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The $38 million transformation of the Washington-Liberty annex is nearly complete.

Over the last three years, the nearly six-decade-old Arlington Education Center has undergone a complete overhaul to turn it into classrooms and school space for the burgeoning student body. This is the most significant renovation in the history of the building, which was completed in 1969 and previously used as the Arlington Public Schools headquarters. (The APS administrative offices are now located at Sequoia Plaza.)

We received an exclusive tour yesterday of the newly updated facility that is now updated classrooms, breakout areas, science labs, art studios, weight rooms, offices, and flex space. The project reached substantial completion back in June. With school less than two weeks away, it’s now all touch-ups, paneling, and inspections.

The annex is expected to open to students when the new school year starts later this month.

The goal of the project, APS’s director of design and construction Jeff Chambers told ARLnow while walking through the still-pristine hallways, was to turn an under-used office building into usable, updated school space.

“With this building, it’s set up so that it can be used for any type of classroom or for any grade,” Chambers said. “It’s going to be used by Washington-Liberty students when it opens, but it can be converted to be used for anything. The whole intent is that all of the classrooms can be modified and used for whatever program absolutely needs them.”

The five-floor, 55,000-square-foot facility can accommodate between 500 and 600 students. The building is shaped like a “quarter of a donut,” as described by project manager Robin Hodges, which allows nearly all of the classrooms a view of the outside while also facing inward towards the common areas.

Each level, with the exception of the ground floor, is similar in set-up, with the elevators moved back, large windows, and a common area with seating and furniture. The building’s footprint wasn’t expanded, though it might look that way.

“The ambient light into the classrooms and spaces has really made a huge improvement, opened up the building a lot more,” said Hodges. “Everyone that used to be here before and now walks the halls ask, ‘Did you make it bigger?’ No. We just have more daylight in the building.”

Chambers compared the old building’s lack of sunlight and darkness, particularly in the bathrooms, to walking into a famed Arlington landmark.

“It was like walking into The Broiler on Columbia [Pike] and you’re looking for your steak and cheese,” he said laughing, noting that they did a simulation of the sun’s movement and added window frits to help diffuse sunlight throughout the building.

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Police on scene of a shots fired report, which turned out to be fireworks, at Washington-Liberty High School (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two juvenile suspects are being charged with fire code violations after police say they set off fireworks at Washington-Liberty High School, prompting an active shooter panic.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Arlington’s emergency communications center received multiple 911 calls about shots being fired in the school. W-L was locked down and police responded en masse, conducting an extensive search of the school which only yielded evidence of fireworks.

Arlington police say two people under the age of 18 are now facing misdemeanor charges, including one found to be in possession of fireworks on school grounds.

“This remains an active criminal investigation,” the police department added.

More from an ACPD press release, below.

The Arlington County Police and Fire Departments are conducting a joint investigation after fireworks were located during an incident at Washington-Liberty High School.

At approximately 7:50 a.m. on July 19, police were dispatched to the report of a possible person with a gun at Washington-Liberty High School located at 1301 N. Stafford Street. Initial information reported to the Emergency Communications Center indicated possible shots were heard coming from a bathroom within the school. Responding officers entered the school, began a search of the building and located evidence of discharged fireworks. In the interest of public safety, the school was placed on lockdown as officers completed a thorough search of the building. The search concluded with no evidence of a shooting located and no injuries reported.

During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description based on evidence located at the scene and witness interviews. The suspect was located and detained. A second individual was determined to be in possession of fireworks on school grounds. Petitions for both juveniles for misdemeanor violations of the Statewide Fire Prevention Code are pending.

This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) Police received a report of shots fired inside Washington-Liberty High School this morning, prompting a massive emergency response, but it turned out to likely be something else.

Police say an extensive search of the school found evidence of fireworks being discharged inside but no gunshots. No one has been hurt.

Several 911 callers reported hearing gunshots inside the school, possibly on the fourth floor, shortly before 8 a.m., according to police radio traffic.

That prompted police and medics to rush to the scene en masse and search throughout the building. The school remained on lockdown for much of the morning, until the search concluded around 10:30 a.m. The county bomb squad, including a K-9 unit, was requested to the scene during the search.

Summer school classes were underway at W-L at the time of this morning’s incident. In a School Talk email to families, sent shortly before 9 a.m., Arlington Public Schools said that students will be dismissed for the day once the lockdown is lifted.

