Mayor Justin Wilson says that money is no object and that he wants the Alexandria City Public Schools system to fully reopen to in-person instruction as soon as possible.
However, ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. says that in-person instruction won’t be expanded past two days a week at least for the remainder of this school year.
“We need to get our kids back in school full time,” Wilson told ALXnow. “Money will be no object, facilities will be no object. We will make sure that we get our kids back in school, and that that is what I’ve said from the beginning of this effort.”
Hutchings has come under fire for keeping ACPS all-virtual for a week following spring break. Some residents say that the school system is broken and that they are considering moving from the city.
Meanwhile, neighboring jurisdictions are opening up their school systems. Fairfax County Public Schools recently expanded to four days a week for in-person instruction and Falls Church recently returned to five days a week.
ACPS states on its website that it is planning on five-day-a-week in-person instruction this fall. As of the week of March 16, 2021, the school system reported more than 4,000 in-person students two days a week — a quarter of its 16,000-strong student population. Three days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the recommended distancing in schools from six feet to three feet.
“We are reviewing the revised CDC guidelines to determine how these impact our school division, as our reopening team continues to plan for the 2021-22 school year,” Hutchings wrote parents this week in an email. “We do not plan to adjust the current hybrid learning schedule before the end of the school year, at this time.”
Additionally, Hutchings and School Board Chair Meagan Alderton have been criticized for sending their children to private schools in the city that have three-foot distancing requirements, while the standard at ACPS is six feet. Alderton and Hutchings did not respond to questions on the subject.
ACPS will expand the number of students on April 20, Hutchings said, adding that students are organized via a “instructional prioritization matrix.”
“We expect to begin welcoming more students to in-person learning starting on April 20, and will soon share more information with families of the students who will be able to join the hybrid program later this month,” Hutchings wrote parents.
One parent said he is considering moving from the city.
“The latest email from the Superintendent laid bare the harsh reality that we do not have the will in our community or school leadership to do what is right for our public school kids,” the parent said. “It’s shocking that in a city concerned with equity, we have a different set of standards for those whose children attend public school.”
Me too. https://t.co/7YlBysEHNI
— John Taylor Chapman (@j_chapman99) April 8, 2021
Six Alexandria Police officers have been placed on administrative duties as an internal review continues on the in-custody death of a suspect after a chase on Tuesday night.
Multiple buildings and vehicles were hit by bullets in the 800 block of North Patrick Street on Tuesday night, and police chased the suspects all the way to Interstate 295. The driver of the vehicle crashed and then jumped over an overpass barrier and was tased by police, arrested and later died.
The identity of the dead man has not been publicly released.
“While attempting to take the driver into custody, a U.S. Park Police officer deployed an E.C.D. (Electronic Control Device),” APD said. “Several Alexandria Police officers assisted the effort to take the driver into custody. The driver was conscious and breathing when the ambulance arrived. The driver lost consciousness in the DC Fire & EMS ambulance and was pronounced dead by medical staff at the hospital.”
The three other suspects in the car were identified as Joseph Stokes, 41, of Washington, D.C., Sean Pendleton, 37, of Washington, D.C., and Merton Thomas, 37, of the Alexandria area of Fairfax County. The suspects were charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling.
The Metropolitan Police Department is handling the death investigation.
ALERT:: Alexandria Police Department shares new information in "shots fired" call on N. Patrick St. that led to a pursuit and in-custody death.
Read more here: https://t.co/QsYPy36Mg9
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) April 8, 2021
A 58-year-old Fairfax County man was arrested and charged with three counts of burglary and three counts of conspiracy to commit burglary against businesses in Alexandria.
The suspect was booked into the Alexandria jail on Feb. 26 and released on personal recognizance on March 1.
According to police, on Feb. 3, police responded to an alarm call just after midnight at the Exxon gas station at 501 South Washington Street. A windowpane to a service bay garage door and another interior glass door were shattered. Security footage captured two suspects forcing their way into the business and attempting to break into the cash register, although nothing was stolen.
That same morning at around 2:30 a.m., the cash register was stolen from the Bloomers undergarments store in Old Town, according to a search warrant. A window was smashed and the cash register was stolen. Security camera footage showed two suspects committing the crime, and their descriptions matched the suspects from the Exxon station incident.
