Kristin Carpenter’s services are in demand.

This month, she and her team opened The Linder Academy at the corner of S. Washington and Gibbon Streets in Old Town, joining their smaller McLean location, which opened in January.

Right now, she’s got 24 students in McLean and 52 at the Alexandria campus, and when the latter is built out it will have 13 classrooms and be able to hold just over 100 students.

“I never thought I would want to run a private school,” Carpenter told ALXnow. “But as a research specialist and a teacher, it was nice that there was no bureaucracy and we could just teach the kids. We don’t have curriculum contracts, so we could just pick the best materials and the best methods and teach with super small class sizes and problem-based learning — things that just aren’t options at big schools, and we really had a great time with it.”

Still under construction, the Old Town school is located at 601, 607 and 609 S. Washington Street and 710 Gibbon Street. New murals of famous authors and civil rights icons with quotes have been painted on the exterior walls to show the essence of the school’s philosophy.

Carpenter launched Linder Educational Coaching in Arlington in 2008, and focused mainly on interventions outside of school with tutoring and after-school programs.

“But when COVID hit, we just realized there were a lot of parents that needed support,” she said. “My biggest concern was early childhood literacy. Even with the best teacher in the world, you’re just not going to learn on an iPad.”

The school, which costs more than $28,000 a year in tuition, specializes in working with students who struggle with learning disabilities and traditional school settings. Children spend the early part of the day with the most cognitively demanding classes, like math and English, and they day becomes less regulated in the afternoon for electives.

There are six-t0-nine students in each class, Carpenter said.

“I would say weaknesses in social skills is one of the biggest things that we are seeing,” she said. “Outside of that, I think overall that their writing skills are very weak, and that wasn’t helped by being able to type or do voice-to-text this past school year. You know, the actual act of being able to write is important.”

Carpenter said she had no plans to open additional schools in the future.

“God, no,” she said. “I can’t think about it right now. I’m very tired. I just want to sleep for years.”

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The Child and Family Network Centers was all set up to open preschool to kids in low-income families on September 8, but a recently burst sewer pipe inside their Arlandria/Chirilagua-based classroom has put the program on hold for more than a dozen area children.

The nonprofit is launching a $50,000 fundraiser and is tapping into its reserves to renovate the classroom, which is located in an apartment within the Arlandria-Chirilagua Housing Cooperative. The classroom provides critical child care and education for low-income, immigrant essential workers in the heavily Latino section of Alexandria.

“It’s really difficult to find classroom space, especially in Chirilagua right now,” Jackie Didio, the executive director of CFNC, told ALXnow. “If we don’t open on time we’ll have playdates and at least try to get the kiddos at that outside playground in front of the building. We’re going to try our best to support the families as much as we can while we’re fixing the classroom.”

The classroom/apartment has also now become infested with fleas. The necessary work includes plumbing repairs, replacing all of the furniture and classroom supplies, as well as installing new cabinets and carpeting.

“We’re actually in the search this year for even more classroom spaces because the need is so high, but it’s really difficult to find space, especially in Chirilagua right now,” Didio said. “We were open all last year, too, and that was a challenge. We’re trying to serve the families in our low-income communities here in Alexandria… I know we have such an amazing community and with your help, I know that we can do it.”

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The pandemic turned education on its head, and the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium just launched a new fundraiser to expand its virtual one-on-one offerings to kindergarteners and first graders.

“This has been a trying time as the lack of in-school classes has put more rising first graders farther behind than ever,” said ATC Board Chair Frank Stiff. “Despite the challenges, tutors and staff have stayed true to our mission, and the students have benefitted.”

The nonprofit recruits and trains volunteers to tutor kids needing help reading, and in the 2020-2021 school year, all of their tutoring was conducted virtually. In fact, there were more than 7,600 “Book Buddies” tutoring sessions.

“Tutoring occurred entirely virtually this year, with final results showing that 87% of 155 participating students were reading on grade level, poised for success in second grade,” ATC reported. “Of the 155, ATC tutored 122 in its second-ever summer tutoring program, keeping all kids on track and making it possible for 34 of them to move from below to on level reading proficiency.”

