After months of work, two logo redesigns for Alexandria City Public Schools were sent back to the drawing board.
Last Thursday night (June 16), the School Board voted 7-2 against staff’s preferred option. Only Board Members Willie Bailey and Christopher Harris voted for the preferred logo option.
“Obviously it’s not catching on,” School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said at the meeting. “Which is okay. I don’t think we want to do something just to do it.”
In February, after getting a graphic designer to make 10 logo concepts, the Alexandria City Public Schools Office of Communications created three separate focus groups, which spent months whittling designs down to two favorites.
“It seems like it would be helpful to maybe have a really concise message that we were trying to convey, and getting feedback from people and if the logo was conveying that message,” said Board Member Michelle Rief. “I’m worried that some folks may actually have a hard time even reading the letters, the way they appear in both of those messages.”
The two choices garnered more than 4,300 votes across multiple platforms. The preferred option — the lowercase letters with dots — got 2,167 votes (50.3%). The second option received 2,141 votes (49.7%).
“It’s interesting to see how the community was split 50-50 on the two logos,” said Vice Chair Jacinta Greene. “Have we considered asking our very talented ACPS students to submit potential logos like we did for Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School?”
Julia Burgos, the ACPS chief of school and community relations, said that asking students to design the official logo of the school system was risky.
“If we went the student route, we have to take something from the students, and if there was something that wasn’t going to be representative, we don’t want to insult students,” Burgos said. “That was one of the concerns, because if this is the logo for the entire organization, the schools themselves and the student representation for the schools was a little bit less risky.”
Staff hoped to launch the new logo next month on the ACPS website, and to get in sync with our website redesign project scheduled to launch in July 2022.
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is hoping to head into the next school year with a better way for families to provide feedback in languages other than English.
Alexandria’s School Board approved the formation of Spanish, Amharic and Arabic-speaking advisory committees for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.
“These advisory committees will provide a voice to specific language groups, giving committee members the opportunity to share feedback regarding focused, relevant topics for those communities in alignment with family engagement best practices,” ACPS said in a release. “Meetings will be held virtually in the native language and with English interpretation.”
The committees will advice the school division on needs for students and families whose primary language is Spanish, Amharic, Arabic or other languages.
“They also will provide recommendations regarding the education of these student groups,” the release said, “while assisting in educating the community about ACPS support for Spanish-, Amharic- and Arabic-speaking children and families.”
Alexandria City High School seniors will celebrate their graduation in-person this Saturday (June 4) at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena.
Due to the pandemic, last year’s graduation was held outdoors in Chinquapin Park — right next door to ACHS. In 2020, the ceremony was completely virtual. The graduation has otherwise been held at GMU.
This year’s class is the first to graduate since Alexandria City High School changed its name from T.C. Williams High School. Seniors are allowed seven ticketed guests at the event.
The event begins at 9:15 a.m., and speakers will include ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., ACHS Executive Principal Peter M. Balas and students.
The last full day of school for all other ACPS students is Friday, June 10.
Watch the @AlexCityTitans Class of 2022 Graduation on Sat., June 4, at 9:15 a.m. Interpretation is available in Spanish, Arabic, Amharic and Dari. Learn more and access the livestream: https://t.co/DHNmwhU0xD #Titans2022 #TitansRising pic.twitter.com/PhHXzkHQT5
— Alexandria City Public Schools (@ACPSk12) June 1, 2022
Photo via ACPS/Facebook
Alexandria City High School (ACHS) will have a modified schedule this week as the school’s community reels from the killing of a student last week at a nearby shopping center.
Principal Peter Balas said in a message to the community that the school will have virtual asynchronous learning and SOL exams. ACHS staff will be in classrooms providing virtual instruction and will be available to proctor exams and be available to any student in need of social-emotional support or socialization.
The changes come after Luis Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed outside the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonalds’ during a large brawl. No arrests have been made in connection to the incident.
“With all of this weighing on us, as well as continuing to monitor the ongoing investigation with the Alexandria Police Department (APD), I have made some decisions in collaboration with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. and ACPS leadership regarding the week of May 31, 2022,” Balas said.
Some students and seniors will be required to attend school in-person:
- Seniors who need to complete graduation requirements.
- Seniors who must participate in graduation rehearsal (June 3).
- Students who must fulfill SOL or other required testing.
- Students in ACHS city-wide specialized instructional program.
In a separate release, Balas also informed the community of new security measures that will be in place for the rest of the school year. Those include:
- Additional Alexandria Police Department (APD) Detail Officer support will be deployed to the King Street and Minnie Howard campuses.
- Additional security officers will be deployed to the King Street and Minnie Howard campuses for interior and exterior supervision.
- Use of select entry/access points at King Street and Minnie Howard campuses will be restricted.
- Additional staff coverage will be in place for monitoring entry/exit doors at the King Street and Minnie Howard campuses.
Student IDs will be required to access ACHS campuses starting today (Tuesday), including students arriving by bus. In an effort to reduce hallway traffic volume, classes will be transitioned via school-wide announcements. The lunch sessions are also changed to halve the number of students at lunch at any given time at the King Street campus.
