Agenda Alexandria Examines Possible Solutions to Congested Schools
Agenda Alexandria discusses overcrowding in Alexandria City Public Schools (APCS), specifically at T.C. Williams High School, with its first ever all-female panel. Panelists included ACPS Chief Operating Officer Mignon Anthony, ACPS Chief Academic Officer Terri Mozingo, Junior Bridgette Adu Wadier, and Senior Mikaela Pozo. The discussion was moderated byEileen Rivera, a former School Board member.
In response to the overcrowding epidemic, the school board voted in September, six to three, against the creation of a second high school, and instead in favor of adding on to T.C.’s other campuses. This would include rebuilding Minnie Howard and spreading out to other locations ACPS has access to, like Potomac Yards. The decision was made in fear of the potential racial segregation and socioeconomic inequality that would be present if Alexandria was split into two sections for two high schools.
Adu Wadier and Pozo brought unique perspectives to the panel as they both are students at T.C.. They provided insight into the problems caused by overcrowding that people who do not attend high school might not think about.
Pozo mentioned how the overcrowding has become a safety hazard. “Recently we had an incident with a gas leak and we had to evacuate the school,” she said, “…just that incident just brought up so many of those issues we’ve been having for so long,” referring to the overly congested hallways and staircases filled with students trying to escape the school in the event of an emergency.
Overcrowding has also pushed teachers out of their classrooms, making it harder for students to get remediation. Teachers with carts can be spotted throughout the building during passing times going to various classrooms everyday because they do not have their own. “Teacher’s don’t have enough of their own planning spaces,” said Anthony.
“For extra curriculars, a lot of teachers do not have their own offices… after school, there will be two or three teachers sharing one classroom and if one teacher sponsors a club, there’s no guarantee that teacher will be there for that activity, because another teacher will be staying after school helping students. There is an impact on student opportunities to seek help,”Adu Wadier said.
Mozingo and Anthony discussed the challenges of the future and what the role of technology is in deciding whether or not teachers having their own space is really necessary. “In some cases yes, there is nothing that takes the place of a real, in-person, hands-on, working area when it comes to teacher and student collaboration space,” Anthony said.
One potential model that was brought up frequently throughout the discussion was the “Connected High School Network.” This model is a very recent development and has not been used in many other school districts around the country. “The idea of the Connected High School Network [is] being connected to your community and schools connected together whether it be through educational themes or by operations. A network keeping up with the idea of technology, and that you can learn from anywhere,” said Anthony.
The basic idea is that TC would have multiple campuses each based in different areas of study like STEM or humanities. Though not ideal, students may have to be bussed to different campuses for their classes, similar to ninth grade students being transported from Minnie Howard to the T.C. King Street Campus for some of their classes.
The Connected High School Network is designed to bring more equity to students and give students more choices within their education. “Diversity is our strength,” said Anthony. “We have a lot of kids from all over the country and from diverse backgrounds. Let us use that not only for the children who are immigrants, but for the world and the global citizens that we want to create and experiential learning.”
“The diversity that exists at T.C. Williams is really a mirror of our society. I really believe that because TC Williams is so diverse, our students will be better prepared to live and to work in a diverse world,” Mozingo said.
“I think [the model] will be very interesting. It will definitely provide more choices. If you’re someone who knows what they want to do it will be an amazing opportunity and even if you don’t know what you want to do. Because of the flexibility, it allows students to explore their interests,” Pozo said.
Whatever happens to the overcrowding at T.C., it will not happen very soon. As of now, no plans have been finalized, but people have been working and will continue to work very hard until a solution is found.
“I believe T.C. is great but [with the Connected High School Model] I believe it could be greater,” Mozingo said.