Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria City School Board next month will hold a bi-annual review on its memorandum of understanding with the Alexandria Police Department.

“We’re looking at our collaboration with the Alexandria Police Department,” ACPS Executive Director of Communications Helen Lloyd told ALXnow. “We’re making sure that it’s a public review process.”

School resource officers were reassigned to the APD patrol division when the pandemic shut down the school system in mid-March for the remainder of the school year. The MOU would continue the agreement to provide officers at T.C. Williams High School and other ACPS schools when buildings eventually reopen.

“As a general practice, unless there is a clear and imminent threat to safety, requests from school staff for SRO or other law enforcement assistance are to be channeled through a school administrator,” according to the 2018 MOU. “SROs are responsible to lead the investigation and questioning of students related to suspected violations of criminal law.”

In 2018, a SRO was put on administrative leave after discharging his firearm inside his office at George Washington Middle School. The officer was later reassigned by Police Chief Michael Brown. The officer is no longer an SRO.

The MOU continues, “Whenever practical, arrests of a student or staff member should be accomplished outside of school hours in order to not disrupt the educational process or school setting.”

Sometimes that isn’t possible. In February, a T.C. Williams High School student was arrested during school hours and charged with murdering two people.

The public hearing on the MOU will be held virtually at 4 p.m. on October 1, and the updated document must be signed by Brown and the superintendent by November 2, 2020.

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The Alexandria City School Board on Thursday (September 17) will consider moving forward with changing the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School, which is named after Confederate leader and noted oceanographer. The placeholder name would be “The Parker-Gray Rosemont School.”

Maury was the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the first hydrographer of the U.S. Navy. He was also special agent for the Confederacy during the Civil War and has a statue in Richmond. The School Board received a petition from at least 100 signatures from city residents on August 6, less than a month after the board unanimously directed Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., to begin the name change process for T.C. Williams High School.

“Matthew Fontaine Maury was a confederate officer who fought in support of slavery,” states the petition, which was signed by Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein. “While his efforts in oceanography were noteworthy, his actions surrounding the Civil War and slavery were indefensible.”

The petition continues, “He attempted to negotiate a slave trade from the United States to Brazil in order to help his fellow southerners who would lose a great deal of monty if they lost their ability to sell their slaves. He invented an early version of the torpedo which was used by the confederates to sink Union ships. He tried to create a New Virginia Colony in Mexico after the Civil War where slave labor would continue with a new label of indentured servitude. He convinced nearly 4,000 confederate soldiers to defect before his plan was thwarted by unrest in Mexico.”

The T.C. name change will go before the board next spring, and the board will have to decide on a timeline for a public engagement process and a public hearing for the potential Maury name change.

“It looks feasible to run the two processes together (in the spring),” ACPS Executive Director of Communications Helen Lloyd told ALXnow. “However, the board and the superintendent will have to make that decision.”

Photo via ACPS

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With kids in virtual classrooms, ALXnow wants to know how the community feels about the school year so far.

The Alexandria City Public School Board voted in July for a virtual school year, and the school system spent considerable time training staff and working with the community in the days leading up the the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Students started officially participating in the Virtual+ model with Chromebooks,

The school system released a portal with updates, learning resources, schedules and school services to help families get through the year, and we’d like to hear what you think.

Please fill out the poll below and then expand on your opinion in the comments.

Additionally, if you’d like to share your experience with us personally or share a news tip, feel free to send our editorial team an email.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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It’s the end of a busy week in Alexandria!

Our top story was the Del Ray car crash on Mount Vernon Avenue, and there’s some good news to report. The driver, who crashed her car due to a medical emergency, was sent home without any injuries the following day.

The city also experienced flooding after Thursday’s rainstorms, prompting the City Council to get an oral report on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stormwater management improvements. As reported, there have been more than a half dozen flood events in Alexandria this summer.

