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Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, photo via Google Maps

(Updated 12:10 p.m.) Douglas MacArthur Elementary School has been closed for today at least as crews work to clean water damage in the building.

The school, currently located in the former Patrick Henry facility on 4633 Taney Avenue, has been closed today from water damage and it’s currently unclear when the school will reopen.

“Douglas MacArthur Elementary School must be closed today to allow our facilities and maintenance team to clean up from water damage in the building,” Alexandria City Public Schools said on the school’s webpage. “Teachers will post resources and activities for students on Clever and Canvas by noon. More information will be communicated to families as it becomes available.”

A notification was posted on the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School Twitter page but has since been taken down.

“At this time, we have a contractor that has come in to assess damage and clean the building,” an ACPS official said. “That is all the information we have right now, and we will update families once more details become available.”

Photo via Google Maps

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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

Demolition complete at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School — “It’s official, the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School of old is now fully demolished, and we are on our way to a new building, opening January 2023! Watch the construction on the project website from Skanska: https://bit.ly/3bXgncs” [Facebook]

ACPS in early stages of developing safety plan without school resource officers — “Alexandria is not alone in re-evaluating its relationship between police and schools, but it is the only Northern Virginia jurisdiction to remove SROs from schools so far.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Police Department reopens headquarters for public services — “Starting Tuesday, June 1, 2021, the lobby doors at Alexandria Police Department Headquarters are open for public access to services in the Property Section and Information Services Section (Records), as well as Public Fingerprinting services. At this time, everyone entering the building must wear a mask and check in with security staff at the front desk. The Information Services Section window will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, the window is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mail-in requests are still available as an alternative. Public Fingerprinting is now available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Council candidate Kevin Harris signs pledge — On May 29, City Council candidate Kevin Harris signed the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights, joining former Mayor Allison Silberberg and Council candidates James Lewis, Bill Rossello, Florence King, Darryl Nirenberg, and Mark Leo Shiffer. [ALXnow]

Roy Rogers reopens at Belle View Shopping Center — “Located at 1506 Belle View Blvd., the restaurant closed in October 2019 following a devastating multi-alarm fire that spread along the roofline of the shopping center. An investigation by the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s office determined that fire began in a walk-in cooler at Yido Ramen and Sushi, which had opened just days before.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy skies (during the day). High 82F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph… Scattered showers and thunderstorms (in the evening). Low 66F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Seasonal marina dock assistant — “The Seasonal Marina Dock Assistant works on the City’s Historic Waterfront at the City Marina. The City Marina provides for recreational and commercial boating operations while receiving more than 2,000,000 visitors annually. The Marina Dock Assistant performs journey-level tasks of more than ordinary difficulty and must be able to perform heavy physical labor safely and efficiently. This position works under the immediate supervision of a lead worker who lays out the details of each specific assignment and constantly checks the work in process and upon completion; or performs routine tasks independently after initial instruction. This position performs duties under the general supervision of the Dock Master and Assistant Dock Master. A candidate selected for this temporary part time position would be expected to work varying hours per week base on the business need, not to exceed 1500 hours per calendar year.” [Indeed]

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It was a busy week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

Governor Ralph Northam and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Alexandria this week. Northam stopped by Pacers Running in Old Town, and afterward met with Cardona, Mayor Justin Wilson, National Education Association of the United States President Becky Pringle and Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. Cardona was at the school as part of his “Help is Here” school reopening tour.

On Monday, demolition started at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and Alexandria City Public Schools says that the completion date is still on schedule for the new school to reopen the school in Jan. 2023. In the meantime, MacArthur students will continue to use the old Patrick Henry Elementary School as swing space.

There was big news for Alexandria nonprofits this week, as the Spring2ACTion fundraiser raised $2.5 million and broke last year’s online giving record.

There were also 682 votes in this week’s poll on outdoor dining and takeout. We asked whether the city should keep its expanded restaurant offerings after in a post-COVID environment. An overwhelming majority of 84% of votes cast (576 votes) want businesses to enjoy the same level of latitude; 13% (89 votes) said some modifications should be made and just 2% (17 votes) want businesses to go back to pre-pandemic operations.

Election stories

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  1. Update: Four arrested, suspect’s mother among wounded in West End shootout
  2. NOW: Alexandria preparing new face mask ordinance as CDC says fully vaccinated folks don’t need them
  3. Alexandria celebrates Earth Day virtually
  4. COVID-19 Update: City says anyone who registered by April 10 for COVID-19 vaccine should have an appointment
  5. Police: Falling death of man in Landmark does not appear to be suspicious
  6. Del Ray restaurant The Garden to bloom into new outdoor area
  7. Parents and students protest for expanded in-person instruction outside ACPS Central Office
  8. JUST IN: ‘Open ACPS!’ group to rally in front of Central Office on Monday
  9. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  10. EXCLUSIVE: Here’s what the inside of the Halal slaughterhouse looks like on Colvin Street
  11. School Resource Officers at ACPS on chopping block as Police chief proposes alternative program

Have a safe weekend!

