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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.

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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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A student was suspended last month at Francis C. Hammond Middle School for allegedly writing about ‘shooting up the school’ on Discord with another student.

On October 26, the school resource officer at Francis C. Hammond Middle School was alerted by school staff that the student was interviewed and suspended.

The incident occurred on October 26, according to a police search warrant affidavit.

In an anagram, the student first wrote, “nodt moce ot shcloo no wendsydya,” which, when rearranged, reads, “Don’t come to school on Wednesday.”

A classmate responded by writing: “bruh don’t be shooting da school dafuq.”

The student responded by writing, “I’m not [name] told me not to. But imma give it 2 weeks at the most.”

When asked to clarify what he was deciding, the student then stated “shooting up the school.”

The student, when interviewed at his home, admitted to police that he sent the messages and that he deleted them on his phone, according to the affidavit.

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Morning Notes

The story of Hybla Valley’s lost airport — “Every American with their own plane? Strangely enough, this was a widespread belief during most of the 1920s and ’30s — a motive which, at the time, led to the creation of Alexandria’s prestigious and unique Hybla Valley Airport.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

New sports field opens at Francis C. Hammond Middle School — “The new multipurpose futsal court at Francis C. Hammond Middle School was finally unveiled on Monday, Nov. 8.” [Zebra]

Alexandria warehouse sold for $9 million — “Washington, D.C.-based Lee & Associates has brokered the $9 million sale of a 28,000-square-foot warehouse at 619 S. Pickett St. in Alexandria to Terreno Realty Corp.” [Virginia Business]

City tree lighting scheduled — “The City invites the community to join Mayor Justin Wilson and a host of friends to welcome back the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Saturday, November 20, at 6 p.m. in Market Square (301 King St.).” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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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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(Updated 11:30 a.m.) Francis C. Hammond Middle School was locked down this morning after a call about a shooting at the school, but the Alexandria Police Department said the call was unfounded.

According to the Alexandria Police Department:

UPDATE: APD received a call around 9:30am about a shooting at Francis C. Hammond MS on Seminary Road. Officers searched the school and determined the call was unfounded. A student was taken to the hospital after suffering a medical event while officers were searching the school.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said that Hammond Middle School has since resumed normal operations.

“In the event that your student is feeling anxious about school, please remind them that the school counselors, psychologists and social workers are present to support them in any way that they need support,” ACPS said in a Facebook post.

The school, like Alexandria City High School, was on lockdown this morning after the anonymous threat. Alexandria City Public Schools and the Alexandria Police Department could not be reached to confirm that the lockdowns were related.

Alexandria City Public Schools have added three “grab and go” breakfast and lunch distribution locations for children over the age of two.

Food distribution at all the ACPS locations has also been limited to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered the school system for the remainder of the academic year.

“We’re trying to really not have families out every day and staff out every day,” ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the City Council/School Board Subcommittee in an online meeting on Tuesday. “Last week we had these meals available every day. We are really trying to adhere to the guidelines of social gathering.”

The new locations are:

ACPS is also offering meals at these locations between 8 a.m. and noon:

https://twitter.com/ACPSk12/status/1242855319342067715

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Alexandria City Public Schools has some big projects on its plate, but at a School Board meeting last Thursday, many of the smaller projects discussed could have a big impact on the schools.

The meeting discussed the top priorities for non-capacity improvements next year. While several schools are slated for sweeping modernization projects over the next ten years, the Capital Improvement Program upgrades could provide some stop-gap improvements in the meantime.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School was one of those schools that was not on the list for modernization and capacity upgrades, but staff said an assessment of school facilities unequivocally deemed it “the worst school.”

“They were very concerned that it’s not in the ten year CIP,” staff said at the meeting. “Items we have on here [will be] bringing that up to par in the upcoming years.”

There are $4.9 million dollars in upgrades planned for the school in the CIP, with a recurring theme of trying to mitigate flooding and leakage prevalent throughout the school.

  • Building envelope repair: cafeteria window replacement and mitigation for flooding in the stairwell and gym
  • Flooring repair or replacement: replacement of the auxiliary gym floor
  • HVAC repair or replacement: replacement of HVAC systems that have reached the end of their life-cycle
  • Plumbing and restroom upgrades: reconstruction of second-floor toilets and refinishing those on the first floor
  • Renovations and reconfigurations: this item includes several projects around the school, mainly centered around preventing flooding
  • Roof repair or replacement: adds a new roof to the D-Wing of the school
  • Site hardscape repair or replacement: regrading of the courtyard and adding new pipes
  • Stormwater management: maintenance work around the school

The courtyard regrading was seen as particularly crucial at the school. According to staff, the roof drains directly down into the courtyard and the pipes don’t have the capacity to drain the water quickly enough, meaning water pools there and leaks down into the cafeteria below.

“There’s a chance for a community pool there,” one of the school board members quipped. “We need another one.”

Stormwater management was also noted by staff as a problem at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. The CIP allocated $566,741 for renovations to the gym and upgrades for the parking garage. Staff said leaky pipes in the parking garage pour water down onto cars and led one staff member to note that it frequently looks like “it’s raining inside Ferdinand T. Day.”

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25, in ACPS headquarters (1340 Braddock Place) and final adoption is scheduled for Dec. 19.

Photo via Facebook

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The Washington Capitals are hosting a free street hockey class for children in Alexandria.

The class is planned for the Seminary Road Roller Rink at Francis C. Hammond Middle School (4646 Seminary Road) in Alexandria tomorrow (Wednesday). The class will run from 4:45-5:45 p.m. after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The class is part of a series that the Capitals have hosted across the region celebrating refurbished outdoor rinks. The Capitals renovated the rink at Hammond Middle School, replacing the boards around the rink and adding a new scoreboard.

The class is aimed at children between ages 8-14. Equipment for the clinic will be provided and all participants will receive a free hockey stick.

If you’re over 14 but still intrigued by the new roller hockey rink, there is an adult league with leagues varying from novices to advanced levels.

Photo via Facebook/ACPS

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