Council also received a report on the establishment of a community police review board, and sent it back for some additions. Namely, Council asked staff to include an option that would give the review board independent investigative authority, an action that prompted a police union to call the idea of the review board “superfluous.” Incidentally, crime stories are among the top articles read every week on ALXnow.

This was also the first week of the historic 2020-2021 school year, and with classes starting virtually it will be an altogether different experience than years past.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Driver Suffers Life Threatening Injuries in Del Ray Car Crash
  2. UPDATED: Flooding Reported in Parts of City After Heavy Rain
  3. Planning Commission Approves Density Compromise Despite Outrage from Civic Associations
  4. Video: Protestors Perform ‘Die-In’ Outside Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf’s Alexandria Home
  5. Arrest Made After Shots Fired in Old Town
  6. Police Investigating Public Indecency Incidents in Del Ray
  7. Police: Three Alexandria ABC Stores Broken Into, High-End Liquor Stolen
  8. Council to Vote on Requiring Face Masks in Alexandria
  9. Just Listed in Alexandria
  10. Hundreds in ‘Trumptilla’ Boat Parade Sail Past Alexandria
  11. Alexandria Woman Uninjured in Tuesday Carjacking at Gunpoint in Potomac Yard

Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

A Quarter of Alexandria Voters Have Requested Mail-In Ballots — “Over a quarter of Alexandria’s registered voters have applied for a ballot by mail for this November’s election (!!!). Ballots will be mailed out beginning next week when in-person early voting also begins. You can apply online today for a mail ballot!” [Twitter]

Seven Alexandria Students Make National Merit Scholarship List — “Students from Alexandria area high schools have been named 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, taking the first step in securing a scholarship in the competitive program.” [Patch]

Beyer Criticizes Trump for Complaining Over Scandals — “You were recorded admitting you deceived the entire country about the danger of a virus that has killed more Americans than all wars since WWII combined. Can’t lie your way out of this one.” [Twitter]

ACPS Needs Donations for School Supplies — “While this year is considerably different because of the coronavirus pandemic, students still need essential supplies. ACPS is asking for community support. However, instead of donating physical items, they request that interested parties donate funds electronically.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Police Officer Appointed to State Board — “Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 4 that he has appointed Alexandria Police Officer Bennie L. Evans to the Commonwealth of Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board.” [Facebook]

Here’s Seven Things to do in Alexandria This Fall — “Enjoy a cruise aboard the tall ship Providence or set out for the new cat café or coming-soon dog bar. Contemplate new outdoor artwork like the ‘Come Together’ mural in Old Town. Mask up and visit just-opened independent businesses including the D.C. area’s first zero-waste sustainable grocer plus the national eco-conscious brand Patagonia, coming to King Street in September. Twelve new restaurants will tempt you with takeout or outdoor seating. Don your face mask and discover what’s new in Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]

Workforce Development Center Offers Job Counseling — “Are you recently unemployed or want to change your career and don’t know where to start? We are now offering free one-on-one Job Search Coaching to help Alexandrians who have experienced job loss during the pandemic.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms likely during the day. Potential for heavy rainfall. High 83F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.Thunderstorms likely in the evening. Then a chance of scattered thunderstorms later on. Low 73F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Assistant Director — “The qualified applicant will be eager to support the organization’s effort to help Alexandria high school students obtain college scholarships and college and financial aid advising. This position is full-time, year-round and provides an opportunity to work in a small, dynamic, mission-driven, collegial nonprofit organization.” [Indeed]

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It wasn’t your usual first day back to school. Instead of waiting for their students to arrive bright and early, Alexandria City Public Schools started the 2020-2021 school year virtually.

“We are all in the field of education because we love kids, we love people, and going into the virtual plus model is a challenge for us because we primarily we like to make those connections and being face-to-face,” said Dr. Seazante` Oliver, the new principal at George Mason Elementary School. “(W)e won’t be able to get those hugs and those high-fives on the first day of school, and to be able to see those excited faces and smiles standing out front as we greet our families, and having just come to grips with that.”

