(Updated at 10:40 a.m. Alexandria City High School’s rates increased to their highest levels ever, not the highest in Virginia) Alexandria City High School has a lot more than just a new name to be proud of. This week, the school system announced that its recent graduating class saw the highest on-time graduation rate and the lowest student dropout rate in the school’s history.
“ACPS saw a nine-percentage point increase in the on-time graduation rate, from 82% in 2020 to 91% in 2021, and a nine-percentage point decrease in the overall student dropout rate, from 14% in 2020 to 5% in 2021,” ACPS reported. “The previous highest on-time graduation rate for ACPS was 86% in 2013 and the previous lowest dropout rate was 8% in 2019.”
The school system has been challenged by the pandemic on multiple fronts, and the figures reflect a student body that was mostly studying at home for a year. To contend with the challenge of nearly the entire student body studying at home, ACPS developed a Graduation Task Force, which “monitored the graduation status of all ACPS students, identifying those who needed extra support and developing plans to help them stay on track for graduation,” according to ACPS.
The graduation rate for English learners increased by 19%, Hispanic students saw a 15% increase and economically disadvantaged students saw a 10% increase, according to ACPS.
“These historic gains in the 2021 graduation and student dropout rates reflect the daily hard work and determination of our students and staff. They deserve our congratulations and our deepest thanks,” School Board Chair Meagan L. Alderton said.
The 2021 graduation rates are as follows:
- Black: 93%
- Hispanic: 84%
- White: 98%
- Students with Disabilities: 95%
- English Learners: 90%
- Economically Disadvantaged: 88%
“We are thrilled that more than 90% of our students graduated in 2021, and that the number of students who dropped out of school was just one-third of what that rate was in 2020,” said Alexandria City High School Executive Principal Peter Balas. “We know there is still work to be done but I want to acknowledge the remarkable gains of our students, especially our Hispanic students and English learners, as we report the highest graduation rate ever for ACPS.
The Alexandria School Board on Thursday (September 23) will vote Thursday on a number of policy and regulatory revisions on the treatment of transgender students.
Among the changes are proposals to not segregate extracurricular activities by gender and allowing students to dress according to their gender identity or gender expression. Student athletes would still, sometimes, be segregated.
“Dress expectations should allow students to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression, including attire required for school-related programs, activities and events,” ACPS notes in a staff memo. “An organization may only impose membership qualifications based on sex where based on competitive athletic skill or where the activity involved is a contact sport. However, membership shall not be denied solely on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”
The Board is making the changes to adhere to Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE’s) Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools, since the General Assembly now requires that all public schools in Virginia have inclusive policies regarding transgender students by the fall of 2021.
“Teachers, administrators, and other personnel employed on a full-time basis who support and interact with students are required to complete a mental health awareness training or similar program,” notes an ACPS memo. “In order to promote a positive school climate where all students feel safe and supported, regular education about transgender students will be included in such training.”
The regulatory revisions highlight eight issues, according to ACPS:
- Compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws;
- Maintenance of a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students;
- Prevention of and response to bullying and harassment;
- Maintenance of student records;
- Identification of students;
- Protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information;
- Enforcement of sex-based dress codes; and
- Student participation in sex-specific school activities and events and use of school facilities. (“Activities and events” do not include athletics.)
Kristin Carpenter’s services are in demand.
This month, she and her team opened The Linder Academy at the corner of S. Washington and Gibbon Streets in Old Town, joining their smaller McLean location, which opened in January.
Right now, she’s got 24 students in McLean and 52 at the Alexandria campus, and when the latter is built out it will have 13 classrooms and be able to hold just over 100 students.
“I never thought I would want to run a private school,” Carpenter told ALXnow. “But as a research specialist and a teacher, it was nice that there was no bureaucracy and we could just teach the kids. We don’t have curriculum contracts, so we could just pick the best materials and the best methods and teach with super small class sizes and problem-based learning — things that just aren’t options at big schools, and we really had a great time with it.”
Still under construction, the Old Town school is located at 601, 607 and 609 S. Washington Street and 710 Gibbon Street. New murals of famous authors and civil rights icons with quotes have been painted on the exterior walls to show the essence of the school’s philosophy.
Carpenter launched Linder Educational Coaching in Arlington in 2008, and focused mainly on interventions outside of school with tutoring and after-school programs.
