Arlington, VA

High school athletes can start working out in-person next week, regardless of whether they chose distance- or hybrid-learning, Arlington Public Schools has announced.

Starting Monday, Oct. 12, APS will be using stadiums, tracks and fields for student workouts and athletic activities. While students exercise, the facilities will be closed to public use.

“During the APS athletic workouts, staff will be following COVID precautions and therefore all school facilities (stadiums, track, fields) will be closed to the public,” the school system said. “It is important that the community respect the closure and practice social distancing.”

APS is currently conducting remote learning only, but preparing to bring students back in a “hybrid” model, with most students spending two days per week in schools and other students able to opt to continue a distance learning-only program.

The school system previously said it would be screening kids daily, including temperature checks before participating in sports. Students are encouraged to check with their coach and school’s athletic webpage for more information.

School athletic facilities will be closed on the following days and times, according to APS.

Greenbrier Stadium (Yorktown) and fields
Monday, Thursday and Friday, closed from 3:30-8 p.m; Tuesday and Wednesday, closed from 3:30-7:15 p.m.

Wakefield Stadium and fields
Monday through Friday, closed 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Washington-Liberty Stadium and fields
Monday through Friday, closed 3:30-7:30 p.m.

File photo

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Isabel Samaras, who grew up in Arlington, has illustrated the cover of MAD Magazine’s October issue.

The cover is for MAD’s “Super Spooferheroes” issue and depicts Wonder Woman’s “Lasso of Tooth” extracting a tooth from the magazine’s iconic cover boy. Samaras is only the second woman to illustrate a MAD cover in the magazine’s 68 year history.

In addition to creating art for publication and for sale, Samaras is a professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Samaras spent most of her youth in Arlington, attending Glebe Elementary, Swanson Middle School and Washington-Lee (now Washington-Liberty) High School. She describes her younger self as being a bit of an outsider navigating through Arlington Public Schools.

“I was kind of an oddball, out there flapping away on the fringes, a nerd and an art nerd, some kinda double whammy that probably made me socially radioactive,” Samaras said.

Samaras credits her mom for first sparking her interest in art. When Samaras was young, her mother would construct paper dolls for her to play with. Samaras said seeing the possibilities for what an ordinary object could become fascinated her.

“It seemed like an incredible magic trick to me — this ability to make something, to make toys out of humble office supplies,” Samaras said. “I wanted to be able to do that, too.”

In high school, Samaras painted murals around W-L’s building, including seahorses in the cafeteria. She also painted backdrops for the drama department and was the art director for Penman, the school’s literary magazine.

At W-L, Samaras said her art teacher, Roy Anderson, played a huge role in her artistic growth. He encouraged her to try printmaking at a class in George Washington University’s Corcoran School, and motivated her to apply to Parsons School of Design in New York City, where Samaras attended college.

“He really pushed me to try things that were outside my comfort zone,” Samaras said. “I think about Mr. Anderson a lot these days, about the power of a teacher to light candles, to ignite excitement.”

Growing up, Samaras said MAD Magazine was a coveted treat to read. She remains an avid reader of the satirical magazine today, even as its national popularity wanes. To have her work on the cover, and to be the second woman to ever do so, “is a pretty big, tingle down to the toes, thrill,” Samaras said.

“When I was a kid, and for most of my life, I never saw any women artists in MAD, so it didn’t even occur to me as a possibility that someday I’d see my own work there,” Samaras said. “I’m a subscriber — still — so having the issue with my art on the cover show up in the mail was a completely surreal experience.”

The Wonder Woman parody on Samaras’ cover, which keeps with the MAD cover tradition of spoofing pop culture, is also in line with Samaras’ earlier work.

Samaras said her most popular work blends fictional characters with classic historical paintings. She’s painted Frankenstein and his bride as Mary and Joseph in a nativity scene, Batman dressed as a classical lord and a non-frightening Morticia Addams of The Addams Family holding a child.

Lately, Samaras has been doing more personal work, like painting hands to express different emotions. In these pieces, Samaras said she aims to give her audience a glimpse into how she sees the world.

“Ultimately I’m trying to create beauty, but there’s a lot of energy embedded in a painting,” Samaras said. “You spend an enormous amount of time dreaming them up and creating them — it’s not just a metaphor that you pour yourself into them, you really do… But mostly I’m just hoping that there’s a feeling of connection. A painting in a frame is like a tunnel or a window, from my world to you.”