Thank you to everyone who shared photos of their children for our first day of Virtual PLUS+!

Posted by Alexandria City Public Schools on Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Unlike last spring after in-person school was cancelled due to the pandemic, attendance will be tracked with its VirtualPLUS+ program and students will be graded on their assignments — just like a normal school year.

Oliver, who has worked at George Mason since 2012, is one of four new principals at ACPS, including Loran Brody at Charles Barrett Elementary School, John McCain at Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School and Penny Hairston at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.

Hairston, a former assistant principal at James K. Polk Elementary School, considers the her teachers and administrators to be a family of sorts.

“My theme for this year is ‘better together,'” Hairston said. “Even though we’re apart, and it’s kind of cliche, but we are better when we’re working on one accord, and working for the purpose of our children.”

Brody, a former principal at Takoma Education Campus PK3-8 in Washington D.C. for the last five years, said that support from the Barrett community has been strong.

“It’s definitely challenging and it’s definitely different,” Brody said., adding that his school has a testing team to fine tune how tests will be administered to students.

All day, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., jumped around Zoom calls to check in on students.

“We know this year will be different and it does not change the fact that we are all committed to each of you by making sure you are learning and growing, reaching your academic goals, and getting all the support you need to have a successful school year,” Hutchings said on social media.

👋🏿 A message from Dr. Hutchings before #ACPSFirstDay!"Tomorrow is the big day when we get to see you bright and early…

Posted by Alexandria City Public Schools on Monday, September 7, 2020

Photo via T.C. Williams Minnie Howard Campus/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Today’s the First Day of School for ACPS — “Let’s focus on getting connected this week! Make sure you have access to technology and have completed your back-to-school forms.” [ACPS]

West End Development Could Add Hundreds of Affordable Housing Units — “Wesley Housing is requesting a pre-development loan of $400,000 to start the development process on ParcView II, a new affordable rental project on Holmes Run Parkway in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

Child Abuse Reports Go Down 40% — “Typically, Alexandria Child Protective Services receives more case reports in the spring than any other time of the year. However, this spring reports were down 40 percent from the average in recent years.” [Alexandria Living]

Gong Meditation Today in Del Ray — “Join us each Tuesday from 6-7pm, September 1 through October 20. Relax and support your body, mind and spirit through sound, yoga and meditation. Take a break from today’s hectic and stressful environment and see how you can benefit from sound therapy.” [Facebook]

Volunteers Needed for Food Distribution This Thursday — “Help serve meals and groceries this Thursday, September 10 at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. A project from the Washington Street UMC, ALIVE!, ARHA, and Charles Houston Recreation Center – this event generally serves more than 150 families!” [Facebook]

Alexandria Drive-In Shows ‘Back To The Future’ —  “Remembering you have one of the sold out spots for Back to the Future this Saturday …  ” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, mainly sunny. High 88F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, partly to mostly cloudy. Low 69F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Keyholder at FatFace — “Our Alexandria store is looking for a passionate supervisor to lead the team and establish the brand in the local area.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

COVID Cases in Alexandria Jump by 21 — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 21 to 3,436 in the City; 7-day Positivity Rate down to 4.0%; 1 new hospitalization; Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Democratic Committee Hosting Virtual Labor Day Picnic — “Thrilled to announce that the Biden Harris campaign’s National Political Director Erin Wilson will be joining the ADC as a special guest at our Labor Day Celebration!! You will not want to miss this unique opportunity to hear from Erin about the upcoming 2020 election!” [Facebook]

Former Mayor Silberberg Laments Loss of 150-Year-Old Tree at T.C. Williams High School — “You could almost hear a collective gasp throughout the city as the news spread. It didn’t have to be this way. Almost 3,000 Alexandrians, including me, had signed a petition to save the Witness Tree, which was so aptly named by McArthur Myers…In fact, with a little more creativity, the tree could have been a focal point of the stadium’s new design. The stadium’s architects should have been far more creative in using the tree as a centerpiece for its new plaza.” [Facebook]