Donations can be made on ATCs website or by check payable to the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium, 323 South
Fairfax Street, Alexandria Virginia 22314.

Via ATC

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Sandra Redmore is the executive director of Clarendon Child Care Center at 1305 N. Jackson Street in Arlington, a local childcare facility. She works with the  Virginia Cooperative Preschool Council and the Arlington County Child Care Initiative working group. In 2019, she was awarded the Woman of Vision award by the Arlington Commission for the Status of Women.

She also cannot afford childcare for her own family.

Redmore’s story was one of a dozen similar stories of devotion to an early education field that many said is woefully underfunded despite high need. During a round table discussion today (Friday) at the Campagna Center (418 S Washington Street) with Senator Mark Warner (D) and Campagna Center CEO Tammy Mann, regional educators shared stories illustrating that they and many of their peers are at a breaking point.

There’s a growing acceptance that early childhood education can have a long-term benefit to mental development. Nicole Lazarte, infant lead teacher at the ACCA Child Development Center, said that at birth the brain is 20% developed and neglecting early childhood education misses critical parts of foundation building.

That recognition hasn’t been followed with federal financial support that Lazarte and others at the table said is critical for the field to continue operating effectively after the pandemic pushed new costs onto many already strained education centers.

“At 24 I don’t own a car, I don’t have my own home, and I’m already looking for ways out of this field,” Lazarte said. “I want to stay with the field, but I can’t continue like this. It’s so disheartening.”

Lazarte said teachers she knows are leaving early childhood development left and right, many of them taking jobs in K-12 public schools that are seen as a safer, more economically stable route.

“Our sector was on life support even before the pandemic,” Mann said.

During the discussion with educators, Warner said he recognized their concerns, but said for many in congress the emphasis for infrastructure is limited to roads.

“Republicans are [fund] to do roads and bridges, but it’s hard to get them to care about childcare,” Warner said.

Warner said infrastructure — as part of the necessary investment to return to something resembling a pre-pandemic workforce — requires workers to have options for childcare.

“I’ve been telling my colleagues: don’t just honor childcare workers, put your money where your mouth is,” Warner said.

But on the flip side, Warner also encouraged education advocates to not just seek funding at a federal level, but to press their state and local representatives. Warner said much of the federal resources have been allocated to state and local levels, and with that funding allocation being determined now, Warner said advocates should be working on their “ask” for the state and local legislators.

While Warner said he recognized many concerns about long-term funding for childcare facilities, he also encouraged them to take advantage of shorter-term grants and funding in the 2021-2022 budgets. From there, Warner said educators could use the short-term funding as a food in the door.

“I hear you that longtime funding is more important, but please don’t miss this short window,” Warner said. “Go to your cities and counties.”

Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Mann said the Campagna Center is preparing to move into its summer programming.

“We’re working hard and moving into summer and into our in-person opportunities,” Mann said. “We’re extending our school year program into summer for four year olds.”

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was in Alexandria Wednesday, and with Mayor Justin Wilson welcomed U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School.

Northam stopped by Pacers Running at 1301 King Street before the event with Cardona, where he met Wilson and spoke with employees about raising the minimum wage. Pacers has been paying its employees $15 an hour since last year.

“The $15 an hour is definitely better for morale,” Pacers manager Victoria Sanchez said. “We want to have our employees want to stay and to want to come to work every day and be able to afford, living in the area as well.”

Starting May 1, Virginia’s minimum wage will increase to $9.50 per hour, and then to $11 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2022, to $12 in 2023 and then $15 per hour in January 2026.

Northam then met with Cardona, 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. Also in attendance were Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. and School Board Chair Meagan Alderton.

“It was an honor to welcome Secretary Cardona, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the President of the NEA and more to Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School,” Wilson said. “Secretary Cardona pledged continuing support from the Administration as we continue efforts to return students to in-classroom instruction and provide supports for our kids during this time.”

As part of the tour, which launched in March, Cardona has visited schools around the country that have successfully reopened, as well as schools facing reopening challenges.

Images via Jason Taylor and ACPS/Twitter

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Fall 2020 is going to be an unusual start to the school year for all involved, but ACPS is taking some special precautions to help guide parents and students who have the additional challenge of being new to schools.

