Competing Convention Watch Parties — The Arlington GOP and Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans are hosting a Republican convention watch party tonight at Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill in Courthouse. The Arlington Young Democrats, meanwhile, are holding their own watch party for the last night of the GOP convention. That event is being held at Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon. [Facebook, Facebook]
Youth Hockey Team Profiled — As part of its “Harris’ Heroes” segment, TV station ABC 7 yesterday profiled the NOVA Cool Cats, a hockey team for youth with developmental disabilities. The team plays at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. [WJLA]
Road Rage Incident in Rosslyn — A man allegedly brandished a handgun and followed two women during a road rage incident on Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, after the female driver honked her horn while the man’s vehicle blocked her path. [Arlington County]
Lighting Task Force Needs More Time — A task force trying to determine whether to add lighting to the Williamsburg Middle School athletic fields says it will present its findings in January. The task force, chaired by former County Board primary challenger Erik Gutshall, was originally expected to wrap up its work in June. [InsideNova]
Chess prodigy Sam Schenk tied for 10th place in his division at the National K-12 Scholastic Championship chess competition in Orlando, Fla. He competed against 127 other players in his grade group to earn the ranking.
The annual competition is hosted by the U.S. Chess Federation. It separates participants by grade, and players only compete against people their own age. The grand prize is finishing first in a grade group and claiming the title of national champion.
Though this was Schenk’s fourth trip to the national tournament, it’s his first time taking home a prize.
“This was a great year for him, and this was absolutely the best he’s ever done,” Schenk’s parent Allison Rudoy said.
The 13-year-old is an 8th grader at Williamsburg Middle School in North Arlington. Rudoy said her son’s been playing chess since he joined an after school chess club at Jamestown Elementary five years ago.
“He kind of got hooked,” she said. “When the club ended, he kept with it and started studying on his own, reading a lot and playing in local tournaments.”
Now, Schenk is a part of the Arlington Chess Club where he practices what he studies, mostly playing against adults. He was also recently named one of the U.S. Chess Federation’s top 13-year-old chess players in the nation.
“He devotes an enormous amount of time to the study of chess and plays as much as he can,” Rudoy added. “It’s his favorite thing, but it’s not his only thing.”
Schenk is also involved in sports, playing youth basketball on a county recreation team.
While Rudoy said Schenk is very passionate about chess and would likely love to take home the top prize in Orlando someday, he is still young and anything could be in his future.
“All I know for sure is as long as he’s still interested in chess, his family will keep supporting him,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Allison Rudoy
Wreath-Laying Ceremony — Among other observances of today’s Veterans Day holiday in Arlington is a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Air Force Memorial. The event will take place at 11 a.m., with a group of World War II and Korean War veterans on hand. [Twitter]
School Board Considers Gun Safety Measures — The Arlington School Board is considering asking the Virginia General Assembly for new legislation that would restrict guns around schools, although no one seriously believes that the Republican-controlled legislature would actually pass such a measure. [InsideNova]
Lee Highway Residents Debate Development — Arlington County’s planning process for the Lee Highway corridor has prompted many residents to come out against “overdevelopment” and taller building heights. The corridor is currently car-oriented, though neighborhoods like Cherrydale developed thanks to a former streetcar line. [WAMU]
Middle School Tourette Campaign — Williamsburg Middle School staff have created a Public Service Announcement ad as part of Bullying Prevention Month. The campaign, called “Accept Tourette,” is based around a seventh grade student at Williamsburg with Tourette Syndrome. [Arlington Public Schools]
According to a new report from Arlington Public Schools, the relocatable classrooms have been deemed the best solution to address overcapacity at the two North Arlington schools.
“In light of all of the opportunities and constraints associated with the options under consideration as well as the community feedback that has been received, APS Instruction and Facilities staff has determined that the use of on-site relocatable classrooms is the most effective, flexible, and least disruptive approach to address interim capacity needs at Swanson and Williamsburg middle schools through 2019,” APS said in the report.
