Letters to the Editor: April 13 – 19, 2017
We Must Think Differently About Elementary Schools
Fairfax County’s approval of the Mount Daniel expansion was secured largely by a promised enrollment cap of 660 students. This cap affects our ability to continue housing whole grades within one school building. Currently, Mt. Daniel has 382 students. After construction, 2nd grade could move to Mt. Daniel as planned. But that move would be temporary; once enrollments exceed 210-215 per grade, we’re at risk of violating the cap. If 662 children show up the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, we can’t just move a couple of chairs into a classroom. No, we would have to move 2nd grade back to Thomas Jefferson. Mt. Daniel would effectively cap enrollment between 525 and 550 (a cohort is about 200-225). In that case, we’d be significantly underutilizing the renovated campus, continuing to overstress TJ, and basically wasting Mt. Daniel’s renovation.
We must think differently about our elementary schools. We need to switch to a neighborhood school model, with both Mt. Daniel and TJ becoming kindergarten through 5th grade schools. I recognize this changes the way we function. There is something sweet about keeping kindergartners separate from the 5th graders and the community cohesion whole grade schools bring to our “Little City.”
But our “Little City” isn’t so little anymore. Each grade has eight to 10 classes. Children get reshuffled into new configurations each year and 200 kids to a grade can be overwhelming for those less-than-extroverted kids. Additionally, we have one paramount, pressing and undeniable challenge in front of us: growth and space. It would be foolish to let 200 slots at Mt. Daniel go unused to keep grades together. A neighborhood model, with a Mt. Daniel catchment area of 600 children, would allow us to maximize its use, reduce classrooms per grade and most importantly, it reduces the risk the school system could become so burdensome we are forced to join the Fairfax or Arlington systems.
If we are unwilling to change, the expansion must be cancelled.
The Definition Of a Class A Office Building
In the Letters to the Editor, last week, reader JoMarie Acosta asks an excellent question: What is the definition of a “Class A” building?
I’m happy to say that the answer can be found in the 2017 edition of the “NAIOP Terms and Definitions” document:
“A classification used to describe an office building with rents in the top 30 to 40 percent of the marketplace. Class A buildings are well-located in major employment centers and typically have good transit, vehicular and pedestrian access. Additionally, they are located adjacent to or in proximity to a high number of retail establishments and business-oriented or fast casual restaurants. Building services are characterized by above-average upkeep and management.”
Managing Editor, Research Studies NAIOP
All This Development Talk & No Word of Parking Solutions
Kudos to Ms. Acosta’s letter in the News-Press last week. Did I miss a notice that the planning commission called for a meeting to discuss this mixed-use building in the City at E. Broad and Washington?
The City is becoming overwhelmed with multi-level structures and not one whisper of parking spaces. Why is the City so afraid to build parking garages? And why is the parking time limit only two hours on Monday – Saturday? Is parking so bad in the City that we can’t have three hours?
F.C. Schools Should Not Expose Kids to Fast Food
Our City of Falls Church schools’ email newsletter noted that 4th graders at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School “are learning… about writing letters [to businesses and municipalities] with opinions and constructive criticism.” The unit included a visit from the Chick-fil-A cow mascot.
I wonder if the teacher used that visit to explain that an ethical fast-food restaurant wouldn’t market directly to impressionable children, especially in a learning environment, even if school administrators seem to be oblivious to the lasting, pernicious public health consequences of these fun lessons. It might have spurred some great letters to Chick-fil-A and the school board.
I hope our new superintendent does a better job than his predecessors of establishing curriculum guidelines that will shield students from these insidious activities.
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