Newsletter

What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

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After an underground electrical malfunction caused an early morning power outage on Monday, July 12, the management of the 17-story Key Towers Apartments says the building is likely to reopen at the earliest on Friday, July 17.

Until then, residents in the 140-unit Landmark area building have to find alternate accommodations, and its owner is advising residents to keep their receipts.

“Right now we’re testing the transformers in every individual unit,” said Gina Ramos, general manager for the property. “We let residents in and out of their apartment four-at-a-time on Monday and Tuesday until 10 p.m. We’re telling everyone to keep their receipts.”

The 1960s-era building is empty, Alexandria Fire Department Senior Public Information Officer Raytevia Evans told ALXnow.

Resident Adie Ballantyne has lived at Key Towers for two years, and is staying with friends in a nearby apartment building.

“I’m going to demand a reduction in my rent next month,” she said. “I feel bad for my neighbors who got put out. Luckily I have friends who live close by.”

Dominion Energy determined that a privately owned underground transmission line went down. The outage occurred during a heat wave, and the city opened the Patrick Henry Recreation Center for residents.

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It’s not Pacific Northwest-bad, but the National Weather Service is warning that that Alexandria could reach a heat index of 105 or higher over the next few days.

The NWS has issued a hazardous weather outlook for the next few days, with high temperatures estimated for Wednesday afternoon.

“Heat index values may approach 105 during the afternoon hours Wednesday,” NWS said. “An isolated severe thunderstorm with damaging wind gusts is possible late Wednesday afternoon and evening.”

The NWS said the storm is likely to be concentrated in Northern Maryland, but with potential severe thunderstorms and flooding throughout the area on Thursday.

The city also warned of the potential health risk of prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

“Prolonged exposure to hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, cramps or, in extreme cases, heat stroke,” the city said in a release. “It is especially important for individuals with underlying health issues to take extra precautions and plan ahead for this and future excessive heat events. During extended heat waves, it is advised to stay indoors and limit exposure to the sun; drink plenty of water; and wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing.”

In a press release, the city reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers if needed.

“Those in need of a place to cool off, due to the hazardous weather outlook forecast by the National Weather Service, should visit one of the City facilities listed below,” the city said. “Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s through Wednesday, June 30. The hot temperatures, combined with high humidity, will cause heat indices of more than 100 degrees.”

According to the city, the following locations will be designated cooling centers this week:

  • Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street) — 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • Leonard “Chick” Armstrong Recreation Center (25 West Reed Avenue) — 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Lee Center (1108 Jefferson Street) — 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Avenue) — 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Avenue) — 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Avenue) — 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
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Alexandria City Public Schools will continue providing free meals this summer.

“Meals will be served on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” said Cynthia Hormel, the ACPS director of school nutrition services. “Each day, families will pick up two
days-worth of meals, with three on Friday to cover Saturday and Sunday.”

There will only be one holiday over the summer break — on July 5. Curbside breakfast and lunch deliveries and pop-up locations will be closed that day. The service will reopen on July 6 and all distribution sites will resume on July 7.

“Please know that if numbers drop at any ‘pop-up’ location at any point during the summer, we will re-evaluate continuing that service,” ACPS said on its website. “Families will be notified of changes.”

Hormel said free meals will be continued next school year, although the fate of curbside and pop-up distribution sites are yet to be determined.

“It is too early to say, but if there is an opportunity, we will continue to provide the (pop-up) service,” she said.

Hours of operation

  • June 24 to July 2 — 7:30 a.m. to noon
  • July 7 to July 30 — 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • August 2 to August 20 — 7:30 a.m. to noon

Distribution points

  • Alexandria City High School (T.C. Williams High School)
  • Francis C. Hammond Middle School
  • Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
  • William Ramsay Elementary School
  • Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School
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As temperatures start to go up, Alexandria’s annual program aimed at helping residents without home cooling make it through the summer is coming back.

The Summer Cooling program allows residents to beat the heat at several recreation centers and libraries around the city. The program came in handy for residents last summer during a heat wave. Like last year, however, there are some capacity restrictions due to COVID-19.

“During periods of extreme heat, the City offers cooling centers to residents at the Neighborhood Recreation Center locations… along with expanded hours, additional resources and support for those in need,” the city said on its website. “Due to COVID-19 prevention mandates, however, access to City recreation centers normally available to the public may be reduced.”

Locations to cool off include:

An additional program is available for Alexandrians 60 or older. The Senior Cool Care Program provides a cooling fan and assistance to seniors who meet some income requirements. Residents can call 703.746.5999 or email [email protected] to check eligibility requirements.

