Alexandria City Public School officials have moved swiftly to quell rumors an overhaul of the district’s adult learning program will ultimately leave it on the cutting room floor.
Elizabeth Vodola, a volunteer teacher with the program, first heard rumblings about the possible end to the program, which offers adult English and high school equivalency degree classes for city residents, around December 1.
It left her shocked, she said.
“I was told that the school department had made the decision to close to the school at the end of December and that was it,” Vodola said.
She wasn’t the only resident stunned by the news. Rowshan Zabi’s mother takes ELL courses to continue polishing her English and the two were deeply upset to hear ACPS would no longer hold the classes after December 31.
As word spread, ACPS officials went into overdrive to squelch the rumors, including email blasts from the district’s communications department, School Board Chairwoman Sheryl Gorsuch and Superintendent Morton Sherman.
“[The Adult Education] was never proposed to go away,” Sherman said. “That was not part of my agenda. My agenda has always been to improve and expand how we support our high school students and our adult population.”
District officials are proposing key changes to the program. ELL and GED help will remain, but the program’s focus will shift to getting students between 15- and 22-years-old a standard or advanced high school diploma, Sherman said.
Older students looking for a GED would no longer receive as much face-to-face help, but would be instead directed to take online classes. Officials recognize many of those students might not have regular access to a computer, Sherman said, and so the district will add computers at its family and community engagement centers across the city.
ELL classes, likewise, will be offered at the district’s FACE centers.
“We’re going to continue providing services for [ELL students],” said Sherman, who did not say if he knew who started the rumors. “That word that went out was just misleading. We know we need to support our families and our students.”
The Alexandria School Board will weigh in on the proposed changes at Thursday’s meeting.