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Morning Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alexandria is planning on spending a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act funding on supporting a childcare wellness program, commercial business districts around the city, flooding mitigation and hiring bilingual city staffers to help residents facing eviction.

Those are just four of nine prioritized recommendations that the Alexandria City Council received Wednesday night on how to spend its first tranche of funding. After getting more than 1,300 recommendations from the community, spending has been categorized into tiers, with projects scored by staff. The Tier 1 and 2 projects would be handled with the first allocation, followed by the Tiers 3 and 4 with the second.

“This is a fast-moving but very, very significant effort that the City has been undertaking the last several months,” said Mayor Justin Wilson, who tweeted the list of prioritized projects.

The U.S. Treasury transferred $29.8 million to the City on May 17, according to a staff presentation. Alexandria was approved for $59.6 million, and got double ARPA funding after being recognized as both a city and a county. There are 37 independent cities in the U.S., and 34 of them are in Virginia. The extra designation for cities to receive dual funding resulted in more than $450 million additional funds distributed around the country.

The exact cost of the projects is not listed. Instead, they are accompanied by dollar signs — one $ indicating little expense and $$$$ being very expensive. The list includes “shovel-ready” projects.

“I know, it looks a little bit like how you choose which restaurant to go to, but as I said many of them are scalable,” said Dana Wedeles, special assistant to the city manager.

The Out of School Time Program would employs vendors or teachers for project-based and social/emotional learning programs.

“These enrichments will assist with learning loss and will increase academic and social supports to vulnerable children in addition to traditional recreational activities that maintain physical and mental health and wellness,” the staff report said. “The programs will be held at five locations across the City in FY2022 and FY2023. Children considered most vulnerable will be provided with financial assistance funds to attend OSTP programs free of charge.”

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership is also planning to provide matching grants to a number of existing business organizations that represent geographic areas in the city, including the Old Town Business Association, Del Ray Business Association, West End Business Association, the Eisenhower Partnership and “any group that would form in the Arlandria area,” said AEDP CEO Stephanie Landrum.

“The idea is that each group could potentially qualify, depending on how much money ended up being allocated, for $50,000 to $100,000 twice,” Landrum said. “Over the course of two years… they would start to do things that would prove their value, and would eventually then allow for those groups to exist more on membership or voluntary contributions… It’s also a recognition that many of these groups do rely on membership dues, and a lot of businesses have struggled to pay those membership dues.”

Funded projects in those business districts include trial street closures, and coordinated design services for commercial and public access parklets. It could also mean more Virginia ABC-licensed special events.

Additionally, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker said that support for the hospitality industry needs to be moved up from a Tier 3 project to Tier 1.

“I would support moving that up,” she said. “I think we need that sooner rather than later.”

Staff also prioritized the maintenance of existing stream channels with debris removal.

“Specific projects include Four Mile Run Control sediment removal/maintenance and Holmes Run Stream and Channel maintenance,” staff wrote in the recommendation.

The city is limited in how can spend the money.

“As stated in the law, there are several uses for this ARPA funding,” Wedeles Said. “The first is to respond to the public health emergency and its negative impacts; The second is to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers; Third is for the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and then fourth is to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.”

The second allotment will be transferred next year, and the spending deadline for the first chunk is December 31, 2024. Additionally, the Alexandria City Public Schools system has also received its own allocation of $35,407,000.

City Council will make its final decision in July.

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With no more mayoral debates, now it all boils down to the Democratic primary on June 8.

Like the main event at a boxing match, Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg on Thursday night maneuvered through a series of questions in the final of four Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forums.

This is the final debate or forum for the two candidates until the June 8 Democratic primary.

Wilson is leading in fundraising and endorsements, while underdog Silberberg has gotten support from groups like the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook page for agreeing on a number of its pet issues, including government transparency, reversing the Seminary Road Diet, and curbing developments.

Fifteen City Council candidates participated in the Seminary Ridge conversations, opining on density, affordable housing, government transparency, flooding, and, their opinions on making changes to the controversial Seminary Road Diet.

After a 4-3 Council vote in 2019, the road, which is next to Inova Alexandria Hospital, was reduced from four to two lanes in exchange for a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the street, crosswalks and medians. A majority of Council candidates are now in favor of taking a look at bringing travel lanes back from two to four lanes on the 0.9 mile stretch of roadway between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street.

Wilson said that he is in favor of tweaking the plan, although has been accused of ignoring the opposition of 13 civic associations.

“It’s unfortunately we couldn’t get everyone in the community on the same page on this issue,” Wilson said. “I believe the improvements that we made were good ones. I’m hopeful that in the future we can continue to tweak as necessary.”

