Alexandria, VA

It’s uncertain whether Alexandria City Public Schools will open for in-person schooling on Jan. 19, despite a phased reentry plan that will be sent out to parents on Monday.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the School Board Thursday night that it is difficult to say with certainty that schools will reopen on Jan. 19 for young students with disabilities.

“If I had to make a decision today, it [school] would be 100% virtual,” Hutchings told the School Board on Thursday night. “This is based on community health metrics staffing and capacity, and we’ve been saying that since the fall, people don’t want to hear it but we have been saying we want to open but it’s based on staffing capacity community health metrics, and that still is the same message that we have to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Alexandria School Board Member Margaret Lorber is being criticized for stating that the school system would rather have students alive and educated rather than risking their lives by returning to in-person schooling.

“I think the fact of the matter is we have to live with this incredible uncertainty,” Lorber said at last night’s Board meeting. “Do you want your child to be alive or to be educated? And I think at this point in our lives, you have to speak out and take a position and I don’t fault those in the community who have spoken out and said that all of the CDC stuff and health department’s stuff is bunk that they don’t agree with the approach we’re taking, but I think the careful gradual approach that we’ve been taking is the safe approach.”

School Board members are now receiving emails regarding Lorber’s comments, and the group Open ACPS is calling for her resignation. A message from ALXnow to Lorber was not returned.

“As a mother, I’m horrified that Ms. Lorber insinuates I’m trying to kill my children by sending them to school,” said ACPS parent Ashley Lombardi, who is a member of the 700-member-plus strong group.

ACPS parent Bill Blackburn said students need to return to a safe environment soon.

“Our kids need to be back in schools; not today, not next, week, but soon,” Blackburn said. “We have to move forward. Our leaders need to make people feel safe, encourage them to follow the data and the science. Sensational quotes about children dying are irresponsible and unnecessarily stoke fear. A quote like this from an elected leader is frustrating and it makes me sad.”

Hutchings released the following phased reentry plan to the community, and will be providing a video update on Monday, Jan. 11.

New Board Leadership and Budget Update

Hutchings said the school system needs to retain staff during hard times, and is proposing $3.6 million for a 1% step increase for staff in the upcoming budget.

The new $292.25 million Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal is a 2% increase over the current budget.

Hutchings said that it has been a tough year and that the school system was unprepared for such an abrupt closing last March.

“We’re going to have to recover from this learning loss,” he said. “There’s learning loss that is happening for many of our students. There are social and emotional needs that are not being met on some counts for some of our students.”

According to budget documents, the school system anticipates losing 19 full-time staffers and 2% of students, or 329 students, in FY 2022. The school system is projecting that there will be 16,144 students next year.

Additionally, Board member Meagan Alderton was voted for a year as the new chair, replacing Cindy Anderson. Alderton defeated Board member Michelle Rief 6-3 in the internal election, with Jacinta Greene, Heather Thornton and Rief voting in the minority. Veronica Nolan, the current vice chair, was reelected 8-1 to another year-long term, with Rief abstaining.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Three Alexandria children are safe after being left home alone in “deplorable conditions,” according to police.

Charges are pending against the mother of the children, a woman in her 20s, who was described by the children’s grandmother as suffering from mental issues and being off her medication, according to a search warrant affidavit.

On Nov. 16, Alexandria Police met the grandmother at the children’s home in the 600 block of N. Pelham Street, which is near Holmes Run in the West End. Inside, police found the children — ages six, four and three — in “deplorable conditions,” according to the affidavit.

“There were piles of clothes strewn all over the house to include the floors and furniture,” police said in the affidavit. “There were empty food containers and food all over the house. It appeared as if they used the floor as a trash can. This was consistent throughout the home.”

Officers found the six-year-old hiding behind a couch with a small plate of pancakes she had just made in the microwave. The child told police that she slept on the couch in the living room, and that “mommy smokes weed with men in the basement,” according to the affidavit.

Minutes later, police witnessed the four and three-year-old children playing with long serrated knives from the kitchen. They also found a bedroom that reeked of urine.

The grandmother called police after finding the children home alone. She reported that the last time she’d spoken with her daughter was three days before to give her groceries.

“The groceries provided to the (mother) were still in the bags to include the fresh meat and milk,” police reported in the affidavit. “There were several bags that appeared to have been rummaged through by the children, possibly looking for food.”

