Arlington, VA

(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) The achievement gap, overcrowding, an obnoxious name change debate: there’s a lot on the minds of Arlington’s high school students.

Though a few issues tie all of the schools together, the editors of the student newspapers at Yorktown, Wakefield and Washington-Liberty also said there were certain features that make the schools — and the student coverage — unique. The editors shared the inside stories of life for local students.

United by Overcrowding

Across all three of the schools, all of the editorial teams agreed that overcrowding — thanks to an ever rising student population — was one of the biggest problems.

“It’s especially an issue this year,” said Charlie Finn, one of the head editors of the Yorktown Sentry. “We already have overcrowding and the main problem is crowded classrooms.”

Finn and Joseph Ramos, Yorktown Sentry’s other head editor, noted that the Sentry has worked on reporting overcrowding from within the school. Articles from the Yorktown Sentry detail the challenges students face in overcrowded schools and review proposed solutions.

At Washington-Liberty, the school is so crowded the interview with the students had to be held in a corner of a hallway already packed with students eating or doing work.

“I do think overcrowding is an issue,” said Abby, head editor for the Crossed Sabres, the student newspaper of W-L. At the teacher’s request, interviews with Washington-Liberty students use first names only.

“I’m in an English class with 38 people,” Abby said. “Schedules are being changed to deal with the numbers of students, especially in the [International Baccalaureate] program.”

At the Wakefield Chieftain, editor Carla Barefoot said students learned this year that pep rallies would be held outside rather than inside because the gym can’t fit the entire student body.

But each school also said there are also issues central to each school’s community they’re working to cover.

Yorktown: Investigating the Achievement Gap

At Yorktown, Ramos said one of his goals for the upcoming school year is to highlight the school’s achievement gap.

“We want to focus on the achievement gaps [at Yorktown],” Ramos said, citing figures published by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization. “Black students are 11 times more likely to be suspended as white students and white students are twice as likely to take [advanced placement] classes.”

Ramos also recognized that exploring the achievement gap — an issue inextricably tied to racial disparities in Arlington’s least diverse high school — will require thorough research and a delicate touch.

“In covering the achievement gap, it’s going to be important to look at all the whys and hows to tell the full story,” Ramos said. “It’s a sensitive subject — we can’t do a half baked job.”

Wakefield: Covering Diversity in 2019 Politics

Meanwhile at Wakefield, Arlington’s most diverse high school, the editorial team said all eyes are on the upcoming elections — namely the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The Chieftain’s editors said the student population was keenly interested in how minority groups in America would be affected.

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Morning Notes

Free Amazon Mugs at Northside Social — Amazon is partnering with Northside Social to give out free branded to-go tumblers this morning. [Instagram]

Kojo Explores the Amazon Effect — “We’ll look back on Seattle’s history with Amazon and discuss how our local governments can navigate their relationship with the company. Plus, we’ll hear from a policy researcher on how the DMV’s housing market will shift over the next two decades as Amazon gets settled in the region.” [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

Amazon’s Tech Effect — “Within the [D.C.] area’s tech industry – the sector likely to be most affected by the [Amazon] news – leaders are either keeping mum about their reaction or publicly expressing excitement. But behind the scenes, experts say, there is a fair amount of apprehension.” [U.S. News]

Metro to Subsidize Late Night Uber Rides? — “With Metro hours due to remain limited for the foreseeable future, Metro plans to pay cabs or a company like Uber or Lyft $1 million to slightly discount trips for certain people rather than provide alternative bus or other service.” [WTOP, WMATA]

737 Max Grounded at DCA — “For people flying in and out of the Reagan National Airport, Wednesday’s grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets brought mixed reactions. Some flights were cancelled. Others were already in the air when the emergency order came down, and were grounded the moment they touched down.” [WJLA, NBC 4]

‘Poo’ at Wakefield High School — Arlington Public Schools has been slow to fix a direction sign at Wakefield High School that is missing the “L” in “pool.” [Sun Gazette]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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A video showing a masked figure pulling a gun out of the trunk of a car in front of Wakefield High School has led to an arrest and charges against a Falls Church teenager.

