Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Beyer Refutes Trump’s Claims of Media Spin Over Tax Payments — “No, ‘everyone else’ didn’t write off payments to their children and $70,000 for haircuts so they could live a lavish lifestyle while only paying $750 in taxes. Trump remains the only major party candidate for president in 40 years who refused to release his tax returns.” [Twitter]

ACPS Asks Community to Discuss Future Facilities Projects, School Sites — “As ACPS and the City start looking at the need to rebuild, replace, add to or modernize schools, fire stations, police facilities and more, local officials are asking for feedback on the Joint City-ACPS Facilities Master Plan.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Chefs Compete on ‘Chopped’ Reality Show Tonight — “Alexandria chef-owner Mimi Huynh of modern Vietnamese restaurant Sunday in Saigon at 682 N. St. Asaph Street and chef Chris Edwards of newly opened Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen, located at 600 Montgomery Street, will appear on Food Network’s “Chopped” tomorrow night.” [Zebra]

Longtime Friends Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists — “When Aiden Crowe, Nikolai Kosinski and Caroline Winakur reached eighth grade at George Washington Middle School, their math ability was such that the trio were literally in a class of their own. Algebra 2 with Sarah Devito became a class of three as teachers sought to individualize learning in the subject area they all excelled at. They have remained good friends ever since. And earlier this month, the T.C. Williams High School seniors discovered they had all been named National Merit Scholarship semi finalists after outstanding results in the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last October.” [ACPS]

Today’s Weather — “Rain showers in the morning then thundershowers in the afternoon. High 74F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rain likely (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing Communications Specialist — “To be successful in this position, the Marketing Communications Specialist must demonstrate strong persuasive writing skills, strong digital layout design skills and be an overall expert in digital and social media marketing.” [Indeed]

2 Comments

Morning Notes

Longtime Beverly Hills Resident Marilyn Whitehurst Dies — “Sweet, beautiful, kind, funny, and thoughtful with your contagious laugh, charming and unforgettable Southern accent, and always a twinkle in your eye, you will be dearly missed by all, Marilyn. Loved all the times you and the other Saints mom came to the Vineyard. Rest In Peace my dear friend.” [Facebook]

COVID-19 Cases Increase by 36 — “Positive tests up 36 to 2,618 in the City… Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Beyer: Report of Trump Enriching Himself in Office is Predictable — “It’s no exaggeration to say this story would have been the worst scandal that ever happened for most presidential administrations, resulting in a legacy of infamy, disgrace, and possibly impeachment. For Trump it’s a Tuesday night — but we still need to find out what happened.” [Twitter]

City Opens Family Swim Lottery — “Each Thursday and Friday, residents may request swim times for the following Monday through Sunday. Alexandria households may request a maximum of three time slots per week, with no more than one time slot per day. Each Saturday, requests will be processed through a lottery, and households will receive an email notifying whether they have been enrolled or added to a waitlist for each of their requested timeslots. Each confirmed request reserves 45 minutes of pool time and accommodates four people per family unit at Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron St.), or eight people per family unit at Warwick Pool (3301 Landover St.). Swimmer admission fees are due upon arrival at the pool.” [City of Alexandria]

George Washington Middle School Student Wins History Award — “Patrick Ostermann-Healey, a George Washington Middle School student, was awarded the African American History Prize during the National History Day.” [Alex Times]

WMATA Job Fair on July 30 — “By attending, job seekers can learn about immediate employment opportunities with WMATA. These include bus driver, police officer, mechanic, and elevator/escalator apprentice.” [Zebra]

New Job: Lifeguard — “Area Lifeguards get paid the best hourly lifeguard rate in Northern Virginia and are scheduled to work at different facilities within a 15-mile radius. Stay busy by covering shifts at various pools, while putting your punctuality, flexibility and quick learning skills to good use!” [Indeed]

2 Comment

A study of the mold problems at George Washington Middle School has found that the school will require extensive mitigation work expected to cost at least $120,000.

At a School Board meeting on Friday, May 29, an information item detailed the full extent of the mold issues found in the school. The report described extensive staining and foul odors in older parts of the building, with each instance categorized by room. While most classrooms had less than 300 spores per cubic meter, classroom A 216 had 1,960 spores.

“Safety and Security obtained a contractor to perform a non-invasive (in accessible areas) mold assessment survey to evaluate concerns of moisture intrusion or visible suspected mold growth within GWMS on February 29 and March 7, 2020,” the staff report said. “Fungal spore air and surface samplings were taken from numerous locations throughout the building. Based on the assessment findings, a total of 42 recommendations were made”

Among those recommendations were eleven that will require professional mold mitigation, 30 that require further HVAC contracted or staff work, and one that will require an assessment by an asbestos abatement professional.