Photos courtesy Isabel Samaras

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An Arlington teen was named as a top 300 finalist in a national science project competition.

Eyuel Berhanu, a rising 9th grader who went to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, is one of the Top 300 MASTERS in the annual Broadcom MASTERS science fair, which is billed as the nation’s premier Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competition for middle schoolers.

Eyuel, 14, studied mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) in his project. His uncle is a civil engineer, and through him Eyuel became interested in highway entrance ramps and the reinforced dirt that typically supports them.

For his project, Eyuel tested how adding different types of reinforcement to sand affected the sand’s strength.

“We had a little cube with the top open, and filled it with sand then a type of reinforcement,” Eyuel said. “The reinforcement is very strong, so we couldn’t just put weights on it. We had to stand on it, and the most we had was 300 pounds of weight on it and it didn’t crumble.”

Through research, Eyuel identified the most common types of MSE reinforcements used in construction, and tested each. Between metal strips, ladder metal, plastic geogrid and metal mesh, he found geogrid to be the most effective.

The project was based on a paper Eyuel wrote as a part of the Virginia Junior Academy of Science in late 2019. In January 2020, he submitted his work to Thomas Jefferson’s school science fair, and won first prize.

This advanced him to the Northern Virginia regional science fair, where Eyuel placed in the top 10% of competitors and was nominated to Broadcom MASTERS.

From there, he was selected to the top 300 from an applicant pool of 3,476 students. Eyuel said being chosen from such a large group was surreal, and he had trouble believing it when he first read the email telling him the news.

Eyuel said he pursued science projects out of his passion for STEM.

“My love for science and math [got me involved]. I want to be an engineer when I grow up, so that’s what got me into STEM and science projects like this,” Eyuel said.

When Eyuel was in 7th grade, he said he entered his middle school’s science fair and placed third, failing to qualify for regionals. Having now advanced from his school’s fair to the national stage, Eyuel’s dad, Teguwaze Berhanu, said he thinks persistence is a lesson that Eyuel has taken from his journey.

“He worked a lot and he spent a lot of time,” Berhanu said. “He tried in 7th grade and didn’t make it to regionals. And he tried again and did. He learned that by doing things again and again, he can achieve whatever he wants.”

Eyuel is starting as a freshman in Washington-Liberty High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program this school year.  He said he is looking forward to challenging himself in higher level math and science courses, and is excited to compete in science fairs at the high school level.

Photos courtesy the Berhanu family

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Morning Notes

Changes Proposed for Rosslyn Development — “The Dittmar Co. is tinkering with it plans for the redevelopment of the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, shrinking the size of a planned hotel and adding more residential to account for Covid-19’s impact on the hospitality industry. The developer filed revised plans for the project with Arlington County earlier this month, outlining its new designs for a 326-room hotel and a 523-unit apartment building” [Washington Business Journal]

Rainstorm Leads to Vivid Rainbows — “For such an awful year, 2020 has lots of rainbows. This one continued into the grass below me.” [@STATter911/Twitter, @RosslynVA/Twitter]

County Stats on Missing Middle Housing — “So, just how missing is this missing middle? 6%. That’s the percentage of Arlington’s 116,000 homes that the county estimates are townhomes, side-by-side duplexes, or stacked duplexes. If you count low-rise multifamily apartments as missing middle, the percentage increases to a little less than a third of the county’s current housing stock.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Mulch Available for Arlington Residents — “Free wood mulch for pickup is available for the first time since March. Get it while it’s hot. The stuff doesn’t grow on … nevermind.” [@ArlingtonDES/Twitter, Arlington County]

Lebanese Taverna Owners in Beirut — “Monday’s kitchen at full swing from @WCKitchen HQ’s over 11k meals between 9 total kitchens with amazing committed partners and volunteers! Thankful to @lebanesetaverna Abi-Najm family for showing up in person and supporting Beirut operation financially #ChefsForBeirut” [@chefjoseandres/Twitter]

Rep. Beyer’s GOP Challenger — “Jeff Jordan has his work cut out for him. The Republican supports President Donald Trump, and he’s running an uphill battle against Rep. Don Beyer for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District seat, which has remained solidly in Democratic hands for the last 30 years.” [ALXnow]

Hockey: W-L Defeats Yorktown — “It took nearly five months and some intricate planning. Then at last, the popular and annual all-Arlington ice hockey high-school club match between the Washington-Liberty Generals and Yorktown Patriots was played Aug. 1. The Generals won, 5-3, at the Medstar Capitals Iceplex. The season-ending rivalry match was originally scheduled for March 13, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” [InsideNova]

Online Home Lighting Discussion — Sponsored — “Olson Weaver Lighting Design & is hosting a Q & A session to answer lighting questions from designers/architects, contractors, & homeowners” on Friday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. [Eventbrite]

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Brittany O’Grady, a Washington-Liberty High School graduate, is starring in Apple TV+’s new series, Little Voice.