Beyer Says Trump Trashed George H.W. Bush For Being Shot Down in WWII“Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a ‘loser’ for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers).” [Twitter]

Here’s How ACPS Will Virtually Track Attendance — “Every day counts when it comes to school… (F)ind out how we’re tracking attendance and what you can do to help your child be present and ready for learning at home.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Soccer Association Starts Nine-Week Course — “The Alexandria Soccer Association introduced ASA School+, a nine-week educational program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to a news release.” [Alex Times]

Story Time: Sheriff’s Deputy Reads ‘Ten Apples Up On Top’ — “We would not, could not resist another Dr. Seuss classic! So this week Deputy Sahar Sherzai is reading ‘Ten Apples Up On Top.'” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Sun and clouds mixed with a slight chance of thunderstorms during the afternoon. High 87F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. At night, partly cloudy skies. Low 62F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Recruiting Manager — “The role of the Recruiting Manager will support the qualitative recruiting function across all aspects of qualitative market research projects including bid process, recruiting, vendor management, invoice reconciliation, through to project close process. Administrative tasks related to the function include (but not limited to); supporting the project bids process, drafting market research screeners, coordinating project scheduling between RAs and recruiting vendors, tracking of project recruiting documents and project consent forms, invoice reconciliation.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s civic associations came out in force to speak against a loosening of zoning restrictions at public school properties. While the Planning Commission ultimately pushed forward a modified version of the zoning change, there was widespread agreement that the public outreach could have been handled better.

The change had been proposed in 2019 and was docketed for meetings earlier this year, but had disappeared as the pandemic led to those meetings being cancelled until it quietly resurfaced for the Sept. 1 meeting.

The change originally would have allowed Alexandria City Public Schools to build schools up to 0.6 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) by right, meaning without needing public approval, or higher without a set restriction. The version approved at the Planning Commission still allows proposed schools to exceed the density restrictions, but only with a Special Use Permit (SUP) and by no greater than 0.75 FAR.

The proposal had been criticized by the North Ridge Citizens’ Association in the lead-up to the meeting, but was joined by others who protested that the city was quietly pushing the change through without public input.

“When we first learned about this proposal, we had to ask ourselves why our city would be contemplating such sweeping changes to our code without more public notice,” said Kay Stimson, representing the North Ridge Citizen’s Association. “This truly threatens to create a trust deficit between this commission and our residents.”

Stimson said she recognized that schools need greater capacity, but also said the city was pursuing an “increased density” agenda on residents throughout the city.

“If approved, this amendment would be a glaring example of arbitrary, capricious, and unsupportive administrative action by this city with detrimental impacts particularly on low density residential neighborhoods that don’t have the infrastructure to support the massive new buildings you’re proposing,” Stimson said. “The existing baseline should remain the prevailing density of the neighborhood. If someone wants to build something larger, the point of our zoning process is that they must talk to the public and gain permission. There is no justification whatsoever to allow for unlimited density in a school building. This actually calls into question why we would have a zoning code at all.”

Other residents similarly expressed frustrations that ACPS would be seemingly shielded from density requirements local homeowners face. Pete Benavage, representing the Federation of Civic Associations, said the federation had unanimously voted to oppose the change.