W-L Summer School Families

We are following up on this morning’s incident at Washington-Liberty. At [approximately] 7:50 a.m., a student reported that they heard shots in the building. The school [immediately] went on lockdown. During the investigation, police located evidence of discharged fireworks. No injuries have been reported and students and staff are all safe.

W-L remains on lockdown as the ACPD continue to investigate and conduct a [thorough] search of the building. Students will be [dismissed] for the day as soon as the investigation is concluded. Regular dismissal will be followed once the all clear is given.

As of 9 a.m., there was a report of one adult who was inside the school seeking treatment for a minor medical issue.

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Both the boys and girls Ultimate Frisbee teams from H-B Woodlawn and Washington-Liberty High School are set to compete in the high school national tournament today and tomorrow (Saturday).

The High School National Invite tournament is set to be held in Richmond. This is the first time the organizers Ultiworld and Competitive Ultimate Training have held the tournament since the pandemic, according to a news release.

For this year’s tournament, 16 boys teams and 15 girls teams are set to attend, according to its website. Over the weekend, the four teams from Arlington are set to play against other high school teams from New Jersey, Utah and Oregon among other states.

Currently, Washington-Liberty Open and H-B Woodlawn Open — which were both formerly boys teams but are open to any players — were ranked 14th and 16th respectively by Ultiworld in the boys division, while H-B Woodlawn Gxrls and Washington-Liberty Gxrls were ranked 19th and 20th respectively in the girls division, according to the latest power ranking list published.

https://twitter.com/HBVarsityGirls/status/1525462695683796993

Among the four Arlington teams, only Washington-Liberty Gxrls has not been to previous national tournaments. MJ Muskovitz, a senior and the team’s captain, said the invite was “a huge surprise.”

Since almost half of her team was new, Muskovitz thought they were still “trying to build up the base of play and recruit more players” for this year, she told ARLnow.

“I got to read out the email [from the organizer] that we got to the rest of the team, it was a huge shock because we did not expect to be going to nationals,” Muskovitz said.

As her team was still focused on strengthening team bonds and developing the new players’ fundamental skills such as throwing, the members’ expectations weren’t “necessarily too high,” Muskovitz said.

“We hope to gain a new experience for our players,” she said. “We’re also looking to push our team more into a national spotlight.”

On the other hand, Coach Jay Boyle of H-B Woodlawn’s boys team hoped his squad could “make the upper bracket.” Although he was not the coach at the time, H-B Woodlawn Open participated in the national tournament in 2018.

In preparing for the tournament, Boyle’s team has been lifting weights, training three days a week over the winter, in addition to reviewing video footage of other teams, he added. Throughout the season, the team has held practices five days a week at times.

“It’s exciting, we think that we deserve the spot, we think of ourselves as a team that is competitive nationally,” Boyle said.

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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Board today called for action to stem the tide of gun violence, while groups of students around the county held walkouts in response to the elementary school shooting in Texas.

The Board condemned gun violence and urged state legislators to tighten gun control in a statement issued this afternoon.

Board members called on state lawmakers to close the gift exemption to background checks and allow local licensing and registration requirements for buying and selling guns, among other measures.

“There is a great deal more to be done to address gun violence, and we call on the Virginia General Assembly and the Governor to make protecting all Virginians a priority and to remove the restrictions that bar the Commonwealth’s localities from implementing the gun safety actions that make sense for our communities,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, students at Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington Career Center, Dorothy Hamm Middle School and Williamsburg Middle School participated in walkouts as part of a national effort led by Students Demand Action.

Around 20 students at Washington-Liberty participated in the demonstration, walking to Quincy Park, where students took turns giving short speeches.

One of the students participating said she had to ask her friends about their safety on three different occasions in a year due to issues related to gun violence.

“We’re so desensitized to our own deaths in this society,” she said, “People are desensitized to them dying, that’s terrible because this has happened so much.”

Students also talked about a shooting threat their high school received in October, which led to the school shutting down for the day. The threat turned out to be false.

“This nationwide walkout is mainly to protest the fact that we go to school, especially with bomb threats and shooting threats, and have to sit there, subconsciously knowing that ‘hey, we may be victim one day,'” Megan, a student, said.

