Alexandria, VA

After the planned rebuilding of St. Andrews United Methodist Church, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School (1000 St. Stephens Road) has submitted plans to expand the private school with new buildings and parking.

According to the Development Special Use Permit (DSUP), the plan is to increase enrollment capacity at the school from 480 students to 520 students, as well as modernizing some of the school’s dated facilities.

The new plan will also add a total of 20 parking spaces to the school to accommodate the student body increase. The new development will include temporary trailers for students while construction is underway.

The plans are scheduled for review at the Tuesday, Feb. 2 Planning Commission meeting.

Image via City of Alexandria

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Alexandria City Public Schools is still hoping to hear from local parents whether they are comfortable sending their children back to school.

“We are extending the deadline for the Family Choice Form until Friday, Dec. 18,” ACPS said. “We have not yet heard from everyone and we need to hear from all our families to be able to refine our transition plan to reopen our school buildings for in-person learning.”

A survey of teachers in November found that around half of the teaching staff said they would not be comfortable returning, but staff noted that advances in the vaccine process could help waylay those concerns along.

Parents responding to the form have the choice of a hybrid model that’s part in-person and part-virtual, or 100% virtual as classes have been for much of this year.

Parents can complete the form online, by phone, or by contacting their school.

For those seeking responding by phone, the following options are available:

English: 703-844-1763

Spanish: 703-844-3424

Amharic: 703-927-6866

Arabic: 703-927-7095

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Waterfront Shipping Container Bar Starts to Take Shape — “On Monday morning, the shipping containers were moved from the barge to the pier for a portion of the restaurant.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Drop Boxes Announced for Medication Disposal — “Unwanted medication can be dropped off at one of these 3 locations. Do not flush unwanted medications down the toilet or drain.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Earns Perfect Ratings on Municipal Equality Index — “According to the HRC website, the MEI measures the inclusiveness of residents in cities around the county who identify as LGBTQ+. This year, Alexandria received a perfect score of 100 percent on the index.” [Zebra]

Final Report Released on CARES Act Funds — “While we await additional Federal action, it is important to recognize how the City has quickly put the $27.8M we have received to benefit the residents and small businesses of our community.” [Twitter]

Episcopal High School Seeking English Teacher — “Episcopal High School is looking for a full-time English teacher beginning in the fall of 2021. Candidates must be prepared to teach students at every level in this four-year boarding school.” [NAIS Career Center]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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After a unanimous vote at the Alexandria School Board meeting last night, the names T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School were voted out — with the replacements still to be decided.

Over the next few months, the School Board will seek public feedback before settling on a new pair of names. The new names will be chosen by the Board in the spring and go into effect at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

“I’m excited for this moment,” said Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, who recently threw his name in among supporters of the change. “It’s finally here. On behalf of our students: this is a historic moment for everybody. For many years people have been trying to have the name of T.C. Williams in particular changed… I want to commend the Board for allowing us to be able toe explore and get information from our community.”

T.C. Williams High School is the biggest public high school in Virginia, and is named after former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was an avowed segregationist. Matthew Maury Elementary School is named after an oceanographer and Confederate leader.

While efforts to rename T.C. Williams High School began in the 1990s, a renewed push this year was tied in with nationwide discussions about renaming honors to the Confederacy and other symbols of racial oppression.

“We can’t change history, but we can change what history we choose to honor,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “The names were selected not because of their accomplishments, but as declarations of our community values in 1929 and in 1962. We have an opportunity to right that wrong.”

While the School Board members unanimously supported, others acknowledged that the symbolic change is far from the end of the discussion about eliminating vestiges of racism in the school infrastructure.

“T.C. and Maury no longer reflect who we are as a society, at least in Alexandria,” School Board member Heather Thornton said. “This is a symbolic step. Changing the name of T.C. is not going to do anything to eliminate systemic racism and barriers. It’s not going to solve anything. I hope people stay engaged and know this is a first step, but there are many things we need to have community engaged on.”

Thornton also pointed to disproportionality in suspension rates and graduation rates as lingering reminders of inequality in Alexandria City Public Schools, topics discussed later in the meeting.

“We can change the name all we want,” Thornton said, “but if we don’t change foundational issues I don’t think we will really achieve what we’re hoping to achieve as a school division.”

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The Alexandria School Board will vote tonight on the Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr.’s phased plan to reopen elementary and middle schools starting next month.

The board will discuss and then vote on the proposal, which was unveiled on October 15. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Under the proposal, kindergarten through second graders with disabilities would go to Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 International Baccalaureate School on November 5.

The full proposed schedule, which does not include T.C. Williams High School, is below.

  • November 17: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades 3-5 who are enrolled in the Citywide Special Education program who opt into in-person learning
  • November 30: Expand to include ECSE students who opt into in-person learning [to be housed at the Early Childhood Center (ECC)]
  • November 30: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades K-5 who receive self-contained Language Arts and Math instruction who opt into in-person learning
  • December 2020: Expand to include Students with Disabilities in grades 6-8 who are enrolled in the Citywide Special Education program who opt into in-person learning
  • January 2021: Expand to include all remaining students in grades PreK-5 who opt into in-person learning
  • February 2021: Expand to include all remaining students in grades 6-8 who opt into in-person learning

The phased approach will help with some staffing issues.

recent survey found that 56% of staff would be very or somewhat likely to go back to school in the event of facilities reopening with COVID restrictions. The same survey found that younger grade levels are having more challenges with screen time than older students, and that younger families need child care.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Living Legend Joe Shumard Dies — “Over the weekend, Joe Shumard, an Alexandria Living Legend, past president of the Chamber of Commerce, executive director of the George Washington Birthday Celebration and Parade, and president of the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association, passed away after an extended illness.” [Zebra]

