grant Application Now Open — “The Arlington Small Business Emergency GRANT (Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term) Program, designed to provide immediate financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is now open for applications.” [Arlington County]
Why Your Pizza Is Not Going Ham — The national meat shortage has led Domino’s Pizza to cut down on the availability of some toppings, including in Arlington. “Due to the current uncertainty in the market for meats, we are limiting the amount of ham we are delivering to our stores,” the company told one local resident. [@craigcolgan/Twitter]
Kids Don Costumes in Support of Masks — “Kids roaming my neighborhood dressed as a hotdog and a bun, with a placard: ‘DON’T BE A WEENIE, WEAR A MASK.’ Lots of people in the D.C. area I’ve observed this week going in and out of stores, playing basketball and mingling on the National Mall are not masking up.” [@meekwire/Twitter]
Police Investigate Robbery in Rosslyn — “Two suspects entered a business and began selecting merchandise. An employee of the business recognized one of the suspects and confronted him as he attempted to exit the business in possession of merchandise that had not been paid for. The suspect shoved the victim, causing her to fall, and both suspects fled in a vehicle driven by a third subject prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]
Teachers Endorse Diaz-Torres — “The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee (AEA-PAC) recently announced its endorsement of Cristina Diaz-Torres, a teacher and education policy specialist, in the Arlington Public School Board Democratic Caucus.” [Press Release]
Police Looking for W&OD Trail Creeper — “City of Falls Church Police received a report about a man following a woman in a suspicious manner on Monday, May 4, at about 3:10 p.m. He followed the woman on the W&OD trail then continued to follow her into a neighborhood. The woman was not harmed.” [City of Falls Church]
Hope for Arlington Summer Camps — ” As summer is approaching, we know many families are anxiously awaiting information on Summer Camp 2020. While we hope to operate summer camp this year, the ultimate decision will be based on our ability to operate safely within national and state guidelines.” [Dept. of Parks and Recreation]
County Board Primary Cancelled — “The Democratic Primary for County Board, originally scheduled for June 9, 2020 and subsequently delayed until June 23, 2020, will not be held… Accordingly, Libby T. Garvey is the Democratic nominee for County Board in the General Election to be held on November 3, 2020.” [Arlington County]
Call for More Coronavirus Transparency in Va. — “Several Virginia legislators are calling for the release of information regarding specific long-term care facilities, saying the public has a right to know how many residents and staff have tested positive or died at each location… ‘In a situation like this, transparency is very important,’ said Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th District, of Arlington.” [NBC 4]
GGW, Blue Virginia Endorse Takis — “This week, a select group of Arlington Democratic party members will choose a nominee for the county board seat held by Erik Gutshall, who tragically died of brain cancer in April… We recommend eligible party insiders select Takis Karantonis as their first choice and then Nicole Merlene or Chanda Choun as second and/or third choices in the ranked-choice ballot.” [Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia]
Parade for McKinley Teacher — “Arlington County students and their parents held a drive-by parade to honor their third-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. Almost a dozen cars drove by the home of Amanda Herr, honking their horns and holding signs” [Patch]
Dutch Foundry Working on New Carillon Bells — “It took more than a week for the big bronze bell to cool. Over that time, a glowing crucible full of molten alloy was transformed into a 7,595-pound behemoth nearly six feet in diameter that next year will sing out across Arlington. The big Netherlands Carillon is getting bigger.” [Washington Post]
Bayou Bakery Has Provided Thousands of Free Meals — “Since the beginning of March, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington has been feeding Arlington County kids and their families for free. Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery enlisted Real Food for Kids to partner with him to serve free, plant-based meals 5 days a week.” [WJLA]
Social Distancing Decline in Arlington? — “On April 20 in Arlington County, Va., nearly half of cellphones that SafeGraph provided data for were staying at home. Over the next couple days in that suburb of Washington, D.C., the number declined to one-third — as low as it was during the middle of March. It has since increased but is still down from its peak.” [NPR]
Masks Now Required at Costco — “Costco has announced new guidelines for its stores and is requiring all customers — age 3 and older — to wear masks before entering stores beginning Monday, May 4.” [MSN]
MU Launches Program for New Economy — “Marymount has launched ‘Upskilling for the What’s Next Economy,’ a unique and comprehensive range of modular graduate certificates and degree qualifications that will provide students with technical, management, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and get them back to work.” [Marymount University]
Most of Foundation’s COVID Funds Exhausted — “Sixty-five Arlington nonprofits have received a total of nearly $800,000 in emergency response support from the Arlington Community Foundation COVID-19 Prompt Response Fund. On Giving Tuesday Now and throughout the week of May 4, the Community Foundation hopes Arlington residents and businesses will help replenish the fund to meet continuing urgent, crisis-related needs.” [Press Release]
Progress on I-66 Sound Walls — “Glad to see @VaDOT making progress on the installation of new noise barrier walls along I-66E in Arlington and Falls Church.” [@HopeforVirginia/Twitter]