Also on Feb. 3, the owner of Charlene’s Kitchen reported that there was a burglary at her business just before 2 a.m. The suspects were captured on video entering the business through an open window. A number of items were placed in a truck and the suspects drove away.
Police determined that the suspect is the owner of the truck, and found that he has a number of previous charges for burglary and had made multiple pawn transactions.
The other suspect was not arrested.
Private School, The Linder Academy, to Open in Old Town — “The Linder Academy, a private K-8 school, submitted a special use permit application to open a location at 601, 607 and 609 S. Washington St. and 710 Gibbon St. According to the application, the school will serve up to 105 students and 14-16 teachers and staff. There is a proposed outdoor play area in the courtyard between 601 and 607 S. Washington St.” [Alexandria Living]
Homegrown Restaurant Group vaccinates 300+ restaurant workers — “HGR volunteering today at the Alexandria Restaurant Vaccination Drive! 330 workers from 29 different restaurants will be vaccinated by the end of day. Many thanks to all the volunteers and to Alexandria Restaurant Partners for donating space to make this happen.” [Facebook]
City seeking artwork for Old Town North storm drain covers — “The City will commission up to three (3) artists to create up to two (2) original, site specific designs with a budget of $2,000 to design their artworks. The designs will be cast on approximately 24 stormwater covers throughout Old Town North, with a focus on Fairfax Street. Artists will be required to visit the area and create a design that is representative and inspired by Old Town North.” [Zebra]
Alexandria Wedding Showcase giving away a $15K elopement package — More info on the prizes page at alexandriaweddingshowcase.com. The showcase starts April 17!” [Facebook]
Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). High around 70F. Winds ESE at 10 to 15 mph… Cloudy with light rain developing after midnight. Low 52F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Barca Pier offering $250 bonus for bussers, food runners and hosts — “Are you searching for a SEASONAL POSITION? We would love to have you on our team!! We are offering a $250-dollar WELCOME bonus along with the ability to make serious money, we have full and part time openings for HOSTS, SERVER ASSISTANTS and RUNNERS (PERFECT FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS!) to join a growing Restaurant Company. We would love to meet you this week!! Please come prepared to Interview with a resume A MASK is required for Entrance, we are hiring on the SPOT with Positions starting ASAP!” [Indeed]
After a number of its Old Town properties were hit by bullets Tuesday night, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced it is installing security cameras.
“We are installing cameras at our properties to send the signal that if you commit a crime at an ARHA site there’s a good chance a camera will capture it,” ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said in a statement. “During our regular virtual townhalls, residents raised their concerns. That’s when we decided to do two things, install more cameras and identify several residents at each property to join a committee to start sharing information with each other to improve their neighborhoods by getting more involved.”
Security cameras have now been installed in the areas of Samuel Madden, Hopkins-Tancel Courts and along Yale Drive. Pendleton Park and Chatham Square will soon follow. Additionally, ARHA said that security cameras were installed at Andrew Adkins and the Ladrey senior high-rise several years ago.
Alexandria Police Department has also agreed to install “resident police officers” in ARHA communities.
“The idea to expand camera coverage came out of a conversation with resident leaders,” Pettigrew said. “That led to a more formal resident safety committee, and they have been fantastic in working with us and Alexandria city leadership.”
There has been an uptick in shootings over the past year, and many occurred at or near ARHA properties, some of which are near the Braddock Road Metro Station. Last fall, Alexandria police asked for the public’s help in identifying suspects.
Lauren Dupina, president of the ARHA’s Princess Square neighborhood group in Old Town West, said that the work will bridge the gap between police and Black and brown communities.
“The cameras will definitely be another tool in helping keep crime down, as long as they work, and these are new camera systems so they should work,” Dupina said. “They will make residents feel safer and cause people with bad intentions to think twice.”
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) One suspect is dead after Tuesday night’s shots fired incident in Old Town and three others are in custody after a police chase that ended in a crash on Interstate 295 in D.C.
The suspect who died has not yet been publicly identified, and neither have the other three suspects arrested. Police said that the driver crashed his vehicle on I-295 in Southeast, D.C., and then jumped over the jersey barrier and fell to Malcolm X Ave. SE.
