Morning Notes

‘Ghost kitchen’ could be headed to Alexandria — “Commercial kitchens like the one proposed are also known as ghost kitchens and they allow restaurants and food entrepreneurs to prepare delivery orders. Ghost kitchens grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when many traditional restaurants were forced to close and the demand for take-out increased.” [Alexandria Living]

Face masks required at public and private schools until July 25 — “To address potential gaps in critical prevention measures at schools this summer, the State Health Commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver, issued a Public Health Emergency Order effective July 1, requiring children and adults aged 5 and older to wear masks in public and private K-12 schools through July 25. The requirement applies to individuals regardless of vaccination status. The mask order also applies on school buses. Individuals are not required to wear masks when outside on school property, however the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommends that unvaccinated individuals aged two and older wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings.” [City of Alexandria]

Del Ray featured in movie — “A new movie that recently premiered at the Brooklyn Film Festival filmed several scenes at local businesses in Del Ray. Kringle Time, a satirical comedy film about a singing snowman ‘that has nothing to do with Christmas,”‘was written and directed by Matthew Lucas, a former American University student and Arlington resident.” [Zebra]

City Council to vote on replacement services for SRO funding Tuesday — “City Council on Tuesday evening will consider how to spend the nearly $800,000 that used to fund the School Resource Officer program.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Sunshine and some clouds [during the day]. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 96F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph… A few clouds [in the evening]. Low 73F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Assistant teacher — “The Campagna Early Learning Center Assistant Teacher is responsible for assisting the Teacher in planning and implementing age-appropriate curriculum for the children in the classroom in accordance with the program policies, guidelines and philosophy.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria leaders have acknowledged that the city’s public school system faces major security issues with the elimination of school resource officer funding.

In a joint City Council/School Board Subcommittee Meeting Monday night, School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan was highly critical of Council’s 4-3 decision last month to divert the program’s nearly $800,000 in funding to Alexandria City Public Schools mental health and City health resources.

“I just want to own the fact that there is nothing that’s been happening in the school that is going to prevent… potential lives being taken if there was a violent act,” Nolan said. “I just don’t want us high-fiving each other, feeling like we did it, like we replaced what the SROs are providing, and that’s with safety.”

The decision means that SROs — police officers stationed inside T.C. Williams High School, Francis Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School — will no longer have offices in those schools. T.C. is also the largest high school in Virginia.

Nolan also cited a recent Washington Post article revealing that, with the pandemic receding, there has been an uptick in mental health-related issues and school shootings nationwide. She said she appreciated the proposed plan, but that it should not be replacing the SRO program.

“We do have situations where sexual assault happens outside of school, but a young lady feels exceptionally comfortable going up to a police officer,” Nolan said. “There’s also going to be fights that were normally deescalated by SROs that are going to take place, and we just cannot expect any of our staff to be able to deescalate those or break up fights or prevent that.”

Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow that he has concerns over security, and that Alexandria Police will incorporate the school system into their patrol operations.

“Obviously APD Patrol will continue to answer calls for service at these schools when they are called to do so,” Wilson said. “That dialogue will continue — with ACPS, APD and other entities, to ensure that we protect the safety of the students, faculty, support staff and visitors at our high school and middle schools.”

It is still unclear when APD officers will be inside of the schools, how often, or why.

“At this time, Alexandria City Public Schools is planning for the 2021-22 school year,” ACPS Chief of School and Community Relations Julia Burgos told ALXnow. “Our planning process includes working with the Alexandria Police Department to ensure there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines a framework of police services at the schools as a matter of best practice.”

The School Board passed the bi-annual MOU, which kept SROs in place, last November. Then in April, School Board members asked City Council to respect their decision.

The program was eliminated by City Councilman Mo Seiflendein’s proposal, which was backed by Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Canek Aguirre.

City staff also reported that the school system is anticipating a “three-fold increase” in the number of students getting mental health referrals, “particularly as students adjust to in-person learning.”

Chapman said that Council will likely not delay making a decision on the matter on July 6.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but (would be) very surprised if we had a majority that wanted to continue to push the decision down the road,” he said.