According to the study:

Based on our observations, visible mold, discolorations and/or water staining were observed on ceiling tiles, thermal system pipe insulation, and/or ceiling plaster in selected areas throughout the school. Elevated levels of individual fungal spores were detected in the surface swab samples collected from various locations with suspected visible mold growth throughout the school.

Based on New York City Department of Health, OSHA, and US EPA guidance, small areas of mold (up to one square foot) can be cleaned up by either custodial or contract personnel using proper protective equipment. Larger areas of fungal growth should be addressed by professional contractors with trained personnel using appropriate engineering controls and work practices.

“The current estimated magnitude of cost is ~$120k. It is likely that this amount will increase,” the staff report said. “The Offices of Educational Facilities and Maintenance and Custodial Services is in the process of reviewing cost estimates, completing procurements and working with staff/contractors to initiate mitigation work, some of which is anticipated to begin during the first week of June.”

Concerns about mold in the school have lingered for years and been the subject of extensive testing, particularly after students were able to prove there was mold growing in their classroom.

The staff report said the plan is for all work to be completed before school starts again in September, but said the condition of mold in the school could vary based on environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

“There are currently no accepted regulatory standards or guidelines with respect to acceptable fungal levels inside buildings,” the staff report said. “Surface samples are generally qualitative in that they reflect the type and quantity of mold present only at the sampled location at the time the sample was collected.”

The report noted that George Washington Middle School is not alone in needing extensive renovations.

“ACPS’ aging facilities have been in sore need of attention for many years,” the staff report said. “Since FY 2017, there has been a heightened financial commitment by the city to help ACPS address both capacity and non-capacity capital modernization, replacements and repairs. Mitigating and addressing other affects of system-wide deterioration to not only meet compliance but to ensure the health and safety of staff and students is a high priority… While these efforts are significantly improving [conditions] within GWMS, the future will require an ongoing program of monitoring and response in areas most impacted.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

0 Comments

The George Washington Middle School Parent Teacher Association is donating $9,000 to Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) to help restore the exterior grounds of the school.

A memo regarding the donation said last December a community member approached ACPS about starting a fundraiser to help restore some of the outdoor learning space at the school. The GW PTA donated a total of $9,000 on May 13. Any donations above $2,500 must be approved the School Board, which is scheduled to review the donation at tomorrow’s meeting.

“The donation will support the well-being of students and staff at George Washington Middle School by providing a restored outdoor space that can be used for learning, instruction and other educational purposes,” staff said in the memo. “The donation has no identified undesirable, unacceptable, or hidden costs. It will serve all students, staff and community of George Washington Middle School.”

If the donation is approved, the memo states that the ACPS Operations Department will work through the next steps needed to restore the school’s outdoor learning space.

Like the rest of ACPS, GW is currently closed for the remainder of the school year.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

0 Comments

A couple weeks ago, Jesse Mazur stopped his car outside George Washington Middle School and thought about how quickly things changed.

It’s a disorienting feeling for the 44-year-old principal who has — one way or another — been in schools most of his life, and inside the hallways are completely empty. Since March 13, Mazur and his staff have had to adapt to a new normal of remotely teaching more than 1,500 students for the remainder of the year.

“I stopped, and my wife asked me what I was doing and I just felt the need to stop and just look at it,” Mazur told ALXnow. “I’ve been going to school for 18 years of my life as a professional, and, of course, 15 years of my life as an actual student. It’s very disorienting to not be in my office.”

Mazur added, “I’ve missed the camaraderie with my team and I miss teaching and learning. I miss walking through the door of the building and seeing the students. Believe it or not, I miss lunch duty. It’s a really tough transition but what’s sustaining me personally is knowing that we rolled out a good product in terms of getting kids and teachers online, but also recognizing that there’s still opportunities to improve.”

At first, GW eighth grader Yahney-Marie Sangare was excited that school was initially closed until after spring break. Ten days later, on March 23, Governor Northam closed all schools in the state for the remainder of the year, and Sangare felt crestfallen at not being able to graduate from the eighth grade with her friends. Now she spends about four hours a day doing online learning.