School Board Candidates Worry About Accessibility — “Arlington Public Schools needs to do a better job of designing facilities that provide improved accessibility, candidates for School Board say, and should go well beyond consideration of physical disabilities in its design process.” [InsideNova]
Sims Scores Second Sitting Senator’s Support — “U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Cory Booker have announced their official endorsements for Arlington Virginia School Board candidate Terron Sims II.” [Press Release]
Campbell Elementary Teacher Featured on TV — “An Arlington County teacher is coming up with creative ways to keep her students engaged during distance learning. News4’s Leon Harris introduces Nicole Croce.” [NBC 4]
Board Members Remember Erik Gutshall — “The four remaining Arlington County Board members – Chair Libby Garvey, Christian Dorsey, Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti – spent several minutes each remembering former Vice Chair Erik Gutshall, who died on Thursday after an 8-week battle with brain cancer.” [Blue Virginia]
School Board Discusses Distance Learning — “There’s both positive and negative news as Arlington Public Schools has pivoted to distance-learning in an effort to squeeze in some education during the COVID-19 lockdown. The good news? At least things have not gone as badly as in neighboring Fairfax County, where that school system’s attempt to re-start instruction collapsed in a technical debacle and ensuing recriminations last week. The bad news? Arlington school officials acknowledge that their efforts are not going to be able to replicate what could be accomplished during more normal time.” [InsideNova]
APS Names Teacher, Principal of the Year — Arlington Career Center Culinary Arts Teacher Chef Renee Randolph is the 2020 Arlington Public Schools Teacher of the Year, while Campbell Elementary’s Maureen Nesselrode has been named Principal of the Year.
Beyer Blasts Trump Immigration Order — “From the beginning Trump has flailed about seeking someone to blame for his own failure… Immigration has nearly stopped and the US has far more cases than any other country. This is just xenophobic scapegoating.” [Twitter]
Legality of County Grant Criteria Questioned — “The Arlington County government announced that it will hand out grants to small businesses based on ‘considerations’ such as whether the business is ‘women and/or minority-owned.’ That ‘consideration’ of race and sex is unconstitutional.” [CNSNews]
VRE Train Strikes Man in D.C. Near Long Bridge — “A man was hit and killed by a train in Southwest D.C. Monday morning and train traffic in the area has been stopped. The man was struck in the 1300 block of Maryland Avenue SW, the D.C. fire department said on Twitter at 7:30 a.m.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) While Arlington Public Schools works to get meals to students who aren’t in school, a group of teachers have gone the extra mile and are working to get grocery gift cards to families on the free and reduced lunch list.
A GoFundMe campaign for Arlington students in need is approaching $170,000 raised, with an $830,000 goal. The hope is to provide a $100 grocery gift card into the hands of every APS student that qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
“Arlington Public Schools has approximately 8,300 kids who receive free or reduced lunches,” the fundraiser’s founders wrote on GoFundMe. “These food-insecure families may face challenges feeding their families. This problem may be compounded if employers start cutting hours or closing their doors and wage workers end up without work.”
The fundraising push has made headlines nationally, on Good Morning America, CNN and People Magazine, as the teachers try to spread the word about Arlington families in need during the coronavirus outbreak.
The fundraiser is not associated with APS — which is currently distributing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches — but the teachers said they’re working with others in their schools and with the PTAs.
“They know the kids in need in their schools and are getting the cards to those families,” teacher Aaron Schuetz said, who started the fundraiser with fellow Yorktown High School science teachers Laurie Vena and Deborah Waldron. “Sometimes [delivery is] by mail, or pickup, etc.”
State Change Affecting Arlington Teacher Union — “Arlington School Board members could be gearing up to battle the state government’s powerful Virginia Retirement System (VRS) on a new ruling that impacts the way benefits are calculated for presidents of the Arlington Education Association.” [InsideNova]
Planetarium Closing Next Year — “In September, the David M. Brown Planetarium will once again offer three shows a day for students, plus weekend and select weekday programs for the general public. In January, it will temporarily shut down for more than a year while an adjacent construction project converts the Arlington Education Center into classroom space.” [Arlington Magazine]
Arlington Startup Serving D.C. Schools — “The administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced in August that the city would spend $26,400 to partner with LiveSafe, an Arlington, Va., tech company. The move comes in response to students’ repeated pleas to the city to make their commutes safer.” [Washington Post]
Ballston Bar’s Pricey Booze-Free Drinks — “The new Punch Bowl Social in Ballston Quarter mall was designed to cater to millennials (hello photo booths, corn hole, and karaoke). Now they’re jumping on the ‘sober-curious’ trend with a $19 zero-proof punch bowl.” [Washingtonian]
Local Courts Dropping Fare Evasion Cases — “When a rider is cited for not paying the fare to board a bus or train in Northern Virginia, the ticket is more likely to be dropped in the courts than paid. Only 278 of the 1,306 fare evasion citations handled by the Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria general district courts between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2019, were paid, according to court records. In those districts, roughly $38,000 in fare evasion fines have gone unpaid in the past two years.” [Washington Post]