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New report shows geographic and racial divide in Alexandria’s out-of-school programs

Kids played running games in the Alexandria City High School gymnasium prior to a watch party for Alexandria track star Noah Lyles’ 200 meter race in the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. (staff photo by James Cullum)

(Updated 1/10) Data in a new report shows a geographic and racial divide between which Alexandria students receive out-of-school services.

The Alexandria City Youth Report noted that the city’s out-of-school programs “tend to be clustered at schools and recreation centers, with fewer programs offered in the West End.”

Alexandrians in the West End, particularly along the Van Dorn corridor, said they see the gaps in programming in their communities. The report said one of the key findings is a need for further study of geographic distribution of out-of-school activities.

“The data collection efforts showed clear discrepancies in the availability of after-school services in the west end versus the east end of the City,” Mayor Justin Wilson wrote in his monthly newsletter. “It also showed wide variation in the types of services offered to youth as well as the grade levels that the programs serve.”

The report also noted that one-third of survey respondents participated in out-of-school programs. Roughly 42% of participants are white, despite white students only comprising 26.6% of the Alexandria City Public Schools’ student body.

The report said Alexandria families face multiple hurdles to accessing out-of-school services.

According to the report:

  • The need for unified transparency about program availability was flagged as a high priority across all family listening sessions.
  • Students and families from historically marginalized communities do not feel welcome – they feel stigmatized.
  • For those that cannot afford the fees and do not qualify for free/reduced programs, cost can be
    an issue.

Wilson said he and City Council member Alyia Gaskins added funding in October to allocate some of the city’s reserve funding — $340,000 — to ACT for Alexandria to develop a ‘program locator’ and a pilot program to try and enhance the quality of out-of-school programs.

“This important report brings together an assessment of the services available in our community, the gaps that exists, as well as a set of recommendations for how we move forward,” Wilson said. “I’m hopeful that we will be able to advance policy changes that will fully leverage our investments in after-school activities to improve the academic outcomes for our kids.”

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