“I think it was deeper than just not being in school,” the 12-year-old Sangare said. “It’s just something that challenges your perception of reality. Sometimes you wake up and you just feel like life isn’t really real and it feels like you’re never really going to get the chance to live normally again. And the prospect that things are going to change after this is over is both beautiful and terrifying.”

All students at GW received Chromebooks and instructional packets to take home, and Mazur and his staff combed through school records to reach out to families without the necessary equipment or internet access. Additionally, about 48% of students receive free and reduced lunch, and the synchronous teaching ensures that teachers maintain continual relationships with their kids throughout the shutdown.

“Yes, it’s important, of course, to get the kids engaged in their education, but we also realize for some that the education is the least of their concerns and the least of their worries,” Mazur said. “We just exhausted our internal database of phone numbers and called and called emergency emergency contacts. We did everything we could to try to track down these students and find out what is happening in their lives and how we can support them.”

Mazur conducts a weekly staff meeting every Friday, and is currently working out of the basement of his home, while his wife, a teacher at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, teaches upstairs. They’re also the parents of a T.C. Williams High School senior and a GW eighth grader.

“It’s very, very unusual to stare at his computer screen all day, and my eyes are suffering,” Mazur said. “I love the energy of a schoolhouse. One of my favorite things to do is to go into gym class and compete with these kids while I’m there.”

Sangare said that she is concerned about the future of the country.

“The president’s actions of cutting funding to the World Health Organization is scary,” she said. “Especially for my generation, we are being affected by these choices. I think that this time to stand together and really look and reflect on our country, how we can help other countries and take what they’re doing right and what they’re doing. And we cannot be targeting anyone any minority group, anything like that. This is the time that we stand together, and we stand up for each other, especially for those who don’t have the resources like we do.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

2 Comment

Morning Notes

City Faces Dozens of Lawsuits — “Between 2014 and 2019, 101 lawsuits were filed against the city, and 20 of those cases are still active, according to data the Alexandria Times acquired through the city… Over the last six years, the city has faced 37 claims cases, 20 land-use cases, 15 civil rights cases, 12 employment cases, 11 real estate assessment cases, two FOIA cases, two mandamus cases and two procurement cases.” [Alexandria Times]

Restaurants That Locals Still Miss — “When you talk with locals about restaurants they miss, there’s usually at least one place they can name… We’ve received nearly 40 responses covering Old Town and other areas of the city. Places mentioned by multiple people included Austin Grill, Overwood, Mango Mike’s, Flying Fish and Geranio.” [Patch]

New Bank Branch Opens in Carlyle — “Bank of America celebrated its latest Alexandria location with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning inside the newly opened financial center in the heart of Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. The location, at 415 John Carlyle St., is Bank of America’s 10th financial center in the Alexandria/Springfield market and fourth in Alexandria proper.” [Alexandria Living]

GW Middle Students Try Meditation — “Middle school can be a stressful environment, so… at George Washington Middle School, some teachers are starting class with meditation. The lights are dimmed, soothing music is turned on and teachers guide the kids to breathe, settle in and focus on something positive.” [WTOP]

2 Comments

(Updated at 9:40 a.m.) George Washington Middle School has again been evacuated after a report of a gas odor in the school’s auditorium.

The incident happened around 9 a.m. today (Thursday). Firefighters responded to the school to investigate the odor, but initial reports suggest nothing hazardous was found. Students were expected to return to classrooms after about 20-30 minutes outside in the cold.

It’s at least the third such evacuation since November. After the last evacuation, on Jan. 30, the school’s principal told parents that a faulty heating unit appeared to be to blame.

“The smell was caused by a rooftop heating unit that was installed in the summer and still requires some adjustments,” Principal Jesse Mazur wrote. “We are working with the contractors who installed these new units to resolve some of the ongoing issues we have been experiencing with them since November.”

GW Middle has also been dealing with other maintenance problems, including water quality issues. As ALXnow reported last week, testing revealed relatively high levels of copper and lead from a number of water outlets at the school. On Tuesday the school told families that it aerating, flushing and re-testing the water outlets, which were being kept off line during the process.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Old Town Theater Sign May Be Removed — “The Board of Architectural Review is set to consider allowing the removal and relocation of the Old Town Theater sign and other exterior changes as the space is set to become a Patagonia retail store. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chamber at Alexandria City Hall.” [Patch]

APD Investigates Gunshots in Landmark — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a ‘shots fired’ call for service in the 200 block of South Whiting Street. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

