Metro Delays Due to Safety Snafu — “Metro’s Chief Safety Officer reports that nearly half of Metro’s 500 rail operators have lapsed recertification… In consultation with the Board of Directors, Metro management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage.” [WMATA]
APS Changes Bell Schedules — “The School Board in Arlington, Virginia, voted to lengthen the school day by a little less than 10 minutes and to rearrange school start and end times in the first change to the county school system’s bell schedule in more than two decades. At its Thursday meeting, the board unanimously voted in favor of the adjustments.” [WTOP]
Psaki Spat With Arlington GOP — Outgoing White House Press Secretary (and Arlington resident) Jen Psaki “acknowledged that there have been instances in which she shared information with the Secret Service about threats… She said that no one has physically come to her home, but added, ‘There is a circulation of my address among the Arlington Republican Party.’ The Arlington GOP in a statement to The Hill said it ‘has not publicly disseminated any Biden Administration official’s home address.'” [The Hill]
Rosslyn Tunnel Congestion Revisited — “The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is pressing leadership of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority not to forget about congestion at the Rosslyn tunnel. In a May 6 letter to (outgoing) Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld, NVTC chair Carek Aguirre urged the transit agency to ‘recognize the strategic importance of moving swiftly to design a solution to relieve train congestion’ at the tunnel.” [Sun Gazette]
Wakefield Rowing Storms State Tourney — “At Saturday’s regatta… the Warriors stood just as deep as any other school on the Occoquan River and stepped into the dynasty conversation themselves, with the boys’ and girls’ top varsity eight boats each rowing to titles.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Trucker Protest Returning — “The People’s Convoy is slated to be in D.C. by Tuesday, as they’re currently in Ohio. Further, a convoy leader tonight took to the microphone to try and squash fear over being hit with eggs in the city, saying: ‘I happen to like eggs.'” [Twitter]
DCA Using UV to Zap Covid — “Reagan National and Dulles International airports now have ultraviolet disinfection technology to combat the spread of viruses including Covid… The airports authority’s statement of work specifically called for the technology to disinfect the air in 39 spaces at National and 73 spaces at Dulles, including ticketing and baggage claim areas, security checkpoints, transit platforms and gate hold rooms.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Real Estate is Really Expensive — “There may be an end in sight at some point for rising single-family home values in Arlington. But so far, it hasn’t been reached. The average sales price of the 100 single-family properties that went to closing in April was $1,348,813. That’s up 14.5 percent from a year before.” [Sun Gazette]
Missing Falls Church Teen — “City of Falls Church Police seek information to help a teen return home. Abigail… is 16 years old and was last seen at her home in the City at about 3 a.m. on Sunday after an argument with family. Abigail is about 5 feet tall, has black brown hair and a nose ring.” [City of Falls Church]
It’s Monday — Rain and storms, some severe, in the afternoon and evening. High of 77 and low of 64. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:16 pm. [Weather.gov]
The Arlington School Board is set to consider a $1.6 million contract for safety upgrades to the entrance of Gunston Middle School.
At its meeting on Thursday, Board members will also consider approving a preliminary budget of $2.7 million for three other entrance projects.
In 2020, Arlington voters gave the thumbs up to safety renovations for five schools: Gunston, Thomas Jefferson and Williamsburg middle schools, Taylor Elementary School and Wakefield High School.
Construction at Gunston would start in June and be completed in mid-August before school starts on Aug. 29.
Work includes moving the main school entrance and office closer to S. Lang Street, which will require two science rooms to be relocated. The entrance will feature a vestibule where visitors will check in with office staff.
The project scope has also expanded to remediate structural issues related to how the building has settled into the ground over time. APS is budgeting $2.5 million, including contingencies, for the Gunston project and any unspent funds will be used for other capital projects.
This summer, APS will also be making upgrades to Wakefield’s entrance. This project will not have to go out to bid and the school system can move forward without School Board approval.