Beyer Calls Trump ‘Menace’ After President Denounces Fauci on Twitter — “Donald Trump publicly attacks one of the country’s leading medical experts with juvenile personal insults as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths spike across the United States. Trump is a menace to the health and safety of the American people.” [Twitter]

City Recommends Low Risk Halloween Activities — “The City and AHD strongly urge Alexandrians to choose Halloween activities that are identified as lower risk by the @CDCgov. Treat yourself to lower risk options this year and reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks.” [City of Alexandria]

The Goddard School Opening in Alexandria in 2021 — “The Goddard School has 70,000 students enrolled in more than 525 schools in 38 states.” [Alexandria Living]

ACPS Gives Away 1,000 Books to Patrick Henry Elementary School — “Thanks to grant from the Reading Is Fundamental program, staff presented students in kindergarten through the fifth grade with 1,000 free books!” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Areas of patchy fog early. Sunshine along with some cloudy intervals. High 78F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.Mostly clear during the evening followed by cloudy skies overnight. Low near 60F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Social Worker — “Conducts personal interviews with the referring worker in order to compile a social history; Assists in matching children to best suited foster families; Participates in pre-placement interviews with the child, foster family, and referring worker…” [Indeed]

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What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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Amazon is giving an additional $1 million to Alexandria and other local families impacted by COVID-19 to help pay for urgently needed items, including food, school supplies and clothing.

The money is in Amazon’s Right Now Needs Fund, which is available for all 18 Alexandria City Public Schools, as well as all 41 Arlington Public Schools.

Back in March, Amazon donated $200,000 to ACT for Alexandria’s COVID-19 response fund as part of a separate $1 million donation across the region.

“The start of this school year has been difficult for many families across our new home of Northern Virginia, and we are determined to provide support to the students who need it most,” said Jay Carney, Amazon Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs in a statement. “At Amazon, we are always looking for innovative solutions to tough challenges, and we are confident that the flexibility and speed built into our new Right Now Needs Fund will help ensure that more students from underserved communities can focus on their studies, and not fall behind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.”

Amazon says that social workers and site coordinators will identify students needs, and that Education Assistance Product Vouchers will be given out as a prepaid payment to help with food, school supplies and clothing.

“By using the prepaid vouchers, students and families can redeem much-needed items in a dignified and convenient way,” Amazon said in a release.

This school year alone, Amazon also gave Northern Virginia students Mi-Fi devices, and donated $1 million for local emergency response efforts.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Trump Should Not Reject Strict FDA Guidelines for COVID Vaccines — “Political interference with vaccine development and an open feud with FDA can only further damage the public’s already growing safety concerns. Once again, lives may depend on Trump shutting his mouth and letting scientists do their jobs.” [Twitter]

Pizzeria Paradiso Closing in Old Town — “Like many restaurants in Old Town, Pizzeria Paradiso closed when the coronavirus pandemic reached Alexandria. Unfortunately, the beloved pizza restaurant will not be reopening, the owner announced this week.” [Alexandria Living]

Carlyle Farmers’ Market Today from 3-7 P.M. — “Free to the Public; Produce, Meats, Food, and Beverage sales are welcomed. What to Bring? Face Mask and your Social Distancing Etiquette.” [Facebook]

Lee-Fendall House Hosting Virtual Speakeasy Fundraiser — “Enjoy a night of speakeasy-style fun , without leaving your living room! Join us for this special night to support the Lee-Fendall House Museum’s vital work in historic preservation and education – one where you can keep on dancing, break out the booze, and have a ball.” [Visit Alexandria]

Alexandria Sheriff’s Deputy Reads ‘Lost And Found’ — “Chief Deputy Candra Callicott offers her encouragement to young students and the sweet story “Lost and Found” about a boy and a penguin.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Country Day School Hosting Virtual Open House — “ACDS’s small-size and ability to adapt quickly allowed us to open in September with in-person learning under a hybrid model. Join our Head of School, Division Heads, current parents and middle school students to learn more about our student-centered program.” [Patch]

Free Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinic on Saturday — “This clinic will be open to adults and adolescents age 12 and over, with a maximum of four people per vehicle.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s Weather — “Overcast (during the day). High 74F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.Rain showers in the evening will evolve into a more steady rain overnight. Low 63F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Alexandria Assistant City Manager for Public Private Partnerships — “As a member of the City Manager’s Senior Leadership Team, the Assistant City Manager for Public Private Partnerships reports to the City Manager and a Deputy City Manager and is responsible for leading the overall public private partnership (P3) initiatives for the City primarily via capital project planning and financing, leveraging of City assets and resources to implement City infrastructure and facilities, economic development related public sector and private sector projects, as well as facilitating the development and implementation of alternative service delivery strategies.” [Indeed]

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Every seven weeks, Alexandria City Public Schools will evaluate where it stands on reopening schools, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings recently told the School Board.

The school system is currently hearing a backlash from many families of younger students over its VirtualPLUS+ model. Parents are saying their kids spend too much time looking at screens, and Hutchings recently told the Board that staff are working through solutions to provide “different experiences for some of our most vulnerable students, which are our youngest learners.”

Hutchings said that future in-person classes will adhere to CDC guidelines, students will be required to wear face masks and socially distance, and school facilities would undergo “special cleaning sessions.”

On Friday (September 25), ACPS will survey families and staff to see who is willing to go back to school. This is part of the school system’s “phased reentry.” He will present the board with an update on October 15.

“Along with guidance from the Alexandria Health Department and analysis compiled by our staff, we will use that survey data to help us make informed decisions about our next steps,” Hutchings said. “Every seven weeks we’re going to be re-evaluating where we are as a school division and informing the community where we will stand.”

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