Alexandria, VA

The city is rationing out spots in summer camp programs reopening soon, but even some in the city’s leadership are unclear on why space will be so limited while the city has a preponderance of unused space and resources.

“Summer camp programs are starting,” said Jim Spengler, director of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities in a recent joint meeting between the City Council and the School Board. “They are aimed at essential workers and will expand beyond essential workers based on enrollment.”

But Mayor Justin Wilson noted that with Phase 3 going into effect next week, many jobs are going to start expecting those employees to come back. With many summer camps canceled, those parents will be left without options for childcare programs.

“If that happens will expect to see a whole crunch of workers going back to work,” Wilson said. “To the extent that we have space, we can be essential in helping out frontline workers go back to the workspace. We have a lot of unused space, so I want us to explore our options before we say ‘we can’t use that capacity.'”

Wilson said staff needs to look at school facilities and city facilities to see what kind of space is available to be used for summer programming.

“It seems like we should be looking for every opportunity we can in this environment,” Wilson said. “I’m constantly hearing from parents who are very concerned about their ability to go back to work, particularly when bosses start to expect it. I feel like we can be part of that solution, and there’s money available for us to be part of this, but we have to work out the facility side of this.”

There are complications beyond just facility space, however. Spengler said limits with social distancing mean some spaces that aren’t being utilized aren’t viable as summer program spaces.

“As schools are finding with school buses, for example, social distancing really controls how many people you get together more than the aggregate number you’re given by the Governor,” Spengler said. “The other is if we were able to enroll more students, then we have a staffing issue. We don’t have the staff available because we didn’t do normal summer hiring, so we don’t have the staff capacity to expand much beyond where we are right now.”

But city leaders said that with the city still facing high unemployment figures, not having staff shouldn’t be a problem.

“I feel like that’s a solvable problem,” Wilson said. “I’ll be crystal clear, that seems like something we should be able to figure it out. It seems like this is not a normal circumstance and we can find staff, there’s a lot of people looking for jobs.”

“I would echo the mayor’s sentiment,” City Councilman John Chapman said. “This is an extraordinary time, but we do have a number of people looking for opportunities. Capacity is something that we just need to work through. I don’t think it’s something that we stop at and say ‘We can’t do it’ because if we’re vocal about looking for people, I think we’ll get quality people who would be able to run some of our programmings.”

Wilson added that a good place to start would be hiring from canceled summer camp programs.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

City Urges Residents to Use Caution Outside — “The City and the Alexandria Health Department urge everyone to follow Governor Northam’s order to #stayhome except for essential trips such as food purchases and medical care, and maintain physical distancing when possible.” [Twitter]

Beyer Lashes Out Against Senate Republicans — “Senate Republicans are refusing to consider more help for the American people during pandemic. Instead they are now prioritizing investigations of the President’s political rivals. They previously said they didn’t have time to hear from witnesses during the impeachment trial.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Wants Parental Feedback on Summer Camp — “The City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) is asking parents in a survey to “tell us how modified summer programs will meet your family’s needs for a safe and enjoyable summer.” Options include half day camps, full day camps and a yes/no question on whether parents are interested in online or virtual camps.” [Alexandria Living]

Story Time: Alexandria Sheriff’s Deputy Reads ‘The Lorax’ — “Time for a classic from Dr. Seuss! Learn a lesson from “The Lorax” with Lieutenant Sean Casey.” [Facebook]

West End Business Association Happy Hour at 4 p.m. — “Each person will be able to give their one-minute introduction, and should also answer two questions: What Business-to-Business efforts have worked for you these past two months? What will be on your grill this weekend for Memorial Day?” [WEBA]

Old Town Artist Todd Healy Packs it Up — “It is with a heavy heart we share the news that after 40 years of making Alexandria his muse, our treasured Alexandria Legend Todd Healy is packing up his paints and canvases.” [Facebook]

ACPS Early Childhood Center has Message on Littering — “We’ve been learning all about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at the ECC, and today we’re learning all about littering! Go on a walk with Bo and see if he can find any litter in his neighborhood!” [Facebook]

The Hard Times Cafe Horse is Wearing a Face Mask — “Thanks to the folks at Hard Times for letting us have some fun today! Mask from Mission Masks by KH Giving. Get one through the link below and you’ll be entered to win great prizes that KH Giving has bought from Alexandria businesses!” [Facebook]

Bishop Ireton High School Thanks Longtime Educator — “Congratulations to Mr. Sean Casey, winner of the inaugural Peter G. Davey Service Award, for his service as the president of the athletic boosters club. Under Mr. Casey’s leadership the past two years, a number of facilities and team improvements were made, highlighted by the new press box installed on Fannon Field.” [Facebook]

New Job: Toastique Team Member — “Toastique in Old Town, Alexandria and is seeking team members to help create smoothies, gourmet toasts, and run the POS system. Employees will be joining a team to create a fun, clean, fresh environment for a gourmet toast and juice bar in bustling Old Town! No specific skills or experience needed, but applicant must be excited to interact with customers and serve healthy, fresh food to the community.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Summer Camp Guide Released — “Registration for 2020 summer camps offered by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on February 12 for City residents and February 14 for nonresidents. Registration will be available online, or in-person at the Lee Center (1108 Jefferson St.).” [City of Alexandria]

Women’s Guest House Profiled — “In the heart of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, there is a place that’s been quietly offering hope and rebuilding lives for 45 years.” [NBC 4]

Superintendent Serves as Substitute Teacher — “Dressed down in a hoodie and T-shirt, he looked every bit the young, enthusiastic teacher ready to handle whatever this class of lively fourth graders could throw at him. And while ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. admitted to feeling a little apprehensive when he introduced himself to students at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy last Wednesday, he soon felt right at home.” [Zebra]

Parent Liaison Named Living Legend — “She’s been a much-loved and respected figure as the Parent Liaison at Mount Vernon Community School for the last twenty years and has touched the lives of thousands of children and their families in that time. Now Rosa Landeros has been bestowed a major honor — named as one of just a handful of outstanding citizens who become Living Legends of Alexandria each year.” [ACPS]

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