Alexandria City Public Schools leaders will be on-hand tonight (October 26) to discuss school safety.
The conversation starts at 6:30 p.m. at George Washington Middle School (1005 Mount Vernon Avenue), and speakers on the panel include interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt, ACPS Director of Safety and Security Services John Contreras, and Director of School Social Work Faiza Jackson.
The event is hosted by ACPS, the Alexandria Council of PTAs, and Parents for Safe Alexandria Schools, and will be held in the school auditorium. Event organizers caution that the subject matter is “child-sensitive.”
The other panelists are Alexandria Police Officer Richard Sandoval, Alexandria City Gang Prevention Community Task Force Member Mike Mackey, Everytown for Gun Safety’s Be SMART Secure Gun Storage Program Member Andy Corso, and Alex Carrol of the city’s Department of Transportation & Environmental Services.
School safety has been a major issue within ACPS since full in-person schooling resumed at the beginning of the last school year. There were 46 students arrested and 68 injured in the 2021-2022 school year, with 194 incidents that provoked a police response, according to an ACPS safety report.
The school system’s partnership with the Alexandria Police Department also came under intense scrutiny, and a new plan on school resource officers (stationed at Alexandria City High School and the middle schools) will be unveiled to the School Board by mid-December.
Updated at 5:55 p.m. The Alexandria School Board on Friday (October 20) received a recommendation to extend its agreement with the Alexandria Police Department to provide school resource officers at the city’s high school and middle schools until the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
The School Board will vote on the matter at its upcoming meeting on Thursday, November 10.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the school system and police department was set to expire at the end of this month. By mid-December, the School Board will also receive interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt recommendations on the reimagined partnership. Those recommendations will have been guided by the School Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Group.
“The SLEP advisory group may recommend changes to the MOU as part of their overall recommendations to the School Board in December 2022/January 2023,” Alicia Hart, the ACPS chief of facilities and operations, wrote in a memo to the School Board. “To this end, we are recommending extending the current MOU with APD through the end of June 2023. This extension will allow time to account for any potential recommendations that may come from the SLEP advisory group process as well as completion of the public comment process related to the review of the MOU.”
School safety has been a major focus within ACPS since full in-person schooling resumed at the beginning of the last school year.
ACPS began the 2021-2022 school year without school resource officers, after they were defunded by the City Council in last year’s budget. The first few months of the school year were punctuated by incidents with weapons in schools, prompting School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and then-Superintendent Gregory Hutchings to successfully plead to Council for SROs to return in October 2021.
Two months later, two SROs at Alexandria City High School’s King Street campus were put on administrative leave after being accused of having inappropriate sexual conversations with a former student. The school ended up not having SROs stationed at the King Street campus for the remainder of the school year.
There were 46 students arrested and 68 injured last school year, and 194 incidents that provoked a police response, according to an ACPS safety report.
Police Chief Don Hayes says that police are needed to contend with crews of violent kids within the school system, and Kay-Wyatt said that she will work collaboratively with the police to keep schools safe.
Today, George Washington is one of the city’s two public middle schools, but the building’s history as white-only high school and the process of desegregation is being told in a new historical marker.
The George Washington High School Alumni Association is planning a dedication of the Virginia Historical Marker in front of the school on Saturday, July 23 at 11 a.m, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria.
“The marker will detail the history of George Washington High School (1935-1971) and its significance to the City of Alexandria, Virginia,” the office said.
The historical marker includes details about the building’s Art Deco style and funding from the New Deal program. The building has notably been showing its age recently, with mold issues and faulty fire alarms.
The marker reads:
The City of Alexandria purchased 15.5 acres here in 1933 and opened George Washington High School in 1935. For two decades this was the city’s only public high school for white students. The Art Deco-style buildin was constructed with funding from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, a New Deal agency that helped modernize the nation’s infreastructure during the Great Depression.
Later expanded, the school served as an important community gathering place for the arts and athletics. Alexandria’s school system was desegregated in 1965. This campus, which closed as a four-year high school in 1971 and later became a middle school, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Alexandria City Public Schools expects its interim superintendent to serve for the entire 2022-2023 school year, according to a new job listing for the position.
“It is anticipated that this opportunity could last for the entirety of SY22-23,” ACPS said on the job listing, which was posted on Thursday (June 30). “The Interim Superintendent will report to and work in partnership with the Alexandria City School Board to carry out the vision and strategic goals of the division to ensure the success of students, employees, and the overall school community while the search for the permanent superintendent is underway.”
