The City of Alexandria has issued new guidance, following an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that locals should return to wearing masks in all public indoor settings.

The ongoing spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has led the CDC to recommend that communities with substantial or high transmission levels wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. A press release from the city noted that the city elevated its state of COVID-19 community transmission for the first time since early May.

“Because Alexandria is currently in a state of substantial transmission, and is exceeding 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days, masks should be worn in public indoor settings,” the city said in the press release. “The CDC also recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to all schools.”

Kelly Gilfillen, acting director for the Office of Communications and Public Information, said the uptick in new reported cases is causing the city to reevaluate its vaccination, testing and masking policy for employees.

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What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

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Earlier this week, the Alexandria City Council overrode the objections of the School Board and voted to reallocate funding away from the school resource officer (SRO) program — eliminating the program.

SROs are police officers stationed inside T.C. Williams High School, Francis Hammond Middle School and George Washington Middle School and specialize in handling kids with emotional and education issues, search and seizure on school grounds, and school shooting situations. The program started in 1997.

The School Board voted last year to keep the SRO program, but the City’s defunding vote throws the School Board’s memorandum out the window.

Instead, the $800,000 in funding that had gone to SROs will go toward mental health resources for school aged children and Alexandria Police Department officers who had functioned as SROs will be reassigned. The city still, as City Council member Canek Aguirre noted, spends around $1 million annually on private security for the schools.

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It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

With summer in full swing, three Alexandria athletes have made it on the U.S. Olympic Team — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley.

In other sporting news, Old Town businesses beat Del Ray in a controversial softball game Wednesday, adding fuel to the fire of an intense rivalry.

It’s been super hot out lately, and the City urged caution and reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers.

On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
  4. Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
  7. Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
  8. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  9. City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
  10. UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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This coming weekend is the Fourth of July, and unlike last summer when — well, you know — travel is on the table for many Alexandrians.

Nationally, 47 million Americans are expected to travel this weekend, many of them by car, according to Travel and Leisure. It’s an estimate in line with pre-pandemic figures.

Are you planning to head out-of-town this weekend? How are you planning on traveling? List your mode-of-choice in the comments if it’s not a plane or car.

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What was an intense week in Alexandria. Here is the rundown.

History was made, as the new marquees at Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary Schools were unveiled this week, and the name changes to T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School will go into effect July 1. It’s a victory for civil rights, as the namesakes of both old schools had backgrounds steeped in racism. Maury was a Confederate leader and Williams was an ACPS superintendent who worked intently against racial integration.

City Manager Mark Jinks on Tuesday also announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. Jinks, who made the announcement to City Council, hinted to ALXnow last month that he was seeking retirement. Today (Friday, June 25) is also the last day for retiring Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown, who will be moving to the West Coast to deal with family matters. Assistant Chief Don Hayes is taking over as acting chief until a national search narrows down a preferred candidate for the job.

Law enforcement events also dominated this week’s coverage. On Tuesday, first responders saved a woman experiencing a mental health crisis who was dangling perilously off the Monroe Avenue Bridge, followed by news Wednesday that a suspect was arrested for a West End murder along with 16 others in a massive racketeering conspiracy. On Thursday, a barricade situation in the West End ended peacefully.

In this week’s poll, when asked whether transit improvements would make residents more likely to take the bus, 48% said they don’t take the bus often and won’t likely change their habits; 38% said they don’t often take the bus, although transit improvements might change that; and 14% said that they already frequent the Metro and DASH bus systems.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. JUST IN: Thieves break into more than 60 vehicles in West End
  4. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  5. Massive redevelopment of West End apartment building has neighbors worried about street parking impact
  6. UPDATE: Alexandria first responders save suicidal woman on Monroe Avenue Bridge
  7. City Council emphasizes marketing funding for Alexandria’s ‘Hot Girl Summer’
  8. Mother and boyfriend allegedly beaten by knife-wielding ex in Old Town North
  9. With eviction moratorium expiring, city pushes renters and landlords toward rental assistance
  10. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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This Saturday, the Alexandria City Council will vote on where it should allocate the first installment of its $59.6 million federal funding package.

Nine items round out the list of “Tier 1” priorities and nine additional items are listed as “Tier 2” priorities. All of these are considered projects and programs that will have the most immediate impact, are considered highly important, and are “shovel-ready.”

The two tiers total at $28.7 million, meaning it’s likely all could be funded in the first round of American Rescue Plan Act funding, so the good news is while you’re being asked to choose: the city might not.

