(Updated 7/2 at 12:05 pm) Aspiring Arlington soccer stars will soon have the opportunity to show off their dribbling, shooting, juggling and passing skills.
Next Saturday (July 7) from 4-8 p.m., the International Champions Cup Skills Challenge comes to Williamsburg Middle School.
The competition is divided into male and female divisions, which are each broken up by age (U12, U16 and open). Competitors receive a 45-minute time slot to navigate a dribbling course, score goals, juggle for as long as possible and quickly complete difficult passes.
The top entrant in each category will receive two free tickets to the Aug. 4 Juventus v. Real Madrid ICC match at FedEx Field and be recognized on the field during halftime.
Those interested can register online. Participation is free.
Photo via Facebook
Police and medics responded to Williamsburg Middle School Friday afternoon after a student suffered a serious medical emergency.
“There was a medical emergency in a 6th period class and CPR was performed,” an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed. “The student was transported to the hospital and was accompanied by an assistant principal.”
So far there’s no word as to the cause of the medical emergency nor the student’s current condition.
Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]
Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]
Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
The Arlington County Board pushed back a decision on lighting athletic fields near Williamsburg Middle School, so plans can be studied further by county staff.
The Board’s unanimous 5-0 vote came after almost six hours of public testimony and discussion by opponents and proponents of the lights, with many opponents wearing matching green shirts. It means any decision on lights will be delayed to next year.
Instead of following staff’s initial recommendation to fund lighting the fields, Board members voted for County Manager Mark Schwartz to further study ways to increase the county’s stock of athletic fields, including through the use of synthetic turf and lights.
The study will include drawing on a section of the Williamsburg Field Working Group Final Report that concerns how to evaluate potential field lighting.
Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring. He recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. He suggested 84 lights installed on six 80-foot poles.
Board vice chair Katie Cristol said further study should take into account field usage and impacts on neighborhoods (referred to as “externalities”), as well as the usage of fields by those who live nearby.
“It seems appropriate to me that those who derive the benefits should also look to bear the externalities,” Cristol said. “I think it is appropriate that we bring both the benefits and the externalities, such as they are, to the users where they are.”
But the moods of some Board members began to fray towards the end of the discussion. John Vihstadt tried to add language to avoid what he described as the “singling out” of Williamsburg Middle School and give the study a broader context. But Cristol and others objected.
“To me the question is, what do we do with five years of community input, with countless hours of staff work, hundreds of thousands of dollars in analyses spent?” Cristol asked. “We’re simply going to throw that out and start with a new process? The question becomes: what more info does this Board need to make a decision on the question before us?”
The Board also directed Schwartz to study amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to allow lights above the current maximum height of 68 feet, thus not requiring a special approval process. Board member Christian Dorsey expressed some reservations about directing “a study that already determines an outcome,” but the study will proceed.
“The whole idea that we would direct at the moment that we’re going to have a study with an outcome really doesn’t give it a whole lot of credence,” he said.
Divisions on the topic were apparent in both public testimony and the slew of letters about the project submitted by county commissions both in support and against. Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.
Dorsey said it was not so simple as to term opponents as “NIMBY” neighbors and supporters as youth sports advocates. He noted that there are no “neat boxes” on an issue like this.
“I think it would be a mistake to go away from this process thinking only that the people who oppose lights are NIMBYs, and the people who favor lights don’t care about neighborhoods,” Dorsey said.
Board chair Jay Fisette and colleague Libby Garvey expressed a willingness to vote for lighting the fields, citing the work at Wakefield High School to mitigate the lights shining on nearby houses as proof the technology has evolved.
Fisette noted “disappointment in the room” from all: opponents who wanted the lights plan nixed altogether and proponents who wanted them approved that day. The direction for further study means any decision will not be made until next year.
“We’ll all be back again, someday,” Vihstadt said. “And hopefully we’ll all find a better place.”
A battle between residents and youth sports advocates will go before the Arlington County Board on Saturday (September 16) as Board members discuss adding lights to two synthetic turf fields.
County Manager Mark Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring.
Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.
And county staff is recommending the Board move his plan along, saying that it would allow for extended usage and neighbors’ worries can be mitigated.
And Saturday’s meeting could see neighborhood opponents come up against those in the youth sports community who say the lights will increase usage of the fields.
Neighbors of the fields delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board before Schwartz’s announcement. Several also sat on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options.
In their report, county staffers note that the group “did not come to a consensus” on lighting the fields.
