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APS Looking to Add Solar Panels to Five 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.

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APS Reveals North Arlington Elementary School Boundary Options

Arlington Public Schools has released preferred and alternative plans for its revision of the North Arlington elementary school boundaries.

Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.

The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.

The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.

Many of the students that will likely move to McKinley will stay in their originally intended schools in 2015 before moving to McKinley in 2016, when the school’s 241-seat expansion opens.

APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.

The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.

“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”

Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.

“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”

Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.

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North Arlington School Boundaries Could Change Again

APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy's proposed boundary changes(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Just 18 months after Arlington’s School Board approved a new elementary school boundary plan for North Arlington, an influx of more new students is prompting the Board to reconsider those plans.

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says 652 additional Pre-K and elementary students came to the district this year, outpacing APS’s growth projections by 52. That, along with variances on a school-by-school basis, has caused APS to explore “possible refinements to the boundaries.”

Following a series of three community meetings, the School Board is scheduled to fast-track a vote on a new boundary map for the 2015-2016 school year in January.

The process for determining the new school boundaries will begin with a community meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at Williamsburg Middle School. There, APS staff will present data showing the need for the boundary change, demonstrate the online tool that parents can use to recommend their boundary maps and “begin work with the community to refine boundary options,” according to an APS press release.

The schools whose boundaries will come under review are the under-construction elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School, Glebe Elementary, Tuckahoe, Ashlawn, Nottingham, Taylor, Jamestown and McKinley.

The approved boundary change from May of last year reassigned 900 students and resulted in five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Tuckahoe, McKinley and Nottingham — sitting at more than 100 percent capacity, but no school above 105.1 percent capacity. The decision was reached after an eight-month community process, and previous boundary realignments have resulted in tension among parents.

The boundary revision process, from the first School Board information session to its scheduled adoption, will take two and a half months.

“After we received updated enrollment projections based on Sept. 30 enrollment numbers, the Superintendent directed staff to begin looking at refinement of the 2015-16 boundaries,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com in an email. “The projections confirmed that we will have enrollment imbalances within the those schools and there is a need to do boundary refinements for a relatively small number of families.”

At tomorrow night’s School Board meeting, APS staff will present their newest school population projections and outline the need to revising the boundaries. From Nov. 18 to Dec. 5, parents and community members will be able to go online and submit their boundary recommendations for staff to consider. Staff will review those recommendations at another community meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, in the Williamsburg auditorium.

The community meetings will provide an opportunity for the families that may potentially be impacted to work with staff to develop recommended adjustments using the Online Boundary Tool originally introduced in the boundary process two years ago,” APS said in a press release. “Individuals will be able to see the possible moves that can help to further balance enrollment for these schools. Information shared at all community meetings will help shape the discussion and prepare individuals to use the Online Boundary Tool.”

In January, the School Board will take up the issue. First, with a work session on Jan. 5, then with an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before voting on a new boundary alignment on Jan. 22. All of the School Board meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. at 1426 N. Quincy Street.

File photo via APS

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UPDATED: Three 5K Races in Arlington Next Weekend

Becketts Stache Dash logo Global Strides 5K logo

(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) Runners participating in 5K races next weekend will weave their way through opposite ends of the county.

The Global Strides 5K sends runners into the streets surrounding Tuckahoe Elementary School next Saturday, November 1. The 5K begins at 8:00 a.m. and the 1 mile fun run begins at 9:00 a.m.

Proceeds from the Global Strides 5K will benefit Arlington Academy of Hope School in Uganda. AAH is a nonprofit organization founded by an Arlington family, aimed at improving the lives of children in rural Uganda through education and health care.

Registration is $25 and can be done online or at the race. Those who register online by next week’s deadline will receive a race t-shirt.

Also on Nov. 1, the inaugural Paws2Care 5K Family Fun Run/Walk will be held in Bluemont Park, at 9:00 a.m. The event will include free activities and giveaways like yoga, massages, face painting, music, dog treats, raffles and prizes.

The next day, on November 2, things will get a little hairy in Shirlington for the Beckett’s Irish Pub Stache Dash. Proceeds from that race go to The Movember Foundation, an organization that raises funds for men’s health programs.

The 5K begins at Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub (2800 S. Randolph Street) at 8:00 a.m. There will be a post-race party at Samuel Beckett’s, where attendees will be provided with a mustache if they don’t already have one.

Registration is $40 and can be done online. Participants will receive a tech tee and light snacks after the race.

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Former APS Teacher Helms STEM Education Startup

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Appleseed Lane co-founder Cynthia Marbley(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Cynthia Marbley was a teacher at Tuckahoe Elementary when her son was having a playdate with her neighbor’s child.

