(Updated at noon) The price tag for a new elementary school could soon get a bit larger, in an effort to make the Thomas Jefferson Middle School more accessible for people with disabilities.
Arlington Public Schools officials are asking the School Board to approve an extra $250,000 in spending at Alice West Fleet Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in September 2019, for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changes at the adjacent middle school.
The board will get its first presentation on that request at its meeting tonight, as staff seek the green light to bump up the “guaranteed maximum price” for the nearly $47 million project. The changes at the middle school are being incorporated into the Fleet project so that they can be “more effectively coordinated and can be completed prior to the 2018-19 School Year.”
APS officials plan to make accessibility adjustments at two of the middle school’s three entrances.
Though accessibility upgrades are already in the larger APS budget, the size of the change to the Fleet budget means APS will need the board’s approval first. Voting on the matter is expected within a few weeks.
The board is set to approve its fiscal year 2019 budget tonight. The nearly $637 million spending plan is set to fund pay raises for most school employees, but does call for slightly larger class sizes at both the elementary and middle school levels.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article mistakenly reported that the changes were planned for the elementary school. Photo courtesy Arlington Public Schools.
Arlington Public Schools plans to add solar panels to five school buildings, including the soon-to-be-built Alice West Fleet Elementary School.
APS issued a Request for Proposals on December 1, calling for companies to bid to install solar panels at Kenmore and Thomas Jefferson Middle Schools, Tuckahoe and Fleet Elementary Schools and Washington-Lee High School.
Fleet Elementary School will be built on the site of Thomas Jefferson, and is projected to be open in September 2019.
In the call for proposals, APS said it is seeking to be increasingly environmentally friendly in construction projects and its existing buildings, and hopes the panels will help it keep up with its schools’ energy demands.
“APS stresses energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in the design of all construction and maintenance projects,” it reads. “APS is aware of the energy and environmental advantages of solar power and has multiple buildings used as schools for all age groups and administrative offices which appear to have design characteristics which make them appropriate for the installation of [solar panels] which will produce electric power to meet, or contribute to meeting, the power needs of APS.”
The successful bidder would install the solar panels, and operate and maintain them under a lease agreement with APS for a minimum of 15 years. APS said the winning company would also be responsible for all installation and maintenance costs, but would pay rent of $1 a year for the panels.
Proposals are due on March 19, 2018. The RFP comes months after Kenmore was one of six sites in Virginia selected to have a solar panel installed on its roof as part of the Solar for Students program, which encourages hands-on learning about clean energy.
Nate Remnants Pushing Out — It has been a rainy and windy morning thanks to the remnants of what was once Hurricane Nate. The heaviest of the rain is over but it is expected to remain windy and humid during the day today, with a gale warning in effect until 6 p.m. for those on the water. [Twitter, Weather Channel]
Voter Registration Up This Cycle — Arlington County has processed twice the number of voter registration transactions between Labor Day and Oct. 6 this year as it did during the same period four years ago, according to elections chief Linda Lindberg. That suggests greater interest in this year’s statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, though County Board and School Board races are also on the ballot. [InsideNova]
Arlington Schools Get Grant — Arlington is among the Virginia localities getting a grant for new school security equipment. Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Langston High School Continuation Program are together receiving $44,480 through the state program, put in place in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in Connecticut. A total of $6 million is being divvied out to dozens of school systems, paying for “video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems, direct communications links between schools and law enforcement agencies, and other security upgrades.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Parents of Thomas Jefferson Middle School students are petitioning for traffic calming measures on a stretch of road near the school where they report witnessing a number of vehicle-pedestrian close calls.
They’re asking for a crossing guard and a traffic-calming measure — such as a four-way stop — at the intersection of 2nd Street S. and Irving Street, which is a heavily traveled pedestrian thoroughfare for students going to and from school.
The entire stretch of 2nd Street S. near Thomas Jefferson Middle School, from Irving Street to Old Glebe Road, is well-traveled by vehicles and does not have four-way stops. Parents chose to ask for traffic calming at the Irving intersection because of the significant amount of both pedestrian and vehicle traffic at that particular spot. Plus it’s one of the few streets in the neighborhood that runs uninterrupted all the way from Columbia Pike to Washington Blvd., making it easier for motorists to speed than on adjacent streets.