City Council will consider the following:

  • $567,000 — One therapist supervisor to the Department of Community and Human Services; two licensed mental health professionals; a human services specialist; and a licensed senior therapist for emergency services
  • $122,000 — One new public health nurse at the Minnie Howard campus
  • $101,000 — One new Alexandria Mentoring Partnership coordinator
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(Updated 6/23) Alexandria greeted a new marquee at the newly named Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School on Tuesday, as the old name of Matthew Maury Elementary will be officially retired on July 1.

Also, the school’s mascot is now the bee and the official school colors are green and blue.

Brooks, a beloved teacher for decades at Charles Houston Elementary School and Cora Kelly Elementary School, passed away last year. Accepting the recognition in her honor were her husband, former Philadelphia City Manager and retired U.S. Army Major Gen. Leo Brooks, Sr., and her son, U.S. Army Major Gen. Leo Brooks, Jr. (Ret.) Brooks’ other son, U.S. Army General Vincent K. Brooks, was not in attendance.

“This is indeed a day to remember,” Brooks, Sr. said, adding that he hoped the school’s new name will inspire students. “Her loss is difficult for all of us, and she’s come and gone and set an example for all of us to follow.”

The school was named Matthew Maury Elementary School for nearly a century, after the Confederate leader and noted oceanographer. The School Board voted for the name change in April after a long community campaign, which also resulted in a new name for T.C. Williams High School, which is named after a racist former superintendent who worked intently against integration. The marquee at T.C. will be removed and the Alexandria City High School name and logo will be unveiled on Wednesday morning, June 23.

“I also think this is a day of reflection,” School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan said. “I think we want to give some thought today as to why is there a name change and that we must remember that systemic racism was done by design and impacts so many of our students.”

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The Alexandria City Council tonight will consider the official reallocation of nearly $800,000 in funding previously meant for the School Resource Officer program.

Council voted 4-3 in May to move the SRO funding to add mental health resources to ACPS, support staff to the Teen Wellness Center, hire an additional Behavioral Health Specialist to the Alexandria Crisis Intervention CoResponding Program Pilot. The SROs stationed inside T.C. Williams High School, Francis Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School have been reassigned to patrol.

City staff are recommending that the funds be used to add the following:

  • $567,000 — One therapist supervisor to the Department of Community and Human Services; two licensed mental health professionals; a human services specialist; and a licensed senior therapist for emergency services
  • $122,000 — One new public health nurse at the Minnie Howard campus
  • $101,000 — One new Alexandria Mentoring Partnership coordinator

Students who are involved in gangs also have to wait up to a month before seeing one of two counselors with the City’s Court Services Unit.

Staff also reported that the school system is anticipating a “three-fold increase” in the number of students getting mental health referrals, “particularly as students adjust to in-person learning.”

“Each year ACPS Student Support Services requests that CFBHS (Child and Family Behavioral Health Services) provides more clinicians in schools than DCHS has capacity to provide,” City staff reported. “If CFBHS had more capacity, this program would provide considerably more outreach, group therapy, and consultation.”

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Despite a year of setbacks that included vocal community disagreement with Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, both from the community and within the school system, the School Board rallied around him and approved renewal of his contract.

The new contract renews Hutchings’ role in ACPS through June 30, 2025. During the discussion Thursday night, School Board members repeatedly praised his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic over the last year.

“I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Dr. Hutchings,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “He had to grapple with uncertainty of COVID and changing guidance from CDC… There’s no precedent or playbook on how to lead school division through global pandemic. Dr. Hutchings, you got us through this.”

Rief praised Hutchings’ work on helping to provide meals, laptops, and internet service for students who needed it.

“The past year has not been easy on anyone,” Rief said, “but we have made it to the end of the school year and are on a path to full reopening in the fall.”

The rest of the School Board more-or-less mirrored Rief’s comments, with some noting Hutchings’ present at the school as a relief from the school system’s frequent struggles with turnover.

“It’s easy to say in hindsight what this year could have or should have been,” said School Board member Veronica Nolan. “For context, this time last year, we were looking for eggs and toilet paper… I think it’s amazing what this team at ACPS has done together. That continuity is so important.”

Ramee Gentry noted that Hutchings’ tenure comes after a time when ACPS had three superintendents over five years. Another Superintendent was dumped by the School Board in 2007 in the wake of a DUI and rapidly increasing operations costs.