ACPS asked for community input on the superintendent selection earlier this week, with the goal of filling the job by July 28.
The interim superintendent’s contract would last “Up to six months or until a permanent superintendent is in place,” ACPS said.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr.’s resignation goes into effect at the end of August, and the interim superintendent will be chosen by July 28.
Hutchings was hired in 2017, following a one-year stint by former interim Superintendent Lois Berlin, the former superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools.
ACPS posted than 70 positions to its career site last month, including principal jobs at George Washington Middle School and Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School, media relations specialists, school security officers, teachers, counselors and bus drivers.
— Alexandria City Public Schools (@ACPSk12) June 30, 2022
The full interim superintendent job description below the jump.
Eighteen Alexandria City Public School students were arrested in the first two quarters of this school year, in addition to 41 reported fights/assaults and 13 seized weapons. The weapons seized include a gun, five knives, a stun gun, two fake weapons, and pepper spray.
That’s according to a School Safety Data report to be presented to the School Board on Thursday. The report reveals 18 arrests within ACPS between August and December, 34 injuries, and also a sexual assault allegation at the Alexandria City High School-Minnie Howard campus in October.
“Upon notification of the allegation, the alleged aggressor was removed from campus,” ACPS said in the report. “This student was placed into virtual learning as APD investigated the allegation. This student was officially charged with an offense related to this allegation on January 13, 2022.”
The report sheds light on a period that led School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. to plead with City Council to reverse course on its decision to defund the school resource officer program. The SROs — police officers stationed at Alexandria City High School and the city’s two middle schools — were briefly defunded last year when Council redirected $800,000 from the program toward mental health resources for students.
There were 71 incidents at Francis C. Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School during the reporting period, 59 incidents at ACHS, 49 incidents in elementary schools, and 12 incidents in K-8 schools. Some fights at ACHS and George Washington Middle School were even recorded by students and posted on Instagram.
“Fighting is really not the reason why we need school resource officers in our school buildings,” Hutchings told Council in October. “We are not trained to deal with guns or violence or gang initiation, or things of that nature in our school buildings.”
SROs were brought back in October, but two months later the two officers at Alexandria City High School were placed on leave after a former student alleged having “sexually inappropriate conversations” with them while attending ACHS, according to the Washington Post. The allegations are still under investigation. While there are no SROs at ACHS, police rotate in and out of the school throughout the day.
Incidents also include two robberies, three drug offenses, a bomb threat and 13 pulled fire alarms.
The report will follow a staff presentation on the formation of the School Law Enforcement Advisory Group, a 12-person body that will act as a liaison between the Board and police on the SRO and public safety issues.
Safety data the last two quarters of the year won’t be available until another report is released this summer.
Not included in the report is an allegation that a Francis C. Hammond Middle School student was caught selling marijuana joints to classmates last month. The middle schooler was searched and found to be in possession of 10 joints containing marijuana, and told police that she was supplied by an Alexandria City High School student, according to a search warrant.
After missing quarterly reporting deadlines on school safety, Alexandria City Public Schools says it will deliver a report this week.
In a joint City Council/School Board work session on Wednesday night, some Council members were not pleased that ACPS has not delivered quarterly performance reviews on the school resource officer program. At the meeting, ACPS staff announced that the Board will soon receive a report on school safety data and the proposed school law enforcement partnership (SLEP) advisory group. The report has not yet been made public, and should be posted today (March 3) or tomorrow as an agenda item for the upcoming meeting.
The SROs — police officers stationed at Alexandria City High School and the city’s two middle schools — were briefly defunded last year after a disjointed process that saw Council go against the wishes of the Board and redirect $800,000 from the program toward mental health resources for students. The vote created a rift between City Council and the School Board, but after numerous violent incidents with weapons in schools, School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. pleaded for their return.
“I think that we still have a long ways to go to make sure that we are getting this reporting done properly,” City Councilman Canek Aguirre said at the meeting. “I think what everybody agreed on last year is that the process sucked and there was almost little-to-no process.”
The memorandum of understanding between ACPS and the police stipulates a requirement that the City receive the reports, and that there should be meetings in August, November, February, and May of each school year for staff to “review performance and discuss reporting data.”
SROs were brought back in October, but two months later the two officers at Alexandria City High School were placed on leave after a “serious complaint” from a former student alleging “sexually inappropriate conversations” while she attended ACHS, according to the Washington Post.
