Alexandria City Public Schools is entering a tricky budget season.
As student enrollment and expenditure increases outpace revenue, ACPS faces a $12 million deficit in the run up to the fiscal year 2024 budget, according to a budget presentation to the School Board on Thursday, September 22.
“Over the previous decade, student enrollment and expenditures have increased at a far quicker pace than the corresponding revenue has grown,” ACPS said in a staff report. “ACPS Staff analysis shows that this trend will continue into the future, requiring a combination of revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions to balance a projected budget gap.”
For FY 2024, the projected budget deficit is $12.05 million. Each year, as expenditures outpace revenues, the estimated budget gap will continue to expand. By FY 2028, the annual funding deficit projection grows to $37.83 million, according to ACPS.
Still, the school system is proposing a 2.64% step increase and 2.5% market rate adjustment for all staff. Healthcare costs are projected to increase 8% and dental care costs will increase 2%.
“We assume that we’ll get the same per-people dollar amount at both the state and city level (as approved the FY 2023 budget),” ACPS Chief Financial Officer Dominic Turner told the School Board.
There are 15,700 students at ACPS at this time, according to interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt. That’s about 100 students more than was forecasted in January, and some parents are concerned that elementary school class sizes are getting too big. Last spring, the school system adjusted the caps on elementary school class sizes by an increase of two seats so that kindergarten classes now have 24 students, first and second grades are capped at 26, and grades three to five have 28 students — still below maximum state standards.
Jenica Patterson, the PTA president at Patrick Henry Elementary School, told the School Board that the school is contending with 950 students — about 65 more than what was projected.
“The discrepancy in teacher-to-student ratios among ACPS elementary schools is a major barrier to learning.,” Patterson said. “Teachers are simply managing the large, crowded classrooms instead of dedicating their time to education and learning.”
Kay-Wyatt said that the community has grown over the years, and that ACPS is experiencing a teacher and bus driver shortage.
“It’s very hard right now,” Kay-Wyatt said. “The HR staff is out recruiting, they continue their recruitment efforts. I also want that to be known that we never stop recruiting, and we still have a shortage.”
Next month there will be several budget-related work sessions and meetings:
As of Monday (March 7), Alexandria City Public Schools staff are no longer required to wear face masks in schools.
Staff were informed of the rule change in an email on Friday (March 4) that wearing masks in ACPS facilities and vehicles is optional, with few exceptions. Additionally, all ACPS staff (not including substitutes) will get paid emergency leave if unable to work due to COVID-19.
“Effective Monday, March 7, 2022, due to the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, masks will be optional for staff in ACPS facilities and vehicles, with a few exceptions,” wrote Melanie Kay-Wyatt, the ACPS acting chief of human resources. “Specifically, ACPS will continue to require school health staff to wear masks when they are providing medical services to students. These staff members are being notified separately of their mask requirements. ACPS strongly encourages all staff to continue to wear masks.”
Teachers will not divide classrooms based on masking status, ACPS recently announced.
Wearing masks is still encouraged during periods of “Substantial” and “High” transmission, which the city has experienced for much of the pandemic. Alexandria and its neighboring jurisdictions currently have a “Low” community level of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The School Board, which is reviewing the changes at this Thursday’s meeting, is still pursuing a lawsuit against Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order removing face mask mandates in public schools.
Substitutes get a raise
ACPS has also increased pay for substitutes.
Daily substitute pay has been increased from $110 per day to $124.50, and long-term substitutes has been increased from $157.59 to $172.09 per day.
“The nationwide substitute teacher shortage has reached such a critical level that ACPS will increase substitute pay for the rest of the 2021-2022 school year,” ACPS told teachers. “In July 2022, ACPS will review the need for extending the substitute pay increase for the 2022-2023 school year.”
It’s not the easiest time to recruit teachers. That was the gist of last week’s staff update to the Alexandria School Board.
“It is very hard to do recruitment in a time like this,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the Board. “Where you’re trying to recruit people into an organization who, one: can’t come and do a tour of the building; two: our new teachers who are just graduating or will be graduating this May. They’re wondering kind of what the state of education is all about.”
ACPS and six other localities is currently engaged in a legal battle with Governor Glenn Youngkin over his executive order removing face mask mandates in public schools.
Board Member Abdel Elnoubi said that Youngkin’s policies affect the morale of educators.
“You know, I grew up in an autocracy and I know these tactics when I see them,” said Elnoubi, who was raised Egypt. ” I just want to tell you all that how much we support you, how much we care about you, and that you have our full support.”
Melanie Kay-Wyatt, acting chief of human resources for ACPS, said schools have had to get creative with substitute teachers, since there are currently an average of about 100 staff absences and vacancies per day within the school system.