A next door neighbor then called the mother and told them that police were at her house. The neighbor told police that the children are often left unattended, and that once the eldest child asked to use the neighbor’s phone at 1:30 a.m. to call her mother.

The mother arrived home shortly thereafter and told police that she’d gone to buy groceries at the nearby Giant on Little River Turnpike.

“They were asleep,” the mother reportedly told police when asked why her children were left alone. She refused to say how long she had been away.

Child Protective Services then arrived and made arrangements with other family members to take care of the children during the investigation, according to the affidavit.

Map via Google Maps

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Alexandria has identified hundreds of families, older adults and kids with disabilities who are eligible to receive gifts in the Fund for Alexandria’s Child Holiday Sharing Program.

The deadline to send in gift cards and donations is November 13, and all contributions are tax-deductible.

“The holiday time can be stressful for those experiencing financial or emotional stress,” according to the city. “This is especially true for low-income families, older adults and children in foster care.”

The city identified 450 families, 100 older adults and adults with disabilities, and 120 kids in foster care who will benefit from the annual program.

“We’ve made some changes this year to keep people safe,” said Fund Coordinator Krystal Fenwick. “But one thing hasn’t changed — Our community needs to reach out and support people in need, especially during this holiday season.”

The Fund for Alexandria’s Child is asking for the following no-contact participation:

  • Sponsor children and teens in foster care, older adults and adults with disabilities, or a family by providing gift cards to designated grocery stores and businesses (learn more about guidelines around sponsorships)
  • Make a donation by credit card online to meet unfulfilled needs or wishes
  • Make a donation via check payable to “The Fund for Alexandria’s Child” or to the “DCHS Senior Fund” and mail to: Holiday Sharing Program, 2525 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301
  • Ask family, friends and colleagues to join you in sponsoring
  • Ask an employer to match your contribution
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Morning Notes

Seminary Road Sidewalk to Remain Incomplete — “VDOT denies Alexandria’s grant request for the $1 million sidewalk.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Now Has 4,077 Cases of COVID-19 — “The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Alexandria is now 4,077, including 73 fatalities. Detailed data, including data on age, race and ethnicity, is available through links at alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus.” [City of Alexandria]

WWII Army Nurse Marian Elcano Dies at 99 — “Elcano spent more than 40 years as a resident of Alexandria, settling in the city with her husband, Michael P. Elcano, and their five children after moving all over the world in military service.” [Alex Times]

Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities Announces Award Winners — “The Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities (ACPD), in conjunction with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, have announced the winners of their annual awards, which will be presented via prerecorded video on October 22.” [City of Alexandria]

Police Chief Reads Kids Story — “Need something to make you smile? Here is a great storytime, made for our friends at @CommunityLdgngs, and featuring our very own Chief Brown. Enjoy!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Rain early…then remaining cloudy with showers in the afternoon. High 59F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Cloudy skies early (in the evening), then partly cloudy after midnight. Low around 40F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Region Manager — “The Region Manager is responsible for overall growth, financial wellbeing, and development of the centers within their assigned area.” [Indeed]

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If you are a daycare provider or have kids in child care, the Alexandria Health Department will conduct the first of virtual two town hall meetings on the subject starting tonight (Thursday, Oct. 15) at 6 p.m.

“Guardians will be reminded of the steps they can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and share resources,” notes a city release.

One recommendation the city asks is for child care providers to complete an emergency child care provider registration form.

“This application is for any child care center or family day home program,” according to the city. “To date, the response has been strong. It is clear that the child care community wants to do what they can to help.”

Parents are also asked to fill out the parent child care needs registration form, and the city says it will notify families of “potential care providers that meet their needs.”

Topics of discussion include:

As of Oct. 5, there are more than 60 child care providers in the city. Over the summer, the Alexandria Emergency Child Care Collaborative and Smart Beginnings Alexandria hosted a virtual child care open house.