“ACPS has not had continuity [of leadership] for years,” Gentry said. “Turnover in superintendents leads to turnover in staff. When you do not have staff continuity, where they feel sure about where they are going, that ship isn’t going anywhere because it’s not steering in any direction.”

Hutchings’ faced his own turnover in staff — most notably the from former ACPS Chief Operating Officer Mignon Anthony who retired and published a damning letter about ACPS leadership in the Alexandria Times.

At the Board meeting, Hutchings passed the praise onto his staff.

“I need our community to know I am nothing without our team,” Hutchings said. “We are not able to accomplish anything in ACPS without our team. I am probably the most blessed superintendent in the world. I have people on my right, my left, my front my back. Our team comes together and we make it happen. We encourage each other and support each other. Thank you for continuously doing that on our behalf.”

Hutchings also thanked the board for their work over the last year, recalling individual memories and qualities of each Board Member.

“This is the best board that I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with several boards in the past eight years,” Hutchings said. “This board, when you talk about courage, boldness, vision, integrity, passion: that is exactly what we have here. I tell our staff that every opportunity we get how thankful we are to have that. This is a second contract for me in the place that made me who I am today. The ultimate gift in my life is this job. I appreciate that and I thank you all.”

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The pandemic is over, right? Not for Volunteer Alexandria.

The nonprofit is still in the thick of finding volunteers to assist with food distributions, in addition to vaccination pod workers and guardians at assisted living facilities.

“We are actually seen a decrease in new people registering…only 114 people, which is really low for us,” Volunteer Alexandria’s Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “We are still in need of people who are able to donate time to assist with food and meal distributions – ALIVE!, ACPS, and CASA Chirilagua all need people to assist.”

Brunken said there were 224 registered volunteers in April and 187 in March, and that she is now looking at a 30% shortage in school meal distribution volunteers.

“We need hundreds of people per week,” Brunken said. “Because, tutoring, mentoring — those are so important. Seniors always need food delivered, no matter if the pandemic is over or not. More people are in need now than ever. We still deliver food. We still have after school programs, and now we’re going to the summer camps, so we need to staff those as well.”

Register to volunteer here.

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Alexandria’s history with slavery makes Juneteenth a particularly important holiday.

June 19 recognizes the emancipation of slaves in the United States, and the date is expected to soon be a federal holiday, even though Alexandria has recognized it since 2019.

But because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, the City is also recognizing Friday, June 18, as a holiday.

“We should all be looking at ways that we can help our community, especially in the context of a pandemic which has particularly ravaged communities of color,” said Audrey David, executive director of the Alexandria City Black History Museum, in a recent blog post, “Start by exploring the Black History Museum’s Preserving Their Names online only exhibition, released to coincide with the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, which features images of objects and digital photographs from the new Black Lives Remembered Collection.”

The Alexandria Black History Museum is also presenting a virtual performance on Saturday with the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices.

The holiday means most, but not all, City employees will have Friday off. Parking restrictions will also be lifted at legal parking spaces throughout the city, however Alexandria City Public Schools will be open.

What’s open

City-run facilities and services that will be open include:

Closures

The following City services are closed Friday:

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Morning Notes

 

Volunteers needed for ACPS food distribution — “Kids should ask ‘What’s for lunch?’ not ‘Is there lunch?’ Help distribute two days worth of meals for @ACPSk12 students on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. Volunteers are needed for both mobile pop-ups and curbside locations.” [Twitter]

First half of real estate taxes due today — Real estate taxes can be received at City Hall until noon. [City of Alexandria]

Passionately Pets expands to treats and apparel — “Passionately Pets has been offering quality dog walking and petsitting services since Jenna Gotch founded the business 14 years ago. But it wasn’t until recently that Gotch added a line of branded pet products and tasty treats for cats and dogs.” [Alexandria Living]

Craft beer festival at Mount Vernon estate on July 19 and 20 — “Experience Mount Vernon after-hours and taste beers from across the region. Sample craft beer from local breweries, hear live music, and explore the historic area after hours. The Mansion will be closed during this event.” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny skies (during the day). High 81F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds from time to time (in the evening). Low 61F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Dog store manager — “We are a holistic doggie daycare, boarding, grooming and retail spot looking for a store supervisor. You will need to love dogs, and adhere to our holistic and natural approach to dog care. We offer only healthy food, supplements, as well as unique toys, gifts and other dog products.” [Indeed]

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The final graduating class of T.C. Williams High School celebrated their final Titan victory Saturday morning, as 888 graduates were handed diplomas at Chinquapin Park.