“The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy,” Gail Harrison, a member of the work group and a neighborhood opponent of lighting the fields, said at the time of Schwartz’s announcement. “The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”
But youth sports boosters said the lights will be necessary as participation has increased, and fields in Arlington are growing overcrowded and struggling to keep pace with demand. According to county data, youth participation in sports has increased by 56 percent in the past five years, from just over 15,000 in 2011 to just over 24,000 in 2017.
By sport, soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee all saw large increases in participation from 2011 to 2016, according to an infographic sent by a coalition of local youth sports organizations.
Soccer leads the way with more than 16,000 who play in the county, followed by baseball with just over 4,000. Those in favor of the lights are likely to have a strong presence too on Saturday.
“I suspect Arlington Soccer Association will have folks there and I plan to be there for Arlington Babe Ruth [baseball], as all youth sports leagues face the same problem: increased participation… and a limited number of fields,” said George Thompson of the Arlington Babe Ruth baseball organization. “Lighting will add hundreds of hours of annual playing time for the teams that use these fields for practice and games.”
Schwartz’s plan is not yet permitted under the site’s current zoning, nor is funding available for the lights. Staff recommended the Board approve funding new lights as part of the FY 2019 capital budget, and that Schwartz initiate studies on amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to permit light poles above their current limit of 68 feet. Staff also recommended amending the site’s use permit to allow light poles to be installed.
Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.
Schwartz said in a statement:
I appreciate the hard work that the Williamsburg Fields Evaluation Work Group put into assessing the risks and benefits of lighting the Williamsburg fields. Their thoughtful evaluation formed the foundation of my recommendation.
This was not an easy call, but the county’s policy is that we light synthetic turf fields, and I am convinced, by our experience in lighting other fields in residential neighborhoods, that we can mitigate whatever adverse impacts lights might have. Our entire community will benefit from providing more playing time for our growing number of young people who are playing field sports.
The recommendation has brought a strong reaction from local residents, who delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board.
The Board previously appointed the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options, but Gail Harrison, a member of the group, said it was not presented with the plan Schwartz has advanced until a few days before its last meeting.
Harrison said the “11th-hour proposal” by lighting company Musco was a “fundamental breach of the public process.” Harrison said adding lights is not appropriate for the Rock Spring neighborhood.
“The [Rock Spring] Civic Association surrounding the fields has taken a strong and consistent position over many years that field lights at this location are incompatible with the character of the neighborhood,” Harrison told ARLnow on Friday afternoon. “The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy. The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”
Schwartz said he made his recommendation based on the need for more playing time on Arlington’s fields. He will bring his recommendations to the County Board’s September meeting for further discussion.
More from a county press release after the jump:
Youth outdoor sports in Arlington have grown from 15,033 participations in 2011 to 24,326 in 2017 – a 65 percent increase. Eighty percent of the County’s current youth outdoor sports participation is played on a rectangular field, where boys and girls play soccer, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, tackle football and flag football. The County expects participation in youth outdoor sports will continue to grow at an average rate of eight percent a year.
Schwartz’s recommendations call for installing six 4500K (Kelvin) lights with a dimming feature on 80-foot poles at the fields, located at 3600 Harrison St, on the Williamsburg Middle School-Discovery Elementary School site. For evening activities, the lights could be dimmed to reduce the impact of glare by 30 percent to 50 percent. The pole height would mitigate light pollution by allowing the fixtures to be aimed directly at the field. Installing 80-foot poles would require a Zoning Ordinance amendment and an amendment to the Use Permit for Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary Schools’ campus.
Staff assessed potential impacts of lighting, including the impact on nearby homes; public health; traffic and trees. Staff found that the risk of retinitis and glare could be mitigated with proper design and engineering, and that while circadian rhythm disruption is possible, it could be mitigated by initiating a good sleep routine. Staff also found that lighting the fields will have minimal traffic impact – generating an expected 125-150 new vehicle trips each night spread over a 3.5-hour period between 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., and that a maximum of three trees could be impacted by the installation of lighting.
MOA with Rock Spring Civic Association recommended
Schwartz is recommending that the County enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Rock Spring Civic Association, in which the County would agree to:
- appoint a standing committee to ensure ongoing communication to address operational and maintenance issues;
- commit to lights remaining on no later than 9:45 p.m. – allowing about 2,000 hours of play per year;
- commit to fields being lit only when they are scheduled, and other mitigation measures, while also reducing the number of projected vehicle trips that would occur had the fields been lit until the County 11 p.m. standard.