There are no SROs at ACHS, which has more than 4,000 students and is the largest high school in Virginia. Still, APD officers are present at the high school, with officers rotating inside and outside of the school throughout the day, according to John Contreras, ACPS director of safety and security services.
Alicia Hart, ACPS executive director of facilities and operations, said that the lack of reporting is due to the program getting shut down last year. She said quarterly meetings between ACPS and APD are still being held.
“I absolutely agree there is an opportunity for us to make sure that we are caught up for the next go around,” Hart told Council.
Alderton said she previewed the report, and that it has some surprises.
“I had a chance to preview it, and I have to say, I think people are gonna find it very interesting,” Alderton said. “We’re not just looking at numbers, we’re looking at impact and who the impact is on. We’ll see some interesting information about disproportionality that may have some surprises.”
Councilman Kirk McPike said that the SRO program is city funded, and that there should be transparent discussions around school safety.
“This is a program that exists within the schools but it is funded in a part of the city budget,” McPike said. “We all saw last year what happens when the Council and the School Board roll in opposite directions on this issue, and it’s incredibly important that we find ways not to do that because we’re talking about safety in our schools, which is a paramount concern, not just for people on both our bodies but the entire city.”
The school year has been marked by violent incidents, including the shooting of a student at the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center, a student being arrested with a gun on ACHS grounds, a student being arrested with a knife at ACHS, a firecracker incident that led to the evacuation of a football game, brawls inside ACHS and George Washington Middle School and more.
Earlier this month, Alexandria City High School senior Abdelraman Aboud Abdelsadig received life-changing news. After submitting all his paperwork and waiting a month, Abdelsadi was awarded the competitive QuestBridge Scholarship to attend Colby College in Maine.
The scholarship is worth about $300,000, and Abdelsadig found out about the award at school on Dec. 1.
The 18-year-old was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Sudan, and he and his mother and three siblings moved to Alexandria when he was in the first grade, where he attended Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.
“I’ve always been one to keep myself busy,” Abdelsadig told ALXnow. “I always like filling my time up with either an activity or a club or study time, but if I’m bored, like in middle school, I would just stay after school to have conversations with my teachers for like an extra hour. Or even in high school. I started joining a lot of clubs just to fill up my time.”
It was that same restlessness that turned Abdesadig onto QuestBridge. Tired of sticking around at home over the past year, he decided to get a job at Duck Donuts. It was through his coworkers that he found out about the scholarship.
Eglal Salih said she was ecstatic to get the news from her son.
“Oh my god, I was so happy,” she said. “I was so proud of him. He’s always been a good kid.”
Abdelsadig says he’ll be going in the sciences, but hasn’t made up his mind about the specifics. For the time being, he says, he is focused on human anatomy.
In his scholarship essay, he wrote about the digital divide between cultures, and how his background of living in a third world country created a thirst for knowledge.
“Basically, I gave a small insight into my history and how I was not from here, and how I didn’t always have access to large swaths of knowledge, like the internet or Google or anything like that,” he said. “When you don’t have something and you’re curious about certain topics, when those things become available to you, you can’t get enough of it. You just continuously want more and more and more. And that’s exactly how it was with anatomy, just learning in general. I was a giant sponge.”
Abdelsadig plans to first visit Colby College next summer.
Great work in the College and Career Center under Stacy Morris' leadership! Congratulations to Class of '22 Questbridge National Match Scholarship Winner Abdelraman Aboud Abdelsadig! He will be attending Colby College in Maine – this full-ride scholarship is worth over $300,000!! pic.twitter.com/vAEQFG1VHr
— Peter Balas (@PrincipalTitan) December 1, 2021
After recent infrastructure work, Alexandria City Public Schools confirmed that it’s satisfied with the conditions at Alexandria’s middle schools — for the time being.
In what one school official described as a pleasantly “boring” meeting between the City Council and School Board after recent City Council-School Board turmoil, school staff said some recently completed work at George Washington Middle School and Francis C. Hammond Middle School should be the last big investments in those schools for the foreseeable future.
Mayor Justin Wilson confirmed at the meeting with school staff that the near-term plans for both middle schools are system replacements to keep the building in a state of good repair, but no widespread expensive infrastructure projects are currently planned for either school.
“We’re not staring down a $30-40 million investment in these buildings in the near term?” Wilson asked, which ACPS confirmed.
John Finnigan, director of educational facilities, said that ACPS recently replaced the roofs and have been working on water intrusion issues at both schools.