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The day has finally come for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.

On Monday, members of the community and Alexandria City Public Schools leadership watched as a demolition crew started tearing down the World War II-era building.

Lisa Porter lives across the street from MacArthur, and watched the demolition from her front yard with a group of neighbors. Porter’s two children went through MacArthur, and she has been involved with the school for 15 years.

“We are thrilled to finally see this happen,” Porter said. “We started hearing about this when my son was in kindergarten, and now he’s in college.”

School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said she would never forget making the “emotional” decision on MacArthur’s fate.

“Man, oh man, was it worth it,” Alderton said. “Because we are moving forward, we are excited. And I can’t wait to have this brand new building and have our teachers and our staff and our families be allowed to have what they deserve. It’ll be amazing when this place is a memory and we have new building up here.”

ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., said construction is on schedule to reopen the school in Jan. 2023. In the meantime, MacArthur students are using the old Patrick Henry Elementary School as swing space.

“I’m sorry that our students and our families were not able to be here because of the COVID restrictions,” Hutchings said. “But this was a wonderful occasion. It was a long time coming and we’re so excited for the next chapter of Douglas MacArthur.”

Design-wise, MacArthur’s three-level “Forest” plan was chosen last year. It is currently set back from Janneys Lane, putting classrooms at the rear of the building and providing a view of nearby Forest Park.

City Councilwoman Amy Jackson was also there. Last month, Jackson made an impassioned plea for movement on construction.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “The community engagement has been amazing. It’s going to be an exciting time for an exciting school.”

MacArthur Principal Penny Hairston said that the demolition was a long time coming.

“There is a rich legacy here, and this is very exciting,” Hairston said. “It’s a very emotional thing to see this happen.”

https://twitter.com/DMPrincipal/status/1386676161313378305?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet

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Alexandria City Councilwoman Amy Jackson argued with members of the School Board and Alexandria City Public Schools staff at a budget meeting last night (Wednesday) over construction of the new Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.

Jackson, who is running for reelection, lambasted the school system earlier this week on Facebook with a one minute video. In the video, Jackson stands outside MacArthur wearing a face mask with the words “Your Vote Matters” printed on it, raises her left hand questioningly and then says: “March 1, 2021. Almost a year and no construction has started at MacArthur. When is it going to happen?”

Jackson wrote that the project is a ticking clock for the community, that Council was told demolition would start last month, and then made impassioned comments at Wednesday night’s joint City Council/School Board meeting on the budget. She said it’s up to the school board and ACPS to field concerns from the community on social media, and that she’s tired of answering their questions on the issue.

“My issue is the communication,” Jackson said. “That’s it. That’s my issue, the communication because whatever your answer is, it cannot be any worse than not hearing anything at all.”

While the project is in development, MacArthur students are using the old Patrick Henry Elementary School as swing space.

School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said she did not appreciate Jackson’s comments, and said that she does not engage on social media because it is not the “real world”.

“Maybe we all need to reconsider how we behave as elected officials on social media,” Alderton said. “You all have direct channels to the School Board. You have access that other people do not have. Use that, as opposed to blasting our staff and our School Board on social media. I don’t find it appropriate, and I don’t find it fair.”

Alderton continued, “Unfortunately, this was a budget session about the combined funds budget, which is focused on social, emotional and academic learning. And we had to deal with this. That’s a problem for me.”

ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., said despite delays over easement concerns with Dominion Energy, that construction is on schedule to open the school in Jan. 2023. Fence panels were erected this week at the property, and ACPS staff will have its pre-construction meeting with the city on Friday. Additionally, asbestos abatement at MacArthur starts next week, and clearing the building is a process that can take weeks before demolition can happen.

Hutchings also said that ACPS communicated project updates to the MacArthur community in a Jan. 26 school advisory group meeting, and on Feb. 11 in a school-wide newsletter.

“When we talk about being on time, we’re talking about the delivery of the new school,” Hutchings said. “That is the main concern that we had from the school’s point of view. And that’s been the main concern of the community thus far. With all the work that we’ve done with having our swing space at the old Patrick Henry location, we know we have to be out of that space for students to arrive in January of 2023.”

A member of the advisory committee, however, told ALXnow that it has not met with ACPS since late last year and that the Jan. 26 meeting did not happen. Still, the representative said that the group was aware of the 2023 completion date.

“We’ve been provided many dates throughout this process,” the member told us. “The advisory group requested updates via email multiple times over the last six months and those requests went unanswered for weeks or longer.”

The member continued, “And since the school email update was drafted by a principal, not the central office, it was only distributed to parents who receive school communications. It did not go to those signed up for ACPS updates related to this project or to the advisory group who was simultaneously requesting updates.”

School Board member Ramee Gentry said it was important to keep misinformation from being spread.

“The other issue I have and I think we have to be cautious of is spreading misinformation as (elected officials),” Gentry said. “The information that was shared (by Jackson) was not accurate.”

