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218 East Monroe Avenue (image via Google Maps)

A new Montessori school has filed for permits to open in Del Ray and is currently enrolling new students.

The Monarch Montessori School is a new program coming to 218 East Monroe Avenue, also the location of St Paul Pentecostal Church, though the school’s website says the program is a private, non-sectarian school.

“We believe that each child has different gifts, challenges and styles of learning,” the school’s website said. “At Monarch Montessori, each child’s individual path is recognized and celebrated.”

The special use permit says the school will be open from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The school is expected to have around 98 students with 12 employees.

Montessori is a teaching method that emphasizes encouraging student choice and hands-on activities. New Montessori programs have popped up across the city in recent years.

“Every school that you encounter will have its own education philosophy,” the website said. “Monarch Montessori’s philosophy centers around the principle of individualism. Students perceive themselves as capable of making their own choices, while in constant relationship with other students and guides in the classroom.”

The Monarch Montessori School’s website also said the school will pay all employees a living wage, subsidize public transportation costs for all employees, offer paid training for teachers and set aside 20% of all slots to families eligible for subsidized child care/voucher programs.

The school’s website said tour dates will be available late in the fall.

Image via Google Maps

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Want to lend a helping hand? Alexandria is full of summer volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer Alexandria’s website lists plenty of ways for residents to give back.

Here’s a roundup of some of the opportunities this summer:

Distribute food for ALIVE! — “Assist ALIVE! feeding food insecure City of Alexandria residents in local Alexandria neighborhoods throughout the city during weekdays. Volunteer roles include bagbing food, handing out perishable and nonperishable items, breakdown after the distribution, load and unload the truck.”  Click Here to sign up.”

Sexual Assault Center hotline operator — “The Sexual Assault Center (SAC) offers support to victims of sexual assault and their families and friends. Trained volunteers and staff are available 24 hours a day to provide crisis intervention and emotional support, advocacy with medical, police, and court systems, short-term individual and group counseling, and information and referrals. In addition to services for individuals, the staff is also available to provide training, information, and presentations to local schools and organizations. The Sexual Assault Center offers information and support for sexual assault (i.e. rape, attempted rape, fondling, indecent exposure, etc.) survivors and their family and friends, sexual harassment and stalking victims, and individuals of any age, race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, etc. Click HERE to learn more.”

Mentor for girls — “Space of Her Own is looking for mentors to build long lasting bonds with 9- to 11-year-olds through art projects after school.
Information sessions are scheduled at August 9 and 10 at the Lee Center. Click HERE to sign-up.”

Volunteer for Back to School Community Day — “On Saturday, August 27, UNCUT Youth needs volunteers to setup, breakdown, and provide support for their event – a day of food, games, raffles, and giveaways. Click HERE to sign-up.”

Youth sport coaches — “Coach an assigned group of children and focus on skill development, safety, fair, play, sportsmanship and fun. Work to esatblish and improve team unity and spirit. Click HERE to learn more.”

Tour guide at Carlyle House — “Carlyle House Historic Park, a colonial house museum in Old Town Alexandria, seeks volunteer docents to give public tours of the building. Carlyle House Docents commit to volunteering at least 2 weekday shifts per month or 1 weekend shift per month. Click HERE to express interest.”

Mentoring and tutoring at Casa Chirilagua — “The Arlandria-based organization Casa Chirilagua is seeking volunteers for its after-school programming. Click HERE for a full list of opportunities.”

Job counselor at Together We Bake — “Are you looking for a meaningful way to get involved with TWB? We are recruiting volunteers to act as Job Counselors for our upcoming sessions. This is a great opportunity to work one-on-one and build impactful relationships with Team Members while helping them discover and expand their career goals. Click HERE to learn more.”

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra concert volunteer — “The ASO needs your help to usher at performances and perform other duties. You can watch the performance once patrons are seated. Come hear this great orchestra if you love symphony. Click HERE to learn more.”

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A conceptual rendering of The Waypoint at Fairlington (Image via Wesley Housing)

Updated 8/5 — The Feathers Bilingual Academy is opening at the Fairlington Presbyterian Church at the same site, not at The Waypoint at Fairlington

A new daycare center called Feathers Bilingual Academy has submitted an application to open at Fairlington Presbyterian Church (3846 King Street) near The Waypoint at Fairlington, a new 81-unit affordable housing development set to open this fall.

The application said the center focuses on early education for children ages 16 months to 5 years old.

Feathers Bilingual Academy will have a capacity for 52 children with approximately eight teachers. There have already been some job postings for positions like pre-school teacher and bilingual toddler lead teacher.

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This logo was preferred by staff and focus groups, but not the Alexandria School Board. (Via ACPS)

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%).

The second logo option for ACPS. (Via ACPS)

“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 the website redesign project scheduled to launch in July 2022.

Via ACPS

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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.”

https://twitter.com/IntlAcademyACHS/status/1537586941712953344

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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.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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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:

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Students unveil the Alexandria City High School marquee, June 23, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

It was criticized by many for taking too long, but now Alexandria City Public Schools is winning awards for the renaming of Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

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.

The new name of Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School is unveiled by students on June 22, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

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.

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424 North Washington Street, image via City of Alexandria

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.

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(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

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