Despite a last-minute appeal by the Alexandria School Board to slow down on eliminating the school resource officer program, City Council voted 5-1 on Tuesday in favor of reallocating nearly $800,000 toward mental health resources for school aged children.

Mayor Justin Wilson, who voted in the minority against eliminating SROs in the 4-3 Council vote in May, said that the issue was not handled correctly and that he is “dismayed” by the deteriorated relationship between Council and the Board.

“I don’t think it was the right thing to do,” Wilson said. “I don’t think it was the right way to do it… I’m dismayed by where we’re at with our fellow elected body on the School Board. I don’t think we’re in good spot, and we need to fix that.”

Council’s decision means that police officers stationed inside Alexandria City High School, Francis Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School — will no longer have offices in those schools. Alexandria City High School is the largest high school in Virginia, and last month School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan warned that the decision leaves the school system vulnerable.

School Board Member Cindy Anderson testified on behalf of the Board, and said that their November 2020 decision to keep SROs was “totally disregarded.”

We can do better than this,” Anderson said. “We simply need to take our time and do it right.”

City Councilman Mo Seifeldein proposed the program’s elimination and asked that Anderson focus on the reallocation.

“Our understanding is these are the most needed resources based on waitlists, based on student needs, based on parent needs and these are supplemental positions to what you guys already provide,” Seifeldein said. “So, this is kind of where the discussion is and if you could focus your answer just on that I would really appreciate it.”

The Board has continually asked Council to respect its decision to keep SROS.

“At this moment, the proposed mental health positions feel like a stab in the dark that have made no genuine effort to get buy-in from the impacted staff, or a true representative sample of our students, their families and community stakeholders,” Anderson said.

Councilwoman Amy Jackson was the lone dissenting vote, and Councilwoman Del Pepper was not able to vote because of a technical issue.

“[The School Board’s decision to keep SROs] was a 6-3 vote, they had gone to their community, their constituents, they had done the vetting process for this entire issue,” Jackson said. “They had community engagement, and then City Council turned around and said, ‘Sorry, we don’t like your answer. This is how it’s going to be.’ That’s bullying. I thought we had an anti-bullying measure here.”

Councilman Canek Aguirre said that ACPS has budgeted $1 million toward private security, and that taking away four-to-five SROs in schools around the city should not have an impact. He also said that the school system missed an opportunity to talk about equity during last year’s increased tensions with police.

“Why are we spending a million dollars on security guards?” Aguirre asked. “If they’re not up to par it is up to the School Board to fix that issue. This has been a long-standing issue. It needs to get fixed.”

Acting Police Chief Don Hayes said that the officers have been put back into patrol operations, and that the schools will be incorporated in patrol beats. He also said that a mentorship program between former SROs at Alexandria City High School soccer players will continue.

“We’re still going to be there,” Hayes said. “We were there before SROs were there, we’ll be there after SROs are gone.”

The funding will go toward:

  • $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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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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It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

With summer in full swing, three Alexandria athletes have made it on the U.S. Olympic Team — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley.

In other sporting news, Old Town businesses beat Del Ray in a controversial softball game Wednesday, adding fuel to the fire of an intense rivalry.

It’s been super hot out lately, and the City urged caution and reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers.

On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
  4. Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
  7. Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
  8. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  9. City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
  10. UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria is updating some of its comically outdated code to adjust some of the restrictions on dogs in Alexandria.

The contemporizing of the canine corollary to city code is scheduled to be considered by the City Council the Tuesday, July 6, meeting.

A large section of the updated code clarifies when and under what conditions dogs can bark. A line in the old code forbid Alexandrians from keeping dogs that bark or howl “to such extent as to annoy any resident or keep dogs in such a manner as to cause offensive odors.” Instead, the new language specifies that dogs are forbidden from barking or howling:

Between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that is plainly audible in any other person’s residential dwelling with the doors and windows closed and the source of the sound generation is discernible regardless of whether such doors or windows are closed; or

Between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. when the sound is plainly audible and discernible across real property boundaries or through partitions common to residential dwellings and such sound can be heard for more than five consecutive or non-consecutive minutes in any ten-minute period of time. Sounds that can be heard for less than five consecutive or non-consecutive minutes in any ten-minute period shall not be subject to this Section.