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A new city announcement today is already making waves: outdoor pools will open next month.

According to the city website, the city’s outdoor pools will reopen on Saturday, June 26, through Labor Day, September 6.

Pools were reopened last year, but with significant restrictions and wait lists for time slots. The only pandemic restriction noted this time around is 10′ physical distance between swimmers.

According to the city, the reopening pools are:

  • Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron St.) — This complex includes a 25-yard pool with a diving well. A separate training pool is available for children up to 42 inches tall. Easily accessible by ramp, the training pool has a depth of 1 to 3 feet. For added convenience, a parking lot, picnic area and tot playground are adjacent to the pool.
  • Memorial Pool at Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.) — This small pool can accommodate a maximum of 45 guests at one time. Due to its smaller size, access is limited to Alexandria residents 13 years of age and younger, and their parents or guardians.
  • Warwick Pool (3301 Landover St.) — This shallow, 25-yard pool features an accessible sloped entry pool and six swimming lanes. The pool is conveniently located adjacent to Landover Park, which features a playground.

Also opening is the interactive fountains at Potomac Yard Park’s playgrounds at 2501 Potomac Avenue. The parks feature 36 water jets with programmed sequences and lighting for nighttime effects. Shoes must be worn when using the fountain.

The water park is open every day from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., May 29 to Sept. 6, and then will close an hour earlier from Sept. 7 through Oct. 15.

Photo via Brian Matangelo/Unsplash

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Want your kids to attend in-person classes school this summer or fall? Today is the deadline for families to tell Alexandria City Public Schools whether they want their kids to participate in either in-person or virtual instruction.

While the Learning Choice Form informs ACPS on a family’s preferences, the school system is filtering students allowed for in-person instruction with a prioritization matrix.

That means that not everyone who opts to attend in-person instruction will get in, as certain students are prioritized. Students with disabilities and students with social and emotional support are at the top of the priority list, followed by students who have earned a grade of D or F, students unable to access technology effectively, students who want to come back per the family choice form, and new students.

“The Summer Learning program will be offered virtually to all students, and in-person instruction will be offered to targeted students according to a prioritization matrix,” ACPS told ALXnow in an email. “If a family does not make a choice on the form about whether or not a student will participate this summer, then the student will not be enrolled in Summer Learning 2021.”

The move has angered many parents, including members of the Open ACPS! Facebook group.

“OMG, I really need to move away,” lamented a parent on the page. “I was just on the phone with the HelpDesk because I submitted the survey and called for all my kids to be in-person both over the summer and for the fall, and ONE of my kids was converted to virtual in the summer, so I thought maybe I had made a mistake in selection and wanted it fixed… It’s showing that only two of my kids are prioritized for in-person over the summer and would be receiving invitations, the ones on IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs). But I’m like, they’re kind of a package deal, and all these kids have been screwed equally. So now I have to wait to see if the school registrar will change it so all my kids can go. “

The school system plans to fully reopen without a prioritization matrix for five days a week of in-person instruction for the fall semester, which starts in August.

“The decision you make now is important to our comprehensive planning,” ACPS says on its website. “Please note that for Fall 2021, your decision is binding for the first semester (until January 2022). May 24, 2021 is the last day for families to inform ACPS of your selected learning model for 2021-22. We are strongly encouraging our families to select the in-person learning model. If a family does not choose a learning model before the deadline, the student will automatically be enrolled in in-person learning for the fall semester.”

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Morning Notes

(Update at 10:30 a.m. Blue and White Carryout is still open. The tweet from a local news outlet was incorrect.)

City Council Rescinds Vote on Braddock West Development — “The matter will be taken up again for public hearing and vote on May 15, but a pending lawsuit by an Alexandria resident may delay a final decision.” [Alexandria Living]

West End Harris Teeter opening early this summer — “The new store, 62,000 square feet in size, will be located at West Alex, the new development that also includes Array, an apartment building and the Silver Diner restaurant that opened on the corner of King and N. Beauregard streets.” [Alexandria Living]

Southbound King Street exit on Interstate 395 closed for 2 weeks — “Drivers along King Street (Route 7) in Alexandria can expect a new temporary traffic pattern at I-395 beginning Monday morning, May 3, weather permitting, for work as part of the rehabilitation of the King Street Bridge over I-395, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Showers early then scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 73F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low around 65F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bilingual medical assistant — “Functions as a member of a program team by performing and documenting results of selected tests and measurements, maintaining adequately supplied workstations, maintaining a clean work environment, and promoting timely and efficient patient flow through the clinic. Has primary responsibility for the collection, processing, and recording of laboratory testing. Gives immunizations and other injectable medications under the supervision of the physician, nurse practitioner or registered nurse. Assists with patient treatments during clinical sessions.” [Indeed]

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The City of Alexandria has released more information on upcoming vaccination stages as the state begins to move forwards the phase 1c.