Within the Virtual+ model ACPS is pursuing, some specific measures are aimed at the school system’s new Pre-K and Kindergarten families.

For starters, the usual kindergarten prep is being replaced with what ACPS staff described as “kindergarten kickoff.”

“All kindergarten teachers who typically do K-prep are going to be making phone calls and having zoom meetings with families that have signed up for kindergarten,” staff said at a School Board meeting last Friday. “They have quesitons we’re going to ask them, like ‘does your child know their colors’ and ‘have they ever had a vision and hearing screening’ to plan for them.”

Once class lists are assigned, staff said teachers will be calling families individually to welcome them. Teachers will also be available to speak with parents during office hours.

“We’re hopeful we’re able to work this out,” staff said.

The plans for how to proceed with early childhood education recognize a common refrain school administrators have said throughout the planning process: that the online learning program is a necessity that does not reflect the best way to educate children.

“Young children benefit from positive adult-child interactions, a predictable routine, and a play-based approach to learning,” ACPS said in its Virtual+ guidelines. “Teachers support children’s learning through differentiation of instruction and by addressing students’ strengths and needs through flexible grouping, support for social-emotional and self-regulation skills, Guided Language Acquisition Development strategies (PreK-GLAD), and one-on-one instruction.”

The Virtual+ model outlined how Kindergarten and Pre-K instructors are expected to handle instruction without being able to communicate with students in-person.

“Evidence-based instructional practices will include actionable feedback, non-linguistic representations, cooperative learning, and work samples,” ACPS said. “Pictures, visuals, real objects, and physical movement will be embedded into the learning. Learning will be synchronous and asynchronous, and access to these opportunities will be facilitated by the district’s provision of tablets for each of our youngest learners. Preschool families will receive a choice board activity packet and materials kit to support and supplement teacher instruction.”

ACPS also announced as part of the changes to Pre-K care, the school system will also expand its technological distribution services to:

  • Ensure each student has a device issued to them, and that these devices will work on private and public as well as school Wi-Fi when available and if needed due to special circumstances ACPS supplied hotspot.
  • Provide PreK through 1st grade students tablets and 2nd grade through 12th grade students with chromebooks.
  • Select a central facility to streamline activities and serve as our main storage and distribution hub. Other satellite and pop-up sites will be made available for support.
  • Provide Wi-Fi and Internet Access so that families have the access that they need.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Updated 9:30 p.m. — A UMDGC representative noted that the program is available for staff, not for residents. The article and headline have been updated

Alexandria senior care facility Goodwin House — a non-profit organization offering housing for seniors — has announced a new partnership with the University of Maryland Global Campus that will allow staff and their families access to affordable college degrees.

“The alliance brings together [University of Maryland’s] pioneering online degree programs and commitment to low cost, accessible higher education and [Goodwin House’s] commitment to expand support for staff who want to grow their skills and credentials,” Goodwin House said in a press release.

Goodwin House manages two locations: one in Alexandria’s West End at 4800 Fillmore Ave and one at Bailey’s Crossroads in Fairfax County.

The partnership is the first of its kind for UMDGC. The program will allow the nearly 1,000 employees at Goodwin House, along with their spouses and dependents, to waive the university’s application fee and take classes at discounted tuition rates.

“Goodwin House’s mission focuses on older adults and also on those who support their success – our employees,” said Rob Liebreich, President and CEO of Goodwin House, in the press release. “As part of our growing dedication to our staff to enhance their skills, we are ecstatic to align with the world-renowned University of Maryland Global Campus and make online college education more affordable for our staff.”

The classes will be available entirely online, UMD said, with discounts on digital resources.

Photo courtesy Goodwin House

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After some initial confusion on whether students would be required to participate in the upcoming summer school program, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) clarified in a School Board meeting last Friday that the summer learning program is “expected but not mandatory.”

School officials said they hoped to clear the air and emphasize the flexibility of the program. Gerald Mann, executive director of elementary and secondary instruction, said families traveling over the summer or students who tend to not wake up in the morning over summer can still be accommodated in the new schedule.

“The summer program lets people do this wherever they like,” Mann said. “We’ve tried to make one-stop-shop. If you [to participate] later on do not want to start at 9 a.m., you can start at 9 p.m. All videos will be recorded.”

