Newsletter

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.

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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.

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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.

Via ACPS

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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.

From mold to faulty fire alarms, parents and students at GW Middle School have raised concerns about school infrastructure for years.

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.

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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.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  2. 13-year-old hit by car while walking home from school in Del Ray
  3. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  4. Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
  5. No injuries or arrests after shots fired on Duke Street
  6. ACPS Superintendent Hutchings asks community to hit the brakes on email campaigns
  7. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  8. Alexandria sees cases rise in August and warns of COVID-19 in schools
  9. Alexandria man convicted for possessing child porn and violating parole
  10. Historic Black cemetery under threat of being washed away in Old Town
  11. Man swallows two bags of drugs and runs from police in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!

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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.

This week was dominated by crime stories, although other big events occurred, such as the City breaking ground on a new broadband network.

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.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  2. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  3. Design realities could conflict with promises to speed up stormwater improvements in Alexandria
  4. City breaks ground on new broadband network
  5. Poll: Do you support the proposed 5 cent plastic bag tax?
  6. This Alexandria gym manager went rogue and launched a personal training business
  7. Alexandria kicks off Restaurant Week tomorrow
  8. Alexandria sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases in August, another death
  9. Poll: Have you been impacted by flooding in Alexandria?
  10. New Normal: ACPS fully reopens for first time since pandemic started
  11. Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday

Have a safe weekend!

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A fox outside George Washington Middle School briefly forced the school to go into a lock-in today (Thursday), according to Alexandria City Public Schools.

The fox was spotted running around outside the school at around 8:15 a.m., and the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria’s Animal Services team was at the school 15 minutes later, AWLA spokesperson Gina Hardter told ALXnow.

The initial call was that there was a coyote on the property, but it was later confirmed to be a fox, Hardter said. The lock-in ended at around 9 a.m. after the AWLA gave the all-clear. The fox simply ran away and was not apprehended.

“They’re more afraid of us than we are of them, and the fox displayed those characteristics by not getting advancing on anyone or showing suspicious behavior,” Hardter said.

Hardter said that residents should call the police non-emergency number at 703-746-4444 if they see any wildlife of concern.

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Beside the masks and the news crews flocking around the hallways, after more than a year of virtual or hybrid learning, the start of the 2021-2022 school year was strangely normal.

Children at George Washington Middle School clumped together into groups of either friends or convenient strangers headed to the same destinations. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, and Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) staff greeted students as they came into the building.

This is the first time that ACPS has fully reopened since the pandemic started in March 2020.

For many of the students, Hutchings said the constant mask wearing will be the biggest difference between this year and pre-COVID school years. Some students had been in schools for a hybrid learning program in the spring, but today marked the return to a five-day-per-week in-person school day.

“They have to wear it at all times,” Hutchings said. “We also have temperature checks every day and handwashing stations. The masks are helpful in regard to mitigation.”

Around 500 of the school system’s 16,000 students will remain virtual through the Virtual Virginia program.

Last week, the School Board voted to require staff to either be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. A mandatory survey was sent out on Friday, and Alderton said staff are still sorting through the results.

“It’s so exciting to be back in the building,” said Wendy Gonzalez. “There’s an energy the kids bring back into the building.”

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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]

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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]

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