Alexandria, VA

What a busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Old Town shop fibre space on March 3. It was Harris’ first official visit outside of the White House since she was inaugurated, and she spoke about the American Rescue Plan with shop owner Danielle Romanetti.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened for hybrid instruction this week, the first time since all school facilities were shut down on March 13. The school system reportedly welcomed back 1,200 special needs students in kindergarten through fifth grade. ACPS will open on March 9 for special education students, and then fully reopen its doors to hybrid learning for students on March 16.

On the coronavirus front, the number  of deaths due to the virus has climbed to 123, and cases are at 10,404 since the first case was reported on March 11, 2020. Mayor Justin Wilson says the city is doing well keeping the numbers down, although with a vaccine waiting list exceeding 45,000 and 3,000 vaccine doses being given out weekly, distribution will continue to be slow.

More than 550 people responded to this week’s poll on the proposed new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. About 60% of respondents said they were happy with Alexandria High School, but not with Naomi Brooks Elementary School; 25% said they liked both names; 8% didn’t like either name; and 6% didn’t like the high school name and were happy with the elementary school name.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Here are our most-read posts this week:

  1. Just In: Vice President Visits Old Town Shop Fibre Space
  2. Alexandria Wants Feedback on Building Spray Park in Del Ray
  3. El Chapo’s Wife to be Isolated in Alexandria Jail for One Month Per COVID-19 Distancing Rules
  4. Consultant Proposes Replacing Community Shelter with Mixed-Use Development
  5. Alexandria Advocacy Facebook Group Parodied in New Blog
  6. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  7. Patrick Moran, Son of Former Congressman Jim Moran, is Running for City Council
  8. ACPS Reopens its Doors and Evaluating Grading System for Traumatized Students
  9. Man Arrested for High-Speed Vehicle Race on I-495
  10. Meronne Teklu Enters City Council Race
  11. Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Town is the New Town

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Peter Velz/Twitter 

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After months of community discussions following the School Board vote in November, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings is recommending that T.C. Williams High School be renamed Alexandria High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School be renamed Naomi Brooks Elementary School.

The choices split the difference between those who wanted to see the schools renamed after specific people and those who wanted to play it safe with area or neighborhood school names.

Alexandria High School was chosen over “Titan Community High School” — which would have kept the T.C. initials — and “Ruth Bader Ginsberg High School”.

Meanwhile Naomi Brooks Elementary School, named in honor of longtime local teacher Naomi Brooks who died last year, was chosen over names like “Rosemont Elementary School”.

The new names will be reviewed at a School Board meeting tonight (Thursday).

In an earlier poll, most of those who voted were in favor of Alexandria High School.

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“Alexandria High School” and “Naomi Brooks Elementary School”.

These could be the new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School, and they are Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr.’s recommendation to the School Board.

The names will be presented at tonight’s (Thursday) School Board meeting. The school board voted last year to rename them after an extensive community review process.

The renaming of T.C. Williams High School — which honors a superintendent who was a vocal advocate for segregation — takes the relatively safe approach of changing the school name to honor the place rather than a person. The name beat “Titan Community High School” and “Ruth Bader Ginsberg High School” in a poll.

“Haven’t we learned that history has different perspectives, that no person is without fault and you can’t please everyone?” one student asked in the Alexandria City Public Schools presentation. “Naming schools, streets, bridges, parks and stadiums after historical figures is not necessary to preserve history. Let’s preserve the history of the place by naming the only high school in our city ‘Alexandria High School’. Let’s give recognition to the city where we live, work and grow. Root the identity of the school in the area it represents.”

Naomi Brooks Elementary School would honor Naomi Brooks, a beloved local teacher who attended segregated schools in Alexandria who later worked in those schools. Brooks died last year, meeting the eligibility requirement that schools cannot be named after current ACPS employees.

According to the Identity Project:

Brooks was raised attending segregated schools in Alexandria. Her strong desire to learn and share that with children was strong. She earned a degree in elementary education from Virginia State College and began her teaching career in 1955 in Alexandria–committed to educating all students. She was a beloved teacher at Charles Houston Elementary School and Cora Kelly Elementary School.

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Alexandria’s Bridgette Adu-Wadier has a soft spot in her heart for Black female investigative journalists.

At the top of the 17-year-old’s list of favorites are Gwen Ifill, Yamiche Alcindor and Ida B Wells, and this fall she will get her chance to study journalism at Northwestern University.

“We need young people to be investigating, and to be curious, and to be challenging,” Adu-Wadier told ALXnow.

