Arlington, VA

A problem with the air conditioning at Washington Liberty High School is prompting an early dismissal.

With temperatures expected to climb into the mid-90s today, school administrators decided to send students home at 10:40 a.m. rather than have them stay in increasingly warm classrooms.

More via a letter sent to W-L families from the school’s principal:

Washington-Liberty Families and Staff:

The HVAC system at W-L is currently not working properly. Based on forecasted temperatures in the mid to upper 90s, we have made the decision to dismiss students at 10:40 a.m. Transportation will pick up bus riders at that time as well.

All after school athletic events will go on as planned unless those families hear from their coach.

The health and safety of our students and staff is our primary focus. Facilities has crews at the school to repair HVAC system and we will update you on operations for tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience and disruption to the schedule.

Please call the office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Gregg Robertson,
Principal

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(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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Washington-Liberty High School is set to open to students next week, and with the new name come two new logos for the school and the rebranding for an old logo.

One logo — a profile of George Washington outlined against the Liberty Bell — was designed by students and painted to welcome students to the rebranded school, which was formerly named Washington-Lee. The image is similar to the older logo for the school but removes the profile of its former namesake, Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

“There are three logos being used,” Frank Bellavia, spokesman for Arlington Public Schools, said in an email to ARLnow. “The one in the tweet is one and was created by a student.”

The school website uses another logo: a coat of arms with the first president and the big bell emblazoned on a shield. Bellavia said this logo was designed by the Principal’s Student Advisory Board and the Student Athletic Council.

Both logos include a smaller version of the classic W-L overlay, which will continue to be used as another school logo.

Photo 1 via @wl_arts/Twitter, photo 2, 3 via APS

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Morning Notes

New Coworking Space Coming to Ballston — “Piedmont Office Realty Trust signed a 29K SF lease with WeWork at its Arlington Tower office building at 901 North Glebe Road in Ballston, the REIT said in its Q2 earnings release Wednesday evening. The coworking giant will take the entire fifth floor and plans to open before the end of the year, Piedmont Director Chris Poppell tells Bisnow.” [Bisnow]

Disaster Declaration May Be Coming Soon — “A disaster designation based on damage assessments in Arlington County would allow homeowners and businesses in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County to apply for low-interest federal loans beginning as soon as next week to help pay for repairs. Fairfax County Emergency Management Coordinator Seamus Mooney expects the designation to be approved within the next two weeks.” [WTOP]

Changes Proposed for Pentagon City Hotel — “The owner of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Crystal City is gearing up for a play to capitalize on the 627-room hotel’s proximity to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. Tom Baltimore, CEO of the hotel’s owner, Park Hotels & Resorts (NYSE: PK), told analysts on its second-quarter earnings call Thursday that the hotel is one of several the company is evaluating as possible redevelopment opportunities.” [Washington Business Journal]

Video: Dark Star Park Day — A timelapse video captured the moment on Thursday morning when the shadows lined up at Rosslyn’s Dark Star Park, as happens once a year on Aug. 1. [Twitter]

Arlington Boy Lives Dream in Boston — “There was a special visitor to the WBZ Weather Center on Thursday. Noah Coon from Arlington, Virginia is a big weather fan and stopped by the studio thanks to Dream On 3. Noah has cerebral palsy and was in Boston to visit the Red Sox. Because he’s also a fan of meteorology, he came to visit the WBZ weather team.” [WBZ]

Video: Yorktown vs. W-L — Just published online: “Long-lost footage of the famous Nov. 5, 1970, mud bowl football game between the Yorktown High School Patriots and the Washington-Lee Generals. Yorktown was favored with a 9-0 record but W-L won 12-0 and earned the Potomac District championship. [YouTube]

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Morning Notes

‘Lee’ Supporters Seek W-L Name Delay — “It may be a last-ditch attempt, but supporters of retaining the name of Washington-Lee High School are seeking a delay of a year to implement the change to Washington-Liberty. ‘There are multiple active legal actions working their way through various courts,’ said Dean Fleming, vice president of the Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association, in an e-mail to school leaders. ‘This is a very serious matter. It should not be taken lightly.'” [InsideNova]