“We fell anything that is reducing the public input; the meaningful and timely public input, is deleterious to the benefit of the citizens of Alexandria,” Benavage said. “This amendment has not been properly vetted by the public and we would urge it either not be adopted or at least be tabled until such time as public vetting can be obtained. ” Read More

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Morning Notes

17 New COVID-19 Cases and No New Fatalities — “The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Alexandria is now 3,395, including 62 fatalities.” [City of Alexandria]

Beyer Says Trump Defense of Wisconsin Shooter is Purely Political — “This is why Trump is defending a person charged with murder, it’s plain as day.” [Twitter]

Program Extension Allows Alexandria Kids to Get Free Meals Until End of Year — “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended its Free Meals for Kids program through December 31.” [City of Alexandria]

Animal Welfare League Finds Homes for 115 Pets in August — “Congratulations to the 115 animals who meet their new best friend in August, including  #100DayStayClub member Priscilla!” [Facebook]

City Giving Away Flu Shots — “Flu vaccinations are more important than ever this year! The City will be hosting two free flu shot clinics (drive-through and walk-up) to ensure all residents are vaccinated.” [Facebook]

Mayor Hosting Virtual Town Hall Tomorrow Night — “Thursday evening (September 3rd) beginning at 8 PM, I will be hosting another virtual Living Room Town Hall Meeting, now monthly! We will discuss the City’s on-going response to the COVID-19 outbreak and address any other topics you have. Please post questions and join us!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — During the day, “Cloudy skies during the morning hours followed by scattered showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Storms may contain strong gusty winds. High 89F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” At night, “Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Storms may contain strong gusty winds. Low 73F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: District Manager at Public Storage — “$117,000 annual total compensation award opportunity including base, bonus (paid quarterly), restricted stock units and stock dividends.” [Indeed]

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Starting September 8, Alexandria City Public Schools will require a new digital meal pass or family pin for anyone picking up meals at its food distribution points around the city.

The school system has given away free food at more than a dozen schools and neighborhood popup locations for months. Up to this point, however, no registration was required and the food was free.

Now only kids on free and reduced lunches will get the meals for free. Students who don’t qualify will have to add funds to their lunch accounts via the online school cafe system, or by giving ACPS a check or money order.

“When you or your student come to pick up school meals in nutrition services staff member will scan your digital meal pass or ask for your family pin number,” according to an instructional video released on social media. “You will receive enough meals, which now include breakfast, lunch, supper and snack for each student in your family.”

Students at Cora Kelly School and William Ramsay Elementary School, which are located in Arlandria and the West End, will automatically receive free school meals, according to ACPS.

https://www.facebook.com/acpsk12/videos/651226948856885/

See all the ACPS food distribution locations below the jump.

Read More

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We made it to Friday in Alexandria! That was some week.

With the end of summer approaching, Alexandria City Public Schools are gearing up for virtual-only classes this fall, although a number of the city’s private schools are reopening. This week, however, Bishop Ireton High School resumed in-person classes.

A number of other private schools in the city are also reopening, including Episcopal High School (in October), Alexandria Country Day School and Immanuel Lutheran School.

ALIVE!, which has given away hundreds of thousands of pounds of food during the pandemic, announced it was making its annual walkathon a virtual experience next month. The nonprofit also needs volunteers as needs are increasing, according to Executive Director Jennifer Ayers.

Not included in this week’s list is Thursday’s story about a pilgrimage for racial healing from Charlottesville to D.C., which stopped in Alexandria. The group made it in time to D.C. today to recognize the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. City Issues Self-Quarantine Advisory After COVID Outbreak at West End Church
  2. Alexandria Police Increase Presence to Stem Uptick of Violent Crime in Parker Gray/Old Town
  3. Alexandria Needs Help Running the November Election
  4. Demonstrations Continue at Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf’s Alexandria Home
  5. City Updates Zoning Ordinance to Allow Density Boost for Schools
  6. Man Injured in Violent West End Carjacking Last Month
  7. King Street Metro Improvement Project Pushed Back to Spring 2021
  8. New Restaurant Concept Opens Next Month in Old Town Hotel
  9. Proposed Regulatory Changes Cut Back Red Tape for Alexandria Businesses
  10. What Does Southern Towers’ Acquisition by CIM Group Mean for Alexandria Affordable Housing?
  11. Saunas and Ice Baths: A New Coworking Office Focusing on Wellness Opens in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!

Image via Kidane Mehret Church/Facebook

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