Today, we are sharing a very important survey to assess your views on the reopening of our school buildings and how you think we can improve the Virtual PLUS+ model. Education is truly a community partnership and it is most effective when all of us pitch in with ideas and feedback. Now, more than ever, we need your views as we grapple with the difficult decision of whether it is feasible to begin in-person instruction for students and staff in our classrooms.
These surveys are critical for us to continue to check your views, better understand your needs and provide options that work for staff, students and families to the best of our ability. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey by Oct. 4 at 11:59 p.m. Please complete a survey for each of your children if you have not already. Results will be discussed with a recommendation to the School Board at their meeting on Oct. 15.
As part of the community engagement process to consider a name change for both T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School, the first of three community “Read-Ins” about Thomas Chambliss Williams was held last Thursday evening. It was a fascinating and enlightening event. As we consider the process to change the name of Alexandria’s only public high school and that of Matthew Maury Elementary School, it is important to know the raw truth of the man who was the superintendent of ACPS for almost thirty years and whose influence we still see in our schools and city today. Thank you to our amazing hosts, professor Douglas Reed and Kennetra Wood, ACPS Executive Director of Equity & Alternative Programs, who has spearheaded our program to teach racial justice to our students. Join us tomorrow at 7 p.m. for the second read-in of the series.
Finally, I want to congratulate our three National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists Aiden Crowe, Nikolai Kosinski and Caroline Winakur, and wish them all the best as they progress through the competition. It is always so exciting to announce our semifinalists and I’m honored to recognize each of them.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed.
Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools
The Identity Project: Our First Community Read-In on Thomas Chambliss Williams
Last Thursday night, hundreds joined a fascinating discussion led by Georgetown University professor Douglas Reed and ACPS Executive Director of Equity & Alternative Programs Kennetra Wood, about the man our only high school is currently named after.
During the first in a series of three of these events, professor Reed discussed seminal moments in the career of T.C. Williams.
We learned that Williams was a man who, in his own words, had “no aspiration” for schools in Alexandria “to be spectacular,” who fought desegregation, and who fired a staff member for joining the lawsuit for the right for her daughters to attend a previously all-white school. The ties to systemic racism is still visible in our schools today.
These “Read-Ins” are intended to lay the historical groundwork as the School Board considers changing the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.
Read-In #2: Alexandria’s Role in Massive Resistance and School Segregation
NOTE TIME CHANGE: Oct. 1, 7-8 p.m. on Zoom.
At the second Read-In of the series, Dr. Reed will present from his book, “Building the Federal School House” and discuss how Alexandria City took part in Virginia’s Massive Resistance, and what role our city 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 & 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.
In addition to the three Identity Project read-ins, we have a series of community engagement events planned throughout October leading up to the School Board vote on Nov. 23. These include:
- Three community conversations on Oct. 14, 21 and 28
- A Family Forum to discuss Matthew Maury’s proposed name change on Oct. 26
- Three student chats Oct. 7, 13 and 20
See a listing of all Identity Project engagement opportunities.
Family Webinar Oct. 1: PowerSchool for Parents
Do you want help setting up your PowerSchool account? Are you wondering if you really need PowerSchool access?
Join the ACPS Family and Community Engagement (FACE) team for this online workshop to help get started and to learn useful tips on logging into PowerSchool and Canvas — from your computer or your phone — to check your child’s grades and assignments, update student information and more!
Thursday, October 1 at 4 p.m.
Join us on Zoom.
The webinar will allow for live Q&A and offer interpretation in Spanish, Amharic and Arabic.
Congratulations to our National Merit Scholar Semifinalists
When Aiden Crowe, Nikolai Kosinski and Caroline Winakur reached eighth grade at George Washington Middle School, their math ability was such that the trio were literally in a class of their own.
Algebra II with Sarah Devito became a class of three as teachers sought to individualize learning in the subject area they all excelled at. They have remained good friends ever since.
Earlier this month, the T.C. Williams High School seniors discovered they had all been named National Merit semifinalists after outstanding results in the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last October.
They waited a year before they heard of their success. Read more.
Responding to Your Feedback on Virtual PLUS+
As we previously shared, ACPS has established a Virtual PLUS+ Learning Advisory Team, consisting of a teacher representative from each grade level from every elementary school. The advisory team includes 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 chair 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.
Based on preliminary feedback from this team, ACPS is already reviewing and adjusting its schedules and Virtual PLUS+ model based on your feedback. We will be making further adjustments based on the survey, which is open until Oct. 4. Some of the adjustments include:
- The distribution of Learning Packets beginning Nov. 4
- Defining “breaks” for families
- Implementation of concise mini-lessons to align with best practice in a virtual environment, which calls for more precise language to reduce “I do/We do” direct instruction to 7-10 minutes
- Revision of the schedule and pacing to ensure appropriate space for testing requirements
- Supplying of headsets for all English learner students starting Oct. 5
- Communication of guidelines and teaching procedures for students to back completely away from their devices during scheduled breaks and during asynchronous learning blocks throughout the day
- Formation of a scheduling crew to examine K-2 schedules for adjustments
Follow all the work of the Learning Advisory Team on the ACPS Virtual PLUS+ website.
Reminder: Free food distribution at seven ACPS school locations now begins at 7:30 a.m. rather than 8 a.m. The shift to a slightly earlier start time is in response to feedback from our families.