Design and Construction Director Jeffrey Chambers says the Taylor and Williamsburg projects, meanwhile, have fallen behind. Design work is currently just over halfway complete and staff aim to find a contractor this fall and start work next summer.
“We’re very concerned putting those out to bid or getting pricing or trying to get them constructed this summer because… both from references from our consultants and our experience with regard to projects we’ve recently finished, there are some serious issues still in the supply chain,” he told the School Board last month. “We don’t want to start projects, especially with administrative offices, and not be able to finish them.”
APS staff are recommending that work at Jefferson be deferred until APS is ready to make substantial renovations to the school.
“It was going to require a lot more renovations to that building than what we had budgeted for,” he said. “We felt it was better to defer that to a future, larger project.”
The public schools system is staggering these projects, all part of the adopted FY 2021 Capital Improvement Plan, because “rapid construction price escalation and supply chain delays [have] impacted the anticipated construction cost and completion,” according to the presentation.
APS has made security upgrades to more than half of its school buildings and aims to complete this work “within the next few years,” Chambers said.
New Football Coach for Wakefield — “For someone who has never previously been a high-school football head coach, Darrell Weeks’ vast and diversified experience in the sport certainly makes him qualified. Now his chance has come. On March 30, the 45-year-old Austin, Texas, native was announced as the Wakefield Warriors’ new head coach during an after-school gathering in the high school’s town-hall area. Weeks, a special-education and math teacher at Wakefield, has been out of coaching since 2010.” [Sun Gazette]
Target Opening Delayed — “The new Target at Pentagon Row didn’t open today. Opening has been pushed back a week to April 10. No carts yet.” [Twitter]
ACPD Looking for Missing Man — “MISSING: ACPD is seeking assistance locating Shaun… [age] 39. Described as a White male, 5’7″ tall and weighing 145 lbs. He was last seen on the afternoon of March 15 in the 1400 block of S. Joyce Street” in Pentagon City. [Twitter]
Honor for Clarendon-Based Axios — “@axios Congrats on being named on @Comparably’s Best Places to Work in Washington, DC Metro Area 2022 list.” [Twitter]
Peter Chang Responds to Award Nod — “‘We were surprised this time it’s the outstanding chef category, not the regional. It’s such an honor to be recognized among all the talented chefs,’ Peter Chang told me in an email through his daughter, Lydia Zhang. When Zhang informed him of his nomination, he says, his response was, ‘OK, what’s next? We have a business to run here.'” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Clarendon Bars Win ‘Fake ID Awards’ — “Last night, @ARIArlington recognized two security guards and management of two restaurants (@dontitova & @BarBaoVA) during ACPD’s sixth annual Fake ID Awards. The recipients were recognized for their excellence in detecting false identifications and preventing underage drinking.” [Twitter, WTOP]
Amazon Pledges Millions More for Housing — “As it seeks county approval for the next phase of new HQ2 construction, Amazon is pledging a $30 million contribution to support affordable housing in Arlington. The figure was revealed in county documents posted online this week, as Amazon’s latest HQ2 development proposal is set to go before the county planning commission on Monday.” [WJLA]
Nearby: Armed Robbery in Falls Church — “City of Falls Church Police seek two men who are suspected of armed robbery. At about 3:30 today, police responded to a tobacco and vaping shop in the 1100 block of W. Broad St. for a report of an armed robbery. Store employees told police that two men entered the store, one showed a handgun, and demanded valuables. There were no injuries. The men seemed to arrive and leave by foot.” [City of Falls Church]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 57 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:49 am and sunset at 7:36 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Someone is apparently setting trash cans on fire at Wakefield High School.
Firefighters were on scene at the school this afternoon after a fire in a trash can filled part of the second floor with smoke, according to scanner traffic. It’s the second trash fire in recent days at the school, we’re told.
“This week on two different occasions, someone has set on fire the trash cans in different bathrooms and cause the fire department to be dispatched,” a tipster tells ARLnow. “This is dangerous.”
A video sent to ARLnow earlier this week, below, appears to show the first fire.