The menacing video was posted on Instagram on Jan. 25, but the weapon was eventually determined to be an airsoft gun, not an actual firearm, and the teen “did not have the means to carry out a threat,” according to Arlington County Police.

The U.S. Secret Service brought the video to the attention of ACPD on the day it was posted. The subject of the video was identified and now faces a felony charge.

More from a police press release:

Police have arrested and charged a City of Falls Church teen following an investigation into a video recorded on the property of Wakefield High School and posted to Instagram.

At approximately 7:24 p.m. on January 25, an officer with the United States Secret Service responded to the Arlington County Police Department to report a video posted to Instagram involving a weapon. In the video posted at approximately 12:00 p.m. on the same day, a teen is shown sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle in the parking lot of Wakefield High School. The teen exits the vehicle, opens the trunk, places a black mask over his face and removes an airsoft rifle before the video ends.

After reviewing social media posts and working with school administrators, detectives quickly identified the teen in the video. During the course of the investigation, detectives determined that there was no immediate threat to the safety of the school or its activities, that the video contained a replica firearm and that the teen in the video did not have the means to carry out a threat.

Following consultation with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and a review of the evidence, the teen has been charged with Virginia Code § 18.2-422 Prohibition of Wearing a Mask, a Class 6 Felony. The teen is not an Arlington Public Schools student and his identity is not releasable due to age.

The Arlington County Police Department is committed to maintaining the safety of our community. Our School Resource Officers work closely with Arlington Public Schools administrators in our shared mission to provide a safe learning environment for students, teachers and staff. Parents and guardians are encouraged to talk to their children about the serious nature of school-based violence and the content they post to social media. All reports of threats and violence made at our schools and in our community are thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and where appropriate, charges will be sought against those responsible.

The public is reminded that you play an important role in keeping our community safe. If you see something, say something® by reporting suspicious behavior and activities to law enforcement.

This case was investigated by detectives from the Arlington County and Fairfax County School Resource Officers Unit, Arlington County’s Homeland Security Section and assisted by administrators in Arlington Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools.

File photo

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Arlington will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a free annual event featuring local performers this Sunday (Jan 20).

“Supernatural” actor Christian Keyes is set to host Arlington’s MLK Tribute, which is now in its 50th year. The event will run from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School.

Community members and county staff created the annual tribute one year after King’s assassination in 1968 as a way to bring the community together around King’s vision for social equality.

“Arlington’s beloved MLK tribute event is a joyful celebration of Dr. King and his powerful advocacy for social and economic justice, non-violence and empowerment that continues to serve as a beacon for our nation more than a half-century after his assassination,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a press release.

The program features music, dance and spoken word roles.

The lineup includes:

  • Spoken word artist Outspoken Poetress (Audrey Perkins)
  • Inspire Arts Collective
  • Soloist Jackie Pate
  • Soloist James Gibson
  • Arlington resident Joy Gardner
  • The Hoffman-Boston All Star Chorus led by Molly Haines
  • Teen Network boardmembers
  • Winners of the Arlington Public Schools’ MLK Literary and Visual Arts Contest

Guests will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and overflow space with a live stream of the program will be available if the auditorium reaches capacity. Anyone attending is encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Photo via Arlington County

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The courtyard in the center of Wakefield High School

Students and staff at Wakefield High School are heading home early today, thanks to a power outage in the neighborhood.

Arlington Public Schools announced the dismissal around 12:30 today.

According to an email sent to Wakefield parents and forward to ARLnow, the building currently has “no power, running water or phone service.” Students will be dismissed as bus service becomes available, the email said.

APS added in the announcement that power outages are impacting surrounding homes as well. A Dominion Energy outage map only shows three outages in the area, with two along nearby S. Carlin Springs Road.

File photo

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A widespread power outage has left hundreds in the dark around Wakefield High School and the Columbia Forest neighborhood south of Columbia Pike.

As of 10 p.m., Dominion was reporting 865 customers without power in Arlington County. Many more were without power along Columbia Pike before their electricity was restored.