O’Grady plays Bess King, a singer-songwriter trying to navigate New York City while pursuing a career in music with her earnest songs.

The show is executive produced by Sara Bareilles, J.J. Abrams and Jessie Nelson, and is loosely based on Bareilles’ early days in the music industry. The soundtrack features original songs written by Bareilles.

O’Grady began her acting career in Arlington, with roles in Encore Stage’s 2007 production of The 12 Dancing Princesses and Signature Theater’s The Witches of Eastwick when she was 10.

She graduated from W-L in 2013 and has performed on major D.C. stages like Ford’s Theater, The Kennedy Center and The White House.

O’Grady’s first major television appearance was in a 2014 episode of ABC’s Trophy Wife, in which she plays an abrasive teenager at a mini golf course. She went on to play the main character’s sister in three seasons of Star on Fox, as well as have roles in thriller films Above Suspicion and Black Christmas.

Little Voice, which premiered July 10, has garnered O’Grady attention from some of entertainment media’s biggest outlets. She has done interviews with Vanity Fair, People, Variety, InStyle, E! and The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Amid questions about what it is like to work with Bareilles and how the show’s love triangle will work out, a recurring theme in these interviews is O’Grady’s candor regarding racial issues in the television and film industries.

“Now, as we’re progressing forward, people who are casting for roles, they usually go for… a Black person” with European features they believe to be more appealing, O’Grady, who is biracial, said to InStyle. “And I think that a lot of dark-skinned women in our industry have felt ignored, have felt overlooked, have felt that their beauty has not been appreciated or represented well, and usually only represented by lighter-skinned women.”

O’Grady has also been vocal in her support of social justice issues to her nearly 800,000 Instagram followers.

“Systematic racism… still affects Black people in our country today,” she said in one recent post. “It affects our beliefs, our school systems, and our communities. As a biracial black woman who often looks racially ambiguous to others, I have had minor experiences with racism and it took me till I left home and went to a private conservative college to experience the honest despair my peers have felt their whole lives.”

“If you are indifferent, annoyed or even offended by people addressing racism and racist systems in our country, that is your privilege and your ignorance, she continued. “It’s everyone’s responsibility in our country to address this and fix it, even if you think it doesn’t affect you. Because it does.”

O’Grady’s mother is Arlington School Board Chair Monique O’Grady. In 2017, O’Grady introduced her mother at a campaign event.

The eighth episode of the nine in Little Voice‘s first season is being released today.

Photo via brittanyogrady.com

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Morning Notes

Local Real Estate Market Rebounds — “After an uncharacteristically slow spring, thanks to stay-at-home orders and economic uncertainty stemming from Covid-19, Washington’s residential real estate market had a record-breaking July. According to the latest local data, the median home sale price in the DC metro area hit a 10-year high last month.” The median days on the market for Arlington, meanwhile, is seven. [Washingtonian, InsideNova, Twitter]

I-395 Wrong-Way Driver Arrested — “A woman driving the wrong way on northbound Interstate 395 Tuesday morning struck two vehicles before taking off, Virginia State Police said. The crash at 4:49 a.m. sent debris across the interstate and shut down all northbound lanes before Washington Boulevard in Arlington for roughly an hour.” [WTOP]

Long Bridge Project May Be Delayed — “The good news is that the coronavirus pandemic has not derailed one of the region’s most important transit projects: the construction of a second Long Bridge over the Potomac River reserved exclusively for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express passenger trains. The bad news is that due to revenue shortfalls directly related to the pandemic, the $3.7 billion, 10-year project may be significantly delayed.” [Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Twitter]

W-L Student Dies Unexpectedly — “Generals, it is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of one of our own. Adrian Vega-Alcantara, a student in the 11th grade, passed away suddenly of heart failure on August 10.” [Washington-Liberty High School]

Local Reaction to Veep Pick — “Amid a strong field of highly qualified women, Senator Harris stands out as a powerful and historic choice,” said Rep. Don Beyer. ” I know from our time together in the Senate that she’ll be great for the ticket and more importantly, great for our country,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. [Press Release, Twitter]

Meteor Shower This Week — “Make sure you stay up late one evening (or wake up early) to see the annual Perseid meteor shower! It will peak this week on the mornings of Wed, Thu, and Fri.” [Twitter, EarthSky]

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The indoor public pools at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools reopened on Saturday.