Fire marshals were dispatched to the school today to investigate the fire. At least one person was evaluated for smoke inhalation by paramedics.
An Arlington Public Schools spokesman told ARLnow that there were two fire alarms at the school this afternoon, the first of which was mechanical in nature. Wakefield’s principal sent an email to families this afternoon providing additional details about the incidents.
Dear Wakefield Community,
I want to provide an update on today’s fire alarms. As I mentioned in an earlier School Talk message today, students were evacuated because of a fire alarm. This was caused by a mechanical issue. The ACFD gave the all clear 10 minutes after the alarm. As students were reentering the building, the fire alarm went off again. This time, it was caused by a fire set in a bathroom trash can. One student was evaluated by EMS for potential smoke inhalation but was not transported to the hospital. Thankfully the student is fine and is with their parents.
This is the second incident involving a trash can fire this week. This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. These incidents are being investigated and we will take appropriate disciplinary actions for those involved.
The safety of our students and staff is our top priority. If a student knows anything about these incidents, please have them speak to an administrator.
After school activities that take place inside the building are canceled for today.
Dr. Chris Willmore
Spotted: Robot Dog in Courthouse — “Several people were standing outside one of the Colonial Place buildings today. I thought it was a fire drill at first, but they were too close to the building. Then I saw it.” [Twitter]
Yorktown High’s ‘Dull’ Scoreboard — “The scoreboard at Greenbrier field is not shattered, opaque or severely damaged, but it is dysfunctional and has been for some time. This is especially frustrating for athletes whose sports play in broad daylight, as the scoreboard’s bulbs are so dim they are nearly impossible to see. Parents of these athletes have voiced their complaints about the dull board, arguing that each of the other high schools in Arlington have modern, working scoreboards, while our school’s model has been in use since 2003.” [Yorktown Sentry]
TR Bridge Delays Could Get Even Worse — “Emergency repairs that will enable the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to safely support the weight of regular traffic will probably last through the summer and cost about $6 million, the District Department of Transportation said, becoming the latest hindrance to the Washington commute as more employees return to in-person work.” [Washington Post]
More Grants for Nat’l Landing Businesses — “A grant program to support restaurants and small businesses in the National Landing area of Arlington will return for a second year… This latest round of funding totals $100,000. Grants will support small businesses’ pay for workers and other operating expenses.” [Patch]
Wakefield Gymnast Going to States — “Gabby Watts will have her opportunity to participate in the girls state gymnastics meet. The Wakefield Warriors gymnast qualified for the Virginia High School League Class 6 competition by winning the balance beam with a 9.583 score at the 6D North Region championships.” [Sun Gazette]
Reminder: ARLnow’s Reader Survey — If you want to weigh in on some changes ARLnow might make this year, please take our annual, three-minute survey before it closes at the end of the month. [SurveyMonkey]
It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny and breezy, with a high near 53. Sunrise at 6:57 a.m. and sunset at 5:47 p.m. Tomorrow there’s a slight chance of showers after 1 p.m., otherwise it will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 66 and wind gusts as high as 29 mph. [Weather.gov]
Homes Coming to Large N. Arlington Property — “The Febrey-Lothrop estate in the county’s Dominion Hills neighborhood, located at 6407 Wilson Blvd. not far from the Fairfax County line, will soon see work begin on nine two-story homes, according to county permit records. The permit applications were filed last month by the property’s new owner: KLTOLL AIV LLC, a company controlled by New York-based Kennedy Lewis Investment Management…. Elise Cleva, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, noted in an email the plans aren’t set in stone and ‘could change at any point if the owners decide not to construct all nine or if any issues prevent them from constructing the intended number of houses.'” [Washington Business Journal]
Demolition of 19th Century Home — “The circa-1889 Fellows-McGrath House in East Falls Church was being demolished [Monday], making way for a new home or homes. Photo courtesy of Charlie Clark.” [Twitter]