The first reports of an outage came in around 7:30 p.m., as storms rolled through the area.

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Arlington has the top public school system in the state and ranks within the top 100 in the entire country, according to a new study.

The education research firm Niche awarded Arlington Public Schools an “A+” in its new ranking of school systems released today (Thursday), and named the county the 86th best public school system in the country.

Niche ranks schools based not only data like test scores, but also takes parent, teacher and student reviews into consideration in calculating its grades. The firm gave APS “A+” marks in all of its categories but one, from “academics” to “health and safety.” The lone category where Arlington merely received an “A” was “diversity.”

The school system also ranked tops in the state for the firm’s “best places to teach” ranking, owing to the county’s 12:1 student to teacher ratio and its average staffer salary of just over $89,000.

Loudoun County schools placed second overall in Niche’s rankings, followed by Albemarle County, just outside Charlottesville in third. Falls Church City and Fairfax County rounded out the top five.

Arlington’s high schools also did well in Niche’s ranking of the top public schools in the D.C. region. Washington-Lee High School came in at 13th overall, Yorktown at 21st and Wakefield at 44th.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Chess Growing in Popularity at Wakefield HS — A hot new trend with students at Wakefield High School: chess. The school offers chess boards for students and teachers to use during their lunch periods. Five or six students were regular players at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year the number of students playing on a weekly basis grew to around 200, including standout varsity athletes like Amari Cooper and Ben Horsford. [InsideNova]

Religious Protesters Picket Freddie’s — A pair of religious protesters held signs and chanted anti-gay slogans outside of Crystal City LGBTQ watering hole Freddie’s Beach Bar over the weekend. Despite their message of intolerance, owner Freddie Lutz invited the two in to have a dialogue about their beliefs and why Lutz is proud of his bar and customers. [Washington Blade]

Ballston Mall Owner to Be Sold — The Cleveland-based owner of the revamped Ballston Quarter mall is being sold to a Toronto-based management company, Brookfield Asset Management, for a reported $11.4 billion. [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Hot Day Ahead — Anyone spending time outdoors today should hydrate frequently and take proper precautions. The heat index is expected to climb into the 90s or even the low 100s. An air quality alert is also in effect. [Twitter, Twitter, National Weather Service]

Energy Rebate Program Ending — Arlington’s energy rebate program, which provides rebates to homeowners who add high-efficiency HVAC or water heaters, or who perform other energy-saving work, is ending due to county budget cuts. The last day to apply is today, June 18. [Twitter, EcoAction Arlington]

Rosslyn Bus Tunnel to Open — “A long-delayed bus tunnel in Rosslyn that is expected to help ease traffic in the area and significantly speed up bus trips has now been turned over to Metro, and should formally open within weeks. Metrobus and Arlington’s ART routes are expected to begin using the street-level tunnel June 24 through a glitzy new building between N. Moore Street and N. Lynn Street.” [WTOP]

GOP Beyer Challenger Courts LGBT Voters — “Thomas Oh, the Republican candidate embarked on an uphill quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), is reaching out to a constituency often left untapped by local Republican candidate. ‘I proudly support the LGBT community. I firmly believe in providing equality for every American,’ Oh said as he marched with the Capital Area Young Republicans in the recent Capital Pride Parade in the District of Columbia.” [InsideNova]

County Board Approves DARPA Changes — “Citing its desire to retain DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency headquartered in Ballston, the Arlington County Board today unanimously approved adding 1,265 square feet to its building for a secure screening and visitor check-in facility.” [Arlington County]

Graduations at Arlington High Schools — Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools help their respective graduation ceremonies last week. Said Wakefield’s class president: “Just because this chapter of our lives is closing, we will prevail and go on to do great. The thing is, don’t think of this as a ‘goodbye,’ but a ‘see you later.'” [InsideNova, InsideNova, InsideNova]

Photo courtesy @TheLastFC

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(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Following a national trend, data shows that Arlington Public Schools are disproportionately suspending black and Hispanic students compared to their white classmates.