“While attempting to take the driver into custody, a U.S. Park Police officer deployed an E.C.D. (Electronic Control Device),” according to the Alexandria Police Department (APD). “Several Alexandria Police officers assisted the effort to take the driver into custody. The driver was conscious and breathing when the ambulance arrived. The driver lost consciousness in the DC Fire & EMS ambulance and was pronounced dead by medical staff at the hospital.”
The shots fired incident occurred at around 8:40 p.m. in the 800 block of N. Patrick Street (Route 1). Multiple buildings and vehicles were struck by bullets but no one was reportedly injured.
The Metropolitan Police Department is conducting the death investigation and the three other suspects are in custody. The Alexandria Police officers involved in the incident are on their days off, and information is being collected to determine whether they will be placed on administrative leave, APD told ALXnow.
NEW DETAILS:: Alexandria Police Department investigates “Shots Fired” call on N. Patrick St. that led to pursuit and arrests in Washington, D.C.
Read more here: https://t.co/EhGVjzSEv6
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) April 7, 2021
The Del Ray Business Association has a bunch of efforts in the works to get business to local retailers and restaurants.
From now until April 15, visitors are encouraged to participate in DRBA’s “Cherry Blossom Challenge” scavenger hunt. There are 27 cherry blossoms hidden in storefronts along Mount Vernon Avenue with clues. Each numbered cherry blossom has a symbol near it, and participants need to mark down what those symbols are and then drop off their entries at the Pat Miller Neighborhood Square by April 15 for a chance to win a $50 gift card at a Del Ray restaurant or retailer.
Additionally, this year DRBA and the Old Town Business Association will compete in Spring2ACTion on April 28. The event is the largest single day of giving to nonprofits in Alexandria.
“If you normally give, we’d love for you to give through our DRBA page, because, of course, we’re going to have a raffle and some prizes to win,” Del Ray Business Association President Lauren Fisher said. “But that’s a big part of our mission is giving back to our community. Thank you for supporting not only our businesses, but also our nonprofits.”
In case you missed it, last week DRBA gave out a free trip to Delray Beach, Florida, which is worth about $2,500. Participants who spent more than $25 eating out at a Del Ray business received a raffle ticket, and the contest garnered more than $11,000 in receipts.
(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Alexandria City Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools are investigating allegations that members of the Robinson Rams junior varsity football team spit at and made a racial slur against T.C. Williams High School football players in a game on Monday, April 5.
“Yes, I am aware of these reports,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “It is horrifying that our students were the victims of this abuse and assault. I have been in contact with the School Board Chair, Vice Chair and Superintendent about this incident. I have also connected with my counterpart in Fairfax County, Jeff McKay. I believe it is being investigated by both school systems and I hope it will be addressed promptly.”
The game was played at James W Robinson, Jr. Secondary School, and the Rams won 20-6, although T.C. players reportedly walked off the field in protest before the end of the fourth quarter.
ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that he is working with Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand and his team to “collaborate with the leadership of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to address this issue and support our students.”
“I want everyone to know that we are taking this matter seriously and have been in communication with our students and coaching staff who were involved or who witnessed the incident,” Hutchings said in an email.
Hutchings continued, “These events in our schools continue to shine a light on the importance of our antiracism work at ACPS and across the nation and the need for an open dialogue about how this impacts our students and their social, emotional and academic learning. To that end, once we have developed next steps with VHSL, we will share additional communications with the ACPS community.”
The incident is the second of its kind in Fairfax County Public Schools in recent days. On March 5, members of the Marshall High School Varsity Football Team allegedly spat at and made racial slurs against their Wakefield High School opponents.
FCPS released the following statement to ALXnow:
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is aware of a number of allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs in the past few weeks.
Our school division embraces diversity and strongly condemns hate speech and offensive, hateful language or racial intolerance of any kind on the sports fields, in school buildings or anywhere on or off school premises. We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions.
FCPS will investigate any incidents thoroughly and will be taking swift and appropriate action if deemed necessary. Per Virginia High School League (VHSL) rules, players heard using such language will be ejected and suspended for additional game(s). Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in an immediate review of the game by officials and coaches.
The primary responsibilities of schools are to foster an open, respectful and inclusive learning environment for all students. We recognize that we have much work to do in our schools and will continue to strive to promote equity, sportsmanship, respect, and fair play on and off the field.