APS plans to have 18 trailers in place at Williamsburg and 14 at Swanson, as an temporary solution to overcrowding until the middle school at the site of the former Stratford Junior High is built in 2019, APS said.
APS is using relocatable classrooms at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools because the trailers allow the school to maintain grade-level communities. Grade-level communities allow schools to group classrooms by grade, which increases student interaction with peers and teachers, APS said.
Each trailer costs about $300,000. The new trailers can stand against 90 mile an hour wind and are equipped with bathrooms and water fountains.
“Relocatable classrooms offer the same technology and similar configuration as regular classrooms, and they provide access to water and bathrooms,” APS said. “The staffing and quality of instruction expected from APS schools remain at the same level for both relocatable and traditional classrooms.”
No student would have all their classes during the day in relocatable trailers, the report notes.
“If a grade-level community is located in relocatable classrooms, there are multiple opportunities for students to move to and from the main building throughout the day. For example, students transition to the field space or the gym for physical education, to another classroom for electives, and to the cafeteria for lunch,” APS said.
APS has formed “school-based facilities committees” at Swanson and Williamsburg to evaluate the effectiveness of the trailers while they are at the middle schools.
“These planning groups are actively collaborating with APS staff and school administrators to determine the most appropriate and effective use of the additional relocatable classrooms, given the unique physical and programmatic attributes of each school community,” APS said.
While Williamsburg and Swanson are not the only middle schools facing capacity issues, they are the two with the greatest need.
“All middle schools are projected to be at or over capacity by 2019 and as a result APS will need to address capacity issues at Kenmore, Thomas Jefferson and Gunston in the coming years,” APS said.
As of earlier this year, APS was planning to add six trailers at Kenmore, four at Thomas Jefferson and 13 at Gunston Middle Schools.
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington brothers Henry and Karl Neff spent last Saturday morning doing something that will sound unappealing to most: pedaling up a really steep in hill in Howard County, Maryland.
The two Williamsburg kids were riding in the Highway to Heaven Hill Climb Time Trial as cyclists on the National Capital Velo Club/United Healthcare team, the largest cycling club on the East Coast, according to the club’s site.
The time trial is an individual event, where each rider is trying to complete a course in the fastest time. What made Saturday’s race challenging is that the 0.8 mile-course is majorly uphill at an 18 percent grade.
Despite the hill’s steepness, the race was “not as bad as I thought it would be,” 9-year-old Henry said. He placed ninth in his age group, with a time of six minutes, 24.25 seconds.
For 12-year-old Karl, the race was easier than he expected, he said. His coaches told him it would be mostly uphill but there were more flat areas than he expected. He placed seventh in the 9-14 age group, with a time of 5 minutes, 49.45 seconds.
Karl has been cycling for three years, he said. Henry started last year, following in his brother’s footsteps.
“We first got into cycling because our mom biked to work,” Karl said.
Henry’s favorite part about cycling is winning, and he’s won a couple of races, he said. For Karl, it is the speed.
“The wind going past my face,” he said. “The accomplishment of how I went up this big hill.”
The two attend practices every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. where they learn different parts of racing. Some days they will work on drafting in the pack, sometimes they work on corners, Karl said.
During the school year, the boys fit in homework between school, practice and races. The cycling season can last until the middle of December and then picks up again March. The two spent this season racing all over Maryland and Virginia, competing in over 25 races, many during the school year.
Henry attends Drew Model School in the Montessori program. Karl attends Williamsburg Middle School, which lets out at 2:30 p.m., giving him around three hours to finish schoolwork before practice starts.
“I don’t have anything until 5:30 p.m. so that’s usually enough time to get my homework done,” Karl said.
Arlington County is considering a local historic designation for the former Stratford Junior High School on Vacation Lane, causing some parents to worry that preservation efforts may mean more school overcrowding.