School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan said that Facebook is a tool used by upper middle class residents, and that it fosters inequity.

“One third of our students’ parents do not speak English, and 63% of our parents are from low income backgrounds,” Nolan said. “Should I as an elected be jumping every time an upper middle class person wants to speak? Am I supposed to be a slave to the tool? Instead I want everyone to have access, and that is (through) public hearings, transparent meetings that are recorded such as this one, the website, newsletters (and) the ACPS blast.”

Photo via Amy Jackson/Facebook

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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.

https://www.facebook.com/acpsk12/photos/a.281772705295865/1828126753993778/?type=3&theater

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

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Not long after approving a new school zoning change, the Alexandria Planning Commission unanimously approved the design for the new Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.

Much of the discussion and debate about added density was focused around the density concerns at the start of the meeting, but several neighbors spoke up with concerns raised throughout the process about how the larger school and facilities could impact the surrounding neighborhoods.

Lisa Porter, a nearby resident, pushed for Alexandria to require the installation of a traffic light at a nearby intersection that will turn from sleepy residential crossing to a junction leading towards the redeveloped school. The city agreed to return within six-12 months of classes starting at the school to evaluate the traffic patterns and determine whether a new traffic signal needs to be added.

Other nearby residents said they were concerned about increased recreational use of a nearby field.

Jack Browand, director division chief of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the use should be mostly consistent with current use of the park. The field will be no larger and is designed with use for those 10 and under only.

“Community use there today will continue,” Browand said. “We expect it to be similar to what we saw with improvements at Jefferson-Houston.”

Browand said that could mean some increase in drop and play activity, but there was no lighting on the field for extended evening use.

The main fight among Planning Commissioners was the lack of a net-zero energy policy that had been touted earlier in the building’s development, and the Planning Commission mostly backed Planning Commissioner Stephen Koenig in requiring the net-zero policy be worked back into the project.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the project before headed to the City Council later this month.

Image via ACPS

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The coronavirus pandemic has put some of Alexandria City Public Schools’ plans on hold — like the redevelopment of T.C. Williams High School — but the fully developed plans for the modernization of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School are still moving full-steam ahead.

In the new plans, the current building from 1943 will be demolished and replaced with a new elementary school. The new school will be three stories with a synthetic playing field and outdoor play areas.

“The proposed school will allow for up to 850 students, faculty and staff, community meeting space to replace the existing school building for approximately 650 students,” ACPS said in its application. “Currently, up to 100 faculty/staff members are planned at this school.”

At the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, September 1, ACPS is scheduled to request a special use permit to demolish the existing building and construct a new school — requiring permits for additional density for a public elementary school, a permit to exceed the maximum number of parking spaces permitted, and an indoor and outdoor recreation facility and community center, and a modification to the rear yard setback.

If approved, the new school is currently scheduled to open January 2023.

Images via ACPS

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Makes Statement on Death of George Floyd — “This event is a tragic reminder that we, as a law enforcement officers, must do more to hold each other to the high standard of conduct that is expected and demanded by those we serve. We cannot stand by and remain silent when unacceptable conduct by our peers occurs, no matter how minor or major it is.  We must be better for ourselves and our community as lives depend on it.” [City of Alexandria]

Beyer Says Trump Unfit for Office — “The President is inciting violence against the journalists who are showing everyone what is happening at significant personal risk, and against Americans broadly. Trump is unfit for office, and his divisive words make this situation more dangerous.” [Twitter]

ALIVE! Provides Food for 1,060 Families — “We sent 1060 families home with produce eggs and shelf stable groceries today because of your support!” [Facebook]

ACPS Hires Three Principals — “Today Alexandria City Public Schools announced the hiring of three new principals for the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. John McCain will be the new Head of School at Jefferson-Houston, Mr. Loren Brody will be the new principal at Charles Barrett, and Ms. Penny Hairston will be the new principal at Douglas MacArthur. Learn more about them by clicking the links in the comments below.” [Facebook]

DASH Distances from Wraps2Go After Owner Makes Racist Tweet — “We do not support any ideals that promote division, discrimination or racism. We can confirm that we have no ongoing projects with Wraps2Go and will not be doing business with them in the future.” [Facebook]

Fire Chief Congratulates New Firefighters — “Recruit School 50 officially completed their initial training and will begin reporting to their assigned stations tomorrow. Because their graduation ceremony has been postponed, Fire Chief Corey Smedley visited to take questions and give them words of encouragement.” [Facebook]

Tenants and Workers United Advises Arlandria Residents on Rent — “Today we were meeting carefully with more than 100 members of Presidential Greens and New Brookside to follow the next steps to get justice in their homes in their apartment complex in these times of crisis we are in.” [Facebook]

New Job: Part Time Concierge — ” The Concierge will be greeting potential residents, families, visitors, managing both external and internal calls, taking and communicating messages. The Concierge provides an overview of community information to those inquiries in support of the marketing and sales efforts.” [Indeed]

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