Our first week has passed and I am thrilled to see the strides we have made in the few days since the start of the 2020-21 school year. In spite of a pandemic, our ACPS staff and leaders have worked extremely hard to ensure that we had the best Virtual PLUS+ opening possible.
I could not have asked for more from our incredible team of dedicated educators and support staff. If you missed it, check out The Washington Post’s coverage of how the first day went across our region featuring T.C. Williams High School Geometry Teacher Danielle Thorne.
To our families and students, I thank you for embracing Virtual PLUS+, which nobody chose but most accepted as the only feasible path forward at the current time. The early weeks are certainly a process of testing, refining and taking stock of what works well and what less so.
Virtual PLUS+ is not set in stone. We remain adaptable and flexible and continue to keep an open mind as we review constant feedback from staff, families and students. But we do ask you to give our Virtual PLUS+ learning experience the test of time. Things that did not work well for you yesterday may improve tomorrow. As with all new and unfamiliar routines, it is natural to have doubts to start, and with each passing day things often become easier. If changes are necessary, we will absolutely make refinements and we will remain methodical and strategic with our approach so that we are able to make changes with fidelity. We need to be considerate and thoughtful about the impact our decisions will have on students, families and staff prior to making adjustments so we understand the implications.
To that point, I would like to thank you for all the constructive feedback we have received so far.
One issue that has already been flagged is the concern, particularly from our families with our youngest learners, that screen time is too long. Keeping little ones engaged over an extended period is difficult enough in the classroom, let alone in a virtual setting. It is hard for our students and our teachers and also families and child care providers. Be assured, we are looking at this carefully and have established a Virtual PLUS+ Advisory Team to consider all concerns. Our school leaders met with staff on Monday to discuss praise, concerns and possible solutions regarding delivery of instruction with our Virtual PLUS+ learning approach. Our team is reviewing this anecdotal and experiential data to make an informed decision about what specifically needs to be refined. We look forward to sharing our findings and next steps on this matter early next week. We are also working on plans to make learning more accessible for our students with special needs.
Finally, I am pleased to share our community outreach plans surrounding the process to consider a name change for T.C. Williams High School. We have a series of virtual read-ins planned through September and October that will give the context to help us all understand the history of our city and our school division.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed.
Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools
Are Kindergarten Zoom Hours Too Long?
We have received many questions about the length of time our youngest learners are expected to engage in live, synchronous learning. Your concerns are being heard and addressed.
Last Thursday, our School Board discussed the issue.
Members of our senior leadership team met with our staff on Monday to discuss division-wide areas of concern, including instructional time with our youngest learners and we look forward to sharing our findings with families and staff.
While we are all new to this virtual learning experience, it is understandably most unfamiliar for our youngest students. We know screen time, concentration levels and the lack of physical movement are all issues that are particularly challenging for those in grades K-2. We are also aware of recognized screen time guidelines. We are cognizant of balancing all these factors with the need to provide a quality education during this period.
Please know that we are developing a process to respond to what we are learning and to make the necessary refinements to our instructional delivery. We are continuously discussing virtual instruction and the structure of the day, including coordination of breaks, with our school leaders and teachers, especially our teachers for early learners.
We have established a Virtual PLUS+ Learning Advisory Team to help guide us on what students are experiencing in the classroom. The team, which will meet on Mondays, will consist of a teacher representative from each grade level from every elementary school. The advisory team will also include teacher representatives from Encore, Specialized Instruction, English Learners (ELs), and Talented and Gifted (TAG), as well as core and elective teachers from the secondary schools. A chairperson from each elementary grade level and secondary core and elective area’s Virtual PLUS+ Learning Advisory Team will serve on the division’s Teaching, Learning and Leadership Team.
Both teacher groups will focus on: early learners, students with special needs, EL students, secondary students, technology challenges, and any other areas identified throughout our Virtual PLUS+ learning experience.
Our commitment is to refine our practices as well as monitor our progress with staff and students so that the Virtual PLUS+ experiences are personalized, engaging, age appropriate and interactive.
Virtual PLUS+ is designed to be an evolving and collaborative model and we welcome all feedback.
Thank you for your continued support, flexibility and understanding as we embark on this journey together!