With the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program set to move from the Stratford building to a new building in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools is planning a $29.2 million renovation of Stratford that would allow it to house a new 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school. Both schools are set to open in 2019.
Tomorrow night, however, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board will hold the first of six public hearings on whether to recommend designating Stratford, which was built in 1950, a local historic district. It’s already on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of its role in the civil rights movement: in 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.
“A local historic designation will provide a framework for preserving and telling the important story of this building and site while allowing plans for a separate new school to be designed and built,” the group Preservation Arlington said in support of the designation. “Stratford Junior High School is an incredible part of Arlington’s history… as well as an excellent example of International Style school architecture.”
Parents worry that a historic designation could push back the opening of the new middle school beyond 2019.
The Jamestown Elementary PTA, which last year decried APS delaying a decision on a new middle school, says a middle school at Stratford is key to alleviating overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson middle schools. The PTA asked parents to make their voice heard at meetings this week.
“Right now the Arlington County Board is considering turning Stratford into a historical property, which would likely delay the opening of Stratford as a neighborhood middle school,” the PTA said in an email to parents. “That delay will impact all of the surrounding middle schools leaving the overcrowding issue as one that will remain for much longer.”
At a meeting at Williamsburg Middle School last night, parents were told that the school may need up to 28 relocatable classroom trailers by 2018. The trailers could ultimately hold the school’s entire 6th grade class, school administrators said.
Another APS meeting on middle school capacity issues will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Swanson Middle School. The historical review board will meet at the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Update at 5:50 p.m. — The County Board’s action on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group Charge has now been deferred until July, according to an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman.
The debate over lighting the fields at Williamsburg Middle School is making a comeback.
At its meeting
tomorrow (Tuesday) in July, the County Board will charge a working group with leading a community process to evaluate whether or not to light the Williamsburg synthetic fields.
After the County Board decides on the working group’s exact tasks at tomorrow’s meeting, members will be appointed to the group next month. It is expected to make a recommendation to the Board in May 2016. The Board will then deliberate in June 2016.
Two synthetic fields are currently under construction as part of the Discovery Elementary School project, located on the Williamsburg campus, and are scheduled for completion at the end of the summer.
Arlington Public Schools split the cost of the fields with the County, according to Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. Kalish said that APS paid for the cost of installing natural grass fields, and the County then funded the difference.
In an APS question and answer session about the construction project held in the fall of 2012, the County stated that if it funded an artificial field, “it would expect that the field be lighted in order to maximize their investment in the field.”
While Kalish confirmed that this is typically the County’s policy regarding turf fields, in this case the Rock Spring community pushed back.
“That’s why we’re having this work group,” said Kalish.
Fifteen community members representing diverse interests will comprise the work group, including one representative from the Arlington Soccer Association and one from the Rock Spring Civic Association. The ASA and the RSCA disagreed vehemently on the construction and lighting of the field when the plan was first proposed in 2013, eventually launching dueling petitions.
President of the RSCA Carl Cunningham said that while he could not speak for all residents, most who live near the Williamsburg fields do not support the addition of lights because of concerns about potential light spillage into their homes.
Cunningham added that residents were concerned about evening noise and traffic from extended hours of play on the field, which might “fundamentally alter the basic character and their peaceful enjoyment of what has been a small, secluded and quiet neighborhood in the evenings.”
The ASA, on the other hand, stressed the need for a lit synthetic field.
“We have more children playing sports in Arlington every year, and the rate of field construction or redevelopment is not close to keeping pace, thus we have to squeeze what we can out of existing play spaces,” said ASA Executive Director Justin Wilt.
Alarmed parents found out about the possible threat via two emails from Arlington Public Schools, fueling a rumor mill. However, police say they interviewed “several students” and determined there is no actual threat to the school.
“It was some graffiti that could be viewed as potentially threatening,” Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com. “At this point we have determined that it was more of a prank than a threat… a joke that was not very funny.”
