Alamo Drafthouse Coming to Crystal City — An Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be coming to Crystal City to anchor a residential redevelopment by the JBG Smith. The redevelopment will convert the aging office building at 1750 Crystal Drive to a gleaming glass-and-metal residential building while topping it with a six-story addition. Also planned is an as-yet unsigned “specialty grocer” — think: Trader Joe’s or something similar. [Washington Business Journal]
Home Prices Rise in Arlington — “Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. says the median selling price in Arlington County last month was $613,500, up 15 percent from May of 2016. The change was based on 350 closed sales in Arlington in May.” [WTOP]
County Looking for More Tech Grant Recipients — Arlington Economic Development is looking for more tech companies to lure to Arlington with its $1 million “Gazelle Grant” program. AED is seeking another 8-13 companies that are growing by at least 30 percent over a three year period and are willing to commit to at least a three year lease. [Technical.ly DC]
Yorktown Girls Win Soccer Championship — The Yorktown girls soccer team has won the state Group 6A championship for the first time, defeating the Kellam Knights 1-0 on Saturday. The state champs placed second in a regional tournament to reach the state finals. [InsideNova]
Arlington Triathlon Held — Kids ages 7-15 woke up early to participate in the Arlington Triathlon at Washington-Lee High School over the weekend. [WTOP]
Gunston Getting More Seats — Thanks to a proposed $651,000 internal modification project, Gunston Middle School will be able to add 72 seats, increasing its overall capacity to 1,004 students. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Alexandria Struggles With Housing Promise — “The escalating cost of construction and dramatic changes in how affordable housing is financed are leading Alexandria officials to consider modifying a requirement to replace any of its 1,150 public housing units that are redeveloped with equally priced apartments.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
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.”
Dozens of students, teachers and community members spoke at the Feb. 16 Arlington School Board meeting, many voicing concern about incidents of intolerance at Yorktown High School.
The 41-person turnout for public comments “might be a record,” according to School Board Vice Chair Dr. Barbara Kanninen. Many of the speakers addressed the ongoing controversy over signs in classrooms, which some say are politically motivated, and allegations of discrimination at the school.
One by one, students clad in shirts emblazoned with some of the signs’ slogans — such as “We Are Yorktown” and “Facts Are Not Political” — weighed in on reports of bullying and harassment.
“Yorktown has a problem. There is no denying it,” said one student. “Since November, we have seen a dramatic rise in incidents of racism, homophobia and hate.”
Yorktown administrators have done little to combat that rise, instead choosing to “run and hide” instead of facing controversies, he alleged.
“The reason that we’re all here tonight is in many ways the the fault of the Yorktown administration,” he continued. “The first wave of hate was in November, and after those incidents, nothing happened.”
Another student told the room about how school officials made her take down a “Black Lives Matter” sign after parents complained earlier this month. The student alleged that, after taking down the sign, she and some of her friends were subjected to racist remarks from their peers.
“Why are there so many incidents at Yorktown at which kids feel empowered to carry out such actions?” she asked. “How do you think minority children feel every day going to a school in which their culture is disrespected and deemed insignificant?”
One student, a sophomore, complained that students “are not allowed to use gay in posters… which makes it seem that it’s not okay to be gay.”
“Some people still eat lunch in the bathroom and they cry,” the student continued. “You might not agree with them, but you should accept them for who they are.”
The speakers also included some teachers, who voiced concern over recent incidents.
“In the past month, a Sudanese student asked me if he could keep coming to school. A Muslim student told me that her family has decided that they will move to Canada. A Honduran student reported that he’d been asked by another student if his bags were packed because he was going to be deported,” one teacher said. “I posted signs on my walls and in my hallway windows to let my students know I stand by them and for them.”
The public comment period lasted more than an hour and fifteen minutes. After it concluded, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said that the alleged bullying and discrimination “will not be tolerated” and vowed to put an end to it.
“I’m stepping up. This is not acceptable,” he said, to applause from the crowd. “Our goal continues to be to provide the best learning environment for every child, regardless of their personal belief, race, religion, ethnicity or gender.”
Murphy turned the floor over to Cintia Johnson, an assistant superintendent, to share some of the steps that APS has already taken.
“We have had the opportunity to meet with the administrative team at Yorktown and begin the steps to designing an action plan that is intended to continue to show a commitment to the positive community as well as the climate of both dignity and respect for each and every student,” she said.