Bomb Squad Response in Courthouse — From yesterday afternoon: “There’s a suspicious package response on the 1300 blk of N. Courthouse Road, a block from the county government and police headquarters. Police requested the bomb squad respond to the location around 10:15 a.m., per ACPD. Sounds like the closed roads will reopen soon.” [Twitter]
Police: Drunk, Armed Man Arrested in Rosslyn — “N. Lynn Street at Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 4:08 a.m. on December 5, police were dispatched to the report of a male asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle. Upon arrival, officers located the running vehicle, made contact with the sole occupant who was in the driver’s seat and observed a firearm in plain view on the passenger’s seat… During a search of the vehicle prior to towing, ammunition was recovered. [The suspect], 45, of Accokeek, MD, was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence, Refusal of Breath/Blood Test and Violent Felon in Possession of a Firearm.” [ACPD]
Tucker Carlson Interrupts Dems at Meeting — “The Dec. 1 Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting was held in person, but also broadcast online via YouTube for those unable to attend. Technological gremlins… were in evidence. The meeting began about 15 minutes past its scheduled 7 p.m. start time when the YouTube connection proved unstable. Far worse, indeed horrific, from a Democratic point of view: Midway through the meeting, the screen that was used for PowerPoint presentations at the meeting suddenly started serving up the sounds of… Tucker Carlson on FOX News.” [Sun Gazette]
Wakefield Football Coach Steps Down — “Wayne Hogwood’s successful nine-year tenure the winningest head coach in the history of the Wakefield High School football program has come to an end. Hogwood stepped down in recent days because of family matters. He has three young children who are heavily involved in multiple youth sports, and Hogwood wants to spend time for the next couple of years, or so, being involved with watching them play during the fall and helping his wife transporting the three to games and practices.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Tuesday — Cold weather is back and snow is on the horizon. Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 41. Sunrise at 7:14 a.m. and sunset at 4:45 p.m. Tomorrow there is a slight chance of rain, snow, and sleet before 7am, then rain and snow likely between 7am and 4pm, then snow likely after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 38. [Weather.gov]
The Arlington School Board will vote on boundary changes tomorrow (Thursday) targeting two overcapacity schools in South Arlington.
The newest version of the plan postpones changes to Abingdon, where enrollment is currently manageable for next year, according to Durán. Students would have been moved from the school in Fairlington to Charles R. Drew Elementary School in nearby Green Valley, echoing a similar proposal in 2018 that became controversial.
Gunston and Wakefield are still over-capacity, so some planning units will be moved to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Washington-Liberty High School.
“The proposed changes are manageable among the identified schools that we’ve talked about and we’ve engaged with. The planning units included in this process should not need to be moved again in the next few years, and this limited process provides some additional to understand enrollment fluctuations we’re seeing caused by the pandemic, and any shifts in projects we may see,” he said during the Nov. 16 School Board meeting.
APS also proposes to change which neighborhood schools feed into Arlington’s Spanish-immersion schools, following previous boundary changes and the relocation of one immersion program, Key School.
“We want to make sure access to immersion schools is convenient to families and students nearest the location,” Durán said.
Relief for Gunston and Wakefield
The changes will impact the Penrose, Foxcroft Heights, Arlington View and Columbia Heights neighborhoods.
The proposal to move Wakefield students to W-L comes as the latter is about to unveil a new wing of the school — the former Education Center administrative offices — with room for up to 600 students.
APS says the extra space at the Education Center will provide enrollment relief for Wakefield and cut down on W-L’s waitlist for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
“The number of applicants to the IB Lottery and number on the waitlist has increased each year over the last four years,” according to the 2021 boundary process website.
APS may consider targeted transfers from Wakefield to Yorktown if forthcoming enrollment projections for 2022-23 suggest unmanageable levels at Wakefield — even with the boundary adjustment.
The new high school boundaries would reverse moves made in 2016 to address overcrowding at W-L, but those who were moved away from W-L in 2017 will not be moved back.
