Gail Gardner walked the halls of T.C. Williams with her daughter Sandy, a T.C. alum from 1981, gawking at all the new features with a picture of the old school in their minds. Im overwhelmed, its beautiful, said Gail Gardner. The other one was falling apart, noted Sandy Gardner. This school is tailored to the kids and thats the way it should be.
There were lots of T.C. alumnae in town for homecoming weekend, Sunday, Oct. 14, at the official ribbon cutting so the city could show off its newest gem. The citys only public high school opened on time right after Labor Day, but waited for homecoming weekend to unveil the school with all its technological advances and green features at the highly acclaimed building.
Sandy Gardner was very impressed with the cafeteria, too, which was dedicated to Ferdinand Day, the first African American School Board member who held the position from 1964-1972. Day is still an Alexandria resident and was present when they unveiled a plaque in the cafeteria, which is called student commons, and drenched in natural lighting from the overhead glass ceiling panels. This is far beyond my expectations, Day said.
Standing up for rights
In 1964, the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum and Days efforts on the School Board were directed at school integration which was a new concept back then. People said it couldnt be done, look at us today, he told the onlookers. We supported things we stood for. Day is 88 years old, and went to Parker-Gray school for 7th grade, and then a high school in Washington, D.C., because there wasnt a high school in Alexandria that accepted African Americans. His efforts on the School Board supported school integration, and to see them coming to reality is really a wonderful thing, he said.
Opening the new building comes at a time when T.C.s performance is being watched by the Virginia Department of Education because the school did not do well is recent statewide standards of learning tests and did not hit the Adequate Yearly Progress mark set by the federal No Child Left Behind, standards.
Susan Gildersleeve, a 1976 alum, has three children in the Alexandria City Public School system so she is concerned about performance of the school system. Gildersleeve, who went on to graduate from Dartmouth, an Ivy League school in New Hampshire, noted the positive learning environment in the new building. Its night and day, she said, the course offerings are 50 times better than before.
City Councilman and Vice Mayor Del Pepper, looked in awe at the surroundings as well. The new building gives the students the feeling that they are valuable, they have to feel that we can do it, she said.
Ethan Stine, 17, is a senior and a member of the choir. He already used the state-of-the-art recording equipment for his application to New York University. I just recorded an audition CD the other night, he said.
Fellow seniors Sara Neilson, 17, and Carl Eckel, 17, noted that there are a few problems in the school that need to be ironed out. The food in the cafeteria is not as elaborate as Eckel was led to believe and its expensive he said. His area of focus is stage production, but the stagecraft lab for drama is being used for the demolition office for the old building. There are some problems still, he said. A new entry card system will be introduced soon, but Eckel predicts more trouble. I dont trust it, he said.