Adu-Wadier, who is an editor for the T.C. Williams High School newspaper Theogony, was recently named one of 1,464 students (out of 18,500 applicants) around the country to be awarded the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship. She was also recently honored as one of the country’s up-and-coming storytellers by PBS.

A first generation daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, she’s the eldest of four kids, and, while born in New York, has spent most of her life in Alexandria. She attended John Adams Elementary School and Francis C. Hammond Middle School.

ALXnow: How did you get the scholarship? Did you write a good essay? 

Adu-Wadier: I do believe I wrote a really good essay, I spent a lot of time. Just trying to make it reflect me and my personal journey and how I developed my writing and how I blossomed as a writer. I talked a lot about how I started out doing a lot of creative writing and writing short stories and how I kind of wanted to tell stories and write about things that I observed in the world and elevate the voices of my generation.

It’s a four year scholarship, which I’m really excited about. It covers tuition, it covers room and board, transportation, my textbooks and my living expenses. Questbridge is just a really comprehensive scholarship and I’m really grateful to have that, especially given that, in school, I can just focus on my degree.

ALXnow: What inspired you to be a journalist? 

Adu-Wadier: It’s really been inspiring to see so many journalists challenge modern institutions throughout (the last) four years… In my view, this is kind of a reiteration of the Watergate era in many ways, especially given a lot of the 2018 impeachment trial proceedings and a lot of the journalism that was coming out about the transparency of the federal government.

I did a lot of work for my school TV media program, and I would interview students on video as well, and it was just really eye opening seeing that my generation notices a lot of things and they take on a lot of what’s going on a lot more than adults understand. The peers I’ve interviewed are just really frustrated that adults don’t get that they’re not too young to understand and have a voice on a lot of issues that are going on, and to be curious and to want to investigate. We need young people to be investigating and to be curious and to be challenging.

ALXnow: What’s it been like doing all of your reporting and schoolwork and applications from home during the pandemic?

Adu-Wadier: I’ve had story deadlines on the same day as my college applications and that was a big mess. There’s been a lot of things that have been interesting that I’ve had to adapt to, and, having a noisy house and trying to do interviews from my closet since it’s the only quiet place.

ALXnow: What kind of stories do you envision yourself telling down the road?

Adu-Wadier: I really like doing stories on education to report on. People don’t really invest that much in public education, and I have that personal experience in public education and the policies and legislation passed, as well as talking to students about their high school and college admissions experiences. A lot of those stories are really under told.

Soon, I’ll be reporting on college administrators and what they’re doing, and I’m really excited to do that. Another thing that I’m really really excited to report on is just civil rights… And just seeing how societal inequities affect different racial demographics, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and how Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately impacted by exposure to the virus. That’s really fascinating.

ALXnow: Which journalists do you admire? 

Adu-Wadier: I really appreciate Gwen Ifill and Yamiche Alcindor for everything that they’re doing, and especially on the ocean how she keeps her head out, especially with everything that she went through with the Trump administration and her trying to just do her job and what happened with her. Also, Gwen Ifil,… She comes from a similar background as me in that she was starting off with local newspapers and she experienced a lot of challenges and racism, and then she went on to host Washington Week and co-anchor PBS NewsHour and work with Judy Woodruff. I really really appreciate those two.

I also really look up to Ida B. Wells in how she really challenged institutions and launched this crusade against lynching and how she very much risked her life in doing so.

Overall, I just have a really soft spot for Black female journalists in general, so those are my top three. I also really really like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and I try to emulate them and how rigorous and relentless they were and their investigative pieces of Watergate. And, you know, I love All The President’s Men. I read the book, and I watched the movie and I just think it’s admirable what they did and just what they took on and the risks that they were taking and challenging directly.

Photo via ACPS

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Morning Notes

Beyer Asks for Pause After 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths — “500,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19. Every one of them was a person with a story, friends, a family. It’s a tragedy that’s too large to comprehend, but we should take time today to think about them, and strengthen our resolve to do all we can to end this awful pandemic.” [Twitter]

Eviction Moratorium Extended to March 31 — “The CDC moratorium on residential evictions has been extended thru March 31. If you received an eviction notice, call the Office of Housing at 703.746.4990.” [Twitter]

T.C. Williams High School Kicks Off Football Season — “Watch the Titans kick-off their football season under first year Head Coach Rodney Hughey vs. the Robinson Rams LIVE tonight (Monday night) streaming online. Show your support and post online to Facebook or Twitter. Let us hear from you Titans Fans – Students – Alumni – Parents – Friends!” [Facebook]