The intersection, like the others on 2nd Street, may not have four-way stops, but it does have painted pedestrian crosswalks. Neighborhood residents say motorists ignore people in the crosswalks, though, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours. “That’s prime commuter time and prime school time,” said TJ parent Alisa Key.
Key saw a girl nearly get hit while walking in the crosswalk to school, and that prompted her to take action. “I couldn’t walk away from that without doing anything,” she said. “In the past two weeks, we have had multiple near misses and countless instances of motorists… disregarding kids in the crosswalk. We have taken it upon ourselves to help the kids cross safely because APS and the county have not.”
The group of concerned parents invited county officials to visit the site to see the dangers that students and other pedestrians face. The group reports that a number of representatives showed up from Arlington Public Schools, the county’s Department of Environmental Services, the police department and the county board.
DES currently is collaborating with APS and police on reviewing the intersection and will report the results of the study next week. According to a DES spokesperson, “The traffic study consists of collecting additional traffic volume, speed and pedestrian volume data to determine whether a four-way stop meets federal standards (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).”
Parents are hopeful that the results next week indicate the need for increased safety measures, including a crossing guard. In the meantime, they’ve been taking turns positioning themselves at the crosswalk in the morning to make sure children get to school safely. They’ve also started an online petition requesting traffic calming measures, which has more than 400 signatures.
Parents are particularly worried about what happens when the volume of students increases upon completion of a new elementary school at the TJ site.
“The intersection at S. Irving & S. 2nd Street is a magnet for kids, bikers, walkers, etc. because there are currently three community attractions at this site — TJ Park, TJ Recreation Center, TJ Middle School and soon to be coming Fleet Elementary School,” said concerned parent and Arlington Heights resident Colleen Godbout. “This intersection needs calming measures immediately. We can not wait for the accident that is inevitable here.”
The Arlington County Fair will kick off on Wednesday, August 16 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).
For the 41st year, the county will host a variety of events for the community, including live outdoor music, a parade, fairground rides and game, food, floral and craft competitions, pig races and more.
This year’s exhibit theme is “Let’s Play,” which organizers said celebrates the “child-like joy and fun that the Arlington County Fair brings out in all of us.”
The fair’s outdoor programming begins August 16, with indoor programming beginning on Friday, August 18. The event ends August 20, with outdoor activities concluding at 10 p.m. that day. More details about the indoor offerings will be available closer to the time.
The fair’s full opening hours are as follows:
The Kids’ Court, which has various activities including a moon bounce and face painting, will be open during the following hours:
- Friday 2-6 p.m.
- Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Competitive exhibits for participants to show off their abilities and compete for prizes include:
- Honey, Beeswax and Food Preservation
- Decorated Food Products and Baked Goods
- Art Needlework
- Crafts and Fine Arts
- Herbs, Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables
- Flowers, Arrangements and Potted Plants
Local organizations and business can sign up to participate in the fair’s parade, which is scheduled to start at the Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) on August 19 at 10 a.m. It will travel from the Career Center and end at the fairgrounds.
There is no on-site parking at the fair, and street parking is limited to residents with permits. There are several other transportation options, including shuttle buses from the Ballston and Pentagon City Metro stations, the Career Center and the I-66 parking garage at N. Quincy Street and 15th Street N.
The fair’s live outdoor music schedule is below, after the jump.
Sycamore Street, Carlin Springs Projects Approved — At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a pair of major road projects. One, intended to improve pedestrian safety along N. Sycamore Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood, “will reduce travel lanes from four lanes to two lanes by adding raised medians planted with trees and grass,” at a cost of $1.4 million. The other will replace the Carlin Springs Road Bridge over North George Mason Drive at a cost of $7 million. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Fox 5 Zip Trip Comes to Arlington — Fox 5 brought its “Zip Trip” morning news segment to Pentagon Row in Arlington on Friday, highlighting a variety of local organizations, businesses and leaders. Among those making an appearance on live local TV: Bayou Bakery, Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, District Taco, Lebanese Taverna, the Arlington County Fire Department and County Board member Katie Cristol. [Fox 5, Twitter, Twitter]
Park Improvements Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a $2.1 million series of improvements to Stratford Park — including new, lighted tennis and basketball courts — and the replacement of the artificial turf at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The turf replacement is expected to cost just under a half-million dollars. [Arlington County]
County Can’t Halt Development — Despite the desires of some anti-development advocates, Arlington County does not have the legal authority to impose a moratorium on development, County Board members and the County Attorney told a speaker at Saturday’s Board meeting. [InsideNova]
Forest Inn Makes Dive Bar List — The Forest Inn in Westover has made the Washington Post’s list of the “best true dive bars in the D.C. area.” The Post’s Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn recommend ordering “a cold Budweiser, which was, for years, the only beer on tap.” [Washington Post]
Monday Properties Refinances 1812 N. Moore Street — Monday Properties has obtained fresh financing for its 1812 N. Moore Street tower in Rosslyn, which was once on uncertain financial ground as it sought its first tenant but is now set to be the U.S. headquarters of food giant Nestle. A portion of the new financing will be “used for tenant improvements and building upgrades featuring an expanded fitness center and new 12,000-square-foot conference facility on the building’s 24th floor.” [Washington Business Journal]
Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map Updated — The County Board has voted 5-0 to update its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” and “will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
The turf fields at Thomas Jefferson Middle School are set to be replaced in the next year.