In an email sent Wednesday,Williamsburg principal Dr. Ann McCarty informed parents about vandalism in boys restrooms. The vandalism included “urination in the heating pipes and inappropriate writing on the walls,” including “a direct threat to the school.”
We are writing to you today to let you know of an ongoing problem of vandalism that has been happening in our boys restrooms over the past weeks. We have had problems with urination in the heating pipes and inappropriate writing on the walls. However, today marked what we are deeming to be a serious incident given the content of the defacing. Today’s message involves a direct threat to the school. We are considering this incident to be serious and will be fully investigating in conjunction with our ACPD School Resource Officer. All APS policies will be enforced appropriately. We will address this issue at school, but we also ask that you assist us in having a conversation with your children about appropriate bathroom etiquette. Your assistance will help us with keeping our school safe and maintaining an orderly environment.
This afternoon (Thursday), McCarty revealed that there will be an additional police presence at the school on Friday, even while downplaying rumors that the the threat involved something that was supposed to happen on Friday, Feb. 20.
Dear Williamsburg Families,
We would like to thank everyone who came forward in our investigation after yesterday’s email. Please understand that because this has been a police matter from the start and we are required to maintain student confidentiality, no specific details were shared. This was not intended to keep parents out of the loop; instead, it was to protect the fidelity of our investigation and to maintain confidentiality.
First, I would like to address the misinformation that is currently circulating in the community. Please know that original threat was not for Friday, February 20, and we have no reason to believe that there is a heightened risk for student safety tomorrow. However, to be proactive, we will have additional police presence at the school.
I also wanted to let you know that our investigation has provided us with the much-needed information to move forward and address the student(s) who we believe were involved. As a result of the investigation, at this time we do not believe that a threat exists to Williamsburg.
Finally, we will continue to monitor any and all safety concerns here at Williamsburg. The protection of our students and the entire Williamsburg community is always our top priority. We utilize all of our available resources, including the Arlington County Police Department, to ensure student safety.
We appreciate your patience and support as we have worked through this police investigation, and I want to thank everyone who helped us with information.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia declined comment.
Arlington received $400,000 — and will pledge an additional $100,000 — in federal grant money to improve the walking and biking routes to the three schools in North Arlington.
The funds will go toward building new trails and sidewalks in Bluemont for Ashlawn students and will fund sidewalk improvements at the intersection of N. Kensington and 36th Streets around Discovery and Williamsburg, which are on the same property. Discovery is still under construction, but is expected to open for the 2015-2016 school year.
From the same federal program, the MAP-21 grant, Arlington will also receive $200,000 to bring sidewalks and streets in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a county press release, a county study from 2012 identified more than 1,000 locations in the corridor that were “inaccessible to persons with disabilities.”
The county will chip in $50,000 in pay-as-you-go WalkArlington funding to help fund improvements to these areas, which will be handled in order of severity.
“We’re delighted that we can use local funding to leverage federal dollars to help two key groups of Arlingtonians move more safely and easily: Arlington students who walk or bike to Ashlawn, Discovery and Williamsburg, and persons with disabilities in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “We welcome the federal government’s funding of these very important projects to improve safety and accessibility for all.”
Both improvement programs will continue identifying other sites around the county where safety and accessibility need to be addressed.
Arlington Public Schools’ capacity crisis is only getting worse, and members of the community are clamoring for good solutions fast.
APS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said the school system grew by 1,200 students in the 2014-2015 school year, 400 more than APS had projected. That’s the equivalent of two full elementary schools, Chadwick said.
The growth means that initial APS projections of seat deficits will need to be revised. With last year’s numbers, APS projected having 960 more middle school students than seats in the 2018-2019 school year; once projections with this year’s numbers are calculated, that figure is likely to reach over 1,000.