“Our administrative staff have been very creative in how they’ve gone in to provide support,” Kay-Wyatt told the Board. “We do have some long-term subs who are trained, qualified to go in to provide support, and we do make sure we use all of our staff to fill in to keep that learning going for our students.”
Kay-Wyatt said that ACPS is scheduled to attend 18 career fairs between now and April, which is a 40% increase over last year.
“We will remain diversity focused on our recruitment efforts to bring back top talents to ACPS, and I’m excited to report that we are have increased the number of fairs that we’re going to attend,” she said.
Hutchings said that a full update on ACPS recruitment and retention plan is still a work in progress.
The recruitment video below is posted on the ACPS jobs website and shows classrooms before the pandemic, with unmasked students not worrying about distancing.
Virginia Tech Innovation Campus gets $50M commitment from Boeing — “Boeing’s multi-year gift will help the campus provide scholarships to students and recruit faculty to the Innovation Campus.” [Patch]
Coalition launches video series to encourage youth to be alcohol free — “The Substance Abuse and Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA) has launched a prevention campaign featuring a series of short videos created by T.C. Williams High School students that encourage youth to be alcohol free.” [City of Alexandria]
Chamber ALX announced 40 Under 40 honorees — “We are looking forward to celebrating these individuals at our 40 Under 40 Awards celebration, presented by Beyer Subaru, on July 15.” [Chamber ALX]
Alexandria-based podcast breaks boundaries and builds connections — “Two local women start a podcast to tackle tough issues and find community and transformation along the way.” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria Commission on Persons With Disabilities seeking award nominees — “The Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities is seeking nominees for various awards and a scholarship.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Thunderstorms likely (during the day). Gusty winds and small hail are possible. High near 75F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 48F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Temporary environmental educator — “In pursuit of service excellence, the Recreation Leader II/Environmental Educator will greet and assist Nature Center patrons; deliver impromptu programs for visitors; conduct nature-based programming; assist in the care of the Nature Center’s live animals and plants; and support the administrative needs of the organization. The candidate will work under the supervision of the Recreation Leader IV. This position is located at the Jerome ‘Buddie’ Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Avenue in Alexandria, VA 22311.” [Indeed]
A new group of Alexandria businesses has launched an effort to support local teachers with discounts, perks and donations in recognition of National Teacher Appreciation Week.
From May 3-8, discounts will be posted on the new ALX Business Gives Back Facebook page.
The group launched on Monday, May 3, and the following businesses in Old Town and Del Ray are participating:
- Hops N Shine
- South Block
- Del Ray Psych & Wellness
- Salon deZEN
- Ascend Cycle
- The Vital Body Massage and Bodywork,
- Explanation Kids
- Alexandria Makers Market
- A|VA Apparel
- Acupuncture In Del Ray
- Dental Excellence Integrative Center
Additionally, 165 people have bought gift cards for teachers at T.C. Williams High School.
💙 It's Teacher Appreciation Week and we want to hear all about your child's favorite ACPS teacher! Give them a shout out and tell us why they're the best!#TeachACPS #ThankATeacher #TeacherAppreciationWeek pic.twitter.com/rmzeLG9tOc
— Alexandria City Public Schools (@ACPSk12) May 3, 2021
Photo via ACPS
Beyer Introduces Legislation to Honor Slain Capitol Police Officer — “Officer Brian Sicknick was a hero who gave his life in service to his country. It is fitting that Congress honor his life, courage, and ideals. @RepBonnie and I just introduced bipartisan legislation to commemorate Officer Sicknick’s life and sacrifice.” [Twitter]
City Councilman John Taylor Chapman Running for Reelection — “John needs your help to appear on the ballot for the June 8 Democratic Primary for Alexandria City Council. Although we would love to have a traditional in-person event, we need to adapt for everyone’s safety. So, stop by the Beatley Library parking lot for a safe, socially distanced drive-thru Meet & Greet to sign John’s voter petition. We’ll be taking the following COVID precautions: masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Feel free to bring your own pen (though we’ll have some on hand).” [Facebook]
This Friday is a Teacher Work Day for ACPS — “ACPS Reminder: No School for students this Friday, Jan. 29. It is a Teacher Work Day. Food distribution this Friday will only be provided at T.C. Williams High School and Hammond Middle School. Families who need meals should pick them up from one of these two locations.” [Twitter]
Capital Bikeshare Moves to New Location in Old Town — “@Bikeshare users: the St. Asaph & Montgomery station, adjacent to Gables Old Town North is being relocated today from St. Asaph Street to Pitt St., the other side of the building. Not familiar with Bikeshare? Visit alexandriava.gov/bikesharing.” [Twitter]
Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit System Taking Shape — “One of the largest projects that will transform Richmond Highway in the next decade is the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along the corridor. Last year, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) began to hold public meetings about the project which is still in the early days of design and right of way acquisition.” [Alexandria Living]