For more information, visit the Virtual PLUS+ Learning Advisory Team webpage.
Introducing MAP Growth, an Academic Screener for Grades 2-12
This year has been challenging both academically and emotionally for our students. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the pandemic and the subsequent closure of school buildings has created the risk of a heightened learning loss. Our successful summer learning program will have mitigated this to some degree. Read about our efforts to monitor the mental health of our students in this Washington Post article.
This academic year, teachers will be administering the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Screening assessment for all students in grades 2-12. It involves two short 20-question tests in areas of reading and math. The purpose is to determine what students know and therefore what they are ready to learn next. Scores will never be used for grades, only to tailor instruction to the needs of students.
MAP will be given three times this school year, with the first assessments taking place in mid to late October.
For more information, see the Virtual PLUS+ Student Assessments webpage.
Latest Food Updates
Distribution of free meals is available across Alexandria for all children aged 2-18 and all ACPS students, provided under a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Meal distribution at Mount Vernon Community School began on Monday and distribution at Patrick Henry K-8 School will begin on Sept. 21. Distribution at these sites is from 8 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
A new pop-up meal distribution location at 2727 Duke Street, behind Bank of America, began on Monday and runs from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
For all food distribution locations and times, see the Virtual PLUS+ Food Access webpage.
Redefining the Titans: T.C. Williams Community Outreach Begins
This week, we are getting started with our robust public community engagement process which will begin with our community education and engagement program around the possibility of changing the name of T.C. Williams High School.
We are critically aware that there is a pressing need in our schools, our community and our nation to find ways to talk about race constructively and respectfully. One of the ways that we can move forward is by acknowledging our own history, while refusing to allow that history to define who we currently are as a school division in the present.
Please consider joining us for a series of “Read-Ins” which will help set the scene for a full, frank and informed community discussion.
We are delighted that Douglas S. Reed, professor of government and director of the MA Program in Educational Transformation at Georgetown University, has agreed to host these Read-Ins. Prof. Reed is the author of Building the Federal Schoolhouse, a highly-regarded historical account of public schooling in Alexandria. He will be joined by Kennetra Wood, ACPS executive director of alternative programs and equity, who has spearheaded our program to teach racial justice to our students and will play a critical role in shedding light on how the history of ACPS is impacting present programs.
This series of read-ins will focus on Alexandria’s history to provide context for the name change discussion that our students, staff and community will be having over the coming months. The series will offer an opportunity to consider and discuss how Thomas Chambliss Williams’ actions reveal the man he was, the role our city leaders played in the fight against integration, and the civil strife percolating across the city at the time of the Titans’ victorious 1971 season.
All three read-ins will be offered in English with real time translation in Spanish, Arabic and Amharic.
The series will also be recorded and made available on the Community Read-ins page of the ACPS website.
Read-In #1: Thomas Chambliss Williams, the Superintendent
Sept. 24, 6-7 p.m. on Zoom
Dr. Douglas S. Reed will present from his book, Building the Federal School House and discuss ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams.
At the first read-in of the series, Dr. Reed will speak about seminal moments in the career of T.C. Williams – from the firing of a cafeteria worker to his stubborn resistance to integration, and his use of special education to further segregate Alexandria’s students – actions that reveal the man behind the name and title. ACPS Executive Director of Equity and Alternative Programs Kennetra Wood will co-host and identify ties to systemic racism rooted in our system. There will be a short question and answer period following the discussion. Join us on Zoom.
Read-In #2: Alexandria’s Role in Massive Resistance and School Segregation
Oct. 1, 6-7 p.m. on Zoom
Dr. Douglas S. Reed will present from his book, Building the Federal School House and discuss Virginia’s “Massive Resistance” to school integration and the role Alexandria played in this effort.
At the second read-in of the series, Dr. Reed will discuss how Alexandria City took part in Virginia’s Massive Resistance, and what role our town leadership played in fighting the integration of our schools. This discussion will offer a glimpse into what it was like for Alexandria students during this difficult time in our history. ACPS Executive Director of Equity and Alternative Programs Kennetra Wood will co-host and identify ties to systemic racism rooted in our system. There will be a short question and answer period following the discussion. Join us on Zoom.