The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday (July 15) on a plan to replace the fields with synthetic turf. Staff from the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said in a report that the current fields are “worn beyond reasonable repair.”
For the past eight years, the turf fields at TJ have been used in the neighborhood and for scheduled use by affiliated sports leagues and school programs.
The upgrades at the field are part of the county’s Synthetic Turf Program, aimed at replacing heavily-used natural grass fields. Currently, there are 15 synthetic turf fields in Arlington, although the move to add more has come in for some criticism from some.
In addition to the new turf, the fields would get new corner flags and goals for soccer games, as well as new bleachers.
The upgrades would coincide with the construction of the county’s new elementary school on the west end of the site, and staff said Arlington Public Schools will plan out activities with the two projects in mind.
APS will share the cost of the upgrades with the county. Just under $475,000 would be spent on the new field, with an extra $47,000 held as a contingency.
Parents and community members are being asked to help choose the name of the new elementary school that’s being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
A naming committee has narrowed down the choices, which included suggestions submitted via an online survey, to five. The finalists, each with an explanation from the naming committee, are below.
- Alice West Fleet Elementary School — “A native Virginian, a granddaughter of slaves, and a long-time Arlington teacher, resident, community activist and leader… she broke down racial barriers, serving as the first black reading teacher in Arlington and the first black teacher to teach in an all-white school in Arlington.”
- Grace Hopper Elementary School — “Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was an acclaimed computer scientist, professor, and long-time Arlington resident… Ms. Hopper was key to the development of COBOL, a computer programming language that helped make coding more accessible.”
- Journey Elementary School — “The new elementary school building is designed with different levels and sections representing different biospheres… The name ‘Journey’ was recommended through the Community Input Form and represents the students’ journey through the building as they explore our diverse world as well as the educational journey that students and their families experience.”
- Liberty Elementary School — “The name ‘Liberty’ is a tribute both to Patrick Henry’s famous ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’ speech and to his support of the Bill of Rights. This option represents a name change that maintains a connection to the school’s existing name.”
- Patrick Henry Elementary School — “Patrick Henry Elementary School was given its name in 1925, renaming the original school name, Columbia Elementary School. Patrick Henry was a lawyer, orator, and statesman who served as the first and sixth governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was also a slave owner.”
The new school is expected to open in September 2019. Students and staff will be moving from the existing Patrick Henry Elementary, near the Columbia Pike Branch Library, to the new school.
The naming committee says it received input on both sides of the debate over the current school’s name.
The committee heard compelling arguments both for keeping and for changing the name of the school. Some felt that keeping the name would provide continuity and maintain a connection to the school’s history, while continuing to honor one of our nation’s founding fathers. Others thought that the school name should be changed in order to avoid confusion between the new and existing school, or to reflect the creative design of the new building. Some also felt that Patrick Henry’s name should no longer be used since he owned slaves.
The committee says it received more than 500 survey responses via its online form. Among the serious suggestions were at least a few from pranksters, we’re told; other name suggestions included Howard Stern Elementary and Pokemon Elementary.
This time around, the committee is hoping to only receive input from Patrick Henry Elementary and Jefferson Middle School parents, students, staff and nearby neighbors.
The new elementary school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road would provide 752 seats and replace the current Patrick Henry Elementary School at 701 S. Highland Street. A naming process for the new school is underway. It is projected to cost $59 million and to open in September 2019.