Howard Hughes CEO Excited About Landmark Mall Future — “O’Reilly broke his silence about Landmark in an interview with the Washington Business Journal after being named the company’s permanent chief executive in December. He stopped short of calling the project a done deal, but he believes Howard Hughes has assembled a strong team with Inova, developer Foulger-Pratt, architect Cooper Carry, and Seritage Growth Properties (NYSE: SRG), the real estate entity spun out from Sears Holdings Co. that owns the old Sears store at Landmark.” [Washington Business Journal]

Community Group Hosting Taylor Run Stream Presentation — “Learn more about stream restoration from environmental experts and residents who have been studying the Taylor Run project for more than a year and hear what we think should be done to restore Taylor Run, protect Chinquapin Park, and help the Bay.” [Environmental Council of Alexandria]

The Chamber ALX Women’s Forum is March 11 — “After almost a year full of the unexpected and the unprecedented, this forum will bring together women at all stages of their careers for an interactive discussion filled with inspiration and insight, centered around this year’s theme of resiliency, and learning how to find the opportunities amidst the challenges.” [The Chamber ALX]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). High 53F. Winds WSW at 15 to 25 mph. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph… Mainly clear early (in the evening), then a few clouds later on. Low 32F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Front Office Agent — “And just like our hotels, no two colleagues are the same. So we’re curious about you. How will you inspire the eclectic rhythm in our hotels? How will you bring the local neighborhood story to life? At Hotel Indigo® hotels, we’re excited to meet spirited characters who can delight the most curious guests.” [Indeed]

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It was a cold week in Alexandria.

With bits of snow and temperatures hovering at around freezing, our top story this week was on Allison Priebe, the local business owner who was robbed while pumping gas in Old Town. Police later released suspect photos and advise anyone pumping gas to keep their keys with them and lock their vehicles.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 9,903 cases and no new deaths, which is an increase of about 150 cases since Monday’s report. Meanwhile, as the city contends with a growing vaccine waiting list, the Health Department is warning residents of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

More than 260 people participated in our weekly poll. This week we asked about voting in the upcoming City Council and mayoral elections, and 87% plan on voting in the primary and general election; 6% only plan on voting in the primary; 5% aren’t voting and 1% will only vote in the primary.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  2. BREAKING: Large Power Outage Reported in Old Town
  3. ACPS Releases Semifinalist Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School Renaming
  4. Just In: ‘QAnon Shaman’ from Capitol Siege Transferred to Alexandria Jail
  5. Poll: What Do You Think of the Proposed Heritage Development in Old Town
  6. Mayor: Brace Yourselves, It Could be End of Summer Before City Moves into Next Vaccine Phase
  7. BREAKING: Councilman Mo Seifeldein Running for Alexandria Mayor, Hatch Act Conflict in Question
  8. Alexandria Sheriff: Jailed ‘QAnon Shaman’s’ Organic Food Request is Normal
  9. Just In: James Lewis Files Paperwork to Enter City Council Race
  10. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  11. City Councilman’s Virtual Super Bowl Party Ambushed by Racists and Nazi Trolls

Photo via Alexandria Police

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congressman John Lewis and 1972 Titan Petey Jones are just a few names that have made the latest cut in the rename process for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.

The semifinalist names for the schools have been selected, and ACPS has launched another set of polls to further slim down the selection. The polls close on Feb. 19 and the top three names from each poll will be presented to the School Board for final consideration on March 4. There will be a public hearing on March 18, and then the Board will vote on the names on April 8.

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.

The official names will be implemented on July 1, and ACPS estimates that it will cost $325,000 to rename T.C. and more than $5,000 to rename Maury.

Semifinalist replacement names for T.C. Williams High School:

Semifinalist replacement names for Matthew Maury Elementary School:

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ACPS has acknowledged that community feedback has generally opposed putting affordable housing at a new school development.

In a recent joint Alexandria City Public Schools and City Council meeting, ACPS Director of Capital Programs Erika Gulick said that feedback from Alexandria residents indicated that locals were not comfortable with housing, including affordable housing, being co-located at some school developments.

The acknowledgement is the latest in the debate that was ignited almost exactly a year ago when feasibility study for George Mason Elementary School included an apartment complex. ACPS apologized for the inclusion, saying the complex wasn’t planned for that site, but co-location of housing and other non-school uses at ACPS facilities has repeatedly been stated as a priority for the City Council.