Arlington Public Schools announced Friday afternoon that the pools would be reopening under the state’s Phase 3 guidelines. The Wakefield High School pool “will remain closed for a few more weeks” due to major maintenance work, APS said.

Those who want to use the pools are required to make a reservation for a 45-minute window.

More from an APS email to parents:

The two pools will open under the Virginia Forward Phase III guidelines, which include diminished capacity, physical distancing of 10 feet and the requirement of a health and temperature screening for all staff and patrons. We have posted many of the details on our website and will continue to do so over the next 24 hours. Use this link to learn more and stay informed.

Patrons will need to purchase admission and make a reservation for a 45-min swim or water exercise/jog session. You will need to set up an account on our Self-Service Portal. You will receive a separate email this evening inviting you to join the APS Aquatics Self-Service Portal. Follow the instructions on the email to set up your account. […]

The reservations will open at 8 a.m. on the previous day (On Friday at 8 a.m. you will be able to register for Saturday sessions). They will first go live tomorrow morning. Instruction on registering are available at Making a Reservation. This section also includes information about what to expect when you get to the pool, while you swim and after you are done. Patrons will be checked in, directed to the locker rooms to shower before swimming and out to the deck to a designated Blue or Red lanes. After you swim, you may choose to exit directly off the deck or enter the Unisex Room to change out of your swimming gear and shower. If you have any questions or need assistance navigating the portal or the registration page, please call 703-228-6264 or 703-228-6263. […]

Regretfully, The Wakefield pool will remain closed for a few more weeks. APS is performing major maintenance in the entire building ahead of the start of the school year. We recognize this is disappointing to our Wakefield patrons, but it is imperative that this work be completed. We anticipate opening around August 24. […]

The APS Aquatics team is excited to be back at the pools and ready to welcome you back.  Staff will be learning how to navigate this new way of serving you and the success of our re-opening depends greatly on your willingness to follow the guidelines and on your patience. Our primary concern remains your safety both in the water and in the building.

We very much look forward to seeing you on Saturday at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown Pools. It has been a long 4-months on dry land.

Arlington County does not have outdoor public pools, but is home to several private swim clubs. The county government itself does not currently operate any public pools, but that will change when the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center opens. The opening of the aquatics center, however, has been delayed at least a year due to the pandemic and budget issues.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Seattle Tax Could Advantage Arlington — “It wouldn’t shock us if Amazon started encouraging more of its executives to up and move their teams to HQ2, or a neighboring city in Washington state, now that the Seattle City Council has passed a progressive tax targeting the wealthiest companies in the city.” [Washington Business Journal]

Analysis of County Board Special Election — From @A_Hendel on Twitter: “Takis Karantonis received most of his share of the vote from South Arlington… In fact, almost no precincts north of I-66 cast 50% or more of their votes for Takis.” [Twitter]

Organizations Getting Big PPP Loans in Arlington — The American Diabetes Association, tech company ByteCubed, American Service Center, Bishop O’Connell High School and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington are among the Arlington-based organizations to reportedly receive $2+ million federal Paycheck Protection Act loans. [Patch]

Another Local Tech Firm Gets PPP Help — “Amazon.com Inc. may have posted record sales during the pandemic, but many third-party sellers on the platform foundered… Some of those sellers — like the Arlington-based Amify Inc. and Etailz Inc., based in Spokane, Washington — received millions of dollars worth of help from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.” [Washington Business Journal]

Water Main Repairs Today in Bluemont — “Thursday Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews will replace 3 valves in separate locations tomorrow in Bluemont area. Some 100 customers have been notified of potential service interruptions 8 a.m.-5 p.m.” [Twitter]

Letter: W-L Renaming Happened at a Good Time — “The Arlington School Board’s renaming of Washington-Lee High School was autocratic, manipulative, adversarial and punitive. In retrospect, though, they unwittingly did the W-L community a favor.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Big Response to Small Biz Grant Program — “Those hit hard by the pandemic can receive help through the small business emergency grant program. More than 1,100 businesses have applied, [County Board Chair Libby] Garvey said, and at least 63% of them are owned by women or minorities. ‘With an additional $1.6 million, we can provide grants to a total of 400 businesses, more than 50% of those that… were eligible,’ Garvey said,” during her State of the County address Tuesday morning. [WTOP, Zoom]