Dr. Brenda Wilks, another assistant superintendent at APS, said the school plans to host student-led forums where students’ voices will be heard. The first such meeting was held earlier that day, she said, and had approximately 130 in attendance.
School Board member Reid Goldstein, who attended the forum, said it was “articulate and honest.”
“I’m delighted that students… felt deeply, thought maturely, stood up for their convictions and spoke eloquently,” he said.
James Lander, another School Board member who attended the forum, said the school’s priority to create a safe environment for students was paramount.
“I will reiterate the sense of commitment that this board has to the safety of all students,” he said. “If any student comes to school and doesn’t feel safe, that is our issue to deal with, and we will deal with it accordingly.”
School Board member Tannia Talento applauded the many students who had “the courage to come up here and speak to us today about such challenging conversations.”
“It is so hard to tell your story, to tell your pain, to tell your fears, to tell your stance, especially if it’s an unpopular one,” she said. “I’m proud of you guys having these conversations, and of our teachers. This is what America is.”
Talento continued: “I am a daughter of immigrant parents. I am fearful for our immigrant community here in our country. The one thing I remind myself every day is you guys showed me tonight, that in this country, we have freedom of speech.”
Pasi announced his plans in a recent email to parents.
“As you might imagine, this has not been an easy decision to make,” he wrote in his email. “I have given it serious thought, however, and after 20 years here in Arlington as the Yorktown principal, and nine years as a principal elsewhere before coming here, I believe the time is right.”
Yorktown is currently in the midst of an ongoing controversy over signs that some say are political, though Pasi’s announcement does not reference it. He says the decision was made “several weeks ago.”
Pasi shared the news with the school’s faculty members during a meeting yesterday afternoon.
— Anne Stewart (@AnneStewart23) February 15, 2017
The full letter is below.
Dear Yorktown Families:
I wanted to let you know that several weeks ago, I informed our school Superintendent, Dr. Murphy, that I plan to retire at the end of this school year. I informed the faculty of my decision at a meeting this afternoon and wanted to share the news with all of you, as well.
As you might imagine, this has not been an easy decision to make. I have given it serious thought, however, and after 20 years here in Arlington as the Yorktown principal, and nine years as a principal elsewhere before coming here, I believe the time is right.
Yorktown has been an amazing and wonderful school community, and it will be hard to leave when the time comes. I have enjoyed being part of such worthwhile work here, and have been grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many students, faculty, staff and parents on a wide range of projects over the years. I have admired and appreciated our collective commitment to make Yorktown the kind of school where students have the opportunity to grow and flourish. This work is never complete, but I am proud of the many successes and progress we have achieved together along the way.
I want to thank the School Board, Dr. Murphy, my past and present colleagues throughout APS, and most especially everyone here at Yorktown. In the coming weeks, Dr. Murphy will begin working with the PTA to discuss the process to select the next Yorktown principal.
Over the remaining months of this school year, and through our last day in June, I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the success of all our students.
With gratitude and continued best wishes,
Ray Pasi, Principal
Screeenshot via Yorktown High School
While the “Patriots Know” signs remain up in classrooms, according to an Arlington Public Schools spokesman, Pasi apologized for the “distress” the issue — which has received national attention from conservative media — may have caused.
“We sincerely regret any distress this may have caused our students, parents or anyone in the Yorktown community,” Pasi wrote. “We want our focus to continue to be instruction, while at the same time providing a safe and supportive environment for discussion, consistent with the YHS and APS mission, vision and core values.”
Pasi said that Yorktown has adopted sign policies in place at other Arlington high schools, although he did not elaborate on the specifics of those policies nor their application to the current controversy.
The full letter is below.
For many years, Yorktown High School’s philosophy and goal has been to work deliberately, daily and collectively on fostering respect for ALL. Our long standing social-emotional learning (SEL) and ROCS (Respect for Others, Community and Self) programs are designed to help foster a positive, respectful school climate for ALL. It’s a feature of our educational program we take seriously and have worked on each day. We want every student here to feel valued, supported and respected.
We all know that we live in a challenging and sometimes difficult political climate. With that, many schools (including Yorktown) are dealing with new situations and issues. Here at Yorktown, one of those issues has been signs that have been posted with good intentions that some members of our community have supported while others have taken exception to for one reason or another.