Designs for the new T.C. development are scheduled to go to the City Council early in 2022.

“The co-location goals are not only trying to make sure we have complimentary uses, but increasing use of the site outside of traditional school hours,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in the meeting. “To the extend that we could have public space used for other services. I would encourage us to continue looking at those kinds of opportunities.”

Gulick said much of the community’s feedback has been negative toward housing at the planned expansion of the school formerly known as T.C. Williams High School, but more accepting of other uses.

“We did some community engagement before end of calendar year and collected feedback,” said Gulick. “In general, the community generally opposed to affordable housing or housing on a school site. There’s a concern of ‘is it appropriate to use school land or co-locate these two things.’ But [there is] support for other colocation, like a pool or teen wellness center.”

Gulick said school programming remains the highest priority in plans to add new facilities to the Minnie Howard campus, with loss of athletic fields or open space being considered unacceptable, but that development that adds additional uses to the sites would require additional density approval from the city.

A few other school districts across the country have co-located school facilities and housing, and Alexandria Living Magazine has compiled them with a look at how they compare to ACPS plans.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Urges Senate to Remove Trump After House Impeachment — “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States, and a menace to the Constitution. The events of the past week, my conscience, my oath of office, and my duty to the people of Northern Virginia allow no other course than to vote for his impeachment. I urge the Senate to remove him from office as swiftly as possible.” [Beyer.house.gov]

Police Seeking Alexandria Man For Assaulting Woodbridge Boy — “Ian M. Simpson is wanted after police said he attempted to strangle an 8-year-old boy during after two arguments between the two relatives.” [Patch]

Police: Business Robbed on N. Quaker Lane Wednesday Morning — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a robbery from a business in the 1600 block of N. Quaker Lane. It happened around 5:45am. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

WATCH: Governor Northam Gives State of Commonwealth Speech — “My 2021 State of the Commonwealth address is starting–watch live.” [Twitter]

Poll Opens to Select New Names for T.C. Williams High and Matthew Maury Elementary Schools — “Between now and Jan. 27, we are asking everyone to help us whittle down names that have been suggested by our students over the last month. Don’t like any of the options you see? The community will also be given another chance to make suggestions at this time.” [Zebra]

Casa Chirilagua Gets Desk Donations from Building Momentum — “Casa Chirilagua, a non-profit serving the Arlandria neighborhood in northern Virginia near Reagan National Airport, has been one of the largest recipients and distributors of the desks. Adriana Gómez Schellhaas, executive director of Casa Chirilagua, said the non-profit has distributed over 50 desks to homes and learning centers in their community.” [USChamber.com]

Today’s Weather — “Some clouds in the morning will give way to mainly sunny skies for the afternoon. High near 55F. Winds light and variable… A few clouds from time to time in the evening. Low 31F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Experienced Servers at Mia’s Italian Kitchen — “We are searching for Experienced Servers to join our Team at Mia’s in OLD TOWN” [Indeed]

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After receiving approval from the state, Mayor Justin Wilson announced on Twitter than Alexandria is moving into the next phase of vaccine distribution.

The new wave of distribution, listed as 1B, opens up the vaccine to several new essential professions. Healthcare workers were able to recieve the vaccine under phase 1A.

Those in groups 1B or 1C, or their employers, can register online for vaccination.

“If you are an individual employee of an essential organization, please tell your supervisor to arrange for one person to register on behalf of all staff via this link,” the state said on its website. “Your employer will then be given instructions on when and how to upload all employees for vaccine appointments.”

The first vaccinations for teachers will be given tomorrow at T.C. Williams High School.

Phase 1C will open vaccination up to at-risk adults, such as those over 65 years old or have a disease that would put them at greater risk.

Phases 1B and 1C open the vaccine to several types of essential workers, including:

  • Childcare/K-12 Teachers/Staff
  • Corrections and Homeless Shelters
  • Energy, Finance, Agriculture, Food Service, Grocery Store Workers
  • Housing Construction
  • Information Technology and Communication
  • Institutions of Higher Education Faculty and Staff
  • Legal, Mail Carriers (USPS and Private)
  • Manufacturing
  • Media
  • Officials Needed to Maintain Continuity of Government
  • Other Public Health Workers
  • Police, Fire, Hazmat Workers
  • Public Safety (Engineers)
  • Public Transit Workers, Transportation and Logistics, Water and Wastewater.

Wilson said on Twitter that it’s unclear when the city will move into phase 1C but said he suspects it “will be a while.”

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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