In 2017, APS redirected Boulevard Manor kids from W-L to Yorktown High School. Students say when they graduate from Kenmore Middle School and head to Yorktown, they lose many of their middle school friends. To avoid that, they apply for W-L’s IB program or for a neighborhood transfer.
“I can make new friends, but the point is that it’s completely reasonable that I want to go to high school with my friends — just like all the middle schoolers in Arlington,” said Kenmore eighth-grader Xavier Anderson, during the Nov. 16 meeting.
APS Appoints New DEI Chief — “The School Board appointed Dr. Jason Ottley as the new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at its Oct. 28 School Board meeting. Dr. Ottley has been serving as Interim Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer since Sept. 1.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Ed Center Project Taking Longer — “The firm that has been overseeing construction at the former Arlington Education Center will get another funding bump, as the project lingers longer than expected and requires more oversight. School Board members on Oct. 28 were slated to be briefed on the plan to provide another $277,083 to McDonough Bolyard Peck, which is serving as construction manager adviser on the project. Final approval of the funding is slated for November.” [Sun Gazette]
Time to Compost Your Pumpkins — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Reincarnation is real. Toss rotting pumpkins in the green curbside cart and they’ll come back to life as nutritious compost.” [Twitter]
Fewer Day Laborers at Shirlington Site — “The users, who live mostly on Columbia Pike and Alexandria, have shrunk to 10-20. ‘The outdoor site is no longer there, and it’s only a matter of time before jobs disappear from there,’ Tobar said.” [Falls Church News-Press]
ANC to Recreate 1921 Procession — “Arlington National Cemetery said Wednesday that it will host a public memorial procession and military flyover on Nov. 11 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of Unknowns. The procession, which visitors can observe, will begin at the main entrance to the cemetery on Memorial Avenue near the welcome center.” [Washington Post]
Honor for Wakefield Driving Teacher — “The Virginia Association for Driver Education and Traffic Safety has named Wakefield High School’s Tony Bentley the Behind the Wheel Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made at the state meeting, held online on Oct. 1, which featured 140 driver-education teachers and representatives from the Virginia Department of Education.” [Sun Gazette]
Staff of Rosslyn-Based Politico Unionizes — “The news staffs of Politico and E&E News went public Friday with the news that that they have formed a union. Around 80 percent of the newsrooms’ combined staffs are on board… Politico is based in Virginia, a right-to-work state, so employees will likely have the choice of whether or not to join if the union drive is successful.” [Washingtonian]
It’s Monday, Nov. 1 — The first day of November will be sunny, with a high near 60. Northwest wind 7 to 11 mph. Sunrise at 7:35 a.m. and sunset at 6:07 p.m. Tomorrow there will be a chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53.
(Updated 10/25/21 at 9:50 a.m.) Hundreds of students walked out of their classrooms this morning to take a stand against sexual assault and harassment in Arlington Public Schools.
Walkouts were held from 11 a.m. to noon at Yorktown, Washington-Liberty, Wakefield high schools, H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, and Arlington Career Center. The Yorktown walkout — held just two weeks after reports that a group of students yelled inappropriate sexual language and touched a fellow student inappropriately at a football game — trekked from the campus to nearby Chestnut Hills Park for a rally, then returned.
“It was so amazing to see so many people come out,” YHS student body president Sebastian Morales-Talero tells ARLnow. “Seeing them come out gave me hope that things will be better and that we can change as a community.”
He said another organizer was in tears over the show of support from fellow students.
During a speech by Scotney Young, a social worker and sexual assault prevention specialist for local nonprofit Doorways, many students raised their hands to indicate they’ve experienced sexual violence or know someone who has.
“It was really powerful to see so many students using their voices and actions to speak out against sexual violence and to demand more action from school administrators,” Young tells ARLnow. “Sexual violence thrives when there is a culture and system that allows and accepts it, and these students were saying they want to change that.”
Young said she conducts educational programming focused on giving young people the tools they need to have “respectful, safe and supportive relationships and interactions free from violence.”