Moran Donates Leftover Campaign Cash — “In the summer of 2018, congressman-turned-lobbyist Jim Moran was trying to recruit his former colleagues to put pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Moran was doing so on behalf of one of his clients, the government of Qatar. And he had a pot of money, left over from years of donations to his reelection campaigns, that he could steer to his lobbying targets.” [The Daily Beast]

Makeshift Memorial for Career Center Employee — “Candles, flowers, balloons, and thoughts shared in the Penrose Giant parking garage lower level for Haley Garcia, the Career Center employee.” [Twitter]

Fast-Growing Amazon Divisions Coming to HQ2 — “The divisions heading to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters in Arlington are some of the fastest-growing in the company, according to Amazon’s latest quarterly earnings report. The company said Thursday its headcount is up 13% to 653,300 full-time and part-time employees… Amazon Web Services and Alexa — two of the three Amazon businesses that are HQ2-bound — are growing at a much faster pace.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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A band of brothers from Arlington saved a five-year-old girl from drowning this week during a trip to Ireland.

On Monday, three brothers — Walter Butler (21), Eoghan Butler (18), Declan Butler (18) — were enjoying a rare sunny Dublin day at a beach with their brother-in-law Alex Thomson (24) when they heard someone crying for help. The group leaped into action after spotting a young girl on an pink inflatable floaty, who was being pulled away by the ocean current.

The group was able to rescue the girl and carry her back to safety, as first reported by Ireland’s Evening Herald.

The boys’ mother, Meagan Cummings, told ARLnow that her children were visiting Ireland to bury their grandfather, who was born there and emigrated to the United States years ago. But there was also something very special about the fateful day of the rescue.

“Their grandfather, when he lived in Ireland many years ago, got on a ship to join the United States Navy. When he was coming over there was a telegram waiting for him that said his younger brother had drowned,” said Cummings. “The anniversary of his brother drowning was Monday.”

Cummings said the drowning death had made her and her parents fearful of water. That was one the reasons she encouraged her six children to learn to be good swimmers. The three Butler boys swam with the Overlee swim team for several years, and Walter and his sister were also on the Washington-Lee High School swim team.

“Only for them my daughter wouldn’t be here today,” said the father of the six-year-old girl, in an interview with the Irish Times. The man said he was unable to reach her from the shore, and could only watch as the current dragged the girl away and led her to lose her grip on the floaty she was clinging to.

“You could see the brave little girl fighting for her life, her head bobbing under and breaking the surface, she clearly could not swim,” Walter told the newspaper. “She was doing everything she could to stay alive.”

Three of the brothers swam for twenty minutes — almost a mile in total — to reach the girl. They took turns carrying her as they made their way back to the shore. Eoghan told the Irish news site the Independent that the girl was a “nervous wreck” and they calmed her by asking about her birthday and her favorite color.

Walter currently serves in the United States Coast Guard as a Health Services Technician. His mother said he put his training to use, assembling a plan for his three brothers to swim the distance and retrieve the girl while he met them halfway, to save his strength in case he needed to administer first aid.

Alex, who is married to the brothers’ sister Juliana, told the Independent that he thought of his own growing family during the rescue.

“The main thing I was thinking about was we couldn’t lose that little girl,” he said. “I’m expecting a daughter in October, and was empathizing with the father’s fear.”

Authorities reported the girl was taken to the hospital after the rescue and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Her father confirmed on Tuesday she was recovering back at home.

“The way I feel about it they were given a chance to rise to their best. And they did,” said Cummings, the boys’ mother. “And that just made me feel so proud.”

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The “Buck Site” — a county-owned property across N. Quincy Street from Washington-Lee High School — could serve a smörgåsbord of Arlington’s needs.

Last week the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) reviewed proposed uses for four building renovations planned for the site to fit needs across several local departments and Arlington Public Schools (APS).

