School Name Changes Approved & Delay in Transition Timeline

- News and Announcements

This Week’s Headlines:

Dear ACPS Staff,

Today, before we head off to enjoy a very different Thanksgiving holiday this year, I have two important developments to share with you.

As you are aware, on Nov. 5 ACPS, initiated our phased return of Citywide Program students to in-person instruction. We originally planned to expand our population of some students receiving specialized instruction and English Learner services to in-person learning throughout the months of November and December.

Given the upward trend data of positive COVID cases and increasing risk of transmission throughout the community based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making K-12 School Metrics, in consultation with the Alexandria Health Department (AHD), I recommended that ACPS delay our transition of students into in-person learning until January 2021. Yesterday evening, the Alexandria City School Board amended their Oct. 21 motion approving a phased-in approach to in-person learning to include consideration of fluctuating community health metrics.

As a result of these new factors, ACPS will not, at this time, return any Students with Disabilities to in-person learning as originally planned, including those scheduled for Nov. 30. Students who have already returned to in-person learning will return to virtual learning for the time being. 

Additionally, this will impact the original timeline proposed for the reopening of our schools and the return of all students to in-person learning. Planning for the reopening of our schools will continue and we will provide information regarding the adjusted timeline for all students as soon as possible.

We are closely monitoring the upward trend of the positive COVID cases and transmission rates in the community and region. Daily metrics for the City of Alexandria and the Virginia Department of Health’s data on CDC K-12 School Metrics can be viewed online.

ACPS works in partnership with the AHD regarding any decisions made that impact the health and safety of our students and staff. While the AHD does not make final decisions, they provide subject matter expertise and are involved in all ACPS reopening planning meetings. They are consultants and partners throughout this pandemic planning process. 

The AHD uses three key metrics from the CDC to guide and advise on ACPS decisions regarding closing or opening schools. These metrics serve as indicators and thresholds for school-based risk analysis. Two of these metrics are community-based metrics including community spread and positivity rates, while the third is the implementation of mitigation measures in schools. See the CDC indicators and thresholds for risk of introduction and transmission of COVID-19 in schools. These metrics can all be found in one place on the ACPS website.

In addition to the two community metrics, ACPS implements five key health and safety mitigation measures including: consistent and correct use of masks; social distancing; hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and disinfection; contact tracing in collaboration with the AHD. 

I sincerely apologize for the disappointment this delay may cause to families and our students. Our clear preference and priority is enabling students in all grade levels to return to in-person instruction if they choose as soon as community health metrics return to safe levels. 

While circumstances remain challenging, please know our team is dedicated to working with our teachers and families to ensure that all students experience academic growth and receive necessary social, emotional, and academic learning supports as we navigate these challenging times. Instructional staff and specialists continue to work with students to support their virtual instruction. Students continue to receive their IEP services in the virtual setting. While we understand that this is not the ideal situation, we made adjustments to the Virtual PLUS+ model and will continue to do so to improve access to instruction, particularly for our youngest learners. 

I thank you for your understanding while we continue to navigate these difficult times.

Our goal is to ensure that all our students continue to have access to the educational resources and services they need at this difficult time.

As a reminder, I will be hosting a series of Community Meetings for families, students and staff on Dec. 1 and 2, where I will be available to address concerns and answer any questions.

Please see my weekly video update, where I address this topic:

In addition, today I wanted to make sure you had heard the news that our School Board last night voted unanimously to change the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. See below for the full details and next steps.

Wishing you all a peaceful, safe and healthy Thanksgiving.

Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.

School Board Votes to Change the Names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School

Last night, the Alexandria City School Board voted 9-0 in favor of changing the names of both T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School, consigning to history two individuals whose legacies have no place in ACPS.

Thomas Chambliss (T.C.) Williams was a former ACPS superintendent who fought the desegregation of our schools, long after the Brown vs Board ruling which outlawed segregation in U.S. schools. Matthew Maury was an oceanographer who served in the Confederate Army, attempted to negotiate a slave trade with Brazil, and encouraged confederates to migrate to Mexico following the war.

Following a robust community engagement and consultation process, ACPS now has a mandate to move into phase two of The Identity Project as we consider new names for both schools. 

Last week, Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. made the recommendation to the School Board that they vote to approve the changes.