But a report prepared by county staff acknowledges the project still has concerns, including theater parking during construction, the impact on homes at the north side of the site, whether an existing surface parking lot should remain and neighbors’ desire for sidewalk improvements in an area outside of the project’s scope.
As part of the approval process, the County Board will also discuss leasing county-owned land at the site to the School Board so the new school can be built.
If the County Board allows the lease to be executed, Arlington Public Schools would then have the right to use the land to build the new elementary school and a 214-space, joint-use parking garage. The lease would be set to expire in 75 years, in 2092.
A report by county staff found that executing the lease would not impact the county financially, but an agreement will be necessary to solidify how the county and APS will share the parking garage’s operating and maintenance expenses.
Staff recommends approval of the use permit for the new school and the execution of the lease.
While Patrick Henry is being considered for the name of the new elementary school, which is set to open in September 2019, Arlington Public Schools has formed a naming committee to consider other name recommendations.
The committee is encouraging stakeholders to weigh in on the name via an online Community Input Form, which was published late last week.
“We are asking each Patrick Henry Elementary School parent and staff to fill out the appropriate survey,” a page on the Patrick Henry PTA website says. “Our timeline is short, so we hope you can do it soon. It should not take more than 5 minutes.”
The survey notes that while Patrick Henry was a Founding Father and Virginia’s first (and sixth) governor — remembered for his “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech — he was also a plantation owner and slave owner.
It asks respondents to consider the importance of “maintaining the current name in recognition of Patrick Henry” or, alternatively, “selecting a new name that reflects the diversity of the student body,” among other questions.
The committee is expected to submit its naming recommendation to Arlington Public Schools later this spring.
Gunston Could Get New Baseball Diamond — Arlington County officials are considering renovating a baseball diamond at Gunston Middle School, replacing it with a lighted artificial turf field. A public meeting about the project, is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 7-9 p.m. at the Gunston community center. [Arlington County]
TJ Elementary Design Approved — The Arlington School Board has unanimously approved schematic designs for the new elementary school planned for the Thomas Jefferson Middle School site. Construction on the $59 million project is expected to begin in July and wrap up in time for the 2019-2020 school year. [InsideNova]
More Details About W-L Fight — A large fight at Friday night’s Washington-Lee High School football game, first reported by ARLnow.com, involved “at least 20 parents and students” and “was the result of a dispute between two families,” unrelated to the game, according to police. Officers used pepper spray to break up the fight. One adult was arrested during the game. [Washington Post]
Photo courtesy Brent Robson
Hoax social media posts, often featuring images of sinister-looking clowns, have threatened schools across the country. Thus far the posts have led to numerous arrests of teens suspected of making the threats, but no reported violence.
Last night, two Instagram accounts — @virginiaclowns and @dmv_clowns — posted similar threats, warning of shootings at a number of area schools, including Kenmore, Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools in Arlington.
The threats have prompted a stepped-up police presence at Arlington schools this morning.
“We are aware [of the threats] and were in contact with the Arlington Police Department staff last night when we saw the messages,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “As a precaution, ACPD has had an increased presence at our schools this morning.”
In past years, Arlington has been ranked as having some of the worst drivers in the nation. That doesn’t surprise Brian Meenaghan, who has started a Twitter account to document what he views as a never-ending parade of bad drivers on his block.
Meenaghan, an Arlington Heights resident, started the Twitter account @BadDriversof1stRdS at the end of April. The account focuses on the worst offenders on the 3600 block of 1st Road S., a one-way street located in a high traffic area around S. Glebe Road, Route 50 and the Thomas Jefferson middle school and community center.
“I started this account as a cathartic thing because we’ve had a lot of frustrations on our little block. We’re about 400-450 feet long as a block and we dead end at a middle school,” said Meenaghan. “We have people whipping up this block and people coming the wrong way from the middle school. Because of the oddity of the exit for Route 50 around Glebe Road, we also have a lot of people turning around in driveways and going back up the wrong way, trying to go back to 50.”
Meenaghan’s main concern is drivers going the wrong way on the one-way street (traffic is supposed to only flow from S. Glebe Road to Old Glebe Road). From cars to school buses and even Metrobuses, Meenaghan has caught all types of drivers driving the wrong way or speeding — or both — on the narrow street. Photos and video posted to the Twitter account document the broken traffic laws. (See some of the tweets, below.)