Read-In #3: The Real Story Behind “Remember the Titans”
Oct. 8, 6-7 p.m. on Zoom
Dr. Douglas S. Reed will present from his book, Building the Federal School House and put the Remember the Titans story into context.
At the third and final read-in of the series, Dr. Reed will take a deeper dive into the Titans story, setting the stage by discussing riots, protests, systemic injustice, and the resulting civil rights crisis in Alexandria City. This is the un-Disneyfied tale of the merger of our black and white high schools, our integration plan, and a winning football team. ACPS Executive Director of Equity and Alternative Programs Kennetra Wood will co-host and identify ties to systemic racism rooted in our system. There will be a short question and answer period following the discussion. Join us on Zoom.
For more details on the topics being covered in each read-in, and to find other ways to access the events, please visit the ACPS Renaming of Schools page.
ACPS Awarded $500,000 to Improve School Security
ACPS has been awarded $500,000 in grant funding to improve school security across the division.
This funding will allow for the following:
- A single division-wide software security system for building surveillance
- New and improved surveillance cameras for all sites
- New electronic access control systems which will use frequency operated buttons (FOBs) to allow access into the buildings
- Panic buttons located in key areas of the building to alert first responders of an emergency
ACPS/Alexandria Police Department Annual Community Review and Feedback Opportunity
On Oct. 1, 2020, ACPS will host a Public Hearing on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) currently in place between ACPS and the Alexandria Police Department. Read the current ACPS-APD Memorandum of Understanding (PDF).
Every two years, the ACPS MOU with the Alexandria Police Department requires a review. The goal of this public hearing is to encourage feedback around the agreement to assist ACPS in strengthening its relationship with the Alexandria Police Department and help ensure a safe environment for our families and staff.
Members of the public can sign up to speak during the Public Hearing at the School Board Meeting on Oct. 1, 2020 at 4 p.m.
Alternatively, you can submit your comments via the online survey. This survey will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2020.
This information will help ACPS and the Alexandria Police Department, in partnership, to ensure a safe-school environment for our students, staff and visitors on the school campus and grounds.
Completing the 2020 Census Helps Your School
If you have not done so already, you have until Sept. 30 to complete the 2020 Census form.
The information you provide helps secure critical federal and state funding for ACPS schools for the next decade.
Title I grants, special education grants, breakfast and lunch programs, Head Start, after-school programs, and classroom technology are all allocated and distributed based, in part, by the responses provided to the census questionnaire.
If you do not get counted, your school’s programs may be underfunded for the next 10 years.
2020 Census responses are private and protected by law. You will not be asked to provide your social security number or citizenship status, and information is confidential.
For more information and to respond, visit 2020census.gov, call 1-844-330-2020, or text “Respond Now” to 313131.
City Council Approves Design for New Douglas MacArthur Building
Alexandria City Council has approved the design of the new building for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, allowing the construction to move ahead on schedule.
The new building, known as the “Forest Design,” will have space for 275 more students, classrooms with natural light, and be designed to be environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.
For more information, see the Douglas MacArthur Project Updates.
Reminder: Don’t Wait, Vaccinate!
Vaccine requirements for school remain the same even though we are not resuming in-person schooling immediately this fall. The health of our community is a priority for ACPS and ensuring your child is up to date on routine vaccines helps your whole family. With COVID-19 transmission active in our community, it is more important than ever to manage preventable illnesses.
Contact your pediatrician to schedule an appointment. If you do not have one, contact the Alexandria Health Department’s immunizations services at 703-746-4888 to schedule an appointment.
The Multilingual Family Helpline is Open!
If you have questions or need support on any aspect of Virtual PLUS+, you can now text or call the multilingual Virtual PLUS+ Helpline.
Our team of 15 staff are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to help you get answers to your questions about:
- social, emotional or academic support
- child care options
- food access
For English: Call 703-844-1763
For Spanish: Call 703-844-3424
For Arabic: Call 703-927-7095
For Amharic: Call 703-927-6866
Have questions? Email email@example.com.
ACPS has multiple distribution meal site locations throughout Alexandria for all ACPS students and children over the age of two.
