A New School Year Begins

Sorry kids, it’s back to school time around the region.

The Fairfax County School Board has okayed a calendar for the 2019-20 school year that sets the first day of school as Monday, August 26. Yes, that’s this Monday.

The approved calendar includes a three-day Thanksgiving break (November 27-29, 2019), a two-week winter break (December 23, 2019 to January 3, 2020), and a one-week spring break (April 6-10, 2020). Monday, October 14, 2019, which is Columbus Day, will be a teacher work day and student holiday.

The final school day in the 2019-20 school year will be Friday, June 12, 2020.

The approved 2019-20 calendar was developed using feedback from a survey of employees and families, as well as a committee that included a variety of internal and external constituent groups.

The Fairfax County public school system currently qualifies for a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education that allows it to start the school year prior to Labor Day. This waiver is granted if a school system misses an average of eight days per year during any five of the last 10 years due to weather conditions or other emergency situations.

The approved 2019-20 calendar is available online.

Prince William County

School also begins Monday for students in Prince William County. Some children are walking or biking to and from classes and after-school activities. Our Crossing Guards ask that you be especially vigilant for pedestrians around crosswalks.

• Always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
• When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and be prepared to stop.
• When you are stopped at a crosswalk, allow enough room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so other drivers can see the pedestrians you have stopped for.
• Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They have stopped to allow pedestrians to pass or make sure the way is clear.

STUDENTS: Do not try to cross the street on your own between intersections. Always cross with a crossing guard to stay safe.

Arlington County

Arlington has made many significant location changes that parents — and drivers — need to watch out for.

The Heights Building – on Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn


The Heights Building

H-B Woodlawn and the Shriver programs are moving to the new Heights building in Rosslyn, bringing more than 700 students to the area. This will bring an increase in school buses at drop off and pick up times (9-9:24 a.m. and 4:06 p.m.) All buses will load and unload behind the school on 18th Street, which will be closed to general traffic. During the day, there will also be an increase in pedestrian traffic as students leave campus at various times during the day.

Dorothy Hamm Middle School– Stratford Building on Vacation Lane
The biggest change at this location is that the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School (DHMS) is a neighborhood-serving middle school whose start time is at 7:50 am. The previous occupants, the H-B Woodlawn and the Shriver (formerly Stratford) programs, served students from all over the County, so most students relied on bus transportation and arrived around 9:00 am. Now that it is a neighborhood middle school, commuters and residents can expect more students walking to and from school in the early morning hours.

Old Dominion Drive
As part of the new school design, changes are being made to ensure student safety:

  • A new traffic light is being installed at the school driveway and Old Dominion Drive;
  • Variable message signs have been placed on Old Dominion near the location of the new signal where students will be crossing and where drivers will exist the campus to alert drivers that a new signal is coming; and
  • DHMS staff will be positioned at the end of the driveway to support student crossing.

Military and Lorcom Lane
Drivers also should expect to see students crossing both Military Road and Lorcom Lane where they intersect with Vacation Lane. To support our walkers and bicyclists at these locations, APS has been working with Arlington County Transportation Engineering and Operations on several infrastructure improvements surrounding school, including:

  • Installing high visibility crosswalks at Lorcom Lane and Vacation Lane;
  • Constructing curb bump-outs and high visibility crosswalks at Military Road and Vacation Lane, which will reduce the crossing distance for students; and
  • Adding ‘See Me’ flags (also found in Westover) at both intersections to increase student visibility. (https://www.seemeflags.com/).

DHMS staff will also be at these locations in the morning to support students crossing to school.

Intersections of Nelly Custis Drive/Military Road and Lee Highway and Quincy St./Military Road

Other places surrounding the school where drivers should be alert to student crossing activity are at Nelly Custis Drive and Military Road and at the intersection of Lee Highway and Quincy St./Military Rd. Two crossing guards will be supporting students in the morning and afternoon at these locations.Finally, updated school zone flashers and signage will be installed on Lorcom Lane, Old Dominion Drive, and Military Road, reminding drivers that they are entering a school zone where speeds are reduced and fines are increased. Flashers operate approximately 30 minutes before start time and 10 minutes after in the AM, and 10 minutes before dismissal time and 30 minutes after in the PM. The speed limit on these roads during the morning and afternoon arrival and dismissal times will be slowed to 25 mph.

Additional information at https://dorothyhamm.apsva.us/post/transportation-information-for-dhms-2019-2020/

Fleet elementary schoolAlice West Fleet Elementary School – Old Glebe Road next to Jefferson Middle School

Fleet Elementary School will open on the campus of Thomas Jefferson Middle School, which starts its day at 7:50 am. With the addition of the elementary school, the site will remain active for buses, pedestrians and drivers until 9 a.m. when Fleet begins its day, and through 4 p.m. for dismissal. Drivers are reminded that 1st St S. is one way, and many students will cross at 1st St. and Old Glebe Rd. or 2nd St. and Old Glebe. A crossing guard is stationed at 2nd St. and Old Glebe Rd. to cross Jefferson students.

Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School – 23rd Street
Drew Elementary School is now a neighborhood school. With that, neighbors and drivers will see more walkers and biker riders in the area. “See Me Flags” will be deployed at the intersection of Glebe and Walter Reed to assist with crossing.

Montessori Public School of Arlington – S. Highland Street (next to Career Center)
The new standalone, K-5 Montessori school is now located in the former Patrick Henry Elementary School building. Because this is a countywide program, residents will notice more buses around the school.There is also a change in drop-off and pick-up at the Career Center to accommodate relocatable classrooms.