The recently released stats from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that among the total 25,149 APS students, 10.6 percent were black, 28.4 percent were Hispanic and 46.1 percent were white. Meanwhile, the makeup of students serving in-school suspensions in APS was 29.1 percent black, 40.6 percent Hispanic and 19.4 percent white students. For students serving out-of-school suspensions, 29.5 percent were black, 33.3 percent were Hispanic and 27.6 percent were white.

APS administrators also referred disciplinary incidents to county police on 160 occasions, the stats show. In those cases, 25 percent of the students involved were black, 40.8 percent were Hispanic students and 25.8 percent were white students. There were only two expulsions at APS in 2015, and both students represented two or more racial backgrounds.

The racial disparity reflects a national trend revealed in the DOE’s report that found black students were suspended, expelled and referred to law enforcement more frequently than their white peers.

Nationally, in 2015, black students made up 31 percent of children referred to police or arrested, but only 15 percent of the total U.S. school population. White students comprised 49 percent of all students, but only made up 36 percent of student police referrals.

The disparity within APS also includes students with disabilities. Although students with disabilities only made up 13.3 percent of the school population, they comprised 34.6 percent of in-school suspensions, 42.5 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 46.7 percent of referrals to law enforcement.

In a statement emailed to ARLnow.com, Jeannette Allen, the school system’s director of administrative services, said that the APS is aware of the disproportionally large number of suspensions of both minority students and students with disabilities, and is committed to eliminating those disparities.

Allen highlighted the national problem as well, adding that the school system has seen these disparities persist, even as APS has recorded a decline in its total number of suspensions.

The top three offenses that lead to disciplinary action at APS are categorized as “disruptive behavior,” “altercation” and “fighting,” Allen said. Over the past few years, APS has begun to address the disparity by providing funds to schools to find alternatives to suspension, including training for administrators.

“Since most of our suspensions fall in the category of disruptive behavior, our primary focus is providing professional development,” Allen wrote. “Providing professional development and alternatives to suspension will help address the subjectivity that sometimes influences decisions to suspend a student. We are also providing targeted support for students to address their disruptive behaviors in a way that encourages behavioral improvements and helps students to self-regulate their actions and reactions.”

The rest of the suspension data for APS — including specific totals for Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown High Schools — is after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Petition in Support of Affordable Housing Project — The website Greater Greater Washington is helping to promote a petition that intends to counter resident complaints about a proposed affordable housing project on the former Red Cross site along Route 50. Neighbors are concerned that the project might “defile” the Buckingham neighborhood, with increased traffic and school overcrowding and a loss of green space. [GGW, GGW]

‘A Friend’ Writes Thank You Note to ACPD — From the Arlington County Police Department Twitter account: “To the citizen who left this unexpected note on one of our cruisers, thank you. ACPD is grateful for the support we receive from the community and small gestures like this mean a lot to our officers.” [Twitter]

Arlingtonian Places 23rd at Boston — Among other impressive finishes by Arlington residents at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Graham Tribble finished 23rd with a time of 2:30:06, the fastest among the D.C. area contingent at the prestigious race. [RunWashington, Patch]

High Schools Students Learning How to Spot Fake News — “At Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington, some high school seniors are bent over their laptops, engaged in a digital course called Checkology that helps them figure out what makes news and information real, misleading or just plain false.” [Voice of America]

Elementary Girls Heading to Int’l Problem Solving Competition — “An all-girls engineering team from Glebe Elementary School is heading to the 2018 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals where they will compete with students from nearly 25 countries… The team of fourth graders from Glebe, who are all ages 9 or 10, became state champions last weekend at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind competition, which was held April 14 in Newport News.” [Arlington Public Schools]

ACPD Forms ‘Restaurant Liaison Unit’ — The Arlington County Police Department has formed a “Restaurant Liaison Unit” to work with local bars to tamp down on drunken and sometimes violent incidents. One Clarendon bar in particular had police responding to it for a call almost every other day in 2017. [Washington City Paper, Twitter]

Glebe Lane Closure Causes Backups — Commuters heading northbound on Glebe Road today faced major backups due to a lane closure near Ballston. Washington Gas has been performing emergency repairs in the roadway since Wednesday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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