ALL children aged 2-18 have access to free meals via ACPS food distribution sites through Dec. 31, 2020, no matter their family income or if they are enrolled in ACPS.
Meals are available for pick up Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the seven school sites and also at nine “pop-up” sites throughout Alexandria.
ACPS also offers dinner. You can pick up dinner at the same time as you pick up breakfast and lunch.
ACPS Graduation Rate Holds Steady Amid National Concerns Over High School Dropout Rates
The ACPS graduation rate for 2020 stayed steady at 82%, data from the Virginia Department of Education released today.
The level graduation rate is a particular achievement during a year of unprecedented educational upheaval. Students struggled to stay connected when schools moved to an all-virtual model on March 13 — a critical time for many to complete the requirements needed to graduate on time.
Experts are already predicting a large increase in the number of high school dropouts nationwide. Many students have already opted to work to help support their families during tough economic times, and others are taking care of siblings in the absence of other child care. Struggling students will be on a path to missing important course credits, making it more difficult for them to graduate on time without major intervention efforts.
Anecdotally, ACPS has learned that its students faced difficult decisions to keep up with their academic schedules while supporting family life, which may have caused them to relocate or find alternative means to contribute to their families after employment options became scarce and food insecurity increased. ACPS has already seen the effects of this on our data. The dropout rate for ACPS was higher than usual this school year at 14%.
“While we are able to provide all our students with access to technology and online learning, this does not take into account the personal struggles many are facing at home as a result of the economic downturn and schools and businesses being closed. Our graduation rate stayed steady despite the difficult circumstances presented by the pandemic, however, we need to continue to work with our students to remove barriers that prevent them from graduating on time as well as provide necessary social, emotional and academic support to prevent them from dropping out of school,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
After years of steady increases in the graduation rate, many education leaders are predicting a sizable jump in the number of high school dropouts during the 2020-21 school year. With more than half of districts using hybrid or remote models, they fear struggling students will be more likely to disengage from school systems. We cannot afford to allow this to be the narrative in ACPS.
ACPS student support teams have been continuously reaching out to connect with students since schools moved to a virtual model in the spring. When the pandemic hit, they updated individual graduation plans for high school seniors to ensure they were still able to access the credits and resources they needed to graduate. These school-based teams have continued to engage students — particularly English learner students — this fall. ACPS saw 93% of all students engage in at least 50% of their classes in the first week of school and will continue to monitor the data to ensure that students are getting the support they need. For example, in its first week of operation, the ACPS Virtual PLUS+ Helpline took more than 2,367 calls, of which 1,851 were from families who speak a language other than English.
The ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan: Equity for All outlines the Hispanic graduation rate as one of its key focal points, and ACPS is already evaluating educational programming, supports and targeted interventions for students who may be struggling to meet on-time graduation requirements as part of their work this school year. In addition, ACPS school counselors are prioritizing meetings with current seniors to review progress toward graduation and to discuss postsecondary planning.
Earlier this month, a national coalition of education and civic groups, including the National League of Cities and the American Institutes for Research, met to discuss strategies for reengaging students and to work to get a handle on the numbers of new dropouts the country could be facing.
More Reasons to Celebrate the ACPS/DASH Partnership
Our long-standing partnership with DASH moves forward with the signing of two memorandums of understanding this month that will benefit students and families.
Since 2017, ACPS has had an agreement with DASH to provide our students in grades 9-12 free transportation throughout the school year. This will continue for the current school year with an additional pilot program for our 12th graders that will eliminate the need to carry a bus card. Our seniors will use the DASHBus app to access bus transportation. Those seniors who do not have a smartphone will receive the traditional SmarTrip card that is on the other side of their student ID.
In addition to the high school partnership, the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) program within the City of Alexandria will provide transportation services when the lack of a transportation option results in a barrier to a family participating in the VPI program at any of the various sites within the city. Families/guardians will be able to escort their students to and from their VPI location free of charge. DASH will provide a deep discount and ACPS will fund the remaining cost of each ride.
NOTE: All DASH routes are currently free to ride for all passengers until further notice due to COVID-19. Students, including VPI program participants, will benefit from this partnership once DASH resumes fare collection. See DASH service updates.
Welcome to George Mason Elementary School’s New Assistant Principal
Dr. Eileen Eggert has 20 years of experience in education, 19 of which have been in Virginia public schools. She has worked in multiple capacities in grades K-8, serving as an inclusion general education teacher, instructional coach, and intervention specialist at the elementary level.
National Walk to School Day is Oct. 7
National Walk to School Day is going to look a little different this year. But we are still encouraging all students, staff and families to get out for a walk on Oct. 7 before or after school. Please share photos of your participation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtags #alxwalktheblock and #walktoschoolday.
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 on the agreement to assist ACPS in strengthening its relationship with the Alexandria Police Department and help ensure a safe school environment for our students, staff and visitors on the school campus and grounds.
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.
You can also submit your comments via the online survey. This survey will remain open until 11:59 p.m. today, Sept. 30.
There is also a public hearing on the CIP and Combined Funds budgets at the Oct. 1 meeting. Anyone wishing to speak on this topic can sign up to speak in the same way.
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 7:30 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
- Mount Vernon Community School
2601 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
- Patrick Henry K-8 School
4643 Taney Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304
- 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 75 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
- 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.
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 email@example.com.
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.