Our Man in Arlington

September 5, 2017 1:26 PM0 comments

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A new school year brings change, which is what’s in store for the Arlington Public Schools staff child care facility known emblematically as The Children’s School.

Planners in our space-starved school system have set sights on new uses for the renovated Reed School building in Westover. So the Children’s School is in “final stages” of signing a lease to move from Westover to 4420 N. Fairfax Dr., I was told by Director Naseera Maqsood.

It’s not a happy change. There is sub-rosa fear among teachers that Education Central, having forced the move, may not keep its commitment to providing the benefit of free space and custodial services for the fee-supported nonprofit day-care provider.

The move, first broached in February, came after Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s 2016 plan to create a new 725-student elementary school at Reed. (When Reed was targeted a few years ago, the neighbors enjoying their freshly renovated library in that building went berserk.)

The other problem is that the 30-year-old child-care program, which draws 180 students, has for 20 years dovetailed with the program for children with disabilities called Integration Station. Kids from the two programs mingle, but now they might separate.

My visit to the Reed complex made me marvel at the attractively sited co-locations of those two programs with the library, the APS’s online learning office Virtual @APS, Adult Education and Child Find (an assessment service for special-needs pre-schoolers).

Protected by tight security, the employee-owned and operated Children’s School uses the updated curved classrooms I recall from the 1950s-80s, when Reed was an elementary school. With an “art and writing center,” the nationally accredited program offers the trademarked Creative Curriculum that stresses discovery. Its planned new location in Ballston is a glass office building.

Asked for comment, schools spokeswoman Linda Erdos said via email, “Everyone in Arlington knows that APS has been facing a period of unprecedented enrollment growth that is creating significant demands on capacity. APS has been working closely with the county and The Children’s School to explore viable options for relocation. To date, TCS wants to continue to pursue additional options beyond those that have been identified.”

Erdos cautioned that “we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any available space options. We are committed, however, to continuing support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”

Some Children’s School parents complained to the board at a February hearing, and the school’s board told ARLNow that “APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit. Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS and Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help.”

Kathryn Scruggs, the retired teacher and former president of the Arlington Education Association whose grandchildren use The Children’s School, told me, “Child care is a necessity for all families whether it is provided by the parents themselves, a relative, a neighbor or a childcare facility. Arlington has a shortage of programs. The Children’s School has met the childcare needs of a minority of employees, who pay for the program,” she said. “It would be a great loss to the community as well as the employees if TCS is discontinued. The loss or lack of commitment to TCS will have a negative effect on employee recruitment and retention.”

**

Nostalgic item spotted in the preparing-for-a-new-year trash pile at Tuckahoe Elementary School: A blond-wood shelf framing 27 storage cubby holes.

The scuffed classroom furniture could easily have been around since the school was built in 1953.

Think how many anxious children – rotating out through the years – took comfort using those cubby holes, their home away from home.

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