“We are experiencing an unprecedented rate of enrollment growth,” Chadwick told a crowd of more than 100 parents and residents at Williamsburg Middle School last night. “Determining the location of those seats is a really challenging process, but we have to make decisions. If enrollment continues to grow as projected, we’re going to look at many more sites for new schools and renovations before we’re through.”
At the heart of the discussion during last night’s community meeting is the School Board’s impending decision to try to add 1,300 middle school seats in North Arlington by some combination of building additions and renovations to existing APS properties, or constructing a new school at the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.
Other options on the table include:
- Building additions onto the Stratford school site on Vacation Lane, which currently houses the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, to form a new neighborhood middle school. Stratford and H-B Woodlawn would be moved the Reed-Westover site with additions and renovations.
- Expanding both the Stratford and Reed-Westover buildings and constructing an addition onto an existing middle school.
- Moving H-B Woodlawn and Stratford to the Wilson School site and constructing a new neighborhood middle school at the Stratford building.
“Our goal is try to get secondary seats as soon as possible to alleviate what we see as imminent future crowding in our schools,” Lionel White, APS director of facilities planning, said.
Many residents and parents have complained that APS has faltered in both informing and seeking input from the community, but last night’s meeting was viewed by some as a significant step toward alleviating the crisis.
“I think for the first time, everyone’s realizing we’re wasting too much time and we’ve got to get more seats,” said Emma Baker, a parent of two Jamestown Elementary School students. “We need to start building now.”
Baker had attended previous meetings between staff and parents, and she said last night was the first time she felt everyone was actively trying to reach the best decision, instead of hemming and hawing. “It’s a very different tone,” she said.
Jamestown teacher and mother of two Megan Kalchbrenner said the option of building additions onto four existing middle schools is “not an option” — staff generally agreed, saying it would cost $16.5 million over budget and wouldn’t be an optimal long-term solution.
“What I want to know is what are they going to do for kids in the next two years?” Kalchbrenner asked. “We have capacity issues today.”
Last year, there were eight “relocatable classrooms” — classrooms in trailers adjacent to schools — at Williamsburg, four at Swanson and one at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Chadwick said the interim plan before major construction is still being developed, and he couldn’t reveal any concrete solutions.
Same-Sex Marriages Could Crowd Clerk’s Office — Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson estimates that the approximately 3,750 annual marriage certificates his office issues annually could spike 30-40 percent if the U.S. Supreme Court allows same-sex marriage nationwide, ending Virginia’s prohibition. [InsideNoVa]
Zoobean Raises Another $400,000 — Fresh off of its appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, Rosslyn-based kids’ book-and app-curation service Zoobean has raised another $400,000 from investors. [Washington Business Journal]
Principal Candidate Announced for New Elementary School — Williamsburg Middle School assistant principal Dr. Erin Russo has been named as a candidate to be the principal of a new elementary school being built on the Williamsburg campus. [Arlington Public Schools]
Historic Arlington Home Profiled — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark explores the history of the Birchland home, built in 1897 and located near the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Williamsburg Boulevard. The land the home sits on was once used in the Civil War defense of Washington. [Falls Church News-Press]
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Dozens of students who will be attending the new elementary school at Williamsburg Middle School’s campus participated in the new school’s groundbreaking yesterday afternoon.
The approximately 97,000-square-foot elementary school is planned to open before the 2015 school year. The school is planned to be one of the few schools in the country to be energy neutral, meaning the energy it generates with solar panels and other sources will be enough to completely power the school.
“We won’t be relying on Dominion Power,” Arlington Public Schools Director of Facilities Planning Scott Prisco said during the groundbreaking ceremony, held in the Williamsburg gymnasium. “It’s important to show the idea of sustainable design… can look absolutely stellar.”
The new school doesn’t have a name yet — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that will come after a principal is hired and there is community outreach to settle on the proper name — but Superintendent Patrick Murphy tried to imbue upon the future students that they were becoming a part of history.
“When you’re my age or even older, you can reflect on that you were a part of this groundbreaking for this school,” he said to the dozens of children in attendance.