For the rest of the school year, athletic competitions will also be taking place at away fields or non-ACHS fields within the city of Alexandria.
“Finally, we are working in collaboration with the APD, City of Alexandria leadership and representatives from the Bradlee Shopping Center on additional measures that will be considered,” Balas wrote.
The full release regarding the new school schedule from Balas is available below:
On Friday (May 5), ACPS announced that it was awarded the Silver Prize in the National School Boards Association Magna Awards program for The Identity Project campaign, as well as a 2021 Gold Medallion Award from the National School Public Relations Association.
“We are excited that the ACPS Identity Project has been honored with a Magna Award,” School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said in a statement. “This recognizes the contributions from our students, families, staff and community who came together to work on this historic change. With student voices at the center, we mobilized to educate our community about the past and to chart an inclusive path for the future. We now have school names that are reflective of the values of Alexandria City Public Schools.”
Alexandria City High School is the largest high school in Virginia. The school was previously named T.C. Williams High School for 50 years, and became known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which is the story of the 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity.
T.C. was named after segregationist Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was the superintendent of ACPS for 30 years. Williams worked against the integration of schools, and required Black students who wanted admission to previously all-white schools go through an application process. Only 75 Black students (about 3%) were allowed to transfer to formerly white schools by the time Williams announced his retirement in 1962, and that was three years after the city officially desegregated schools.
Naomi L. Brooks Elementary was previously named Matthew Maury Elementary School for nearly a century, after the Confederate leader and oceanographer. Brooks was a beloved teacher for 25 years at Charles Houston Elementary School and Cora Kelly Elementary School.
It took more than a year to solicit name proposals from the community and for the School Board to whittle them down to replace the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. The schools were officially renamed last summer, putting an end to an issue that residents tried to address for decades.
The project was deemed so successful that Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. highlighted it in a book he recently co-wrote with Georgetown University professor Douglas Reed: “Getting Into Good Trouble at School: A Guide to Building an Anti-racist School System.“
A private elementary school has gotten the Planning Commission’s endorsement on its plans to move into 424 North Washington Street in spite of concerns at a public hearing that the busy street traffic could make it dangerous for students.
The Potomac Crescent Waldorf School is planning to move into the former daycare facility at the corner of Oronoco Street and North Washington Street this September after getting moved around across a couple locations in Old Town. Paul Nary, Director of Administration, Marketing and Communications at the school, said the school has a current enrollment of 55 students but hopes to grow to 155 over the next few years.
The recommendation for approval was unanimous on the Planning Commission, though several speakers in the public comment portion of the meeting voiced concerns about the school having pick up and drop off on Washington Street.
According to the staff report, pick-up and drop-off would run for a 10-minute time period with cars utilizing five spaces on North Washington Street. School staff members would meet their children at the vehicles during the drop-off period and accompany them to the school and walk them back to their cars in the afternoon.
Nearby residents, however, said they were worried
“I can tell you as someone who walks his dog on that stretch of street four times a day: this plan is going to be a disaster,” said George Best. “During the hours that they propose drop off and pick up, the north side of Oronoco is packed. Those lanes are filled. So to make use of the parking space, you’re going to have cars stopped in the middle lane, that’s going to create danger. Even if you don’t have cars stopped there, you have people pulling out of pick-up and drop-off zone into high speed or heavy traffic.”
Paul Dueffert said he frequently drives on Washington Street and said the school’s proximity to the busy street puts children at risk.
“[Washington Street] unlike any other street in Alexandria,” Dueffert said. “When I’m a commuter driving on it, I don’t look for children. I don’t look for four-year-olds. I don’t look for fourth graders. Is there any other K-5 elementary school that has pick up and drop off on a thoroughfare like Washington Street? This traffic plan is an invitation for U-turns. It’s an invitation for children coming across the street. It’s scary. I’m not saying that as a neighbor, this isn’t NIMBY. I’m a commuter but I don’t want to hit a kid. This needs study. This is a big deal. This is Alexandria saying it’s okay to put a full elementary school on Washington Street and I’m worried for myself as a driver.”
Planning Commission members, however, noted that drivers should always be on the lookout for pedestrians no matter what street they’re on.
“I have no qualms with the concerns that Washington Street is too wide and often driven on too quickly,” said Planning Commissioner Melissa McMahon. “What I struggle with as a planning commissioner is I believe in making the community I want to be living in, and I don’t want a community where people don’t drive down Washington Street looking for children. I want everyone to be looking for children on every street.”
McMahon also noted that there are at least five schools in Alexandria either right on Washington Street or less than a block away, and said the elementary school use isn’t fundamentally different in this regard to the pre-school that preceded it.
After Planning Commission approval, the school heads to the City Council on Saturday, April 23, for final review.
(Updated at 11:30 a.m. on March 22) Not much was taken in an overnight break-in at Lyle’s Crouch Traditional Academy earlier this month, although the suspect gained entry through the roof and no alarms went off.