Silberberg said she would restore the four lanes.

“This is a major arterial road that leads to our only hospital,” she said. “I’ve seen it and many residents have seen it and told me about it that they’ve seen ambulances stuck. I think we have a chance to right this wrong, and, of course, keep the pedestrian improvements, but I wouldn’t have voted for it and I will restore the travel lanes if I can get everyone together on that.”

Transparency

Silberberg said she’s been saddened to hear reports of residents not trusting their government, and defended recently pledging herself to an accountability pledge labeled the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights. Silberberg lost to Wilson in the Democratic primary in 2018, and says that she worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week during her single term.

“I think they [City staff] should sign the pledge as well,” she said.

Silberberg also criticized the performance and six-figure salary of City Manager Mark Jinks.

“It is a lot of money, frankly. I brought this up (when mayor) but nobody agreed with me, but for the City Manager to have a car allowance. It sounds minor, but I don’t think we should have that for him. I think we should revise that.”

Wilson said that Jinks’ salary was in the middle of the pack when compared to the salaries of neighboring jurisdictions, and that he is appropriately paid given the organization that he runs.

Colocation of affordable housing

Wilson said he does not want to colocate affordable housing on the grounds of Alexandria City Public Schools, a position echoed by Silberberg on another controversial issue.

I don’t support putting affordable housing on our existing school properties,” he said. “We need more instructional space.”

Silberberg said that the school system is bursting at the seams as it is.

“I would certainly support an ordinance to say no to putting housing on our limited school properties,” she said.

Stream restoration

Wilson said that the city’s Environmental Policy Commission is full of “good science minds” that can look into the city’s stream restoration projects, including at Taylor Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run. Last month, Council opted to send aspects of the projects back to the drawing board in light of widespread public criticism.

Silberberg says that Alexandria has few forests left, and that she has long been opposed to the plans, as well as Wilson’s “unending pursuit of overbuilding”.

Transit lanes on Duke Street

Speaking of road diets, Wilson and Silberberg agreed that the Duke Street Transitway project should not result in fewer traffic lanes between Landmark Mall and the King Street-Old Town Metro station.

I personally don’t think the volumes on Duke street would allow us to remove any traffic lanes on Duke Street,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna have a lot of community engagement to figure out the best alignment, as well as looking at the intersections to try to reduce some of the cut-through traffic that we see in a lot of our neighborhoods.”

The city is embarking on the public engagement part of the project next month.

On $60 million in federal COVID funding

Silberberg said that the nearly $60 million in COVID relief funds coming to the city should be handled carefully, and after all of last year’s flooding that the funds should be spent on stormwater infrastructure.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment from the federal government, and we need to be extremely careful and good stewards of this money,” she said. “Think about what is mission critical. First and foremost, I think we clearly have to focus like a laser beam on this flooding, the sewage and stormwater flooding that’s attacking, and stalking, really, our residents every time it rains.”

Wilson said he’s proud to have led the city through the most significant public health crisis in a century, and that the city needs to invest more in the social, emotional and academic losses experienced by Alexandria children.

“We have an opportunity to make generational investments in our community around our infrastructure, around our facilities, around some of the systems around workforce development and things that are going to ultimately benefit our community for generations,” he said. “We got 1,300 suggestions from the community, and we’re going to be working in June and July to apply those suggestions in figuring out how to use that first tranche of money.”

Image via Seminary Ridge Civic Association/Zoom

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Former U.S. Senator John Warner died of heart failure at his home in Old Town on Tuesday night. He was 94.

Local and national leaders are remembering the Republican as an old school politician who bridged party lines with a cordiality that many say has been lost in American politics.

“John Warner truly was the best of what public service and elected leadership should be, and his loss leaves a deep void,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Virginia, and America, have lost a giant.”

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said that he was stunned to hear of Warner’s passing.

“Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend,” Kaine said in a statement. “Not having John Warner to go to for advice leaves a big hole in my life. But we can all celebrate a public servant who stood on principle, made us proud, and exemplified the best of what politics can be.”

Sen. Mark Warner (no relation), was Warner’s successor in the Senate in 2009, and said he was devastated by the loss. Both Warners faced each other in the general election for U.S. Senate in 1996, with the elder statesman winning 52.4% of the vote.

“I’m devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner,” Warner said. “To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I’ll miss you, John.”

Warner, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974, and was a U.S. Senator from 1979 to 2009. He was born in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 1927, and after the conflicts received a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School. He became an assistant U.S. attorney in 1956, and later worked on Richard Nixon’s unsuccessful 1960 presidential campaign.