The construction is expected to cost about $35 million, for a total school cost of $46.5 million. Prisco said yesterday that the project is within budget so far. School Board Chair Abby Raphael beamed when discussing the process of getting the school built and approved.
“It was a really positive boundary process, and that doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “The school is not just a building, it’s a community.”
The Arlington School Board approved the final design and budget for the $46.5 million elementary school adjacent to Williamsburg Middle School on Thursday.
The 28-classroom building, at the corner of N. Harrison Street and 36th Street, will have a 630-student capacity and is being built to help alleviate elementary school overcrowding in North Arlington.
The 97,000-square-foot elementary school is projected to open in September 2015. It will have a high-school-sized gym floor, three music spaces, two art rooms, a library, and, according to Arlington Public Schools “will be a net-zero energy ready building with a LEED silver or higher energy certification.”
The current design is slightly different than the one approved last February, which called for a 93,578 square foot building with 28 classrooms, although the capacity is unchanged from previous plans. There will be a synthetic turf field built as well, but the County Board won’t make a decision on lighting the field until 2015 after residents of the Rock Spring Civic Association protested installing the lights in the neighborhood.
School and county officials heralded the new school’s approval in statements issued Friday morning.
“The community should be proud of this school and what it represents,” said School Board Chair Abby Raphael. “It is the product of hard work and collaboration between APS, our County colleagues and the entire community, and will provide more seats for more students in a new and exciting learning environment.”
“The addition of new community facilities, such as an elementary school, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we are pleased that, through a collaborative process with APS, we were able to jointly fund a number of community amenities that will benefit students and residents of all ages,” said County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The additional amenities include two synthetic turf fields, a larger gym, and emergency preparedness infrastructure, including enhanced public safety communications. “
BBQ Competition to Film in Arlington? — A production company from New York is apparently scouting locations in Arlington for the filming of a BBQ competition show. The show would then air on network television. [Falls Church News-Press]
APS to Discuss Williamsburg Plans — Arlington Public Schools will be holding two meetings to discuss plans to build a new elementary school at the Williamsburg Middle School site. The meetings will be held on Nov. 13 and 14. The school is expected to open by September 2015. [Arlington Public Schools]
Eternal Flame Restored at Arlington Cemetery — The eternal flame at the President John F. Kennedy gravesite has been restored following several months of repairs. A temporary flame was installed during the repairs. The flame was transferred back to the permanent burner on Tuesday. [Military Times]
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
Library Sets Another Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library has set another summer youth reading record. This summer, 8,079 students participated and read more than 32,000 books, up from 7,415 participants and 30,000 books in 2012. [Arlington Public Library]
‘Arlington’s Got Talent’ Seeks Contestants — Leadership Arlington is seeking local acts for its annual “Arlington’s Got Talent” show. The event will take place on Nov. 18. Video submissions from performers are due by Oct. 28. [Leadership Arlington]
Neighbors Peeved With Turf Choice — Some residents around Williamsburg Middle School are upset with the choice of turf on the fields that are being built along with a new elementary school. The fields will have artificial turf instead of Bermuda grass. “Not since Custer, have people been ambushed this badly,” one resident told the County Board, about the choice. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington is #3 County to Work In — Arlington has been named the No. 3 county in the U.S. in which to work. The rating is based on Arlington’s low unemployment rate, low commute time and high median income. Loudoun County ranked No. 2 and Williams County, North Dakota, which is in the midst of an oil boom, ranked No. 1. [Nerd Wallet]
Whitlow’s Filled With ‘Old Stuff’ — If you recently sat at a table at Whitlow’s on Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd), chances are you either sat on a pew from St. Patrick’s Cathedral or in a chair from the old Arlington courthouse. If you sat at the bar, you likely rested your beer on a former bowling lane. Much of the interior is recycled from various places around the D.C. area and beyond. [Preservation Arlington]