Schwartz’s recommendation come four months after the Williamsburg Fields Evaluation Work Group, made-up of residents, sports supporters and other stakeholders appointed by the Board in 2015 to study the issue, submitted its final recommendations. The group offered two views – one opposed to installing lights and the other open to light installation on the fields – but offered no single recommendation.
A local teen is trying to make a difference by lobbying for safety improvements to a crash-prone intersection.
At 13 years old, Williamsburg Middle School student Andy Nogas is too young to vote, but not too young to email the Arlington County Board and ask for members’ help.
“I have seen more than 15 crashes and many near misses [at this intersection and] I am writing to ask you to do something about this,” Nogas wrote.
Nogas said in an interview he has seen everything from serious crashes to fender-benders at the intersection, and he and his family have almost been involved in multiple accidents there themselves. Last year, as Nogas was coming home from an after-school event, he witnessed a particularly brutal crash.
“The car was upside-down and all the windows were shattered open,” Nogas said. “I saw the flipped car and a couple of ambulances.”
After this experience, Nogas knew he needed to do something. He spoke to his parents and told them he wanted to contact somebody about the intersection. After they gave him an explanation of how local government works, he decided his best bet was to contact the County Board.
“He was off to the races,” said Holly Scott, Nogas’ mother. “He was very excited to be able to send a message to the county about an issue that’s important to him, his friends and some of our other friends who live in the community.”
“Here is a possible solution that I hope you could look into: a stoplight,” Nogas wrote. “There are many ways you could program it, such as time it with the stoplight at Williamsburg Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, use it only during rush hour and use flashing lights at other times or use it like the stoplight at Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls Road. When one car approaches, the light will change. I hope you will please consider this option to improve safety on our roads.”
A reply from the Board promised they would assign staff to study the intersection.
Nogas said he was happy with the response and hopes the Board will take action, as the intersection is not far from Williamsburg Middle School.
“There are a lot of kids near there. They go to the same middle school as me and I know they have to cross [that intersection],” Nogas said.
Nogas’ mother said she has never reached out to the county herself, so she is particularly impressed by her son’s actions.
“I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m pleasantly surprised at the traction that his letter has gained… it’s definitely been very heartwarming and it certainly is encouraging him to think about what other things he can do to be helpful in his community.”
And while one would think Nogas aspires to work in the government or in law, he actually wants to be an artist. He just happens to care about the safety of those around him.
Map (top) via Google Maps
During the last few weeks of the school year and throughout the summer, the dogs will patrol secondary schools after hours to try to sniff out illegal drugs.
Described as a “proactive measure” in a letter to parents, sent today (Thursday), the searches come at a time when parents are becoming increasingly alarmed about the presence of drugs in middle and high schools.
“I have two children in middle school and have heard of numerous times this year alone of students overdosing on prescription drugs on school grounds or having drugs on school grounds,” one Arlington Public Schools parent said in an email to ARLnow.com.
“Drugs in APS middle and high schools are a real problem,” said an APS employee, who wished to remain anonymous. “Administrators are quick to sweep the drug problems under the rug so it won’t make the school look bad. Do the police warn drug dealers of a raid before the raid? I’m a concerned parent, tax paying citizen and an employee of APS.”
In an email to staff yesterday afternoon, obtained by ARLnow.com, Washington-Lee High School Principal Dr. Gregg Robertson acknowledged that Arlington “has seen an increase in the use of controlled substances.”
As many of you may be aware, Arlington, like many areas of the country, has seen an increase in the use of controlled substances. Over the course of the past year, APS staff worked closely with a number of county agencies to respond to this uptick and to ensure that our schools continue to be safe spaces for students and staff. One of the new measures that will be implemented to help minimize the presence of illegal substances in the schools is the use of the Arlington Police Department K-9 unit. Beginning later this month, the police will come to each of the high schools with the K-9 units to search for drugs. The searches will take place in the evening after students and staff have left.
APS has been communicating this information to families, and all high schools will make an announcement tomorrow (Thursday) morning. I wanted you to be aware of this initiative as I am sure students may have questions.
The drug dogs will only patrol high schools, not middle schools, according to APS.
At least one middle school principal downplayed the extent of the “drug problem” at her school. In an email sent to parents on Monday, Williamsburg Middle School principal Connie Skelton said the problem was limited to “a small cohort of students.”
I’ve had some questions about the “drug problem” at Williamsburg. I want to assure you that this is not a widespread problem, however, we do share your concern. In our school, there is a small cohort of students we are carefully following for drug related issues. If you have any information you would like to share with me, please give me a call.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said the school system is taking measures to keep students safe in the face of a nationwide upswing in drug use.