The updated code specifies that this doesn’t apply to any dog that was responding to pain or injury or protecting itself, its kennel, its offspring or a person from an actual threat. The ordinance also doesn’t apply to police dogs when “on duty” or dogs engaged in agricultural work.

The code also specifies that dogs — other than seeing eye dogs — are not permitted on public property like playgrounds of public school grounds.

The existing code notes that it’s forbidden to “knowingly or willfully” urinate or defecate on private property of people without their permission. Urination or defecation on public property is mostly verboten as well, though the code allows that urination on streets or alleys is mostly fine and defecation isn’t a violation if the owner promptly disposes of the dog poop.

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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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Morning Notes

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria turns 75 — “Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and several City Council members were among the attendees milling about, chatting with friends, reviewing the dozens of items up for auction, and touring the facility as well as the AWLA’s new surgical and event vehicle, Waggin’ Wheels.” [Zebra]

Former Steak & Ale building demolished — “Long-time residents of Alexandria may remember the old Steak and Ale restaurant at the intersection of Kenmore Avenue and Seminary Road. The 6,800 square foot Tudor-style building has been abandoned for more than a decade, since the restaurant chain declared bankruptcy.” [Alexandria Living]

Summer Sidewalk Sale dates announced — “Visit Alexandria has announced the return of Alexandria’s 12th Annual Sidewalk Sale Aug. 14-15, 2021. During this weekend-long event, shoppers can find deeply discounted summer merchandise at dozens of boutiques around Old Town and Del Ray.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Plentiful sunshine (during the day). Hot. High 97F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 74F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Craft beer bartender — “Now hiring experienced bartenders and Servers at Hops N Shine! We are looking for bartenders with a strong passion for the craft beer industry and a commitment to providing an outstanding guest experiences at our location.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Council defers on School Resource Officer funding reallocation — “On Tuesday, Alexandria City Council deferred a decision on releasing funding for school resource officers for other positions at Alexandria City Public Schools. The decision is scheduled for a July 6 public hearing.” [Patch]

Levine agrees to pay for primary mailer on House letterhead — “Levine, who lost both his primary contests, said in an interview he saw the mailing as an “informational letter” explaining the unique circumstances of why he was appearing on the ballot twice. He said he still doesn’t think it clearly qualified as campaign advertising, but agreed to reimburse the clerk’s office to clear up the matter after others complained.” [Virginia Mercury]

Paving wrapping up on Commonwealth Avenue — “Commonwealth Ave should be finished by the end of the week (striping and speed cushions to follow) Paving continues on West Glebe Rd.” [Twitter]

Injured Titan soccer player makes $5,000 GoFundMe goal — “Mahmoud is a goalie and was playing a soccer game when he collided with someone, he got 2 fractures in the lower jaw, dislocated TM joint, and he lost 2 teeth with damaged gums. The surgical procedure required 6 screws and wiring to hold the jaw together, he won’t be able to eat or talk for 6 weeks to heal. The donation would help a lot with the medical bills.” [GoFundMe]

Alexandria Aces return — “The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in empty stands and untouched uniforms last year, but the Alexandria Aces are finally back for their 13th season in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League – with a few adjustments.” [Alex Times]

Today’s weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). High 83F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy skies during the evening will give way to cloudy skies overnight. Low 71F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Multiple positions available at the Chart House — “$500 Sign-On Bonus – $100 once training is complete and $100 every 30 days for 4 months. This isn’t just your next job – it’s your opportunity to be part of an amazing team that delivers on our promise to meet and exceed our guest’s experience the moment they walk through our doors!” [Indeed]

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City Council member John Chapman has the distinction, marked in the record, of being the first on the dais to use the phrase “hot girl summer” — and in the most unlikely of contexts.

Chapman’s millennial moment came through at the end of hours of public discussion on where the American Rescue Plan Act funding is going. No decision was reached at the City Council meeting this weekend — and final passage is scheduled for Tuesday, July 6 — but the City Council did indicate interest in emphasizing the city’s tourism and overall marketing in the funding package.