“I work downtown and I’m not here physically during the day all that much and I personally see three or four people turning around every day. I’m probably outside maybe 45 minutes to an hour before dinner with my daughter and I see in just that short amount of time a lot of people going the wrong way,” said Meenaghan.
The Twitter account is a joint venture with his neighbors, who often supply the photos he uploads to the website. Meenaghan said he and his neighbors have been trying for years to convince Arlington County to implement traffic calming measures on the block.
“My neighbors are all very involved in this,” said Meenaghan. “I’m not here that much so I’m not here to take a lot of these pictures. You miss a lot of them because they happen so quickly. Probably six of my neighbors have given me photos over the last couple of weeks. It’s kind of a group-wide effort.”
Part of the impetus for the effort is that the block is now chock full of children.
“We now have 15 kids on this block. There are only 23 houses and there are 15 kids under the age of 10. There have been five kids born in the last six months,” said Meenaghan. (One could perhaps see the block as a microcosm of the challenges with burgeoning enrollment facing Arlington Public Schools.)
Along with the kids living on the block, the presence of Thomas Jefferson Middle School at the end of the block means that there is a constant stream of kids on the block during the school year. It’s only set to become busier, with continued growth at the middle school and the construction of a new elementary school on the middle school’s former parking lot.
The forum is being held at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road) from 7-9 p.m. and will be moderated by WJLA reporter Jennifer Donelan.
The police department says the forum is intended to focus “on the community’s trust and confidence in Arlington’s criminal justice agencies.”
“Safe communities are built on strong relationships among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” the police department said. The event will feature a panel discussion, followed by an open question and answer session with audience members.
“This is the public’s opportunity to ask local officials and community activists about issues affecting Arlington County and to learn how we can work together to maintain a safe community,” said police.
Panel members include Arlington police chief Jay Farr, Sheriff Beth Arthur, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, public defender Matthew Foley, local NAACP vice president Julius Spain and community activist Andres Tobar.
At an ACPD community forum in 2014, activists called for the hiring of more Latino police officers, while a couple vocal residents decried alleged police profiling and harassment. One of the attendees who spoke out against police profiling was arrested a week later for stripping naked and doing pushups in the middle of the street in Nauck.
Spanish translators will be available at the event, according to ACPD.
Update at 10:45 a.m. — The Thomas Jefferson site has been approved. From Arlington County:
At its Dec. 15 Recessed County Board Meeting, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to approve the use of the northwest portion of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Community Center site (currently a parking lot) as the site for a new south Arlington elementary school. the Board’s action came in response to the Arlington Public School Board’s request that the site be approved.
The Board also directed the Acting County Manager to “expeditiously initiate the public facilities review committee process with participation by all appropriate stakeholder groups, building on the site analysis, including placement and impact mitigation, already done by the Thomas Jefferson working group.”
Earlier: After a year of back-and-forth over choosing a site for a new South Arlington elementary school, the County Board is expected to reconsider the land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School for the project.
The Thomas Jefferson site is the final item on tonight’s recessed meeting agenda.
The County Board originally rejected the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on the county-owned land, following objections from a vocal group of residents who expressed concern about parkland and traffic. As part of the rejection, the Board agreed to reconsider the request if APS took adequate time and measures to analyze other potential sites.
The South Arlington Working Group was established in June for that purpose.
The group’s work was finished earlier this fall. It considered approximately 20 different potential sites, choosing Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Gunston Middle School/Oakridge Elementary School and Drew Model Elementary as the finalists.
In its most recent report, the group once again preferred the Thomas Jefferson site. The School Board, which voted on Dec. 3 to select the TJ site, is asking the County Board to do the same so that the proposed project could be completed in time for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.
The County Manager is now also recommending the Board approve the TJ site for the school, which would then be subject to use permit approval, design adoption and other planning processes.
The Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park group, however, says it’s still “concerned” about an elementary school on the TJ site, despite steps taken to mitigate negative impacts on the park, which is adjacent to the middle school.
“We ask that if you select this location for a new elementary school, you commit to fully funding necessary improvements and ensuring the community continues to have full access to park and recreation assets at Thomas Jefferson Park,” the group said in a letter to the County Board.
Funding and specific plans for the elementary school project have not been finalized. However, when the Superintendent first proposed a new elementary school in his 2015-24 Capital Improvement Plan, the plan said the school would cost $50 million and have 725 seats.