Speaking after the vote on Monday evening, School Board Chair Cindy Anderson said, “This is a historic moment. Thanks to the methodical and strategic process we undertook with The Identity Project, our community is more aware than ever before of why combating inequities is so fundamental to ensuring change. Today’s vote is a symbolic step in the right direction, but we still have much work to do to see Equity for All as outlined in our ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan.” 

Now the work begins to consider new names for the two schools. The second phase of The Identity Project, designed to ensure community engagement in the process to decide the new names, will be outlined to the School Board in early December. The superintendent will present name recommendations to the School Board for both schools in April 2021, following the community engagement process. The new names will come into effect at the start of the new school year on July 1, 2021.

Cost estimates to implement the name change at T.C. Williams total about $325,000, while cost estimates for Matthew Maury are just over $5,000.

More than 3,000 people responded to a survey asking their views on the name changes, with 75% in favor of changing the name of T.C. Williams High School and 72% in favor of changing the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School.

“It was important that students of color felt involved and engaged in this process from the start. We are so often a marginalized voice and through this process we were able to have open and frank discussions, not just about a name change, but about the modern-day segregation that still exists in our school division,” said School Board Student Representative Ashley Sanchez-Viafara.

School Board Student Representative Lorraine Johnson added, “We hope that this will be the start of further discussions around how we can change our systems from within.” 

The name of our only public high school has been the subject of debate for many decades, but this summer’s civil unrest brought the matter to the forefront once more and in June triggered a petition of more than 100 signatures needed for the School Board to consider the request. Shortly after this, a petition was filed requesting that the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School also be changed.

Williams, who was superintendent from the 1930s until 1963, was a man who argued that Black and white students “learned differently” and should be kept segregated. One hundred years earlier, Maury held equally reprehensible views about race.

Fast forward to present day, and ACPS could not be further removed from this, proudly embracing students from more than 145 countries speaking 132 different languages. Our division’s 2025 Strategic Plan: Equity for All, puts racial equity at the heart of every decision that is made.

Following the School Board’s decision to consider the name change, ACPS launched The Identity Project to ensure that all in our community understood our history and had a platform to express their opinions.

A series of community conversations, student chats, history lessons and a survey helped spark an understanding of what was at stake. Part one of the Identity Project culminated in Monday’s vote. The second phase of The Identity Project — to decide the new names — will be outlined to the School Board in early December. It will focus on ensuring that students, the community and the voices of the ‘71 Titans, whose story is immortalized in the Disney movie “Remember the Titans,” are heard.

For more information on The Identity Project, visit the ACPS website

Community and Staff Meetings on the Reopening of Schools: Dec. 1-2

ACPS is hosting a series of virtual Community and Staff Meetings on School Reopening on Tuesday, Dec. 1 and Wednesday, Dec. 2

Join us to learn about the most current information on COVID-19 in the City of Alexandria, ACPS building and staff capacity, and our next steps for planning a return to school buildings. 

Meetings for Staff:
Tuesday, Dec. 1 at noon — Join on Zoom
Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. — Join on Zoom

Meetings for Families:
Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. — Join on Zoom
Wednesday, Dec. 2 at noon — Join on Zoom

Meetings for Students:
Middle and High School Students: Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.
Elementary Students: Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 8:30 a.m.
See the ACPS website for student meeting details.

Panelists include ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. and Director of the Alexandria Health Department Dr. Stephen Haering.

After these meetings, we are planning to share with families the link to the Family Choice Form for each child, indicating their intent to return to the classroom in a hybrid model or continue with 100% virtual learning through our Virtual PLUS+ learning model. 

Temperature Screening at ACPS Buildings

Anyone requiring access to an ACPS facility or school will be required to undergo a temperature check to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Testing stations will be established at seven locations, at or close to ACPS meal distribution sites and locations where major summer construction will take place. Screening will take no more than three minutes to complete and will involve the use of a clinical forehead thermometer.

All those with a temperature of 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower (per Alexandria Health Department guidelines) will be given a dated wristband and be cleared to work as long as they are in possession of appropriate personal protection equipment consisting of masks and gloves.

Should an individual record an elevated temperature, that person will be informed that they are unable to report to work at an ACPS site and will be advised to call his or her supervisor.

Find out more about this measure in this Board Brief.


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