‘Normal Weekday’ on Seminary Road — Has the Seminary Road Diet produced a rush hour traffic nightmare, as some insist? Or is it just producing modest peak period delays, as data seems to show? Video posted by a local cycling advocate, shot shortly after 8 a.m. on a recent weekday, shows free-flowing traffic and no delays, though photos posted by road diet critics show backups at intersections. [Twitter, YouTube]

Students Write, Perform Play at Kennedy Center — “Two talented eighth grade students from George Washington Middle School had the experience of a lifetime when they wrote and performed in a play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts earlier this month. Yahney-Marie Sangare and Sydney Payne were part of a team of young playwrights and actors who produced The Day Nothing Happened, a play about the desegregation of Stratford Middle School in Arlington.” [ACPS]

0 Comments

A survey of Alexandria City Public Schools’ drinking water sources has come back with relatively high levels of copper and lead in George Washington Middle School (1005 Mount Vernon Avenue).

Many of the schools had no outlets or very few that tested above action levels — amounts that require equipment replacement — for copper or lead. The EPA’s action levels for copper are 1.3 mg/L and much lower for lead, 0.015 mg/L. At T.C. Williams High School, 259 samples were collected and only four tested above actionable levels.

At George Washington Middle school, however, 15 of the 132 samples tested high for either copper or lead.

ECS Mid-Atlantic, which tested the water supplies, noted that efforts were made to collect a sample from every sink, water fountain, bottle refilling station and water fountain in the building.

“Some areas within the building were locked,” the report said. “ECS was informed by an ACPS representative that sinks were not located in the locked areas. Please note that ECS observed a sink in a locked closet in the cafeteria that was unable to be sampled.”

A map of the samples collected around George Washington Middle School shows that the samples with elevated lead were from across the school, though eight of them concentrated around the gym area. The report suggest that, going forward, the building be checked periodically, at a minimum of every three years.

It’s been a rough year for safety issues at George Washington Middle School, with a series of fire alarm incidents last fall and a student-led fight to prove the school still had a mold problem. The school was evacuated two weeks ago because of a gas smell, though the principal said there was ultimately no danger.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School didn’t fare much better in the water testing, with 7 of the 72 samples tested showing elevated levels of lead.

All of the high copper and lead water sources in both schools were in sinks, as were most across the other schools. The following schools had high levels of copper or lead in water fountains, though only generally in one per school.

  • Early Childhood Center
  • Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
  • John Adams Elementary School
  • Matthew Maury Elementary School
  • Mount Vernon Community School
  • Patrick Henry K-8

Full reports on each school, and the final reports for each location, are available online.

According to the school website:

Any outlets with higher than usual levels have already been taken out of use and will continue to remain out of use until the issue has been fixed. Parts of the units will be replaced and/or the lines flushed. Once this work has been completed, the water will be retested and ACPS will collect follow up samples to ensure it remains within safe limits in the future.

Higher than normal levels of lead or copper in an outlet can be caused by deterioration of the pipes or from the faucet itself. Lead was sometimes used in metal alloys to make fixtures prior to 1987. It is anticipated that the replacement and/or repair of the outlets will quickly solve this issue.

ACPS is working closely with the Alexandria Health Department on this issue. Water testing will continue to be carried out throughout the school division and all reports made public on the ACPS website.

ACPS advised that parents concerned about their child’s exposure to lead should have them tested at a pediatrician or family doctor.

“If you do not have a pediatrician or family doctor, call Neighborhood Health at 703-535-5568 to make an appointment,” ACPS said on the website.

Image via Alexandria City Public Schools

0 Comments

The principal at George Washington Middle School says there is no danger to students after the smell of gas again prompted a school-wide evacuation on Thursday.

Principal Jesse Mazur notified parents after the incident that the smell was caused by a rooftop heating unit that was installed last summer. It was the second evacuation at the school since a gas odor was detected on Nov. 21, 2019.

“The smell was caused by a rooftop heating unit that was installed in the summer and still requires some adjustments,” Mazur wrote. “We are working with the contractors who installed these new units to resolve some of the ongoing issues we have been experiencing with them since November.”

Mazur said that all students and staff were accounted for and that Washington Gas inspected the unit in question and determined there to be no gas issue.

GW has experienced more than its share of facilities issues. A fire alarm at the school did not sound during a fire drill on Nov. 11, 2019. Three days later the alarm did not automatically sound when a poster was set on fire. On Nov. 18, an “intrusion alarm” signaling the opening of an emergency door unexpectedly went off in the front office. Three days later, on Nov. 21, the school was evacuated due to the smell of gas and the fire alarm failed to properly function.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list