Arlington’s children aren’t the only ones this fall who have assigned homework. Several School Board issues coming up during the fall to help shape the future of Arlington Public Schools (APS) will require extensive community feedback.
On an annual list of School Board priorities to be discussed at the Sept. 7 School Board meeting, the top item is the new strategic year plan. The current strategic plan is coming up on the end of its six-year cycle, so Bellavia said the School Board will be asking the public to be involved in setting the goals and priorities of the 2018-2014 strategic plan.
In September 2019, the new Stratford Middle School will have its first opening day as a neighborhood middle school. Stratford Middle School is estimated to have 1,000 seats with a maximum budget of $36.5 million. According to Frank Bellavia, APS communications coordinator, a new middle school will mean new boundaries. No dates have been set yet, but throughout the fall Bellavia said the School Board will begin redrawing the lines this fall. Then, in Spring 2018, the School Board will begin working on new elementary school boundaries for the Alice West Fleet Elementary School scheduled to open in Fall 2019.
Stratford isn’t the only new education space becoming available in the next few years. APS administration will be leaving their current building and moving into a new space in early 2018, leaving the current structure at 2110 Washington Blvd available. The School Board won a victory early in 2017 when the County Board shot down a proposal to protect the building as part of a local historic district, which would have limited the School Board’s ability to make changes to the site. Bellavia said the School Board will be approaching the community with questions about what they think should be the instructional focus at the education center. Options include to incorporate the building into the nearby Washington-Lee or to make it a standalone facility.
The School Board will also be considering changes to the Career Center. On June 29, the School Board adopted a plan to accommodate rising numbers of high school students through expansions of the education center and career center rather than construction of a new high school with 800-700 new seats available at each. By May 2018, the superintendent must make recommendations to the School Board regarding program/instructional focus for the sites, whether or not high school boundary adjustments will be necessary, and a proposed budget.
On the list of upcoming School Board priorities, there was also a note saying the School Board will develop policies involving use of technology, including personal devices, within schools.
STOP FOR BUSES
As the school year kicks off, Arlington’s streets will start to be a little more crowded with yellow buses circulating around Arlington’s neighborhoods. With frequent, and lengthy stops, it can be tempting to swerve left and pass the bus.
Not only does driving around endanger the students who might be crossing the street in front of the bus, in Virginia it is also illegal to pass a school bus with its stop arm out. 2018 is the second year of a program that added cameras to the sides of each school bus activated when the stop arm opens up. The camera captures the license plates of passing vehicles and will report them for a $250 ticket if seen going around the bus.