FCPS will be holding a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches to begin this important conversation to support student-athletes in demonstrating appropriate behaviors required to play sports in FCPS. This is not about one team versus another; it is about our responsibilities to one another as members of a community. We will do the work to come together in fair treatment and take necessary actions to ensure these efforts support inclusion both in the classrooms as well as across our athletic programs. We value each and every student and staff member, and we are committed to doing the work to ensure all are treated in this regard.
T.C. Williams High School Principal Peter Balas emailed students about the incident. He wrote that Titan Athletics Director, James Parker, and he met with the student athletes and coaches of both the varsity and junior varsity football teams. He also said that T.C. has contacted the Robinson athletics staff.
“These discussions were in response to allegations of inappropriate interactions between athletes on opposing teams at Monday night’s junior varsity football game,” Balas wrote. “Specifically, we were collecting information and statements to learn more about what happened regarding the allegations that one of our students was spat on during the game and called a racial slur.”
Balas continued, “Please rest assured that we will continue to work with our staff and students regarding this situation and that we will make sure our students are supported and protected. The work that we have been doing in our school division on becoming an anti-racist school division means that we must confront these issues head-on and be unapologetic in addressing matters around racism and racial equity.”
A 35-year-old Washington, D.C. man was sentenced to 21 years behind bars on Tuesday for a Northern Virginia crime spree at a number Alexandria banks and area businesses in 2018 and 2019.
Freddie Lee McRae robbed a Wells Fargo bank branch on Nov. 13, 2018, and reportedly told the teller in a note that he had a gun and would “kill all the bankers” in the bank unless they paid up. He pointed a gun at the teller and then fled the scene with $8,750.
Less than a month later, McRae robbed a Burke & Herbert bank branch in the city and pointed a gun at the teller. He then racked the slide, demanded large bills and fled with $1,366. He also robbed a BB&T branch in the city A week later, and later admitted to robbing a Bank of America in Springfield in October 2018, a Capital One in Bowie, Maryland, in Jan. 2019 and a Capitol One in Arlington on Feb. 11, 2019.
On April 21, 2019, McRae stole $2,160 from the Legend Kicks & Apparel store in Arlington. He pointed a gun at employees and told them to empty their pockets and lie on the ground. Police ended up chasing him on the George Washington Parkway, and he ended up jumping out of his car before it crashed into the Potomac River. He then tried to escape by jumping in the river.
“This case involved a chilling armed robbery spree during which innocent community members were threatened with serious injury or death if they did not comply with repeated demands for money,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “We are thankful to our law enforcement partners for their thorough investigation across multiple jurisdictions to bring the defendant to justice, including apprehending him after he jumped out of a moving vehicle prior to it crashing and sinking into the Potomac River.”
Coronavirus vaccine eligibility expanded — Every Virginian 16 and older will be eligible for the #COVID19 vaccine by April 18–but several health districts have already expanded vaccinations to all adults or will be doing so in the coming days.” [Twitter]
Alexandria expanding vaccine phase 1C — “AHD follows the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidance that considers a frontline essential workers’ vaccine eligibility based upon their workplace location. This means that there are Alexandria residents working in essential frontline roles outside of the city limits of Alexandria who have yet to be vaccinated as a result of their employer jurisdiction’s supply availability. Therefore, before moving to Phase 2, AHD will offer vaccine appointments to all Alexandria residents who work in Phase 1 industries, regardless of their workplace location. If you are an essential frontline worker in Phase 1a, 1b, or 1c living in Alexandria and have not yet received a vaccine appointment, pre-register online or update your pre-registration record to ensure that the job category in your profile is correct.” [City of Alexandria]
Wilson announces endorsement list in reelection bid — “I am proud to have the support of so many elected and former elected officials who know the challenges of governing not just in the good times, but in times of struggle, and have been a part in building longstanding solutions for Alexandrians.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Sunny (during the day) along with a few clouds. High 79F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 52F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job Boxing instructor — “An Inner Champion lives inside us all at every fitness and skill level. It’s just waiting to be released. Mayweather Boxing + Fitness – Old Town West in Alexandria, VA will offer an authentic experience for those who want to learn from Floyd Mayweather’s techniques and training regimens, while getting in the best shape of their lives in a high-intensity group fitness setting. We are currently recruiting for Instructor(s) to join the excitement and be a part of our tight-knit community at the Old Town West location.” [Indeed]