Here Are the 100 Posters Kids Submitted for Martin Luther King, Jr Online Exhibition — “The exhibit also allowed many of the young artists to use the opportunity to paint messages regarding social distancing, and the importance of masking up and thanking our front line workers, topics close to many hearts this year.” [Zebra]
Local Nonprofits Receive $100K in Donations — “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia awarded four nonprofits in the region with $25,000 grants to help improve vulnerable residents’ access to food on Jan. 21, according to a news release. ALIVE!, an Alexandria nonprofit that provides food, shelter and financial support for those in need, was one of the recipients of CFNV’s grants. The Arlington Free Clinic, Capital Area Food Bank and The House, Inc. also received grants…” [Alex Times]
Free Mount Vernon Admission By Reservation Offered On 2 Dates — “George Washington’s Mount Vernon will continue the tradition of free admission days for Presidents Day and Washington’s birthday, but advanced registration will be required.” [Patch]
Alexandria/Arlington Sorority Sisters Celebrate Inauguration of Vice President Harris — “As someone who participated in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, I get emotional just thinking about this huge accomplishment and how far we as a people have come. The idea that a woman of color, who attended an HBCU, and who was raised by a single parent is now our Vice President is mind-boggling.” [Gazette]
Today’s Weather — “Sunny along with a few clouds (during the day). High around 35F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). Low 22F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Front Desk Agent — “Sage Hospitality is looking for a Front Desk Agent at the Alexandrian Hotel.” [Indeed]
Beyer Calls for Accountability in Wake of Capitol Siege — “The idea that we would just move on and not hold those responsible for this accountable is immoral.” [Twitter]
Stonebridge Sells Piece Of Oakville Triangle Site To Townhouse Builder — “Stonebridge is under contract to sell a 3.5-acre piece of the site to Winchester Homes to build an 84-unit townhouse project, Stonebridge principal Doug Firstenberg tells Bisnow.” [Bisnow]
City Warns Against Icy Roads — “With potential winter weather in the morning, roads may quickly turn icy. If you’re commuting Thursday morning, plan for extra travel time and use caution.” [Twitter]
Emergency Utility Assistance is Available — “If you were unable to pay your Virginia American Water or Washington Gas bills between March 1 and October 31, 2020 as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for assistance. Deadlines to apply are Jan 29 for water bills and Jan 31 for gas.” [Twitter]
Italian War Bride Turns 100 in Alexandria — “For Ada’s 100th, a few close friends and family, including daughter Daria, granddaughter Nathalie, and friend Betty, socially-distanced at The Hermitage. The party ensued with a sheet cake, flowers, gifts, a myriad of birthday cards from friends unable to attend, and video-chatting with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson.” [Zebra]
City Seeks Feedback on Old Cameron Run Trail — “Ending Sun. Jan. 31: the feedback period to provide input on the proposed design for the Old Cameron Run Trail: alexandriava.gov/116739 The 0.53-mile shared-use path btwn Hooffs Run Dr. in Eisenhower East & S. Payne St. in the Southwest Quadrant. The City wants to hear from you!” [Twitter]
Today’s Weather — “Windy. Cloudy skies will become sunny in the afternoon. High 36F. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Mainly clear early (in the evening), then a few clouds later on. Low 23F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.”[Weather.com]
New Job: Private Piano Teacher — “Old Town Music School, an old fashioned preparatory Music School in Old Town Alexandria for over 20 years, is expanding and hiring a community of professional musicians/teachers who offer a nurturing, positive and personal approach to piano lessons. Students are beginning through advanced intermediate levels. Seeking out-going, motivated and fun teachers to join our faculty.” [Indeed]
Beyer Rails Against Congressional Republicans — “I’m really sick of whining about ‘canceling’ from rich and powerful Republicans who tried to cancel our democracy.” [Twitter]
Deadline Extended for Landlords to Apply for Relief Program — The deadline for landlords to apply for the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program, to cover overdue rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended to March 1. Applications that have not yet been submitted can now include requests to cover rent payments through February 2021. Previously submitted applications are also eligible to include rent due in February through a contract amendment process.” [City of Alexandria]
City Council Affirms Commitment to Racial and Social Equity — “On Jan. 23, the Alexandria City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to acknowledge racial inequity in the past and present, and commit to adopting practices and policies that promote racial and social equity.” [Zebra]
City Councilwoman Amy Jackson Announces Run for Reelection — “I AM running for Re-election! With your support, I look forward to serving my hometown in this capacity for another term. Any contribution at any level helps! Thank you! #AlexandriaVA” [Twitter]
Alexandria Police Are Hiring — “Interested in becoming an Alexandria Police Officer? The first step is to take a written test. We have a few spots open for the next test on January 30th. Click the link below to start the process to become one of Alexandria’s finest.” [Twitter]