Megan told ARLnow that she heard about the walkout from an email the school principal sent in the morning acknowledging the nationwide walkout, as well as hearing about the effort. Another participant, Grace, learned of the walkout from her friends and her mother. Both students said they had participated in several walkouts against school gun violence in the past.

“I went to this walkout because I think people should protest for things they believe in, and this is something I believe in,” Grace said.

Students at the Career Center walkout held up signs that read “Enough is Enough” and “Thoughts & Prayers are NOT Enough,” according to photos tweeted by CBS News correspondent Natalie Brand.

“We’re out here not because we want to skip class but because we fear for our lives going to school, because anyone can go out and buy an assault rifle and shoot up a school,” one of the students said in a speech, according to a video tweeted by Brand.

Arlington police stepped up patrols around schools in the wake of the mass shooting. Arlington Public Schools, in an email sent to families, said support services are available for students and staff trying to grapple with the horrific crime.

The County Board’s full statement is below.

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Morning Notes

Deer in a local neighborhood (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Memorial Day Closures — County offices and facilities like libraries and community centers will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metered parking will not be enforced. But trash collection will continue as normal. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Tree Group Opposes ‘Missing Middle’ — “A tree-advocacy group believes proposed changes to Arlington housing policy could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community. ‘Tell the county ‘no’ – do not enact policies that further reduce our tree canopy,’ the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) said May 20 in response to a county-government proposal on possible zoning changes.” [Sun Gazette]

Chamber Supports New Ballston Metro Entrance — “I am writing to express our strong support for full Authority funding of Arlington County’s $80 million application for the Ballston-MU Metrorail Station West Entrance. This project is a critical improvement to the regional transit network and supports the Authority’s programming goals of modal and geographic balance… As we move forward, its construction will be very important to the success of businesses in Arlington.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

W-L’s Royal Rowing History — “In the spring of 1958, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Butt, a group of teenage rowers from Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty) performed so well at stateside races that they earned a spot at the Henley Royal Regatta in England–becoming the first public high school in America invited to the iconic race, which dates to 1839. But first, they needed money.” [Arlington Magazine]

County Now Offering Boosters for Kids — “After federal approvals, Arlington County and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5 to 11.” [Patch]

County Polling About Pickleball — “As Arlington’s population continues to grow and sports trends change, the Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes there has been a shift in the use and demand for outdoor athletic courts. Our Outdoor Athletic Court Project includes creating criteria to identify existing courts that are candidates for permanent pickleball lines as well as identify an existing amenity to convert into a permanent pickleball facility.” [Arlington County]

Storms Possible Tomorrow — From the National Weather Service: “We’ll stay mostly dry and cloudy for the remainder of today with highs in the 60s across the area. We are monitoring the potential for an unsettled start to the long holiday weekend this Friday with severe storm/flood threats.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Morning Notes

Rainy day in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

‘Midsummer’ Starts Next Month — “Synetic Theater, the home of American Physical Theater and movement-based storytelling, announces the return of its acclaimed adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed and choreographed by company co-founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili. The production runs June 30 through July 24.” [Synetic Theater]

Local Donut Shop Expanding — “The owners of a Ballston doughnut shop and cafe are building out a commercial kitchen in Tysons to support a growing wholesale business and its own planned expansion… Charles Kachadoorian, a Good Company co-owner, said the shop has outgrown its capacity at 672 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, from which it produces sweets for its cafe, for other coffee shops to sell retail, and for its own catering business. It plans to expand across all of those avenues, Kachadoorian said, including with a new shop in Crystal City in the shorter term and one in D.C. in 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

GOP Concern Over ‘Missing Middle’ — “Several Arlington Republicans have expressed your concerns about the County’s proposal to upzone single-family residential plots in neighborhoods across the county. We are passing along information from Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), should you decide you want to make your voice heard on this issue.” [Arlington GOP]

Planetarium Supporters Look to Future — “Boosters of the Arlington school system’s planetarium are hopeful that new budget funding will enable the facility – shuttered since before the pandemic – to reopen with a permanent teacher attached to it by fall. School Board members in early May overruled Superintendent Francisco Durán and dropped in nearly $150,000 to support the David M. Brown Planetarium for the coming school year. Durán had proposed keeping the facility closed for another year.” [Sun Gazette]