GRAB-AND-GO MEAL LOCATIONS:
Grab and Go breakfast and lunch meals are available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the following locations:
- William Ramsay Elementary School
5700 Sanger Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22311
- Francis C. Hammond Middle School
4646 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22304
- Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
3600 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
- Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School
1501 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
- NEW! Mount Vernon Community School
2601 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
- T.C. Williams High School
3330 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
And available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at our “Pop-Up” sites located at:
- Mason Apartments at South Reynolds Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Brent Place Apartments at 375 South Reynolds Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
11:20 to 11:50 a.m.
- Ruby Tucker Family Center at 322 Tancil Court, Alexandria, VA 22314
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Community Lodgings at 607 Notabene Drive, Alexandria, VA 22305
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Old Towne West Apartments (parking lot) at 500 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
11:20 to 11:50 a.m.
- Corner of Florence Drive and Four Mile Road, Alexandria, VA 22305
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- The Fields at 4309 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Bennington Crossing Apartments at 441 North Armistead Street, Alexandria, VA 22312
11:30 a.m. to noon
- NEW! 2727 Duke Street (behind Bank of America), Alexandria, VA 22314
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
NO SIGN UP OR REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO RECEIVE MEALS. Meals consist of breakfast and lunch, and include, for example, fresh fruits and vegetables and sandwiches for multiple days.
NOTE: No food distribution will occur on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The limited days for distribution is to support the practice of social distancing and to limit social gatherings. Meals for two days will be provided on Mondays and Wednesdays, and meals for three days will be provided on Fridays.
Other Food Resources in the City of Alexandria:
For food pantry locations and schedules in Alexandria, visit www.hungerfreealexandria.com or call 703-662-1067.
Questions? Or Need Translation?
Send us your question in Spanish, Arabic or Amharic:
- Text ACPSMEALS to 797979 (English and Spanish)
- Call or text 703-927-6866 (Amharic)
- Call or text 703-927-7095 (Arabic)
Call the FACE Center’s Bilingual Parent Information Lines, available Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- For Spanish/English, call 571-775-9719
- For Amharic/English, call 703-927-6866
- For Arabic/English, call 703-927-7095
SAFETY REMINDER: Please remember to observe social distancing practices while at the food distribution site by maintaining six feet of personal space between you and other families or individuals.
Anyone exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory illness like fever, runny nose, sore throat, coughing or difficulty breathing on the day of food distribution or in the previous 24 hours should not visit a food distribution site but call a health care provider instead. If you do not have a primary care physician and are not enrolled in a clinic, you may CALL an urgent care center or emergency room.
TEEN WELLNESS CENTER IS OPEN
The Teen Wellness Center at T.C. Williams is open regular hours Monday through Friday for all Alexandrians ages 12-19. All services are provided in the clinic and if the teen is ill with an elevated temperature (100.0 or more) we will see them through our telehealth video format. Make an appointment over the phone by calling 703-746-4776.
UPDATES FROM THE ALEXANDRIA HEALTH DEPARTMENT
The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department strongly urge everyone to follow state orders to STAY HOME except for essential trips such as food purchases and medical care, and keep 6 feet apart from others when in public. Your neighbors and loved ones are counting on you to stop the spread of COVID-19. For other questions about COVID-19, call the Alexandria COVID-19 Hotline at 703-746-4988, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Additional updates can be found at www.alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus.
Coping with COVID-19 Fear and Uncertainty
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
Continuity of School Support and Academic Advisement
School Student Support Team staff, including school counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, and school social workers will be available during school hours throughout the closure. Monday — Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. staff will be connecting with students and their families. The Department of Student Services, Alternative Programs and Equity staff members are also available during this time and can be contacted by voicemail and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If there is a crisis or emergency during the time of the closure, students and families can access the supports below:
- Crisis Text and Crisis Link:
- Text: CONNECT to 85511
- Call: 703-527-4077
- Alexandria Safe Place
- Alexandria City 24-Hour Emergency Mental Health Services
- Alexandria City Health Department and AHD Contacts
- Inova Alexandria Hospital (ER)
We know that this is a challenging time. ACPS will continue to share information through the ACPS website, social media, and email. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your student’s school counselor or school social worker with any questions.
Don’t Feel Well?
Contact your primary health care physician. Don’t have insurance? Contact Neighborhood Health at 703-535-5568.
Have questions, concerns or feedback? Contact us.
Wash your hands regularly. Regular soap is OK.