She and her neighbor were discussing how working mothers could have a more active role in their children’s education when they got the idea for Appleseed Lane.

Appleseed Lane is a monthly, subscription-based company that sends parents a kit for a project that encourages STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — education in children between 4 and 8 years old.

“We want our kids to be exposed to learning in a way that’s dynamic and organic,” Marbley told ARLnow.com from the Starbucks in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center. “The kids can get their hands dirty. Science has to be hands-on for kids to have that ownership and engagement.”

Marbley and her neighbor got to work quickly on what those kits would look like, how they would change from month-to-month and every other detail creating a service from scratch entails. Marbley decided last summer to leave her teaching job and devote herself to Appleseed Lane full-time, and the company launched its first box in October 2013.

An Appleseed Lane kit with materialsThe kits have a different theme every month and include projects with simple, colorful instructions. The theme for June is Sports Science; it is a collaboration with Shawn Marion, an NBA player for the Dallas Maverick and, Marbley said “an old friend.”

Each kit includes every material needed, with the exception of household items like scissors, and include lesson plans led by Professor Caterpillar; lesson plans aligned with National Science Education Standards, Marbley said.

“The boxes are research-based and aligned with what schools are doing,” Marbley said. “We got teachers and education experts to weigh in on the design and lesson and we have a ton of kids test it.”

Subscriptions cost $23.95 for one month, $21.95 per month over six months or $19.95 per month over a year, with shipping included. Each kit is roughly the size of a shoebox.

“My 5-year-old son is one of my official testers,” Marbley said. “He enjoys it because it’s also uninterrupted time with me. It’s an ongoing education and it’s also about relationships. The parents do each project with their child and they can engaged and not on their phones while they’re doing it.”

Appleseed Lane instructionsSince launching in October, Marbley said Appleseed Lane has grown 500 percent and is now firmly profitable. The company is bootstrapped outside of friends and family money, and it is shipping nationally.

Appleseed Lane will soon offer parents the ability to purchase a series of lesson plans at once, as opposed to simply receiving one per month, to make it possible to use as homeschooling material. The company is focused on growing nationally and building partnerships, and not yet on offering a wider variety of services like older education or kits focused outside of STEM.

“We want to focus on kids who can develop a love for STEM early on,” Marbley said. “We want kids to get excited about STEM as soon as possible when they’re naturally curious.”

Marbley said transitioning from being a teacher to being an entrepreneur has been a fun process, and it’s helped because teachers are always forced to work well with limited resources, “so we have to get creative.”

As a teacher, Marbley is also keenly aware of the inherent challenges that come with trying to get children involved with STEM, and she’s trying to address the gaps she knows exists. Appleseed Lane recently conducted a drive where they donated one kit for every sale to the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. That decision, like every other one Marbley has had to make, was a personal one.

“You are involved as you can be with every decision and every dollar spent,” she said when talking about the transition to becoming an entrepreneur. “It’s how companies can become exceptional later on when they grow. Whether you’re making $1 million or $100 million, starting with that foundation is what’s going to keep our company grounded.”

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Morning Notes

Neon sign at Thai Square restaurant (Flickr photo by Ddimick)

Bike to Work Day Tomorrow — More than 12,000 bicyclists around the Washington region are expected to participate in Bike to Work Day tomorrow (Friday). Arlington will host four Bike to Work Day pit stops — in Rosslyn (6:30 to 9:00 a.m.), Ballston (6:30 to 9:00 a.m.), Crystal City (7:00 to 9:00 a.m.) and East Falls Church (4:00 to 7:00 p.m.). The annual event is free but attendees are encouraged to register.

Rosslyn Metro Project 85 Percent Complete — The new Rosslyn Metro entrance is over 85 percent complete, Arlington County announced this morning. The $32.6 million project will add a new entrance to the Rosslyn Metro station, featuring three high-speed elevators and an emergency staircase, but no escalators. With the elevator shaft and the emergency stairwell complete, the next step is installing the high-speed elevators.

Tiny Apartments: Solution to Rising Rents? — The average monthly rent for an apartment in Arlington was $1,999 in 2012, a 13 percent jump from one year prior. A recent forum sponsored by the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions suggested that one solution to rising rents could be smaller apartments. Specifically, the forum focused on sub-400 square foot apartments known as “micro-units.” [Sun Gazette]

Tuckahoe Home & Garden Tour on Saturday — The 13th annual Tuckahoe Home & Garden Tour will be held on Saturday from noon to 5:00 p.m. The line-up this year includes seven new and renovated homes and two gardens. Tickets for the event, which raises money for the Tuckahoe Elementary Discovery Schoolyard, are $20-25. [Tuckahoe Home & Garden Tour]

GU May Rent Rosslyn Apartments for Students — Georgetown University is considering renting units in the brand new Slate apartment building in Rosslyn in order to house graduate students. The Slate building, developed by JBG and located on the 1500 block of Clarendon Blvd, has 203 apartment units. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

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LaHood to Attend School Bus Event At Tuckahoe

Ray LahoodOutgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will speak at a “school bus celebration” at Arlington’s Tuckahoe Elementary School next week.