According to the Phase 3 plans, the Buck 1 building closest to N. Quincy Street would be used as a logistics hub for the Arlington County Fire Department.

Buck 3, a building farther back in the site, would be used for police storage.

According to Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services, the county is moving forward with renovations to the warehouse building at 1425 N. Quincy Street to accommodate the relocation of police reserve vehicles.

The police vehicles are being relocated due to the upcoming construction at Jennie Dean Park near Shirlington, where they’re currently stored.

The planned use for the two other buildings at the site is still to be determined. Baxter said the county is waiting to hear what the top priority would be from APS.

“The two office buildings at 1429 and 1439 N. Quincy Street (Buck 2 and 4) are being considered for instructional space and/or the relocation of APS’s administrative offices, trade shops, and associated white fleet vehicles from the Trades Center in Shirlington, for APS’s growing needs,” Baxter wrote. “APS will decide whether to proceed with the uses of these buildings, and is to let the county know this fall.”

Last June, the County Board approved an agreement that would allow APS to park vehicles at the property.

If APS does not proceed with classrooms or an administrative use in those buildings, the county’s plans are to convert Buck 2 into county offices and a facility for Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (PSCEM).

The presentation at the JFAC meeting also included estimated renovation costs for each of the buildings:

  • Buck 1 (Fire logistics) — $8 million-$10 million
  • Buck 2 (APS classrooms or county offices) — $14.5 million-$20 million
  • Buck 3 (Police vehicle and equipment storage) — $7 million-$9 million
  • Buck 4 (APS classrooms, administrative, or PSCEM) — $14 million-$24 million
  • General site renovations — $4 million

An alternative design for the site, also under consideration, envisions the Buck Site as a recreational field, multi-use athletic field and youth/rec baseball field was also presented at the meeting, with a $13.5 million cost estimate.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Fire Outside Shirlington Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:30 a.m. — “ACFD working to extinguish a dumpster fire near an apartment building at 3000 S. Randolph Street in Shirlington. ‘Smoke conditions’ reported in portions of the building.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The Cost of Renaming Washington-Lee — “It will cost taxpayers about a quarter of a million dollars to change ‘Lee’ to ‘Liberty’ on the name of Arlington’s oldest public high school. School officials have released an estimate of $224,360 for the name change, with about two-thirds of the total for ‘soft costs’ (uniforms, athletic equipment and the like) and the remainder ‘hard costs’ such as signage.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Gets Celebrity Shoutout — “When [H-B Woodlawn student] Cole Goco, 17, sits down to draw his comic Billy the Pop, every line and contour is decisive. He uses pen, after all. And, after five years, hundreds and hundreds of strips published regularly to a blog, two self-published comic books, a dedicated following, and — most recently — the recognition of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s safe to say Goco knows what’s doing.” [DCist]

Rosslyn Startup Gets Another Investment — “Frontier Capital, a Charlotte-based growth equity firm focused exclusively on B2B software, today announced a strategic growth investment in Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform that connects citizens to lawmakers.” [BusinessWire]

Bomb Squad Investigates Suspicious Car at DCA — “A portion of the daily parking lot at Reagan National Airport was closed [Wednesday] morning after suspicious contents were spotted inside a parked car. Authorities checked out the car ‘out of an abundance of caution’ and nothing hazardous was found, per an airport spokeswoman.” [Twitter]

Local Pedestrian, Bicycle Crash Reduction Effort Honored — “The Arlington County Pedestrian Bicycle Crash Reduction Campaign aims to reduce bicycle and pedestrian-involved traffic crashes through the coordination of education, engineering and enforcement… Arlington County saw a seven percent decrease in pedestrian crashes and a 29 percent reduction in bicycle-related crashes in 2018.” [Virginia DMV]

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Morning Notes

It’s Bike to Work DayUpdated at 9 a.m. — Today is Bike to Work Day and in Arlington eight neighborhoods are hosting pit stops for the annual event. [Twitter, Twitter]

W-L Crew Team Wins State Championship — “The Washington-Lee High School girls varsity eight won its first state championship in 30 years at the recent regatta at Sandy Run Regional Park in Occoquan.” [InsideNova]

