Williamsburg to Implement Block Scheduling — Williamsburg Middle School will, in fact, be implementing a block schedule for classes next year, an Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com. While Kenmore has a modified block schedule for sixth grade, and Gunston is “exploring moving to a flexible schedule for next year,” Jefferson and Swanson are not considering moving to a block schedule, we’re told.
Home Prices Decline in Arlington in 2016 — Per WTOP’s Jeff Clabaugh and listing service MRIS: “The median price in Arlington County last year was down 1.8 percent from 2015. Arlington and Alexandria were the only local jurisdictions to see declines in 2016 prices versus 2015.” [WTOP]
Grand Opening for Pamplona — New Clarendon restaurant Pamplona is holding its grand opening celebration tonight. The Spanish tapas restaurant is set in a self-described “sultry and sophisticated space, featuring colorful Spanish tiled floors, unique murals… and of course, an arsenal of bullheads.” [Facebook]
H-B Photography in Richmond — Work by H-B Woodlawn photography students is on display in the Richmond offices of Del. Patrick Hope. Hope plans to highlight one piece a day during the legislative session. [Twitter]
Multi-Generational Housing Construction — A 1950s ranch home near Bishop O’Connell High School is being torn down to make way for a new multi-generation house for a couple, their daughter and husband, and their grandchildren. [Falls Church News-Press]
When You Don’t Want Someone to Take Your Parking Cone — South Arlington is “so rough you have to lock up your cones,” as a photo apparently taken yesterday demonstrates. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Workgroup, the citizen body charged with weighing in on the thorny issue of whether an athletic field near Williamsburg Middle School should have lights, is set to have its 21st meeting tonight (Wednesday).
The workgroup is preparing to write its draft report, which will be presented to county commissions next month and reviewed with the Arlington County Board in January before a final set of recommendations is presented to the Board in February.
Earlier this month the workgroup held an open house at which those on both sides — for and against lighting the artificial turf field — presented their case. ARLnow.com spoke to a number of people at the meeting.
“I’m for the fields,” said Chris Smith, a nearby resident. “I think it’s fantastic that we have the resources that we do in Arlington, and the utility of the turf fields is only expanded by having them lit at different times during the day. It gives us more time on the fields, particularly give the children more time on the fields, as the days get shorter, through the winter and I think that’s only a good thing.”
“I’m probably one of the four or five houses that are closest… whatever the effects could be I would probably feel them as much as anybody else,” Smith added. “But as a member of the local youth sports community and as a father of three children, two of whom are at Discovery [Elementary], I think it’s a better investment with the lights there.”
A number of supporters said their kids play soccer and having a lighted field closer to home — currently they must travel to Gunston Middle School or Long Bridge Part to play at night — would benefit far more residents than the lights would, potentially, negatively affect.
Opponents, however, said in their presentation that the area around the field is a “historically dark and quiet neighborhood” and lighting the field would be a slippery slope leading, perhaps, to turning “all of Arlington County into a big city with big-city traffic, noise and lights.”
“I live close to the field, my kids went to this school and we already lived through building Discovery school, the elementary school, which has been fine, actually,” said a lighting opponent who did not give her name. “But this will have games going at night, I don’t know how many nights a week, late at night. They already have games it seems, a lot, all day, all weekend. It seems like it’s just too much for the neighborhood and the lights will disturb everybody’s sleep and rest and just the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.”
“I just don’t think you have to play soccer 24/7,” the lighting opponent continued. “You know, enough is enough.”
County Board member Christian Dorsey attended the open house and said the lengthy community process — which started in September 2013 — is intended to give all residents plenty of opportunity to shape the county’s ultimate decision.
“We put together a workgroup because this is not an easy issue to decide or deliberate about,” Dorsey said. “The Board wanted to make sure we gave individuals from communities, affected communities who are also part of interest groups to really go deep into the issues so that they could give us all the perspectives that we needed to make a decision. So, this is kind of a — not the culmination — but it’s nearing the end of their work and this is really a useful way to take what they’ve learned and share it with the wider public.”
“We need to make an informed decision,” Dorsey concluded, “which is what I look forward to.”
(Updated at 8:50 a.m.) In 2012 Arlington Public Schools considered, and then scrapped, a proposal to move middle schools to block scheduling. Four years later, the issue is coming up again at Williamsburg Middle School.