We sincerely regret any distress this may have caused our students, parents or anyone in the Yorktown community. We want our focus to continue to be instruction, while at the same time providing a safe and supportive environment for discussion, consistent with the YHS and APS mission, vision and core values.
Last year, some APS high schools experienced a few difficulties with how and when students could post signs equitably because so many student clubs and organizations were interested in promoting their activities and events. To help provide clarity, a set of procedures and guidelines for posting materials in high schools were developed by a team of high school staff that is also consistent with the APS Printed Materials Policy.
While this was not a concern for Yorktown at that time, last week we experienced confusion over how to determine what should be posted. Moving forward, we have decided to use the same guidelines and process here at Yorktown that the other APS high schools are following so that all high schools are approaching these decisions in a uniform way.
On Friday, I met with teachers and many of our students to discuss this and we have revised our processes to be consistent with the other high schools. We also will be meeting with representatives of each YHS student organization so that everyone knows and understands our process as we move forward.
In the future, there may be differences of opinions on one issue or another. We need to recognize that it is in the best interest of our entire community that we work together to create our future. That comes through cooperation and understanding our similarities as well as accepting our differences. We will continue to strive to create a school climate that is inclusive and supportive of all students.
The controversy over a sign posted by teachers at Yorktown High School has taken an even bigger national stage.
Yorktown senior John Piper was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s prime time show on Fox News last night, discussing why the seemingly innocuous sign was actually “political propaganda.”
Piper says he and his parents talked to to school administrators, the Arlington School Board and local radio station WMAL about why the signs are “obviously” political, especially given the current political climate. But after being told the signs would be coming down, Piper says administrators “changed their minds” and the signs remained.
Tipsters tell ARLnow.com that those inquiring about the decision to keep the signs were sent a letter to the School Board from a Yorktown physics teacher objecting to the removal (posted below, after the jump).
Carlson called the signs “the sneakiest type of propaganda… propaganda passing itself off as obvious observations.” He asked Piper if anyone at the school thinks that science “is not real.”
“No,” Piper replied, adding that he and fellow members of the Yorktown Republican club also believe in diversity despite implications to the contrary given their opposition to the signs.
A similar sign about conservative values — like the Second Amendment right to bear arms — would not be allowed at Yorktown, Piper guessed.
“There’s a serious double standard here,” Piper said. “Conservative values would not be accepted on the walls of the school, especially in the way they’re doing them. They would see through that easily.”
This is not the only sign controversy brewing at Yorktown. A Black Lives Matter banner at the school was removed late last week, according to a tipster. High school principals, we’re told, have been meeting “to set policy for putting signs up in the future.”
Update at 5:50 p.m. — On Tuesday afternoon, Yorktown principal Dr. Ray Pasi sent a letter to students and families regarding the sign issue.
The letter from the teacher regarding the “Patriots Know” signs, after the jump.
Arlington Public Schools has hired a consultant to review its high school enrollment projections.
The consultant, Dr. Richard Grip, previously worked on the Arlington Community Facilities study. He will be studying the way APS projected enrollment during its recent high school boundary change process.
“To ensure our methodology follow best practices, we have hired an external statistician who will review the projections and methods used,” said APS Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos. “The November projections will be updated in March, which is our standard practice, to finalize the budget for next year.”
The move comes as parents are questioning a slide from a recent School Board meeting (above) that seemingly shows overcrowding at Yorktown following the controversial boundary changes, which shifted students from overcrowded Washington-Lee to the somewhat less crowded Yorktown and Wakefield.
“The projected attendance numbers used during the redistricting process were wrong,” said an email that has been circulating among parents, which was forwarded to ARLnow.com. “APS staff underestimated the number of students who will be attending Yorktown in 2020/21 and now Yorktown is projected to be over capacity by about 700 students… apparently a new consultant has been hired to re-do the projections.”
Erdos, however, says that is not the case. The slide, she says, shows two different things: enrollment projections bef0re boundary changes and the total number of students in each of the three high school zones. But the latter numbers, shown in the right column, include students who attend magnet/choice schools like H-B Woodlawn and the new Arlington Tech program, and thus do not reflect any sort of net enrollment projection.
“The November projections vs. January analysis is like comparing apples and oranges — they were developed for two totally different reasons,” Erdos said. “The January report was only intended to be an analysis of the ethnicity of the student population in the three neighborhood boundary zones because of earlier questions raised.”