RIP I.M. Pei — Famed architect I.M. Pei, who designed Potomac Tower in Rosslyn, has died at the age of 102. [Associated Press]

‘Click It or Ticket’ Returning — “As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, Arlington County Police are reminding all drivers of the importance of seat belt use. This annual campaign is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national Click It or Ticket high-visibility enforcement effort that runs from May 20 to June 2, 2019.” [Arlington County]

Millionth MAGA Hat Stored in Arlington — “The one-millionth official Make America Great Again hat ever made is currently locked away at President Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.” [Breitbart]

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Arlington County Board will take a final vote this Saturday on a plan to add capacity for 600 additional students at Washington-Lee High School by building classrooms in its nearby office building.

Arlington Public Schools requested a permit change in order to convert the former administrative offices at the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) on the W-L campus into educational space. The 24,600-square-foot space is slated to be converted into classrooms, a science lab, gym, and a “commons” area, with a fall 2021 completion date, according to a staff report submitted to the Board.

If approved, the updated use permit would allow APS to make others changes:

In addition to the conversion of use, the request also includes minor exterior alterations to the building, including replacing ground floor windows. Site modifications include a new pedestrian connection between the main W-L building and the Ed Center, provisions for new off-site bus and parent pick-up and drop-off, additional bicycle parking, and improvements to a pedestrian crossing at North Quincy Street to enhance pedestrian safety.

The request comes as the student population in Arlington continues to grow. School Board members already approved an APS budget that factors in an additional 1,000 students next year. W-L’s expansion into the Education Center is one of the solutions officials have picked to house the additional enrollment growth.

The staff report described the expansion as “a sustainable alternative to building a new school facility to address capacity needs.” The report indicated 55 teachers and staff would be needed at the Education Center if it’s converted to classrooms.

The building previously served as APS administrative headquarters but has been empty since staff relocated to an office building in the Penrose neighborhood.

The Arlington School Board approved the expansion project two years ago and funded it last year with $37 million in the budget. Washington-Lee is set to be officially renamed Washington-Liberty High School this summer.

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The Sun Gazette ran a mysterious ad in this week’s paper, offering W-L students who write an essay about “why my school should be named Washington-Lee” the chance to “win $1,000 cash.”

The ad did not specify who was running the contest, and only said submissions to be sent to [email protected] When contacted, a man identifying himself as Tom Hafer of McLean responded and said he was organizing the contest.

Hafer told ARLnow he’s a W-L graduate from the class of ’66 who has lived in Arlington for most of his life before moving across county lines.

“The money is from my own pocket unless some of my like-minded colleagues decide to help defray,” Hafer said when asked about the contest’s funding. “At this point, I am doing this on my own but I will likely enlist some other readers if there is significant competition among essays.”

Currently he says he’s received no essay submissions, but he doesn’t “expect too many until closer to the [May 12] deadline.”

The School Board voted unanimously to rename the high school “Washington-Liberty” in January. When asked what he thought the essay contest could accomplish after this fact, Hafer said it was a symbolic act.

“This essay will give the students of W-L a voice on this issue that was denied them by the School Board, and will give members of the public an opportunity to hear that voice,” he wrote in an email. “I believe that if the students had been allowed to vote on the name of THEIR OWN SCHOOL that it would be Washington-Lee — forever.”

Earlier this month, Hafer called the renaming a “diversity sideshow” in a Letter to the Editor published by the Sun Gazette.

Last June, Hafer accused the School Board of “hypocrisy, deceit, ignorance and malfeasance” during a public meeting on the renaming, reported the Falls Church News-Press.

Hafer’s ad this week said that the “winning essay may be published in Sun Gazette” but that the contest was “only open to verifiable Washington-Lee students.”

He clarified that he does not have an agreement with the paper to publish any essays.

“When I see whether any of the essays are worthy of publication I will see whether the Sun Gazette wants to print it,” he said. “If not I may simply put it in as an ad.”

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