Rosslyn Walk Planned — “When you’re out and about, do you find yourself contemplating how sidewalks, land use, and street connectivity influence your experience and enjoyment of public spaces? If so, make sure to RSVP to WalkArlington’s upcoming “Walk and Learn” focused on street design in Rosslyn on Wednesday, May, 25 from 5:30 – 6:45pm.” [GGWash]

W-L Boys Win District Soccer Tourney — “With the Washington-Liberty Generals hosting the championship match of the Liberty District boys soccer tournament, head coach Jimmy Carrasquillo expressed some pre-game concerns. The top-seeded Generals (15-0-1) entertained the third-seeded Yorktown Patriots in an all-Arlington clash, and Carrasquillo knew the rematch would be much tougher than his team’s 4-0 regular-season victory over its neighborhood rival.” [Sun Gazette]

Some Cicada Stragglers Spotted — “Have you ever been late to a party? I mean really late, so late that by the time you arrived, the party was over and the guests were long gone? If so, then you have something in common with the periodical cicadas that have been popping up in the last few weeks from Maryland to Tennessee. They’re a year late to the raucous party billions of their fellow Brood X cicadas threw last summer.” [Washington Post]

It’s Tuesday — Rain in the morning, ending in the afternoon. High of 65 and low of 56. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:23 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington police car (file photo)

A 53-year-old Florida man is behind bars after being found with a gun, ammunition and drugs on the grounds of Washington-Liberty High School, police say.

Officers were dispatched to a parking garage next to the school, on the 1300 block of N. Stafford Street, around 5:45 a.m. Thursday for what was reported as a “suspicious” parked vehicle.

“Upon arrival, officers located the occupied vehicle and observed the suspect asleep behind the wheel and alleged drug paraphernalia in plain view,” said the latest Arlington County Police Department crime report. “During a search of the vehicle, a firearm, ammunition and controlled substances were recovered.”

The man, a resident of St. Augustine, Florida, was arrested is now facing an array of charges, ACPD said, including: “Possession of Schedule I/II Controlled Substance (x3), Possession of Schedule IV Controlled Substance, Possession of a Firearm on School Grounds, Possession of a Firearm while Possessing Schedule I/II Substance and Concealed Weapon Violation.”

“He was held without bond,” ACPD noted.

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High school students across Arlington staged walkouts Monday afternoon and rallied to demand measures to codify Roe v. Wade.

After a Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn the 1973 decision that protects abortion access leaked last week, youth-led student group Generation Ratify Virginia helped organize walkouts across the state. In Arlington, Washington-Liberty, Arlington Tech and Wakefield High students left their schools and rallied to discuss the implications if the ruling is overturned.

Wakefield organizer Anabelle Lombard said they will not be the “post-Roe generation” and will be vocal to fight for their future. About 300 students gathered on the school’s football field during the walkout, according to Generation Ratify Virginia.

“Today, Virginia students have made it clear that we are going to defend our access to abortion and preserve our rights to reproductive healthcare,” Lombard said in a statement. “We have made it clear that we need these rights supported by a strong legal backing of gender equality that enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in our constitution would provide.”

“We have made it clear that Gen-Z will not stand idly by as a few conservative judges strip away our right to choose — a right that the majority of Americans agree should be upheld,” she added.

About 100 students at each Washington-Liberty High School and Arlington Tech participated in walkouts, some wearing green to show support for abortion rights.

Washington-Liberty senior Valentina Lopez-Landeo said she organized the walkout at her school to unite and inform students because abortion rights isn’t something talked about in school.

“Roe v. Wade is not something that we ever thought would be overturned so once we got the news of that, I guess most of us, specifically seniors, wanted to rally up against all that,” she said. “We do believe that we are the new generation and we wish for change and we realized that we can ask for more change if we join together.”

Lopez-Landeo was particularly proud to see the number of freshmen and sophomores who attended the walkout.

“Hearing them voice their opinions on it was so inspiring because I felt like we were leaving them in good hands and… they were going to make sure that the school and students in school kept up with trying to search for change,” she said.

Felix Hedberg, Policy Director at Generation Ratify Virginia and junior at Richmond’s Open High School, said students want to have their voices heard.