“But when COVID hit, we just realized there were a lot of parents that needed support,” she said. “My biggest concern was early childhood literacy. Even with the best teacher in the world, you’re just not going to learn on an iPad.”
The school, which costs more than $28,000 a year in tuition, specializes in working with students who struggle with learning disabilities and traditional school settings. Children spend the early part of the day with the most cognitively demanding classes, like math and English, and they day becomes less regulated in the afternoon for electives.
There are six-t0-nine students in each class, Carpenter said.
“I would say weaknesses in social skills is one of the biggest things that we are seeing,” she said. “Outside of that, I think overall that their writing skills are very weak, and that wasn’t helped by being able to type or do voice-to-text this past school year. You know, the actual act of being able to write is important.”
Carpenter said she had no plans to open additional schools in the future.
“God, no,” she said. “I can’t think about it right now. I’m very tired. I just want to sleep for years.”
Alexandria could receive refugees from Afghanistan — “Currently, it is believed that many of the Afghan evacuees will settle in the U.S., including Alexandria, under Special Immigrant Visas, which are given to Iraqi or Afghan nationals who have been employed by the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator or interpreter, or has been employed by a contractor of the United States government overseas. SIVs are eligible for the same resettlement benefits as refugees for up to eight months after arrival. They arrive with legal permanent resident status and can apply for citizenship after five years.” [City of Alexandria]
Bishop Ireton grad chosen for Visa Black Scholar and Jobs Program — “Luke Pilot, an Alexandria resident who attended Bishop Ireton High School, is one of the 50 students selected for the program. Pilot is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” [Patch]
Alexandria Symphony Orchestra changes performance selection next month — “The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) had planned to open the 2021-2022 Season by performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Alexandria Choral Society. It was announced earlier today that because of COVID-19 concerns, they have opted to perform the Fifth Symphony instead.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Thunderstorms likely (during the day). Potential for severe thunderstorms. High 81F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near an inch… Becoming partly cloudy after some evening rain. Potential for flooding rains. Low 62F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]
New job: Bank teller in West End — “At Wells Fargo, we are looking for talented people who will put our customers at the center of everything we do. We are seeking candidates who embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in a workplace where everyone feels valued and inspired.” [Indeed]
It hasn’t been a perfect opening at Mount Vernon Community School, and Alexandria City Public Schools says it’s a work in progress.
The school system says that school bus routes have been fixed — after a few students were put on the wrong buses — and that hot meals have resumed during lunchtime.
“It is like they didn’t even expect students to return,” a parent told ALXnow. “The parents and community are besides ourselves. We were hoping for a good and safe start to school and this is just throwing us all and making us very angry and anxious.”
There a number of ongoing construction projects at the school that will not be finished until this fall.
Alicia Hart, the executive director of facilities and operations for ACPS, said that a lot of work was done at the school during the summer, including the installation of new floor tiles in the cafeteria and the removal of asbestos-containing material in the kitchen. While the kitchen project is anticipated for a November completion, hot lunches at the school resumed on August 26, Hart said.
The school library is also undergoing a renovation, and this summer the carpet was ripped out and the bookshelves and tiered seating was demolished. New carpet is currently being installed, Hart said, and the new bookshelves are expected to be delivered in October.
“While delivery is anticipated for October, there may be delays due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions,” Hart said.
As for buses, Hart said that it is typical for transportation services staff to make some changes and refine the bus routes in the early days of a school year.
“A bus route at Mount Vernon Community School was changed by Thursday, Aug. 26, to ensure the smooth transportation of students to an aftercare program,” Hart said.