On Wednesday morning, March 9, staff at the elementary school at 530 S. St. Asaph Street in Old Town called police after finding classrooms vandalized. Parents were not notified of the incident since there is no threat to school safety.
“ACPS never sent a note,” a Lyles-Crouch parent said. “Our kids told us. We then asked other employees of the school and they told us.”
There was only one wireless mouse and a stuffed animal stolen, ACPS Safety & Security Services Director John Contreras, told ALXnow. Contreras would not say whether the school’s security system was functioning.
“We do not share information specific to the functionality of security systems so as not to impact the security posture at any school,” Contreras said.
There have been no arrests.
Photo via Facebook
If all goes well, this September the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School in Old Town will have a new home.
The private school is seeking a special use permit (SUP) to operate as a grades 1-5 school at 424 N. Washington Street.
“Potomac Crescent Waldorf School is a private school that will be moving into 424 N. Washington Street, starting in September 2022,” the school said in the SUP application. “Potomac Crescent Waldorf School (PCWS) offers a full day school program for grades 1-5, beginning the school day at 8:00 am and ending at 2:30 pm (maximum 75 students).”
The application said the school follows the Waldorf curriculum — a story and nature-based learning program. According to the application, the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School is the only one of its kind in Northern Virginia.
“Our school offers a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education based on an authentic Waldorf curriculum,” the application said. “We strive to educate the whole human being: head, heart and hands, nurturing well-rounded individuals who will be successful in school and beyond.”
Much of the application was centered around pick-up and drop-off plans for the school. The school will have a pick-up and drop-off lane on N. Washington Street just south of Oronoco Street.
The application scheduled for review at the April 7 Planning Commission meeting
Photo via Potomac Crescent Waldorf School/Facebook
(Updated at noon, Jan. 12) In the midst of declining enrollment, Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wants to give all ACPS employees a raise.
That’s the gist of Hutchings’ $346 million fiscal year 2022 Combined Funds Budget, which he presented to the School Board last Thursday night (Jan. 6). The proposal is a nearly 4% increase over last year’s budget, and asks for approximately $248.7 million from the city. The City Council ultimately provides ACPS with 80% of its operating fund.
Hutchings is asking for a 2.6% salary step increase and a 2.5% market rate adjustment for all eligible ACPS employees. The school system is also continually adapting to the pandemic, as exponentially rising case numbers recently prompted the School Board plans on reverting to virtual formats on a school-by-school basis.
“Enrollment is projected to continue to decline,” noted a staff presentation to the School Board. “FY 2023 Operating Budget proposes maintaining school staff to provide continued supports due to effects of Covid-19 Pandemic.”
Systemwide, ACPS enrollment fell 3% (474 students) between summer 2020 and now (fiscal years 2021 and 2022) — a challenging period of the pandemic after more than 16,000 students transitioned to fully virtual, hybrid and then in-person learning. The school system now projects an increase of only nine students at the beginning of FY 2023 in July.
“This budget is aligned with the priorities set by the School Board for the 2022-23 school year,” Hutchings said in a press release. “It provides the support our students and staff need to succeed and mirrors our core values that ensure ACPS is empowering, equity-focused, innovative and results-driven.”
The school system is not alone in wanting raises for staff, as the Alexandria Fire Department and Police Department are also struggling with retention and Mayor Justin Wilson says the city needs to do more with less in the days ahead.
ACPS will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget on Jan. 21. The School Board is expected to pass it (with revisions) on Feb. 18, and then go to City Council for deliberation until it passes the city’s budget in early May.
(Updated 8 p.m.) Alexandria Police are investigating alleged drug possession and distribution at Episcopal High School, one of the most exclusive private boarding schools in the country.
On Dec. 8, police responded to a narcotics complaint at Episcopal and met with the school’s attorney, according to a search warrant affidavit. The officer was told that a week prior, on Dec. 1, two students were found to be allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Both students were then “immediately withdrawn” from the school by their families, according to the affidavit.
The school’s attorney then told police that one of the suspected students, who turned 18 on Dec. 10, received a number of packages with suspected drugs and that the packages were in the school mailroom.
“The parcels were retrieved and one of the parcels appeared to already be damaged and open,” police said in the search warrant. “Upon looking inside, the administrator believed the contents were illegal narcotics. Based upon the open parcel containing suspected illegal narcotics, the administrator and additional witnesses opened the other parcels and discovered additional suspected narcotics.”
Police found a number of U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail envelopes addressed to the 18-year-old at the school and containing the following:
- 20 grams of suspected Psilocybin mushrooms
- 26 suspected Xanax pills and 1.2 grams of suspected methamphetamine
- 1.3 grams of suspected cocaine
- Five suspected Ecstasy pills
Episcopal’s attorney has not returned ALXnow’s requests for comment, and no arrests have been made.
More than 450 male and female students attend the 182-year-old private boarding school in the fenced 130-acre property at 1200 North Quaker Lane.
Episcopal went on winter break on Dec. 17, and students will return to classes on Jan. 3.