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ACPS interim Superintendent aims to ‘reset, restart, and refocus’ school system with budget proposal

Alexandria City Public Schools Interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt says her budget will help address some of the long-term effects of the pandemic.

Kay-Wyatt’s theme for the budget is to “reset, restart and refocus” the school system, and she says employee retention is crucial.

“We hope the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is in our rearview mirror,” Kay-Wyatt told the School Board. “But the challenges that it has left behind clearly need to be addressed.”

On Thursday, Kay-Wyatt presented her $359.9 million fiscal year 2024 combined funds budget proposal, and 85% of it is geared toward paying the salaries of more than 2,600 ACPS employees. Kay-Wyatt is proposing a 2.6% step increase and 2.5% market rate adjustment for eligible ACPS employees, as well as increased funding for Social and Emotional Learning programming (SEAL) for every student to regroup students coping with learning loss and other pandemic-related issues.

“We do know some of our challenges, of course, have been staff burnout,” Kay-Wyatt said. “We hear that from our staff, we hear that from our organization, and we are definitely focused on that as well.”

Kay-Wyatt continued, “That is a big challenge that we will continue to shine a spotlight on. The national teacher and bus driver shortage and the highly competitive salaries that are offered in the D.C. Metro Area have to be addressed so that we can provide our students with a quality education. We must also work to address the many forms of trauma that our students face.”

The budget is a 4% increase over last year’s approved budget, and includes funding to develop an official ACPS plan and policy for collective bargaining with employees.

Systemwide, ACPS enrollment is projected to increase modestly from 15,732 students at the end of the current school year to 15,847 students at the beginning of the next school year in August 2023. Enrollment peaked at more than 16,000 students at the tail-end of the 2020-2021 school year — during the height of the pandemic — resulting in ACPS losing 474 students (3%).

ACPS will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget on Jan. 19. The School Board is expected to pass it (with revisions) on Feb. 16, and then go to City Council for deliberation until it passes the city’s budget in early May.

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