Local school systems face bus driver shortages, but say they’re ready to roll — “ACPS recognizes there is a national shortage of school bus drivers, making it challenging to recruit and fill bus driver positions. ACPS has about 90% of our drivers available and 100% of bus monitor positions filled…” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria recommends cooling centers during heatwave — “The next few days are going to be hot and humid. The City offers several locations as options to those without cooling in their homes, including rec centers and libraries, as well as assistance for adults 60+ and some low-income households. Learn more at alexandriava.gov/122602.” [Twitter]
Mayor conducting town hall meeting on the run — “This Thursday night I am bringing back my ‘Running Town Hall!’ Lace up your running shoes and meet us at Pacers Running at 1301 King Street at 7 PM. We’ll run and discuss the issues facing our City. See you there!” [Facebook]
Virginia liquor store sales hit record — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority reported revenue of $1.4 billion during the 2021 fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of $163 million from the previous year, the Virginia ABC announced Tuesday.” [Patch]
Anticipating fall, Visit Alexandria releases deets for events thru November — “Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau, has released details for local events into November. Take a look. There are plenty of things to do.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. Hot and humid. High around 95F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Server at Chadwicks — “Chadwicks Restaurant is currently looking to fill FULL- and PART-TIME server positions. Must be honest, hardworking, and capable of working well with others. Experience not a priority. We currently have more business than we can handle! Following a brief training regimen, you may pick up as many hours as you can handle. Start making very competitive server pay ASAP!” [Indeed]
The Child and Family Network Centers was all set up to open preschool to kids in low-income families on September 8, but a recently burst sewer pipe inside their Arlandria/Chirilagua-based classroom has put the program on hold for more than a dozen area children.
The nonprofit is launching a $50,000 fundraiser and is tapping into its reserves to renovate the classroom, which is located in an apartment within the Arlandria-Chirilagua Housing Cooperative. The classroom provides critical child care and education for low-income, immigrant essential workers in the heavily Latino section of Alexandria.
“It’s really difficult to find classroom space, especially in Chirilagua right now,” Jackie Didio, the executive director of CFNC, told ALXnow. “If we don’t open on time we’ll have playdates and at least try to get the kiddos at that outside playground in front of the building. We’re going to try our best to support the families as much as we can while we’re fixing the classroom.”
The classroom/apartment has also now become infested with fleas. The necessary work includes plumbing repairs, replacing all of the furniture and classroom supplies, as well as installing new cabinets and carpeting.
“We’re actually in the search this year for even more classroom spaces because the need is so high, but it’s really difficult to find space, especially in Chirilagua right now,” Didio said. “We were open all last year, too, and that was a challenge. We’re trying to serve the families in our low-income communities here in Alexandria… I know we have such an amazing community and with your help, I know that we can do it.”
With serious and unresolved health-related decisions looming, Alexandria City Public Schools is set to reopen its doors to full-time instruction on Tuesday, August 24.
“I’m looking forward to putting the stressful 18 months behind us,” an ACPS parent told ALXnow. “It’s time to move ahead and get these kids back in school. I know things will look different and we will have some rough patches, but we owe it to the kids to get them back.”
Just days before reopening, the School Board will consider a vaccine mandate for all ACPS employees at its meeting tonight. The school system has been criticized by parents for waiting too long to tackle the vaccine issue, echoing some of the widespread frustration that the school system didn’t open quickly enough last year.
“Together, Alexandria City Public School students, teachers, staff, and families have met the challenges of the past school year during a dual pandemic of COVID-19 and systemic racism,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wrote to parents. “We are excited to make the most of our opportunity for a new beginning as we enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that comes with having our students back for five days a week of in-person learning.”
ACPS reopened to five days a week just last month — for summer school. Also last month, Alexandria City High School principal Peter Balas told ALXnow that his school — the largest high school in Virginia — was ready to fully reopen. Next Tuesday will also mark first school year since it changed its name from T.C. Williams High School.
“ACPS will continue to adjust measures based on the latest health guidance and best practices and update the chart accordingly as changes occur,” the school system wrote in its 2021-2022 Health and Safety Guidance.
With COVID numbers on the rise, the School Board recently decided that all 15,000+ students and staff wear protective face coverings in school. The Virginia Department of Health says unvaccinated residents account for a vast majority of new COVID cases.
Face masks are required to be worn inside school buses and classrooms, except when eating and exercising. Masks are not required outdoors.
Students and staff are also required to keep six feet of social distance and quarantine for two weeks if they are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19. Vaccinated students and staff who are not symptomatic do not have to quarantine.
“There will be daily online health screenings and temperature screenings in school entrances and procedures to limit the number of visitors in school facilities,” noted ACPS. “If students are closely interacting during recess or by the nature of a sports activity, then the recommendation would be to wear masks. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.”
ACPS is still teaching virtually, but the deadline to enroll in Virtual Virginia expired last month.
