APS Letter of Agreement Finalized for 2021–2022 Academic Year
Bartlett displays Letter of Agreement at the Syphax Education Center on August 20, 2021. Credit: Melanie Elliott.

In preparation for #backtoschool, the Arlington School Board and Friends of Arlington's David M. Brown Planetarium finalized our letter of agreement [2 MB PDF] for the 2021–2022 academic year. We review and update the arrangements by which the Friends support the Planetarium and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education annually. Although the Planetarium will remain closed for construction through the coming school year, the Friends will continue to advocate and fund-raise for this facility and to inspire learners of all ages through astronomy and science activities.

The projection system installed as part of the 2011–2012 renovations has reached its end-of-life. The Arlington Public Schools (APS) will have to replace it so that the Planetarium can provide state-of-art programming to the approximately 25,000 students who usually attend programs each year. The Friends will consult with APS on the selection of a new system and will raise funds towards the necessary purchase. Please donate generously towards this vital purchase.

To remove asbestos from the Planetarium, APS had to demolish the classic space mural that Bill Pounds painted along the entrance corridor. The Friends will propose replacement artwork that enlivens this waiting area and contributes to the Planetarium's educational mission. Once APS approves the design, donations to the Friends will entirely fund this facility enhancement. Please write to us if you would like to participate in re-vitalizing this space.

With the 2020 retirement of long-time Planetarium director Jonathan Harmon, APS will conduct a search and hire a new director in preparation for the 2022–2023 academic year. APS will involve the Friends in recruiting and filling this essential position.

While the Arlington schools have been closed due to COVID-19, the Friends have continued to engage students and community members with science through virtual programs. As conditions improve within the County, the Friends will have access to school facilities as well as community centers for in-person astronomy events. Please join or renew to ensure you receive our newsletter and program announcements.

In accordance with current best practices, the Friends have increased our insurance coverage and will request volunteers to sign waivers before working in the Planetarium itself.

Although not specifically covered in the letter of agreement, the Friends also provide professional development grants to Arlington STEM teachers. Interested teachers should contact the APS Science office, which coordinates teacher applications. In addition, the Friends award the David M. Brown Memorial Scholarship to an APS high school senior pursuing a STEM degree. Students should apply through the Arlington Community Foundation. Your charitable dues and donations finance these opportunities.

The Arlington School Board approved the letter of agreement on July 29, 2021 at their regular meeting. Friends President, Jennifer Lynn Bartlett, signed the letter on behalf of our Board of Directors on August 20.

The Friends look forward to sharing an exciting academic year full of learning and educational growth with APS. #APSisAwesome