“Substance abuse and opioid use is a growing problem both in our region and across the U.S.,” said Bellavia. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we are taking steps to make sure that our students are safe and that our schools remain drug free. We also want to make sure that parents are aware and having conversations with their children at home.”
Kids have apparently been doing too much fidgeting, because at least two schools — and likely more — have addressed the issue in emails to parents.
A parent who did not wish to be identified said emails have been sent to her from Williamsburg Middle and Nottingham Elementary schools, saying that schools are cracking down on the toy, which was originally intended to help students relieve stress and concentrate in class.
Here’s an excerpt from the WMS email:
We need your help with two issues. First, the entrepreneurial spirit has hit Williamsburg! And not necessarily in a good way. We have noted students selling spinners and slime to other students. This activity takes the focus off of learning and we are making every effort to stop it. On a somewhat related issue, we are continuing to see an explosion in the number of spinners. The spinners are getting larger, more complex and increasingly distracting. Unless your child has an accommodation to use a spinner, please encourage them to leave the spinners at home.
There has been “no guidance from central office as of yet” regarding spinners, said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Principals handle this sort of thing and make decisions based on what they are seeing in schools.”
Field Lighting Recommendation Pushed to September — A long-delayed decision on whether to add lights to the athletic fields next to Williamsburg Middle School is getting delayed again: county staff says it will not have a recommendation for the County Board until September. A community work group that spent three years tackling the subject was unable to come to a consensus in its 89-page report. [InsideNova]
VDOT-Maintained Neighborhood Streets Crumbling — VDOT is trying to catch up on its paving of secondary (neighborhood) streets, but in places like Fairfax County many such roads are crumbling. Arlington County paves its own local roads rather than relying on VDOT, though the agency is still responsible for maintaining highways and some primary routes in the county. [WTOP]
School Board to Give Land to County — Despite the current school capacity crunch, the Arlington School Board is expected to deed 4.75 acres of land next to Taylor Elementary School to the county government, which will use it to expand Zachary Taylor Park. The land has been deemed too steep and unsuitable for building new facilities. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
After his whereabouts became a source of gossip among parents, Arlington Public Schools announced Monday that Gordon Laurie, principal of Williamsburg Middle School, has resigned.
Tipsters reported that Laurie had not been seen in school since February 24, and that earlier this morning they spotted that his office had been cleaned out. The tipsters mentioned that rumors were swirling about the reason for his departure.
In a letter this afternoon to Williamsburg parents, students and staff, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said Laurie has resigned for personal reasons after 15 years with APS. An APS spokesman did not elaborate on the exact reasons behind Laurie’s resignation.
“After working closely with the exceptional and dedicated Williamsburg Middle School staff to put programs in place that helped students reach new levels of achievement, I am excited about completing my dissertation in pursuit of my doctoral degree,” Laurie wrote in a letter to parents.
Connie Skelton, a retired superintendent of instruction at APS and former Williamsburg teacher, will fill in as acting principal for the rest of the school year. Murphy and APS staff will begin the search for a new principal in the near future.
“Connie is an exceptional school leader who is very familiar with our instructional and administrative framework, and will work closely with the Williamsburg team to ensure a smooth transition in leadership while continuing to provide excellent support for the students, families and staff,” Murphy wrote.
Murphy’s full letter is below:
Dear Williamsburg Families, Students and Staff,
I am writing to share with you that Mr. Gordon Laurie, Williamsburg Middle School Principal, has resigned from the Arlington Public Schools for personal reasons. In his letter Mr. Laurie wrote, “After working closely with the exceptional and dedicated Williamsburg Middle School Staff to put programs in place that helped students reach new levels of achievement, I am excited about completing my dissertation in pursuit of my doctoral degree.”
I want to thank Mr. Laurie for his 15 years of service to APS and wish him the best in his academic and future professional pursuits.
For the balance of the 2016-17 school year, Connie Skelton, retired APS assistant superintendent of Instruction and a former Williamsburg teacher, has agreed to fill in as the acting principal for the remainder of the school year. Connie is an exceptional school leader who is very familiar with our instructional and administrative framework, and will work closely with the Williamsburg team to ensure a smooth transition in leadership while continuing to provide excellent support for the students, families and staff.
We know that changes in the middle of a school year can be challenging so all of us are committed to providing any added support that may be needed, and we will work to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone in the school community. In the coming weeks, Dr. Kristi Murphy, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, will join me to begin a process to select another strong leader for the school community. I look forward to your participation in that effort.
Thank you for your continued support.
Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
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.