Power Outage Affects Some ACPS Teachers Tuesday — “Alert 1/26/2021 12:56 p.m.: There is currently an internet outage on the east coast that is impacting some of our staff. Please be aware as some teachers may not be able to connect to classes this afternoon.” [Twitter]
‘Groundswell’ Art Installation Coming to Waterfront Park — “A new art installation called Groundswell, featuring about 130 wood pilings in various heights, will adorn Waterfront Park in Old Town this spring.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s Weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 43F. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph. Overcast (in the evening). Low near 30F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Teacher – Head Start — “The Teacher creates, maintains, and manages an attractive, warm, and challenging learning environment for young children, incorporating developmentally appropriate learning activities that meet the needs of the group as well as those of individual children. The Teacher collaborates with all staff to facilitate the utilization of needed services to the children and their families. The Teacher is responsible for keeping accurate reports and records for each child and ensuring that all of the necessary forms are completed and properly maintained.” [Indeed]
Mayor: Council to Accelerate Sewer Capacity Projects — “Our ’16 Storm Sewer Capacity Analysis identified 90 areas where the system does not meet our CURRENT design standard of a 10-year storm. Our Stormwater Utility Fee was implemented in ’18 to fund capacity and environmental compliance. Council will now discuss how to accelerate.” [Facebook]
Beyer Attacks Trump’s Environmental Stance — “Trump’s climate change strategy is the same as his pandemic strategy: play it down and pretend it isn’t happening. There are a record number of named storms in the Atlantic and the west coast is on fire.” [Twitter]
Anonymous Donation Helps Expand SNAP Double Dollars Program — “A $10,000 anonymous donation to help fight food insecurity during the pandemic will help the City expand SNAP Double Dollars program, which allows SNAP customers who visit participating Alexandria farmers’ markets to receive up to $20 in double dollars to purchase eligible food products at the markets.” [Facebook]
Environmental Council of Alexandria Decries Taylor Run Restoration Plan — “We’ve got our work cut out for us to make sure that the City doesn’t continue to promote so-called “eco” policies that actually come at the expense of the environment and efforts to reverse global warming.” [Facebook]
Tall Ship Providence Sails Away for Inspections — “And, they’re off… Bright and early this morning, Providence headed out on a voyage to Georgetown, MD for a scheduled haul out and Coast Guard inspection. They’ll inspect the hull, complete any necessary maintenance, and she’ll get a new coat of bottom paint. Please join us in wishing our Captain and crew “Fair winds and following seas.” Providence will return home by the end of September. We look forward to welcoming you back aboard for tours and cruises!” [Facebook]
Classic Car Show in Old Town September 19 — “This Saturday you can head to the parking lot of the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum for a classic car show featuring a variety of Packards and other ‘orphan’ vehicles.” [Zebra]
Today’s Weather — “During the day, mainly sunny. High 73F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, clear. Low 54F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Spanish Language Teacher — “You must have previous tutoring/teaching experience, and minimum Bachelor’s degree.” [Indeed]
Judith Jones, Founder of At Home in Alexandria, Dies — “Jones was one of the three founders of At Home in Alexandria, a nonprofit that supports older adults. A former Alexandria resident, Jones was beloved by her family and friends and well-respected by her colleagues and students. A scientist and businesswoman, she served as a mentor to many.” [Alex Times]
Beyer Says Trump Incites Violence — “The country wants justice. The people want peace, reform, progress. They reject violence. Trump wants division. He celebrates brutality. He incites violence. Above all, Trump does not want to talk about his failure to keep Americans safe amid a pandemic that has killed 182,000.” [Twitter]
Police Warn of Phone Scam — “APD is aware of a telephone scam targeting people who are asked to provide money to remove criminal charges. If you are the victim of this scam and have been defrauded of money, please report by calling 703.746.4444 or by contacting the law enforcement agency where you live.” [Twitter]
Alexandria Heroes Honored at Valor Awards — “Sergeant Michael Vaccaro was awarded a Bronze Medal for placing himself at risk of death by going between citizens and a gunman who opened fire in Old Town in 2018. After defusing the threat, he performed life saving measures at the scene.” [Alexandria Living]
Blood Drive at Market Square on Thursday — “To help INOVA hospitals and their other facilities, INOVA Blood Donor Services will hold a blood drive at Market Square on Thursday, September 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.” [Zebra]
Today’s Weather — During the day, “Rain likely. High 76F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.” At night, “Rain likely. Low 69F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Micro School Teacher — “SchoolHouse is a new, innovative education startup that helps families to form Learning Pods, and matches excellent teachers with those Pods. ” [Indeed]