“Staff is not aware of any plan by the School Board to revisit high school boundaries at this time,” Erdos added.
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is expected to address the projections review and timeline during tonight’s School Board meeting.
A history teacher at Yorktown High School, has been charged with indecent exposure by Fairfax County Police after an incident in Tysons Corner Thursday night.
Police say Thomas Lenihan, 38, exposed himself to two teens in the locker room of the Sport & Health Club on Greensboro Drive. He was arrested on two counts of indecent exposure shortly thereafter.
Lenihan will be placed on administrative leave and will not return to Yorktown, families were told in an email, which also encouraged students who may have additional information about Lenihan to come forward.
More on the charges from the Fairfax County Police Department:
Officers were called to the 8200 block of Greensboro Drive, a Sports and Health Club, yesterday around 9:30 p.m. for a report of a man exposing himself to two juveniles in the locker room. The victims, 16 and 17 years old, told employees that a man had watched them in the shower and followed them around the locker room while exposing himself.
Officers located the suspect at the business and identified him as Thomas Lenihan, 38, of Falls Church. Lenihan is currently employed as a teacher in Arlington County at Yorktown High School. He was arrested, taken to the Adult Detention Center and charged with two misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure. He was released on a $5,000 bond.
Anyone who might have witnessed this incident is asked to contact the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131, or contact Crime Solvers electronically by visiting www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text-a-tip by texting “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES (274637).
A military helicopter experiencing mechanical problems landed on Yorktown High School’s football field Friday night.
The landing was first reported around 9 p.m. There was no report of injuries.
Arlington County Police said via Twitter that a maintenance crew arrived on scene just after 10 p.m. to make repairs.
— Brandon Jones (@btj) December 10, 2016
A military helicopter with mechanical problems has landed at Yorktown High school to make repairs. No estimated time of departure.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 10, 2016
HELICOPTER UPDATE: Maintenance crew is now arriving by vehicle. pic.twitter.com/IpNsWlDrf4
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 10, 2016
A fight between two students but also involving one student’s parents broke out Monday morning just outside of Yorktown High School.
Arlington County Police responded to the school just before 11:30 a.m. for a report of a fight involving students, adults and a large crowd. The situation was deemed to be under control shortly after officers arrived on scene.
ACPD on scene at Yorktown High School for a reported fight outside of the school. So far no injuries or active fighting reported.
— Arlington News (@ARLnowDOTcom) November 28, 2016
But police say this was more than just a standard-issue fight between two students. It was the result of an “ongoing dispute” and it involved two parents of one of the students and allegations of racial slurs being used.
“The incident stemmed from an ongoing dispute between students at Yorktown High School,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “There was a verbal altercation which turned physical when one juvenile subject struck the juvenile victim in the face. The victim did not require medical transport. At this time, there are no criminal charges but our School Resource Officer continues to work with the students, families and Yorktown High School administration regarding the incident.”
The parents “were involved in the dispute but not the physical fight, that was between two juvenile students,” Savage said, in response to an inquiry by ARLnow.com.
“There was alleged use of racial slurs during the verbal argument,” Savage added. “We have not been provided with any video of the incident.”
A post in a popular online message board for local mothers suggests that racial slurs were used by the student’s father, and that cell phone video of the fight exists, but the actual circumstances could not be confirmed by ARLnow.com, only the allegations.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said school administration “is aware of the incident and is working with the families involved to address the situation.”
Dogs Die in Seven Corners Fire — Two dogs perished in a Sunday morning house fire in the Seven Corners area, although three dogs and four people were able to make it out of the burning home okay. Arlington County firefighters responded to the scene, assisting Fairfax County units in battling the blaze. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Water Main Break in Fairlington — Parts of north Fairlington had low or no water pressure for most of the day Monday due to a water main break. [Twitter]
Remembering Obama’s Local Bookstore Visit — Even four years later, not a day goes by when One More Page Books owner Eileen McGervey doesn’t hear from someone about the time in 2012 when President Obama visited her store on Small Business Saturday. She recounted how it happened recently on a local public radio show. [WAMU]
Carpool Still Hanging On — Once believed to be closing this fall to make way for a redevelopment, popular Ballston bar Carpool is now likely to remain open through March 2017, co-owner Mark Handwerger tells ARLnow.com. The Washington Business Journal reported last month that the redevelopment has hit a bit of a snag.