Warner was married three times, first from 1957 to 1973 to banking heiress Catherine Conover Mellon; followed by a six year marriage to movie star Elizabeth Taylor. In 2003, he married Jeanne Vander Myde, and the marriage lasted for the remainder of his life. He is also survived by three children.

“Senator Warner was a statesman and a patriot,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “They don’t make them like him anymore. He always put Virginia first and dearly loved Alexandria. We will miss him.”

Former Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) said Warner was an icon.

“He was genuine,” Moran said. “He liked people. He never acted in any offensive way toward anybody. He was always looking to gain consensus and to move forward. I can tell you my 20 years on The Defense Appropriations Committee that the strength of our military was in large part because of the influence of John Warner.”

Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille considered Warner a friend and said that he sought his advice before entering politics. He said that Warner advised Euille, who up that that point had been a School Board member, on taking a political side and getting support from the base of a party instead of remaining an independent.

“John will be missed,” Euille said. “Despite being of different political parties, he was a human being and friend first and foremost.”

Funeral arrangements have not been released, and Northam has ordered all Virginia flags to be flown at half staff on the day of his funera..

Image via Sen. Tim Kaine/Facebook

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What a week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week is on Gregory Elliott, a special education teacher at T.C. Williams High School. Elliot also goes by the name of “Sugar Bear” for the D.C.-based go-go band Experience Unlimited, and their song “Da’ Butt” from the Spike Lee movie “School Daze” was featured at the Oscars, along with actress Glenn Close dancing to it.

This week was full of news.

City Manager Mark Jinks hinted at retiring, there was a chlorine spill at Lake Cook and the Alexandria Fire Department is contending with reports of racism, sexism and favoritism.

Additionally, a cyberattack on a gas pipeline resulted in a state of emergency throughout Virginia. We asked readers about it in our weekly poll, and out of 250 responses only 31% (78 votes) considered making alternate travel plans.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Go-go music star-turned Alexandria teacher ‘Sugar Bear’ in the spotlight after Oscars shoutout
  2. Landmark Mall developers to field public question in forum this week
  3. UPDATE: Woman arrested for firing gun near Alexandria Courthouse in Old Town
  4. AHDC proposes nearly 500 units of affordable housing for Arlandria
  5. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  6. Here’s which City Council candidates signed the new ‘Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights’ pledge
  7. Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested for breaking into home and beating up witness
  8. Election: Stark differences as Wilson and Silberberg face off in mayoral debate
  9. Racism, sexism and favoritism reported within the Alexandria Fire Department
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Wilson and Silberberg clash over new challenges, old wounds, and The Golden Girls

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria was approved for $59.6 million in American Rescue Plan funding, City Manager Mark Jinks announced to the City Council on Tuesday night.

Jinks said the city’s Congressional delegation was successful in convincing U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to include Alexandria as not only a city, but as a county as well, resulting in the City taking home double what it would have otherwise received.

“We made the argument and got a coalition of other city, elected officials and appointed officials in Virginia to basically put pressure on our Congressional delegation to tell the Treasury Secretary, who was writing the rules… that cities in Virginia perform county functions, as well as city functions, and it’s equitable,” Jinks said. “It’s not double dipping, it’s double duty. And so, we should be on both lists. The Treasury Secretary agreed, and the allocations came out yesterday. And so we have about $30 million from each of those lists.”

There are 37 independent cities in the U.S., and 34 of them are in Virginia. The extra designation for cities to receive dual funding resulted in $460 million additional funds distributed around the country.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city benefited from a unique situation.

“There is a significant opportunity now for the city to invest these funds in a way to get our community back on its feet,” he said. “It’s a very exciting opportunity for us.”

Residents have until May 13 to submit proposals on how the ARP funds should be spent. The city is limited in how it will spend the money to the following:

  • Responding to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts to residents and businesses;
  • Compensating for revenue reductions due to COVID; or
  • Supporting infrastructure projects related to water, sewer, or broadband

“Because the Alexandria City Public Schools will receive a separate allocation of federal funding, school projects will not considered under this City process,” the City noted.

Jinks said that there are more than 900 submitted recommendations, and that staff will present Council with a boiled down list in June, followed by a finalized list of how the funds will be spent in July.