According to the City of Alexandria, Virginia could start to move toward Phase 1c in the next few weeks as vaccine supply starts to increase. The move towards 1c is complicated by the fact that there are still a several thousand Alexandrians in Phase 1b who haven’t been vaccinated, including teachers who are now expected to return to school and restaurant workers the city recently moved into Phase 1b.

“Alexandria continues to make strides in vaccinating residents and essential workers, but AHD has nearly 20,000 pre-registrants in Phase 1b on the waitlist, who have not yet been contacted or vaccinated,” the city said in the press release. “Vaccine supply has been slowly increasing, from less than 2,000 total doses per week to the current approximately 5,000 doses, which are a mix of first and second doses.”

Mayor Justin Wilson had earlier said that the vaccination could take until late summer at the earlier pace of vaccine supply, but — knock on wood — that could be shorter if supply increases continue.

“VDH and AHD anticipate these numbers to increase considerably in the coming weeks,” the city said. “AHD anticipates moving into Phase 1c in the next 3-4 weeks depending on an adequate supply of vaccine. The anticipated increase in vaccine supply, and eventual transition to Phase 1c, highlights the importance of pre-registering with vaccinate.virginia.gov, or updating your profile if you have already pre-registered.”

The city recently partnered with Fairfax County and Inova to launch a new vaccination hub in the Victory Center (5001 Eisenhower Avenue) to handle the increase in supply.

With any luck, the VDH estimates that Phase 1c will be complete and all of Virginia will be in Phase 2 by May.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, essential workers in Phase 1c include:

  • Energy
  • Water, wastewater, and waste removal workers (includes recycling removal workers)
  • Housing and Construction
  • Food Service
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Institutions of Higher Education Faculty/Staff
  • Finance
  • Information Technology & Communication
  • Media
  • Legal Services
  • Public Safety (engineers)
  • Other Public Health Workers
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Sydney Robasson needs structure. The 10-year-old rising fifth grader at Samuel L. Tucker Elementary is used to waking up at the crack of dawn, and even with the summer break she’s tried to keep herself to as much of a regimented schedule as possible.

Like thousands of Alexandria City Public School Students, Robasson, who wants to be a doctor or lawyer when she grows up, has had to adapt. She’s learning in a house with her parents and Maxwell, her six-year-old brother. And although the school year officially ended in June, she is participating in summer school.

“Summer school is going well,” Robasson said. “We are relearning in summer school the things that we already have, and that’s because we don’t really have time to waste, and we need to have that fresh in our minds so that when we do get back to school we can get back to the things we need to.”

Her mother, Miss Robasson, said that her daughter was strict with herself on mimicking her school day.

“I would say the transition as an adult has been challenging, and I can imagine how it’s been for students,” the Miss Robasson said.

From March until the remainder of the school year, her daughter woke up at 6 a.m. and worked throughout the day.

“First I’d wake up at like 6 a.m., then get ready for the day,” Sydney Robasson said. “After that, I clean up or relax and after that at 8:00 I start reading; at 9:00 I start math; at 10:00 I do social studies; at 11:00 I do my zoom call or more social studies time; at 12:00 I have lunch. After that I have Encore, and then I would have another two hours of regular free time or me doing writing.”

While her summer schedule is not as rigid, she is still focusing for a number of hours every day.

Stacey Swickert is Robasson’s science teacher and has been at home in La Plata, Maryland, with three daughters and her husband while trying to teach more than 100 students. The nine-year veteran teacher at Tucker now has 30 students on her summer school roster, and works four days a week.

“Things are going on in the world that are very interesting to our kids, and they definitely want a place to go and be able to talk about them,” Swickert said. “I miss my students so much. There’s a synergy when you’re in the same room.”

Fifth-grade students learn physical, Earth and life sciences throughout a school year, and Swickert said keeping kids motivated has been challenging.

“I have to make them like me, even if they don’t like science,” Swickert said. “For us, moving into summer was a natural progression to what we were already teaching.”

Robasson, whose favorite subject is social studies, wants to go back to school. She also hasn’t seen any of her friends since ACPS shut down on March 13.

“I’m lucky since I have my own email account, and we (she and her friends) can talk on Google Hangouts,” she said. “Being at home is annoying because my brother is annoying. He is mean.”

Summer school in Alexandria will end on July 31.

Courtesy photo

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