Today’s protests were tied to similar ones at schools nationwide, according to School Talk emails APS sent to high school families last night (Thursday). In his email to families, Yorktown Principal Kevin Clark connected the walkout to the Homecoming game.
“While we do not have additional details about this activity, we understand that this is to raise awareness about the issue of sexual assault and harassment and ensuring appropriate responses,” Clark said. “While we know of recent events at the Yorktown Homecoming Football game, there have also been similar walkouts at other schools across the country recently.”
During half-time, a handful of YHS students allegedly used “inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote to students and families two weeks ago. A report of sexual battery was filed with Arlington County Police Department.
A new tech and innovation lab funded by Amazon is expected to launch at Wakefield High School by the end of the year, according to Arlington Public Schools.
Construction is currently underway on the “AWS Think Big Space,” which will provide a dedicated space for hands-on learning in robotics, the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (known collectively as STEAM), and training in cloud computing-based technologies.
“This lab will provide stimulating learning environments for students to work individually or collaboratively on entrepreneurial, STEAM, and Design Thinking projects,” said Wakefield Principal Chris Willmore. “All students in grades 9-12 will be encouraged to extend their learning of STEAM topics beyond the classroom through engagement in the lab. We are grateful and excited that Wakefield was chosen by Amazon for this public-private partnership. All of our students will benefit from this learning environment.”
The Amazon-funded lab, which will open to students across the school system, also has the support of some private community sponsors.
Wakefield High School is first high school in the Americas to receive a Think Big Space, according to APS. It is the second in Virginia, after Amazon funded and built its first lab in 2019 at an elementary school in Prince William County.
Amazon has built similar spaces around the world.
“At Amazon, we are committed to making a positive impact in the communities where our employees live and work,” said Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy. “We are proud to call Virginia home and to support our neighbors as we grow in Arlington. This AWS Think Big Space at Wakefield High School will provide students across the community with the tools and connections they need to build, imagine, and innovate their best future. We can’t wait to see what they will create.”
Wendy Maitland, who most recently served as the Resource Teacher for the Gifted at Wakefield, will oversee the new space.
“We believe that this AWS Think Big Space will act as a significant point of access for students who may not normally take advantage, of or be aware of, STEAM career paths. At Wakefield, we are committed to eliminating opportunity gaps to ensure access and provide excellence in education for every student, especially first generation and low-income students,” she said. “Our partnership with Amazon will allow us to build a community of learners who collaborate, explore, and seamlessly apply technology throughout all aspects of teaching and learning.”
The AWS Think Big Space is expected to receive final School Board approval at a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 28.
(Updated on 10/14/21) There have been 34 positive Covid tests among students at Wakefield High School this school year, more than three times the number at any other Arlington public school.
Many of the cases were recorded recently. At one point last week, the Arlington Public Schools Covid dashboard reported 20 cases over the previous seven days at Wakefield.
Asked about a potential outbreak at the school, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow that “it’s 16 cases related to athletics/activities.”
The cases are among players of several sports, we’re told. Privacy concerns have previously prevented APS from providing more granular information than that contained in the dashboard.
The rate of new cases at Wakefield appears to be decreasing, with 10 cases reported over the past seven days as of this morning.
Drew Elementary and Washington-Liberty High School have the next-highest case total after Wakefield for the 2021-2022 school year so far, with 10 reported Covid cases apiece. Yorktown, Arlington’s other high school, has had six cases.
A geographic disparity is apparent in the APS Covid data.
So far this school year 80 positive cases out of the 185 total student cases across APS are linked to the 22204 zip code, which runs along Columbia Pike. The next-highest zip code — 22206, which includes the Shirlington and Fairlington neighborhoods — has less than a third as many cases, with 26.
Among the general population countywide, average daily cases have fluctuated this month, from a low of 29 to a high of 39.
Currently, the seven-day trailing average of new cases stands at 33. Nine Covid-related hospitalizations and two deaths have been reported since Oct. 1, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.