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Morning Notes

Old Hat Bar to open soon in Old Town — “Gastropub opening May 21 in Old Town may teach some new dogs in the hospitality industry some old tricks.” [Alexandria Living]

ACPS opens summer/fall learning choice form on Tuesday — “The decision you make now is important to our comprehensive planning. The Learning Choice Form will be sent to families by email on May 11, 2021. May 24, 2021 is the last day for families to inform ACPS of your selection for the 2021-22 school year. If a family does not make a selection before the deadline, then their child will automatically be enrolled in in-person learning for the first quarter of the school year.” [ACPS]

American Rescue Plan meeting tonight — “The City of Alexandria is seeking community input as we prepare for the upcoming receipt of federal funding as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). This meeting will provide an opportunity for staff to answer questions and to hear from the community about proposed spending opportunities to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts.” [City of Alexandria]

Mayoral debate on Wednesday — “The Del Ray Business Association will host an Alexandria Mayoral Democratic Primary Debate on Wed., May 12, moderated by NBC News 4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey. The debate will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom. Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg have both confirmed that they will participate.” [Visit Del Ray]

Today’s weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). Slight chance of a rain shower. High 67F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph… Clear skies with a few passing clouds (in the evening). Low 48F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Right-uppercut associate — “The Right-Uppercut Associate is a key position and must be filled with a high-energy, passionate, and creative person who will continue to fuel the trajectory of this brand toward being the premier fitness franchise in the world.” [Indeed]

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The City of Alexandria is hosting a virtual meeting this weekend to gather public input on where federal funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) should go.

The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-11 a.m.

“The City of Alexandria is seeking community input as we prepare for the upcoming receipt of federal funding as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP),” the city said on its website. “This meeting will provide an opportunity for staff to answer questions and to hear from the community about proposed spending opportunities to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts.”

Alexandria is slated to receive $59.4 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, with the first installment this month and the next coming in May 2022.

According to the city manager’s office, the overall focus of the investments will be:

  • Continued financial relief to households, small businesses and nonprofits
  • Or financially assisting the city’s tourism, travel, and hospitality industries
  • To fund city services
  • investments in broadband, sewer and water infrastructure

Attendees can register online. The webinar ID is 971 7157 6389 and the passcode is 025975.

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Morning Notes

Elo’s Italian pop-up opens in Live Oak space — “The owners of Live Oak in Del Ray have opened a pop-up Italian restaurant in the Live Oak space in Del Ray. Chef Justus Frank is offering family Italian fare Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Brunch is ‘coming soon’ according to the owners. The menu includes a variety of appetizers, flatbreads, paninis, seasonal pasta dishes, fish, chicken and more. A kid’s menu is available.” [Alexandria Living]

Police asking for help finding robbery suspects — “APD is following active leads and working with neighboring jurisdictions on the investigation into 2 armed robberies that occurred on May 5. One happened at 12:15pm on E. Oxford Ave. The second happened at 12:40pm in the 3900 blk of Courtland Cir… Witnesses and anyone with security video should contact Det. Stephen Riley at [email protected] or 703.746.6225. Even the smallest details can be significant.” [Twitter]

Chamber ALX releases City Council candidate survey results — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce recently asked all announced candidates to complete a survey of critical business issues facing our city. In order to ensure our members are informed prior to entering the voting booth, the Chamber is providing the candidate’s responses.” [Chamber ALX]

Alexandria resident Brian Hooks named to Time100 Next list — “Brian Hooks wants to change the country – but not by himself. An Alexandria resident, Hooks was named one of Time Magazine’s next 100 most influential people in the world in February for his work as the chief executive officer of nonprofit Stand Together.” [Alex Times]

City seeks input on American Rescue Plan Act funding — ” The City will host virtual meetings on Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m. and Monday, May 10 at 7 p.m. to review the funding guidelines and discuss project proposals. The input will be used to inform a spending plan, and the deadline to provide feedback is Thursday, May 13.” [City of Alexandria]

Resurfacing work temporarily closes portion of Mount Vernon Trail — “In a step to prepare for an upcoming $6.5 million Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail Project on the south end of the Mount Vernon bike trail, a portion has been blocked off to bicyclists while crews resurface a portion of the trail between the Mount Vernon Plantation and Richmond Highway.” [Gazette]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies during the morning hours will give way to cloudy skies and rain in the afternoon. High 66F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch… Rain showers early with clearing later at night. Low 44F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary COVID POD vaccinator assistant — “Are you a hardworking individual who is eager to join our efforts to augment and expedite vaccinations in the community? Does your passion drive you to commit to a cause that could have a positive impact on many? If this is you, we invite you to apply to one of our temporary City of Alexandria Vaccination site opportunities. One of which is the Vaccinator Assistant who assists the Vaccinator in efficiently dispensing COVID-19 vaccine according to existing protocols at PODs (Points of Distribution).” [Indeed]

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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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