“We’ll see what [the assessments] show, but we’re not looking at huge investments,” Finnigan said, “especially on the two schools you mentioned.”
At GW Middle School, Finnigan said the roof replacement started in 2016 and ran for two-and-a-half years. ACPS also completed work on the building exterior, along with additional caulking and masonry. At Hammond, infrastructure work was completed last year and included lighting upgrades for the school.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., cautioned that the schools will still need to review the impending division-wide facility assessments, but that currently there are no plans for more multi-million dollar projects at either school.
Alexandria was spared from significant flooding this week after remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the East Coast. The only flooding found was on lower King Street in Old Town, where businesses laid sandbags at windows and doorways.
“We’re open inside, but if you want to eat you’re probably going to have to come barefoot,” a hostess at Mai Thai told ALXnow on Wednesday.
Our top story this week was, for the second week in a row, on the recent brawl inside Alexandria City High School.
It’s a three-day weekend, and on Sunday the annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style will bring crowds to marvel at classic and beautiful rides along King Street. Monday is Labor Day, and the city will operate on a holiday schedule.
In this week’s poll we asked how satisfied readers are with Alexandria City Public Schools since reopening on August 24. A majority (31%) reported being extremely unsatisfied with the school system, while 29% said ACPS has done a good job, 25% are extremely satisfied and 14% are unhappy overall.
- Pedestrian struck and killed on N. Beauregard Street in West End
- City could extend pandemic-support for local businesses into 2022
- City lays out goals for Arlandria-Chirilagua preservation
- Salon Meraki will quadruple in size when it expands this fall in Old Town
- New policy could open up more ‘co-living’ options in Alexandria
- Pets rescued from Hurricane Ida in Louisiana up for adoption in Alexandria
- The Hive is expanding to a new location in Old Town, also planning men’s apparel shop
- Man arrested after brief chase leads to hit-and-run near Holmes Run
- Fire Department pay battle heats up as firefighters say staffing issues put public safety at risk
- Parents concerned in opening days as ACPS works on construction projects at Mount Vernon Community School
- West End school purchase headed to Planning Commission review
- Alexandria man on run from police for more than a year after theft from gym in Carlyle
- Mae’s Market & Cafe opens in Old Town
- BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
- 13-year-old hit by car while walking home from school in Del Ray
- Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
- Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
- No injuries or arrests after shots fired on Duke Street
- ACPS Superintendent Hutchings asks community to hit the brakes on email campaigns
- Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
- Alexandria sees cases rise in August and warns of COVID-19 in schools
- Alexandria man convicted for possessing child porn and violating parole
- Historic Black cemetery under threat of being washed away in Old Town
- Man swallows two bags of drugs and runs from police in Old Town
Have a safe weekend!
What a busy week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.
Alexandria City Public Schools reopened their doors to full-time in-person instruction on Tuesday, and there have been a few hiccups. On Friday, we published a video taken of a brawl inside Alexandria City High School, and a teenager was hit by a car while walking home from school in Del Ray on Thursday.
In our poll this week, we asked if readers agree with a proposed 5 cent tax on plastic bags. Out of more than 900 votes, 62% said it shouldn’t be implemented and 38% said it should.
- Tales of regret and hope win in creative writing contest at the Alexandria Jail
- Report: Massive Oakville Triangle project secures financing
- Alexandria man convicted for possessing child porn and violating parole
- Del Ray park moving forward with lead artist chosen
- French Twist: Alexandria’s sister city committee wants to revolutionize membership
- School Board Member Michelle Rief praises ACPS COVID response in reelection bid
- Alexandria woman scammed of $15K by ‘friend’ with compromised Facebook account
- Street repaving and curb repairs underway in Old Town this week and next
- $50K fundraiser launched after sewer pipe bursts in Arlandria preschool
- Alexandria to consider imposing 5 cent tax on plastic bags
- Juvenile stabbed in West End Sunday night
- Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
- Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
- Design realities could conflict with promises to speed up stormwater improvements in Alexandria
- City breaks ground on new broadband network
- Poll: Do you support the proposed 5 cent plastic bag tax?
- This Alexandria gym manager went rogue and launched a personal training business
- Alexandria kicks off Restaurant Week tomorrow
- Alexandria sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases in August, another death
- Poll: Have you been impacted by flooding in Alexandria?
- New Normal: ACPS fully reopens for first time since pandemic started
- Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday
Have a safe weekend!