The next virtual town hall will be held on Monday, October 19, at 6 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Wishes Speedy Recovery, Then Refutes Trump Tweet — “We continue to hope that the President is feeling well and will recover swiftly, but it must be pointed out that this is a bunch of nonsense. None of it is true.” [Twitter]

City Offering Free COVID Tests — “In partnership with our friends at @NeighborhoodHth the City will be hosting free COVID-19 testing events every week this month throughout our City.”  [Twitter]

DASH Adding Six Electric Buses — “The buses are manufactured by New Flyer of America and Proterra.  They are 40 feet in length and rely completely on battery power rather than gasoline.” [Zebra]

Commonwealth Avenue Improvements Proposed — “A portion of Commonwealth Avenue in the Rosemont area is scheduled to be repaved in 2021, and the city is seeking feedback on improvements that could go along with it.” [Patch]

Walk to Bust Breast Cancer Goes Virtual — “This month you may notices some painted angel wings around Alexandria. These wings are part of the National Breast Center Foundation’s new Angel Wing Challenge associated with the annual Walk to Bust Breast Cancer, which looks a little different this year.” [Alexandria Living]

Recreation Centers Providing Childcare for Essential Workers — “There are currently 250 students enrolled in the full-day program at no cost to families. Many of these children have parents who are essential workers.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly sunny (during the day). High 73F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Clear skies (at night). Low near 55F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing Communications Specialist — “To be successful in this position, the Marketing Communications Specialist must demonstrate strong persuasive writing skills, strong digital layout design skills and be an overall expert in digital and social media marketing.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Negates Trump’s Coronavirus Claims — “Nearly 194,000 Americans have died in a pandemic Trump lied to the country about. As Dr. Gottlieb points out, the coming cold weather months bring danger of new spread of the virus. Even after seven months of this Trump still has no strategy to keep Americans safe.” [Twitter]

Former Mayor Silberberg Says Taylor Run Restoration Will Hurt Environment — “Recent soil testing from Taylor Run, analyzed by Brookside Laboratories, showed a negligible amount of phosphorous in the soil of the stream bank. Restoration of Taylor Run will therefore have a questionable impact at best on the watershed – but the restoration work will have a devastating impact on the habitat and tree canopy surrounding the stream.” [Alex Times]

Kids Who Volunteer Can Get Scholarship — “Volunteering makes a difference. Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) are recognizing the efforts Virginia youth have made to help in their communities during the pandemic.” [Zebra]

Salon Monte Opens in Old Town — “On the waterfront to cut the ribbon for @MonteDurham‘s Salon Monte! Welcome! (Insert joke about me at a hair salon—> Here)” [Twitter]

Board of Architectural Review Rejects Heritage Development — “If you’ve run out of shows on Netflix and you’re looking for some drama-filled entertainment, head to the city’s webcast archive and watch the Board of Architectural Review’s latest meeting.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy early, becoming mostly sunny in the afternoon. High near 80F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph. At night, Clear. Low 54F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Account Executive — “CareClix, a Northern Virginia based company and the world leader in the Telemedicine Space is seeking a few select individuals to join our Resellers and Independent Account Executive salesforce. Successful candidates in this position can expect first year commissions of lower middle to high six figures.” [Indeed]

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What did you do on your summer vacation? Three Alexandria kids started a new business, ThePoopBrothers, and their mission is to make easy money by picking up dog poop.

“I was walking around with my dad, and we were talking about what kind of ways to make money over the summer,” Beckett Sawyer said. “I was talking about mowing lawns and stuff, and then he suggested  picking up poop, and I started laughing because I thought it was a joke.”

It was no joke, and soon Beckett, 13, and his 14-year-old brother Sawyer and their 14-year-old friend Dante Thomas got involved. The trio founded their company about a month ago and started placing door hangers around the city.

Here’s how it works: Customers email ThePoopBrothers and the price escalates depending on how many pets you have and how far away your house is.

“It’s $10 each week, but if you want us to pick up twice each week then it’s $16, and each extra dog is about $1 extra,” Beckett said. “We use grab bags and then we’ll pick it up and then we’ll throw it away. So, it’s pretty simple, and it’s not too time consuming. It’s not too difficult, either.”

Sawyer said that business is slowing picking up.

“We don’t have like 50 clients,” he said. “I think we have four now, and we’re waiting for the advertisements to do their part, and maybe after all the press interviews we’ll get more business.”

Beckett said that he and his partners are fearless.

“We’re extremely cool,” he said. “We’re fearless in the art of picking up poop.”

Photo via ThePoopBrothers

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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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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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