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., said that the students have witnessed a profoundly difficult period, including COVID deaths, social unrest following the murder of George Floyd and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“Remember to stand up for your beliefs, but do it with civility and civil discourse,” Hutchings said. “It takes time to build dialogue while understanding our differences. We can still be bold and we can still be courageous, while practicing kindness as the hallmark of our advocacy.”

With the pandemic winding down, the graduates were asked to look at the bigger picture.

“Always remember, the greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose,” said T.C. Black Student Union President Fina Osei-Owusu, who quoted both Myles Munroe and Mark Twain. “Because the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. Every single one of you has been equipped with passion and created with a purpose… Your essential element is your purpose, and the very reason why you exist. It is what you’re here to fulfill. So, I asked all of you to look within.”

Graduate Mia Humphrey also sang to the audience her song, ‘Summer 17‘, which she wrote in quarantine last year.

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come together,” Humphrey said.

This year, equity reared its lens on T.C., which is the largest high school in Virginia. The school is known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which focused on its 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity. However, the school’s namesake, former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, was an ardent segregationist.

“What gives me hope is you,” school Principal Peter Balas told the sea of graduates in red, white and blue caps and gowns. “You have the voice and the means to change this world. You are Titans, and Titans rise up and take action. You’ve righted the wrongs of history and I know you won’t stop there.”

T.C. Williams High School graduated its first class in 1967, and will change its name to Alexandria City High School on July 1.

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Morning Notes

ACPS wants input on how to spend COVID relief funds — “Feedback on use of the American Rescue Plan Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief can be provided through June 18, while the Equity for All Climate Survey is open through June 20.” [Patch]

Memorial bike ride Sunday at for bicyclist killed — “Join FABB’s memorial ride in honor of Fatima Del Carmen Alvarez Romero this Sunday, June 13, at 10:00 am at Huntington Metro kiss and ride lot. Ride to crash site for a moment of remembrance and to call for much-needed safety measures. Please wear white and bring signs.” [Twitter]

Karma Modern Indian Eyes Expansion into Old Town — “Karma Modern Indian, a Michelin-recognized destination for fine Indian cuisine in downtown Washington, D.C., is opening a sister restaurant in Alexandria. Dubbed Kismet Modern Indian, the restaurant will be at 111 N. Pitt St. and is set for a fall opening. The location was formerly home, for a short time, to BurgerFi and before that, Ireland’s Own. The late Pat Troy presided over the legendary spot for more than three decades.” [Alexandria Living]

Mayor Wilson named president of Virginia Transit Association — “VTA is a nonprofit corporation of transit professionals from public and private organizations; it includes transit systems from across the state, businesses that serve transit systems and local government officials and organizations concerned about transportation, mobility, affordable access to employment and quality of life issues.” [Zebra]

Alexandria to start nominating committee for collective bargaining labor relations administrator — “The City has been notified that each of the following groups are interested in having a representative on the nominating committee: American Federation of State; County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF); International Union of Police Associations (IUPA); and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (PBA). To participate on the nominating committee, any employee organization interested in representing a bargaining unit must notify the City Manager by email at [email protected] by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16.” [City of Alexandria]

West End Business Association hosting COVID meeting for restaurants — The Alexandria Health Department will update restaurant owners on how to open post-COVID. Homegrown Restaurant Group’s “Mango” Mike Anderson will also speak at the event, which will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23, at Glory Days Grill. [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Rain (during the day). High near 70F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible… Rain early (in the evening)… then remaining cloudy with showers late. Low around 65F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Dog daycare playroom attendant — “If you are a hard and reliable worker looking for a fun and rewarding job, we encourage you to apply. We are also offering a limited-time signing bonus to those who can reliably commit to the job for at least 4 months.” [Indeed]

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