The event, on Feb. 12, is being organized by the American School Bus Council for its Love the Bus campaign. The campaign is intended to “raise awareness and appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of school bus drivers who safely transport children to and from school.”

The American School Bus Council is supported in part by school bus manufacturers.

Tuckahoe students will hear speeches from LaHood and local officials about “being respectful to their bus drivers and appreciating the safety, environmental, and congestion mitigation benefits of the yellow school bus.”

The event comes with a bit of irony — Arlington Public Schools ran into controversy at the beginning of the school year when administrators announced that hundreds of students were no longer eligible to ride the bus to school.

The press release about the Love the Bus event, after the jump.

The American School Bus Council announced that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has accepted an invitation to serve as the lead speaker at its 2013 Love the Bus Main Event on February 12th at Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington, VA.

Love the Bus, which began in 2007 and is held every February, is a month-long celebration of the importance of the iconic yellow school bus, and includes events at schools and other locations around the country. It raises awareness and appreciation for the experience of riding the bus to school and the diverse set of individuals whose daily efforts make the yellow school bus what it is today.

At the Main Event, elementary school students will hear from Secretary LaHood, as well as locally-elected officials and school administrators about being respectful to their bus drivers and appreciating the safety, environmental, and congestion mitigation benefits of the yellow school bus. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have shown that school buses are the safest mode of transportation to and from school for children, and that every school bus takes approximately 36 cars off the road every morning and afternoon.

One group that will receive special recognition at the event is the hundreds of thousands of school bus drivers who safely transport millions of children to and from school every day. Tuckahoe Elementary students who participate in the event will draw pictures of their buses and even send Love the Bus Valentine’s Day cards to their bus drivers. LoveTheBus.com includes an educator’s toolkit for crafting bus-specific lesson plans and a variety of bus-themed downloads, such as Love the Bus t-shirt templates and bumper magnets.

Ken Hedgecock, Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Service at Thomas Built Buses said, “Love The Bus presents us with the opportunity to show our appreciation for the role each individual in the pupil transportation community plays in providing safe, efficient and effective transportation for our nation’s children.” National School Transportation Association Executive Director Ronna Sable Weber added, “Love the Bus is a tremendous opportunity for kids who ride the bus to show their appreciation for the drivers who take them to and from school, and focus on the important role the school bus plays in their day-to-day lives.”

For more information about other Love the Bus events around the country or for assistance with planning additional events or procuring American School Bus Council marketing materials, interested individuals are asked to contact ASBC at 866-955-2722, or visit www.americanschoolbuscouncil.com. ASBC can also be found at Facebook.com/LoveTheBus and Twitter.com/WeLoveTheBus.

ABOUT ASBC

ASBC is a coalition of public and private transportation providers, school bus manufacturers and state officials responsible for pupil transportation. The Council’s members include NAPT (National Association for Pupil Transportation), NASDPTS (National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services), NSTA (National School Transportation Association), Blue Bird Corp. of Fort Valley, Ga., IC Corporation of Warrenville, Ill., and Thomas Built Buses of High Point, N.C.

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Tuckahoe Parents Upset With Relocatable Classroom Plan

(Updated 12:45 p.m.) Tuckahoe Elementary parents are upset with a plan to place four new relocatable classrooms on the school’s playground blacktop.

Tuckahoe is one of the most overcrowded schools in a county school system plagued by a capacity crisis. Tuckahoe, designed to accommodate only 545 students, was projected to be at 130 percent capacity in 2012, with some 678 students. Enrollment is expected to balloon to nearly 150 percent capacity in 2017.

To temporarily help address the overcrowding, Arlington Public Schools is planning to add four new relocatable classrooms at Tuckahoe before the beginning of the next school year. That’s addition to the six mobile classrooms already in use at Tuckahoe.

Some parents are upset, however, about where the school system plans to place the trailers. The classrooms will be placed on a blacktop play area that students currently use during recess. With the blacktop no longer available, students will instead be led to a nearby county-owned tennis court during outdoor recreation time.

In a letter to parents, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says the blacktop was chosen after carefully considering five other locations on APS or county-owned property.

“APS staff believe that this option is the best because it retains the most site amenities for all stakeholders and because we believe this will be an option acceptable to the Tuckahoe community,” Murphy wrote.