Chamber Presents Valor Awards — Also on Tuesday, “awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel and first responders. Fourteen honorees were recognized for their courageous, and often lifesaving, actions in the line of duty. Leadership of all respective departments submitted nominations for the honorees, based on their performance over the past year.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce, InsideNova]

Road Closures for Grad Parades Tomorrow — “On Thursday, June 18, the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Section will support Senior Graduation Parades for Wakefield High School and Washington-Liberty High School. Traffic around the schools will be impacted at the below listed times. The public can expect to see increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.” [Arlington County]

CivFed Wants More Open Space — “The president of the Arlington County Civic Federation on June 13 delivered his message quietly but bluntly: The county government needs to put much more emphasis on acquiring land for parks and open space before the window of opportunity closes. Allan Gajadhar handed County Board members a Civic Federation resolution calling on the county government to better balance open-space and passive-recreation needs with facilities for sports and active recreation.” [InsideNova]

COVID Cases Among DCA Construction Workers — “Employees with 17 contractors working on Reagan National Airport’s massive capital improvement project have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a staff report issued ahead of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s upcoming board meeting… The most recent positive result was confirmed June 7.” [Washington Business Journal]

Juneteenth May Become State Holiday — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday that he will support legislation to make Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a state holiday in Virginia. He gave executive branch state employees the day off Friday — June 19 — in recognition of the event. On that date in 1865, federal troops told enslaved people in Texas they had been freed, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Hundreds of Washington-Liberty High School students woke up Tuesday morning in Arlington to find their front lawns adorned with congratulatory messages.

Principal Gregg Robertson said administrators and faculty at the school missed their students and were heartbroken that seniors didn’t get to experience their full senior year due to the coronavirus closure.

Robertson and other administrators at Washington-Liberty divvied up 500 addresses provided by Arlington Public Schools administrators to travel around the county and post signs.

“Congratulations seniors on your upcoming graduation,” the signs said on the side facing the student’s home. “From your W-L family.”

On the street-facing side it said: “Washington-Liberty High School Class of 2020. Home of a General!”

“One police officer did stop to see what we were doing,” Robertson said, “but once we told him what we were he stopped to take a selfie.”

After waking up Tuesday morning, students and parents shared photos of the signs on social media and with Robertson.

A senior picnic was delayed until August, which Robertson said should give seniors at W-L a chance to reconnect before they go off to college.

Robertson said the school is also trying to figure out how to host the graduating students at the school one last time, but in the meantime school staff wanted students to know they weren’t forgotten and were valued.

Photo contributed

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There are now 63 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County, up from 54 yesterday.

That’s according to the latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which now lists 604 cases, 83 hospitalizations, 14 deaths and 7,337 people tested statewide. The cases in Arlington as of Friday represent a nearly four-fold increase since a week ago.

County leaders, meanwhile, continue to urge additional caution — and action — to fight the spread of the virus. But the effort is being hampered somewhat by people continuing to congregate in groups and a lack of available tests.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in her email newsletter to constituents this morning, listed the following “ongoing challenges” in Arlington.

  • Groups congregating in our parks continue to be an issue and our Police are enforcing safe distancing and activities. While our park equipment should not be used, people are encouraged to continue to take walks on our trails and enjoy the outside (maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance).
  • COVID-19 testing also continues to be an issue in Arlington as it is nationally. Virginia Hospital Center has received more kits and gotten more efficient about doing the sampling at their drive-through facility on Quincy Street. The fact remains, however, that a limited number of kits continue to be an issue and it will be that way for some time.

At the Washington-Liberty High School track this morning, police could be seen inspecting a vandalized, temporary barrier, intended to keep people out while local recreational facilities are closed.

Arlington County firefighters, meanwhile, were ordered Thursday night to start wearing surgical masks “for the entirety of their scheduled work day,” according to a memo obtained by ARLnow.

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli said the mask-wearing order applies when firefighters are within six feet of anyone else. It follows Tuesday’s announcement that a firefighter had tested positive for COVID-19. The firefighter’s colleagues were allowed to stay on the job, following guidance from Arlington’s health department, despite concerns from the fire union.

No other firefighters have tested positive or exhibited symptoms since, Tirelli said.

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