Block scheduling introduces longer periods for core classes — math, English, science, etc. — reducing the number of classes per day attended by students and increasing instruction time. Critics, however, say that longer classes can detrimental to students, especially those with shorter attention spans. They also say that longer core classes cut into electives like music.
In response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com, prompted by emails to us from parents, Williamsburg principal Gordon Laurie confirmed that block scheduling is under consideration. School staff will be presenting a proposal to parents at a meeting in two weeks, he said.
Here’s a statement from Laurie:
We have been considering the block schedule as a staff since January 2016 to provide for an Arlington Tiered System of Supports (ATSS) period in the day as a way to meet the needs of all students’ academic, behavioral, and emotional needs. Our goal with considering block scheduling is to make sure that we can provide individualized supports and to provided individualized learning to our students.
We convened a faculty committee to examine the block schedule and how it might benefit all students and Williamsburg. We also invited APS teachers from schools that use the block schedule system to visit with their teacher peers and talk to them in their content areas about their experience. We shared the process with the Williamsburg community last February to gather their feedback.
As the process evolved, it became clear that we were too far along in our school year to undertake and implement a new bell schedule for this school year (2016-17). Williamsburg staff began discussing block scheduling again this year as a way to provide additional supports to students. Staff has put together a proposal to share with Williamsburg families at a meeting on Wednesday, November 9 at 7 p.m. During that meeting, we will seek input, provide clarity and answer questions. No final decisions have been made at this point.
Parents who contacted ARLnow.com about the block scheduling said they had been kept in the dark about it and only found out when word leaked out following a school staff meeting yesterday.
Block scheduling has been in place at Arlington’s high schools for at least a few years. It is in place at Kenmore Middle School but not at other local middle schools, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman said.
Update at 1:20 p.m. — The missing boy was found around 1 p.m., according to police. He was located on the roof of Williamsburg Middle School.
Earlier: Arlington County Police are calling in resources from Virginia State Police to help search for a missing 12-year-old boy.
Police say Eli Check, 12, was last seen early this morning at his home on the 3400 block of N. Emerson Street, near Williamsburg Middle School in the Rock Spring neighborhood.
Check, who is transgender and identifies as male, was last seen dying his hair black, according to police.
“We’re worried about his safety,” said ACPD spokesman Capt. Bruce Benson.
At least one K-9 unit is involved in the search of the neighborhood around the boy’s home, Benson confirmed. Police are also asking for the public’s help.
From a press release issued shortly after noon today:
The Arlington County Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating a 12 year old boy. Eli Check of Arlington, was last seen at his home in the 3400 block of N. Emerson St. at 2 a.m. on Monday, October 24, 2016.
Eli was last seen in his home dying his hair black. He is white, weighing 85 lbs. and is 5’0″ tall. He may be wearing light colored blue jeans with multiple, multi colored patches on the legs.
Eli is transgender, female to male, and it is possible he may present as a female. Eli’s legal name is Eliana Check.
Anyone who has information about Eli is asked to call the Arlington County Police Department immediately at 703-558-2222.
Three years, 18 working group meetings and 886 pages of posted documents later, the county is nearing the final stretch of a public process to decide whether to add lights to the athletic fields at Williamsburg Middle School.
The Williamsburg Field Evaluation Work Group will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 2 to discuss the process and gather more community input before drafting a report for the County Board.
“Come see what was learned, ask questions and share your input,” said a description of the meeting, which will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the middle school (3600 N. Harrison Street).
Controversy over whether new synthetic turf fields should be lighted — which pitted soccer parents against a group of residents who live near the school — prompted the Board to call for the creation of a working group. The group’s charge was finally approved, after a bit of additional intrigue, in 2015.
The 15-member group was tasked “to lead a robust community process to evaluate whether or
not to light the Williamsburg synthetic fields.” At issue: whether resident concerns about excessive light, noise and traffic at night outweigh the county’s usual policy of lighting synthetic fields to maximize use (primarily for youth sports) and return on investment.
Earlier this year the timeline for the working group was pushed back: it’s now expected to prepare a draft report in November and finalize its recommendations in January. The County Board is then expected to consider the group’s recommendations at its February meeting.
Image via Google Maps
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.