The key changes are:

  • Entrance on Highland Street is BUS ONLY and one way. Buses will exit onto Walter Reed Drive. *Note that with the new 8-plex, students will be moving between buildings during the day, so for their safety, visitors should enter off Walter Reed at other times.
  • The south entrance next to the library from Walter Reed Drive is No Entry from 7:30-8:30 a.m. to accommodate our buses.
  • ACC parent drop-off is between the 15-minute parking signs on Highland Street (about 9 spaces worth), with queuing on 9th

On-site parking has been reduced due to the addition of the 8-plex. Additional staff parking is available in the ECDC garage on 9th Street.

Loudoun County

As Summer break comes to a close Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman is asking drivers to watch for children walking to and from school as they may forget to watch for you.

Over the next few weeks, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Deputies will be conducting speed and traffic safety enforcement around local schools as part of the agency’s Back-to-School enforcement and public education campaign. LCSO Deputies will be utilizing speed measurement devices, “Smart Trailers”, variable message boards to display safety messages, marked and unmarked cruisers, as well as the agency’s motor unit.

In his annual video message, Sheriff Chapman is reminding drivers to “slow down and stay alert and help make this a great school year.”  Please visit http://www.sheriff.loudoun.gov/back2school to view the safety message from Sheriff Chapman.

The Loudoun Sheriff’s Office is also offering the following tips for students and parents from the National Safety Council:


•    Parents: Practice walking to school with your child, crossing streets at crosswalks when available.

•    Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic.

•    Before crossing the street, stop and look left, right, and left again to see if cars are coming.

•    Never dart out in front of a parked car.

•    Never walk while texting or talking on the phone.

•    Do not walk while using headphones.

•    Pay attention to crossing guards.

Bike Riders

•    Always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly. Children need to know the rules of the road: Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street, and walk the bike across.

•    Watch for opening car doors and other hazards.

•    Use hand signals when turning.

•    Wear bright-colored clothing

Bus Riders

•    Parents: Teach children the proper way to get on and off the bus. Line up 6 feet away from the curb as the bus approaches.

•    If seat belts are available, buckle up.

•    Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing.

•    Do not cross in front of the bus if possible, or walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the other drivers.

Drivers, Share the Road

•    Don’t block crosswalks.

•    Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and take extra care in school zones. Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.

•    Never pass a bus loading or unloading children.

•    The area 10 feet surrounding a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Provide sufficient space to allow children to safely enter and exit the bus.

•    Don’t text and drive.

•    Comply with speed limit signs when in school zones.

Washington, D.C.

D.C. schools are also working to get children to school safely, but the emphasis is more on protecting them from violence than from traffic.

The Bowser Administration has launched the “Safe Spots for Students” initiative to engage businesses, government, and faith-based organizations to serve as places of safety and support along corridors frequently used by students to get to and from school. Safe Spots is one of several new initiatives that were announced as part of the Mayor’s broader Safe Passage efforts.

“The best part about these new initiatives is that they were created based on the ideas and feedback we heard from our students,” said Mayor Bowser. “We know that when our young people feel safe getting to and from school, they’re more likely to be in school every day, on time. With the help of these businesses, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations, we can better support our young people so that they can do their job – get to school every day and make every day count.”

Organizations participating in the Safe Spots for Students initiative committed to support student safety by opening their doors to students who are feeling unsafe and offering an opportunity to call a friend, familySafe Spots can be identified by a Safe Spot sign visible in the organization’s window or public area. The initiative is launching with 23 locations in the Ward 8 neighborhoods of Congress Heights and Anacostia, with the intent of expanding to other interested communities across the District.

“Safety in our communities and for our students is of the utmost priority for the District government, and we are so proud of our students for the ingenuity and consideration they used in coming up with the ideas for the safety initiatives rolling out today,” said Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

The Safe Spots for Students initiative and other new initiatives and investments were built out of ideas that came directly from students. Earlier this year, the DME, in partnership with KIPP DC, brought together more than 200 youth from across the District to hear student concerns and ideas about how to improve safety. Additional new investments and partnerships launched by the Mayor and led by the DME this school year, include:

  • $20,000 to partner with Go Together to launch CarpooltoSchool to offer schools, parents, and students an easy way to organize carpools, walk pools and bike pools. CarpooltoSchool will launch in ten DCPS and public charter schools this school year.
  • $26,400 to partner with LiveSafe to support students’ request to more easily send emergency alerts, share their walking or riding status with others, make reports to law enforcement, and flag concerns for other students using a shared map. LiveSafe will be piloted by students in twenty schools this year, with a focus on high school students.
  • $50,000 to partner with Richard Wright Public Charter School to engage community leaders and support community-led safe passage planning and implementation efforts.
  • $65,000 for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to expand the Transit Demand Management study, which will gather data from parents and students to better understand travel to and from school. The expanded study will help to identify routes that are currently complex or difficult to traverse using public transit and connect that information with data about student attendance.

The School Safety and Safe Passage Working Group was established to better understand and enhance safety-related policies that affect both DC Public Schools and public charter schools. In School Year 2019-20, the District will sustain a focus on six existing safe passage priority areas and add the Columbia Heights Metro as a seventh. The DME is working with public agencies and community leaders to increase the consistent presence and visibility of caring adults in these areas, growing a model piloted last school year in the Minnesota Avenue Metro area in partnership with the East River Family Strengthening Collaborative.

Collaborating agencies in School Year 2019-20 include ONSE, ERS, MPD, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD), and the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (DYRS). Staff from public agencies will work in tandem with volunteer efforts organized by school and community partners.

For more information on Safe Spots, including a map of participating locations, School Year 2019-20 Safe Passage priority areas, contacts and resources for safe passage volunteer programs, visit SafePassage.dc.gov.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.