“It’s time to listen to youth,” Hedberg said in a statement. “Virginia was the 38th state to ratify the [Equal Rights Amendment], shining the spotlight on Virginia in the movement for gender equality and reproductive justice. Generation Z is ready to capitalize on that attention to ensure [Gov. Glenn] Youngkin and Virginia Republicans won’t succeed in rewriting Virginia as a commonwealth against abortion access.”

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Morning Notes

Looking up at a skyscraper along N. Moore St. in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Va. Hospital Center Changing Name — “Arlington’s Virginia Hospital Center is charging forward with its regional expansion under new leadership — and a new moniker to match. The nearly 80-year-old independent hospital, which had the same CEO for nearly half of that time, is now going forward as VHC Health. The change aims to better reflect its role in the region, said Christopher Lane, the hospital’s new leader since March 28.” [Washington Business Journal]

Auditor Eyes Site Plans — “Auditor Chris Horton has proposed spending about 300 of his 2,000 work hours during fiscal 2023 evaluating past site plans to determine if the benefits that were promised to the public actually materialized. His work plan, which will have to be ratified by the County Board, won a receptive audience at the April 7 meeting of the government’s Audit Committee. ‘I really love this idea,’ said John Vihstadt, a former County Board member.” [Sun Gazette]

Holiday Weekend Changes — “Whether you celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter, the Jewish holiday of Passover, the two holidays will overlap during the weekend of April 16-17. As the Easter holiday falls on a Sunday, closures may be limited.
Arlington County government does not typically close for Good Friday before Easter. However, there are a few service changes for services that do operate on Sundays.” [Patch]

W-L Student Competing in History Bee — “Aaron Lopez, a ninth-grade student at Washington-Liberty High School, will compete in the History Bee national championships after scoring success at the state level.” [Sun Gazette]

Disobedient Dog Infuriates Pentagon City Resident — From Reddit, as highlighted by Monkeyrotica: “I hear you every damn day, twice a day from my apartment window. Your dog acts up around other dogs every [expletive] day. You keep shouting ‘ROBERT’ at your dog every time he acts up. Your dog keeps [expletive] misbehaving. See how your tactic just doesn’t work?” [Reddit]

Newspaper Opposes Ukraine Donation — “Everybody should feel bad for what the Ukrainian people are going through and appalled by the actions of the Russian government. And if people want to donate funds or humanitarian supplies, amen to that. But ballistic-vest donations? That may be a one step too far over the line.” [Sun Gazette]

Good Luck, Jo! — ARLnow’s Jo DeVoe is now on maternity leave. We expect her to return in the fall.

It’s Good Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 49. Sunrise at 6:33 am and sunset at 7:46 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Amina Luvsanchultem and her family receiving the college scholarship from Amazon (photo courtesy of Amazon)

Amazon surprised a Washington-Liberty student with a $40,000 college scholarship and a paid internship with the company earlier this week.

An Amazon engineer showed up at the door of W-L senior Amina Luvsanchultem on Monday (April 11) with a surprise Amazon Future Engineer scholarship, the company announced in a press release.

The $40,000 scholarship will go towards her studying computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) next fall. Additionally, she’ll take on a paid internship with Amazon after her freshman year in college.

A video from the company shows Luvsanchultem answering the door and being in understandable shock while being greeted with the news.

Luvsanchultem is a first-generation Mongolian-American student who hopes to work at NASA one day, Amazon said. She also founded the organization Students for Racial Equity, which works with students, parents, and educators to better understand how race, cultural, and linguistic diversity impacts Arlington classrooms.

The Amazon scholarships were aimed at high school seniors from “underserved and historically underrepresented communities.” Recipients were chosen based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, participation in school and community activities, work experience, future goals, and financial need.

Of the 250 scholarships (totaling $10 million) handed out by Amazon, 18 were to students from the D.C. region. Luvsanchultem was the only student from Arlington to receive a scholarship.

More than 70% of recipients identified as Black, Latino, and Native American while half identity as women, Amazon notes.

Construction on the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City is coming along while, earlier this month, the second phase of the headquarters was approved by the county’s Planning Commission ahead of County Board consideration.

Rising high school seniors can apply for next year’s round of Amazon Future Engineer Scholarships when the application opens again in the fall. Requirements include completion of an Advanced Placement computer science course in high school, the intent to pursue a computer science degree at a four-year school, and a teacher recommendation.

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