Yorktown Senior Joins Chamber — Mark Yates, Jr., a senior at Yorktown High School and the founder of a lawn care business, has joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as a member after participating in the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy. [Arlington Chamber]
Jonathan Kinney Honored — Prominent local attorney Jonathan Kinney was honored by the Arlington Community Foundation earlier this month, in front of a record luncheon crowd of nearly 400. Despite his low-key demeanor, Kinney, a land use and estate planning attorney, was described as “Arlington’s most indispensable citizen.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
W-L Defeats Yorktown, Heads to Playoffs — The Washington-Lee Generals defeated cross-county rival Yorktown Friday night to advance to the football playoffs. W-L was trailing when senior quarterback Ricardo Mestre passed for a touchdown with just seconds remaining to clinch the win. [Washington Post]
Board Advertises Ballston Historic District — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday to advertise hearings on designating a small family graveyard in Ballston a local historic district, ahead of a planned redevelopment by the Central United Methodist Church. “The Board on Saturday received assurances from the church that it will not seek to remove any remains from the graveyard before the County has an opportunity to consider its historic designation,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Students: Adults Should Tone Down Boundary Rhetoric — Some adults have taken their rhetoric over the current Arlington Public Schools high school boundary refinement process too far, according to a pair of high school students who spoke at Thursday’s School Board meeting. “We honestly consider some of the comments made thus far to be an embarrassment,” said a Yorktown student. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Arlington Smartphone App Updated — Arlington County has made a number of new upgrades to its My Arlington App for smartphones. The changes include a new home screen design, transit alerts and, just in time for Election Day, polling locations and a map of voter precincts. [Arlington County]
Library Director: Vote on Nov. 8 — From Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh’s blog: “Every election is important and every vote counts. And it’s a privilege that for people in many parts of the world is not enjoyed. On Tuesday, vote as if your life depends on it; it does.” [Arlington Public Library]
Free Home Buying Seminar Tonight — Sponsored — The Orange Line Living Team is hosting a Free Home Buying Seminar with a local lender and all attendees will receive two guarantees just for attending: 1) Buyer satisfaction — if you don’t love your new home they will buy it back or sell it for free for 12 months, and 2) $1,500 home purchase credit. See website for details and conditions. The event is being at 1600 Wilson Blvd #101 in Arlington, from 6-8 p.m. tonight, Nov. 7. [Orange Line Living]
Arlington fielded some of the country’s top youth athletes in water polo last month.
Capital Water Polo has two of the top 25 youth water polo teams in the United States after competing in USA Water Polo’s 2016 Junior Olympics in San Jose, Calif., from July 22-30.
The club, which trains at the pools at Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield high schools, sent more than 50 athletes ages 10-18 from five teams to the tournament.
The under-14 girls’ and under-12 boys’ teams were Capital Water Polo’s top squads, finishing 22nd and 24th, respectively. The under-18 boys’ team finished 44th in its fifth appearance in the tournament and the under-16 and under-14 boys’ teams finished 76th and 79th, respectively.
“I am incredibly proud of all our athletes for their dedication during the tough 10 months of training leading up to this championship tournament, as well as for their formidable play against the top teams in the nation,” coach Leslie Enwistle said in a statement. “Many of our competitors’ programs have been ranked nationally for over 20 years. We demonstrated that our coaches’ commitment to effectively develop all our athletes was successful at the highest level.”
Photos courtesy of Teresa Byrne
A new county-owned synthetic turf field at Yorktown High School has been vandalized.
The $1.6 million turf replacement project just wrapped up last week. Over the weekend, a vandal or group of vandals spray-painted the field and the surrounding track and caused some other damage.
“At approximately 7:36 a.m. on August 7, police were dispatched to 2700 N. Greenbrier Street for the report of destruction and vandalism,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com via email. “An unknown subject(s) spray painted derogatory terms on the field, knocked over several trash cans and a portable restroom. The investigation is ongoing.”
The photos above, taken Monday afternoon, show the cleanup still in progress. Note that photo #3 contains an image that some may find offensive or not safe for work (NSFW).
The new turf of Patriot Nation. pic.twitter.com/bKAxwwfnMo
— Yorktown Athletics (@yhssports) August 5, 2016
Photos (top) by Jackie Friedman