Not all parents agree with Dr. Murphy. One group of concerned parents sent a mass email criticizing the decision:

Dear Tuckahoe Elementary School Parent,

Without consulting you, APS has decided to place 4 relocatable classrooms on the Tuckahoe playground blacktop and force the students to have recess and after school play time on the tennis courts down in the park.

This will dramatically change the character of the school, the amount and quality of outdoor recreation the children get, and their critical playground social development. Right now recess for the kids is something like 16 minutes long. How much time does it take to bring a class of kids to and from the tennis courts, and then how much time will be left for exercise and activity?

It will also eliminate the way that many parents get to know each other!

While the trailers may be needed to alleviate severe overcrowding, many of us believe it is imperative that APS find a placement solution that will preserve the blacktop play area that is so heavily used during school and by neighborhood families at other times. Other options exist.

Tuckahoe parents are being encouraged to attend a PTA meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday to make their voices heard.

Meanwhile, Arlington Public Schools continues to seek public input on more permanent plans to deal with the capacity crisis county-wide. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, a public forum will be held to discuss “next steps” in the APS capital planning process, which could result in the creation of new schools or major additions to existing schools. The forum is happening from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kenmore Auditorium (200 S. Carlin Springs Road).

The public is also being invited to observe a School Board work session on capacity issues. That’s taking place from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Washington-Lee Little Theater (1301 N. Stafford Street).

“The Board will be discussing the rankings of 60 possible options for additions and/or new schools to increase capacity,” officials said of the work session. “Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe the proceedings. The Board does not hear public comment at work sessions.”

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Morning Notes

GOP Will Likely Control Va. Senate — Despite the clean sweep by Arlington Democrats, it looks like Republicans will pick up the two Virginia Senate seats they needed to wrest control of the state Senate from Democrats. “If the results hold, Republicans will have complete control of state government for only the second time since the Civil War,” the Washington Post reported. Meanwhile, Republicans will now have a two-thirds majority in the House of Delegates after picking up six seats there. Gov. Bob McDonnell said the GOP-controlled General Assembly will be more likely to push a “pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage” agenda.

Hawaiians Protest Bail of Arlington Resident — Dozens of demonstrators marched through Honolulu last night to protest the release of State Department Special Agent Christopher Deedy, an Arlington resident, on $250,000 bail. Deedy, 27, is charged with second-degree murder after shooting a man in the chest during a late-night argument inside a McDonald’s in Waikiki. [Associated Press]

Closures Planned for Tuckahoe 5K — The third annual Tuckahoe 5K run will be held on Saturday morning. Rolling street closures are planned in the East Falls Church neighborhood between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. For interested runners, limited race day registration will be available at Tuckahoe Elementary School. [Tuckahoe 5K].

Cookie Within a Cookie in Clarendon — What do you get when you place an Oreo cookie within a chocolate chip cookie? You get an ‘Oreo in a Blanket,’ which is being offered by Bakeshop in Clarendon (1025 N. Fillmore Street). [Clarendon Culture]

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Tuckahoe Elementary to Hold ‘Anime Movie Night’

Two former students have helped to inspire Tuckahoe Elementary School to hold a big fundraiser for Japan.

The students, fifth-grader Keishu Watanabe and his sister, second-grader Saho (both seen in the video, below), moved from Arlington to Tokyo with their parents just weeks before the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Northern Japan earlier this year. With a personal connection to the disaster, “graduating” fifth-grade students and parents at Tuckahoe decided to raise money to help the victims.

Tomorrow, starting at 7:00 p.m., the school will host an “Anime Movie Night” featuring a screening of Ponyo, the Japanese adaptation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The family-friend film has been dubbed into English, thanks to the voices of Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon and Betty White.

The screening is free and open to the public, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Donations, raffle proceeds and bake sale revenue will go to the ‘Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Fund.’ Kids are encouraged to wear pajamas and a yukata (robe), grab some glow necklaces and munch on arare (Japanese rice crackers).

Even though they’re halfway around the world, students at Keishu and Saho’s new school are so excited about the fundraiser that they banded together to make Tuckahoe a Senbazuru, a large hanging of 1,000 hand-made paper cranes. The gift — a symbol of peace and friendship — was sent to the school, where officials are now deciding on a prominent place to display it, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.

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Giant Map Coming to Tuckahoe Elementary

National Geographic is bringing a gigantic map of North America to Tuckahoe Elementary, part of an effort to get students more engaged with geography studies.

The map, measuring 26 feet by 35 feet and weighing in at 102 lbs., is one of the world’s largest maps of the continent. It will be on display from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10.

Students will be able to walk on the map, play interactive games and explore various geographic features.

“This is a unique and interactive opportunity to introduce and reinforce the geographic features of our great country with hands-on and feet-on instruction,” Tuckahoe principal Cynthia Brown said in a statement.

Screen capture via YouTube

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