Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

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When the Exception Becomes the Rule

As Alexandria schoolchildren sharpen their pencils for the first day of school, the majority of students across the state are entering their second, third or even fifth week of instruction. Remember that so-called “Kings Dominion Law” that prevents school divisions from opening before Labor Day in order to help the commonwealth’s tourism industry? Out of 133 school divisions, 83 of them (62%) have waivers from the state Department of Education […]

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Three Easy-to-Remember Steps for Parents of New Undergrads

When my daughters were in preschool, the gifted and unfailingly patient teachers there taught their young charges the “STAR” method for dealing with challenges and frustrations: Stop, Take a Deep Breath, And Relax. There was even a little song that went with it. The somewhat-annoying little ditty had the (probably intended) effect of rubbing off on the parents. I confess that I still fall back on those simple instructions 15 […]

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“How Do You Store Your Firearms?” and Other Awkward Questions

Each year unintentional shootings claim the lives of at least 100 children age 17 and under, and more than 400 other children commit suicide using a gun, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. As a response to these tragedies, Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization that formed after the Sandy Hook school shooting, has developed Be SMART, an educational outreach program. Be SMART promotes responsible gun storage and encourages adults […]

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Broken Promises

Less than six months ago, I stood in front of the T.C. Williams Swim & Dive Boosters meeting and excitedly reported on the progress for the new 50-meter pool at Chinquapin. It’s a done deal, I announced proudly. It’s REALLY going to happen! After four years of advocating for a long-overdue new pool, the hard work to convince our elected officials to fund it is done! Indeed, the City Council […]

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Who are our ACPS Students? An Update

A recent Facebook chat comparing Alexandria’s average cost of educating a student to that of neighboring school divisions was a helpful reminder to update a blog post from the fall of 2013. Especially during budget season, it’s important for city residents to understand the composition of our student population, and how it is similar to and different from our surrounding jurisdictions. About 15,000 students are currently enrolled in ACPS, up […]

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Seven Favorite Books of 2016

Nonfiction dominates my list of favorite books for 2016. Part of that was driven by my desire to better understand why the economy and society more broadly are failing certain segments of the U.S. population, and how those failures could help explain the outcome of the 2016 election as well as the racism and xenophobia that were unmasked by the campaign. If you’re not already a lawyer, Just Mercy by […]

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A Parent’s Guide to the 2017-2018 Program of Studies

For the past three years, I’ve provided advice to middle- and high-school parents about the Program of Studies. If you are new to the Port City Notebook, you might want to first read those posts from 2014,  2015 and 2016, which contain general information about course requirements and selections that’s still current.* Each year courses are revised, added or deleted to stay current with changes in graduation requirements, student interest […]

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Supporting Our Immigrant Students and Families

There is growing concern among Alexandria residents about the impact on ACPS students and families of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids this week across northern Virginia. This was a topic of a presentation by Dr. Julie Crawford, Chief of Student Services, at the School Board meeting on February 16. (More information and video from the meeting here.) When Superintendent Crawley was asked at a meeting with Cora Kelly Elementary […]

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Rethinking Our Bricks and Mortar

Note: This is Part 3 in a series about meeting the twin challenges of increased enrollment and too little school capacity. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. In recent years our city’s leaders have grappled with some difficult budget decisions, but this year serves up the most bitter-tasting cocktail of pressing issues since the Great Recession: sewers, Metro, crumbling city infrastructure, and, of course, school capacity constraints. The […]

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Now is the Time to Rebuild Minnie Howard

Note: This is Part 2 in a series about meeting the challenges of increased enrollment and too little school capacity. Read Part 1 here. This week the School Board will vote on the 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget that has been proposed by the superintendent. Assuming that it will be approved with just a few tweaks to Dr. Crawley’s proposal, ACPS will be asking City Council to fund about […]

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