Chapman, who runs the Manumission Tour Company, said funding for tourism and marketing would be a bigger help sooner rather than later.

“Everyone is getting ready for hot girl summer,” Chapman said. “There is an energy about getting out. Everybody knows that. We’re going to try [to use that], but with tourism industry it’s tough. We have immediate need we’re trying to fill.”

“We’re trying to open up,” City Council member Amy Jackson said. “As soon as you tell everyone, ‘We’re open,’ and broadcast that, that will help create jobs. If we’re waiting and holding it back, [it’s] increasingly less likely that we’re helping the maximum number of people that we could be helping.”

Jackson also noted that many of the jobs helped by boosts in retail and service industry sales help the city’s lower-income populations.

“I want us to look at that more, not just in programs, but overall in bringing people here,” Jackson said.

Chapman said the city also needs to be aware that many industries are looking for funding both for front-end immediate needs created and longer-term fixes for big problems. It’s a distinction that Chapman said could help separate where funding should go in the first round.

“The idea that we’re giving out money in a couple of tranches seems too simplistic,” Chapman said. “There are organizations that can get half of their money in one phase and half in another phase. One organization may not need all of their money in one year or one tranche —  which leaves more room to move up initiatives and people that need more relief.”

City Manager Mark Jinks said the one concern to keep in mind is this mindset could lead to too many delays to the future for funding.

“The pro is you can do more,” Jinks said. “The downside is it’s kicking the can down the road. You’re saying ‘we’ll pay for that out of the next one.'”

The City Council will look at the first round of funding again on July 6, after which Mayor Justin Wilson said he hopes the word tranche — which came up frequently during the discussions — “Goes back into oblivion.”

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The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday (June 22) will consider accepting the transfer of ownership of two residential properties that were acquired as part of the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School modernization project.

The two residential parcels on the western portion of the property are located at 1201 and 1203 Janney’s Lane. The parcels, which were approved by the School Board on June 3, include a single family home and an undeveloped parcel that add together to give Alexandria City Public Schools an additional 24,661 square feet of wiggle room.

“This parcel consolidation step is necessary to allow ACPS to complete the Site Plan approval process for the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School modernization project,” City staff said in a report.

The new MacArthur school will be three stories with a synthetic playing field and outdoor play areas. While the project is in development, MacArthur students are using the old Patrick Henry Elementary School as swing space.

Demolition began in April at the school, and the project is scheduled to open in January 2023.

Courtesy ACPS

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Morning Notes

220-year-old garden wall at Lee-Fendall House collapses — “About 69 tons of 220-year-old bricks are lying in a pile behind the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden after the property’s thick, historic garden wall collapsed following a torrential downpour earlier this month. This weekend, volunteers carefully moved bricks to make space for a temporary, protective wall around the rubble — and launched a fundraising campaign for the $125,000 or more it will take to rebuild the historic structure.” [Alexandria Living]

Retiring police chief to be recognized by City Council Tuesday — Retiring Police Chief Michael Brown will be recognized Tuesday by City Council, and the city proclamation says that Brown has “dutifully served for four-and one-half years.” [ALXnow]

School Board resumes in-person meetings — “Beginning Thursday, June 17, 2021, School Board Meetings will be held in person and up to 20 members of the public may attend. (This will allow for 6-foot distancing between seats.) Please note: all those in attendance must wear a mask. Please contact the Clerk of the School Board for more information at 703-619-8316 or via email at [email protected]” [ACPS]

Fire Station 203 reopens — “The City has officially completed the new Station 203.The up-to-date facility provides better support for modern fire/EMS apparatus, equipment and operations.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). Hot. High 94F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.. Chance of an isolated thunderstorm in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with more showers at times. Low 72F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Tennis coach — “At Advantage Tennis we are looking for coaches/teachers who like working with all ages, and particularly children, for part-time and seasonal positions. These are hourly positions with potentially as much as 20-35 hours per week in the 3 busy seasons (about 9 months), at multiple locations.” [Indeed]

 

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