Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

School-Based Meals: Safe From New Trump Rule

The most recent Trump administration policy change designed to sow fear and confusion among immigrants—the potential denial of a green card if an individual has taken advantage of need-based public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid or housing vouchers—is doubly pernicious. First, it will have a chilling effect on families seeking the food and health care assistance to which they are entitled, and second, it will likely dissuade families from applying for federal benefits that aren’t covered by the new “public charge” rule, such as free and reduced-price school meals.

Unless a school automatically provides free breakfast and lunch to all students (starting this school year, Cora Kelly and William Ramsey elementary schools), ACPS families must apply for free or reduced-price meals.* Dr. Bethany Nickerson, ACPS’ Executive Director of English Learners, will be working with parent outreach coordinator Yvette Poole and the Family and Community Engagement office to ensure that families get the word that they should still apply for school meals.

Given the challenges that immigrant families face in the current national climate, outreach and education efforts on multiple fronts will be essential. PTAs, faith communities, health care providers, city staff, and coaches are among those who can help remind families to sign up for school-based meals.

Other benefits that are not included in the rule change are Head Start, Pell grants and other forms of federal financial aid.

*Hammond middle school, Jefferson Houston and Patrick Henry K-8 schools, and Ferdinand T. Day, John Adams, and Polk elementary schools provide free breakfast for all students.


Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Program Expands to Patrick Henry

In the press release that follows, ACPS and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announced that ASO will expand its ASO Sympatico program to Patrick Henry K-8 school beginning in September.

The before- and after-school music education program will offer two ASO Sympatico ensembles daily, Monday through Thursday, for students at the school. This will include a choral and Orff ensemble for grades 3 through 8, and a mixed strings, winds and percussion ensemble for students in grades 4 through 8.

“We are very excited about bringing this experience to Patrick Henry. As a school that values education through arts and music programing, this is the perfect fit for our community. We are looking forward to seeing our students flourish even more this school year through access to this opportunity,” said Patrick Henry Principal Ingrid Bynum.

The program is offered at no charge to participating students or families, and has no prerequisites for enrolling. Afternoon bus transportation will also be provided for Sympatico participants. All costs associated with the program are underwritten by the nonprofit Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.

“Sympatico is the beating heart of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s commitment to change lives in our community through music. It is more than an educational initiative; it is a way of life for our organization…one that is as vital to our existence as it is to the young lives of those who participate,” said ASO Music Director Jim Ross.

ASO first introduced ASO Sympatico at John Adams Elementary School five years ago. Approximately 130 students now participate there in six different ensembles before and after school.

ASO Sympatico is modeled after El Sistema, a global movement of social change through music for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need, which began in Venezuela more than 30 years ago. Sympatico uses intensive music instruction and frequent performance opportunities as a vehicle for increasing academic performance, improving school attendance, and fostering important life skills. ASO Sympatico is a member of El Sistema USA, a national alliance of El Sistema-inspired programs.

ASO Sympatico’s expansion to Patrick Henry K-8 School was made possible by the generous financial support of Classical Movements, Paul M. Angell Foundation, D’Addario Foundation, and numerous individuals. Programs at the school will be led by David Evans and Fred Montgomery.

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