Mann said the emphasis on choice means families will be able to choose what types of classes students can opt-out of. The schools will also be offering to mail learning kits to homes with materials like science experiments of books.

A summer education program that would be available to all students has been a goal under Superintendent Gregory Hutchings a few years, Mann said, but the pandemic has finally given the schools the opportunity to try to implement that.

Terri Mozingo, chief academic officer for ACPS, said the goal is to get students who have been out of school for months even before summer started to be ready to move to the next grade level.

“[The goal is] to engage, to enrich, and prepare the students,” said Mozingo. “We’re trying to mitigate and minimize summer loss and getting students to grade-level content.”

So far, 495 families have opted out of the program. While the School Board agreed with the goals of the program, there were still some lingering concerns about the implementation.

“Unless people are digging into the Q&A, I’m sure there are a lot of questions out there,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “At the beginning of most years, families receive a letter, but this process is different. I’m concerned if there’s going to be individual, tailored outreach.”

Hutchings said the idea behind making the default an opt-in was making sure no families that wanted to join were left out and figured that the new system would be easier to manage. Mann added that having students be automatically included would help give a better idea of how many students would be in classes.

Hutchings acknowledged that the rollout of the program could have been done better and that one of the lessons learned is that if school staff need more time to put the program together they should tell the community.

Mann also noted that the new summer program includes no longer charging for course credit recovery for students.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Alexandria City Public Schools are closed for the remainder of the school year.

Governor Ralph Northam made the announcement on Monday, effectively closing all public schools in Virginia.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that he and his team need a few days to finalize a continuation plan for students.

“Tomorrow, we are expecting more guidance from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) around graduation requirements, high school credits, Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, and how to move forward with continuity of learning that meet Special Education requirements,” Hutchings said in his daily 3 p.m. video announcement.

Hutchings added, “Once this information is released from the VDOE, we will begin to share our refined plan for the extended school closures with our families and staff.”

Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted that the move is “heartbreaking as it is expected.”

There are more than 15,700 students in ACPS, which is releasing staff updates at noon every day and notices to families every day at 1 p.m. in ACPS Express. Student attendance is not being tracked during the shutdown, and teachers are legally prohibited from grading any work or providing new learning material to students.

There are currently six positive cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria.

“I can’t say I’m shocked because I knew it was gonna happen,” said a student at T.C. Williams High School. “It’s crazy to think about. I feel bad for the seniors because they’re missing the best parts of high school.”

Every elementary school student was given instructional packets to take home, and students in grades 3-12 went home with Chromebook laptops. The school system has also provided educators with instructional suggestions, and have ordered them to constantly connect online with students to make sure they are thinking academically.

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(Updated 3/12/20) The Campagna Center in Old Town could be getting a facelift and a new addition as the local early learning organization struggles to find a way to make good use of their historic, but in many ways outdated, building.

Plans submitted to Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review show a new expansion of the building at 418 S. Washington Street.

“As the success of the Campagna Center has grown through the years, it looks to construct an addition to its facility on South Washington Street,” the applicant said. “The addition will extend across the back of the existing building, with a smaller footprint width to minimize the visual impact from the streetscape view.”

“The addition will be three stories in height (one below grade and two above grade), consistent in height and slightly below the roofline of the existing structure,” the report continued.

Along with the new addition to the Campagna Center, upgrades are planned for the current building. Part of the project will involve connecting the new addition and completing replacement of the existing windows and roof.

Inside the building, new partition walls will help break up some of the building’s large spaces and make it more functional.

The building was constructed in 1888 as The Washington School, according to the application, and replaced an earlier school that had been there since 1812. It continued to operate as a school until it became the Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters in 1955. It was turned over to a group called Alexandria Community Y in 1981, which became the Campagna Center in 1991.

Renovating the existing building was not the Campagna Center’s first choice. The building was considered for condo development in 2016, but those plans were canceled last year, according to Alexandria Living.

The new designs are scheduled to be reviewed at the Board of Architectural Review’s April 1 meeting.

The Campagna Center told ALXnow they are in the middle of a busy week and could not comment on the upcoming changes.

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