According to ACPS, this is what to expect when school resumes:
- 5 days per week in school
- Normal classroom capacity to accommodate five days a week, in-person learning
- Hot breakfasts and lunches will be available every day
- Bus routes and schedules will return to normal
- All activities and athletics will be offered in-person
- All special education services will be offered in-person
- English for Speakers of Other Languages will be offered in-person
- Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors program offerings at Alexandria City High School will be offered in-person
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will be offered in-person
School year starts at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School — “With a little uncertainty and a lot of hope, Alexandria enters a new chapter for its students.” [Zebra]
Brokerage firm KLMB chosen to find tenants for Landmark Mall — “The first phase of the 4.2 million-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment, to be anchored by a 1 million-square-foot Inova Health System hospital, isn’t slated to deliver until mid-2025. But KLNB and the development team, including Foulger-Pratt, Howard Hughes Corp. (NYSE: HHC), and Seritage Growth Properties (NYSE: SRG), have started working on a retail master plan to identify potential anchor tenants — which they hope will then help draw smaller shops and restaurants to the development.” [Washington Business Journal]
The Fund for Alexandria’s virtual gala is this Thursday — “All funds raised will directly benefit children in foster care or at risk for abuse and neglect, helping to ensure that each child has their basic needs met and providing life-enhancing and enriching opportunities that many of these children miss out on, like dance, art or karate lessons, summer camping, school field trips, scouting and team sports.” [City of Alexandria]
Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny skies during the morning hours. Scattered showers and thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 94F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Isolated thunderstorms during the evening, then skies turning partly cloudy overnight. Low near 75F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Real estate agent (training included) — “Have you reached your potential in your career? Are you making the money you deserve? Do you have the tools, leadership, and supportive environment to help you succeed in this lucrative and exciting industry? If you answered ‘No’ to any of these questions, Keller Williams Realty is your answer.” [Indeed]
What a challenging week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.
Alexandria track star Noah Lyles won the bronze medal in the 200 meters at the Tokyo Olympics, garnering congratulations from around the country, including locally by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Justin Wilson. Also this week, Lyles’ mom and brother held a watch party at his alma mater, Alexandria City High School.
This week, we also spoke with Alexandria boxer Troy “The Transformer” Isley, who said competing in the Olympics was a ‘dream come true.” Tynita Butts-Townsend, the third T.C. Williams High School graduate to participate in the games, did not make it past the first round of the high jump.
“I thought I would feel more crappy about getting last at the Olympics, but then I read that sentence again…IM STILL AN OLYMPIAN!” Butts-Townsend tweeted.
On the coronavirus front, with the City recommending residents wear masks indoors, this week the School Board voted to make it mandatory that face masks be worn when school starts later this month.
- Five arrested after shots fired in Old Town North
- Eviction moratorium extended for Alexandria
- Monte Durham wants to film TV show out of his Old Town hair salon
- Development on West End lot could signal the start of Mark Center overhaul
- Former ACPS administrator Tammy Ignacio says experience matters in School Board bid
- Alexandria midfielder Eryk Williamson plays in U.S. 1-0 upset over Mexico in the 2021 Gold Cup
- Child neglect suspect arrested after evading Alexandria police for six months
- City plans commemoration for lynched Black Alexandrian
- ALX Community opening third coworking space in Old Town
- Woman arrested for sending threatening texts and attacking roommate in Landmark area
- Fingerprints lead to 7-Eleven robbery suspect already jailed after DNA linked him to separate 7-Eleven incident
- Mount Vernon Trail widening project gets funding
- Parks Department braces for strain on system when Minnie Howard field closes down
- Alexandria reports 204 COVID-19 cases in July, a big jump over last month
- Alexandria City High School to host Olympics watch party to cheer on alumnus Noah Lyles
- ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
- GoFundMe launched for Will Nichols, retiring manager of St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Del Ray
- With ACPS expecting enrollment increase, Alexandria Mayor explains where kids come from
- Report details life of Black Alexandrians post-Civil War in home slated for redevelopment
- Noah Lyles to race for gold medal in 200 meters at Tokyo Olympics
- 18-year-old arrested for firing gunshots at West End apartment building
- EXCLUSIVE: Halal slaughterhouse opens, gives away free chickens for first two days in business
- Heritage project skirts denial at Board of Architectural Review meeting
Have a safe weekend!