The Tier 1 priorities are:

  • Out of School Time Program (OSTP) Enhanced Enrichment Programming and Financial Assistance Opportunities: This program is designed to help social and emotional learning for students who may have missed that education during virtual schooling.
  • Rental Resiliency: This program is designed to support at-risk renters and mediate on payment issues.
  • Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support Grant Program: This is funding to non-profit partners who provide support through grocery gift cards, transportation assistance, child care, rental assistance and more.
  • The Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative: This program supports childcare providers and early childhood educators, as well as providing support for children to allow parents to go back to work.
  • LGBTQ & BIPOC Equity Project: Increases access to and awareness of services for LGBTQ and for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, groups that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
  • Channel and Floodway Maintenance: Funding for additional maintenance work on stream channels, like Four Mile Run and Holmes Run.
  • New Business Support Programs: This offers business counseling and helps establish partnerships for local businesses.
  • Foundational Support for Commercial Business Districts: A fund that could create and — at least initially — sustain Business Improvement Districts. The idea has been controversial and was struck down in the past, largely due to the need for local businesses to supply the funding.
  • Alexandria Library Mobile Hotspot Lending Program: A free mobile hotspot program to provide Library members with better internet access to those without internet access at home.

A full list of American Rescue Plan Act funding is available on the City docket (item 10).

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Months of campaigning came to a head last night as Mayor Justin Wilson and three City Council incumbents held onto their seats despite opposition and the three new members of the City Council were among those most closely aligned with the incumbents.

The city also had relatively high levels of voter turnout for a non-Presidential election year, with 23% of registered voters showing up to the polls.

The election isn’t over, however. While Alexandria voters tend to lean blue, City Council candidates will compete against Republican Darryl Nirenberg and Independent Florence King in November.

Mayor Justin Wilson will also face off against Republican Annetta Catchings, and for the 45th District, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is running against Republican J.D. Maddox.

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Some officials say that a last-minute proposal to add a pool to the Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard campus is long overdue.

While previously dismissed as prohibitively expensive, the total cost for the addition of the pool isn’t clear yet.

School Board chair Meagan Alderton said Monday night that the regulation-sized pool is long overdue for a school system that still has the hallmarks of racial disparity in its aquatic sports teams.

“We are, indeed, asking the city to provide additional dollars to provide this facility for the Minnie Howard site,” Alderton said at the joint City Council/School Board subcommittee meeting. “I find it hard to think there will be racial equity without investing dollars in communities that have historically been denied access… Consider it reparations for people of Color, because it’s long overdue. It has been so hurtful to watch and this School Board is ready.”

Beyond the actual cost of building the pool, it would cost ACPS $1.2 million in energy credits to keep the school at its Net Zero goals. The current total cost of the School Board’s chosen design for the school is $149.5 million.

The addition of the pool throws a slight wrench into budget process, as the City Council approved the School Board’s budget weeks ago. City Manager Mark Jinks said any proposal for more funding for the addition of a pool to the school would need to be given to the city by June 1.

Photo via ACPS

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It was another busy week in Alexandria.

For the second week in a row, our top story was on T.C. Williams High School teacher Gregory Elliott, whose D.C.-based go-go band Experience Unlimited was featured at the Oscars.

There are less than three weeks before the June 8 democratic primary, which will determine the candidates for lieutenant governor, the 45th District in the House of Delegates, Alexandria Mayor and City Council.

Speaking of elections, this week we covered two election forums hosted by the Seminary Ridge Civic Association. Much of the conversations were focused on community engagement, colocating affordable housing on school grounds and the Seminary Road diet. Thursday night’s forum also introduced candidate Darryl Nirenberg, who is a lone Republican contender facing off against a mostly Democrat slate of candidates in November.

In our weekly poll, we tried to settle the appropriate name for the Parker-Gray/Braddock neighborhood. What should it be called? Of the 339 votes tallied, 53% (180 votes) favor Braddock, 32% (110 votes) call it Parker-Gray and 14% (49 votes) use both interchangeably.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Go-go music star-turned Alexandria teacher ‘Sugar Bear’ in the spotlight after Oscars shoutout
  2. Inova wants to convert Alexandria Hospital into residential properties
  3. Racism, sexism and favoritism reported within the Alexandria Fire Department
  4. Here’s how expensive it is to rebrand Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School
  5. PHOTOS: King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project nears completion
  6. Amazon Fresh supermarket planned for former Shopper’s Food Warehouse in Potomac Yard
  7. Local diner franchise pinches former crab shack in Old Town, crawling toward fall opening
  8. Officials find Cameron Run Regional Park at fault for chlorine spill in Lake Cook
  9. Catholic Charities hopes to turn vacant Carlyle restaurant into workforce training kitchen
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. ARHA aims to convert Old Town public housing properties to resemble the mixed-use ‘Lineage’ development

Have a safe weekend!

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