YOUR VIEW | Sitting, Not Squatting, Needed at School Desks

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As a city and state taxpayer my desire to continue to ensure that only Alexandria city residents are rightfully enrolled in our public school system has not diminished as the new school year approaches. Perhaps the recent experience in registering one of our 9-year-olds for an Alexandria football team will highlight why I am disturbed by the lax by comparison registration standards for our school system.

In order to play fall, city-sponsored (assuming tax dollars fund a great portion of the actual cost of the program since the entry fee is only $25) football, my husband was required to obtain a DMV-issued ID for our son Hews. This necessitated that my husband and Hews go to the DMV on Eisenhower Avenue, and that among other things my husband present his own drivers license for proof of residency and pay $10 in order for Hews to receive his DMV-issued picture ID. Hews correspondingly had to surrender his ID when his helmet, pads, etc. were issued. The ID will be returned to him at the end of the season, but only when we return all of the equipment.

The obvious question this situation raises in my mind is how the verified residency of a child for recreation league football is more important than our taxpayer-supported school system.

I just received the list of Alexandria public schools and their AYP test scores. I was disturbed to see how many of our schools did not make the grade, a normal reaction to a situation of this nature, certainly shared by others. Especially distressing to my husband and I were the substandard results of our local elementary school, MacArthur, as well as G.W. and T.C. Williams schools that Hyre children will either enter this year or in the future. As we both know, MacArthur is packed to capacity-plus with children, intuitively seeming to compromise the ability to raise the results of its students. And I remain convinced, as I articulated at the end of the school year, that a material number of students at MacArthur do not legitimately reside in, or otherwise have a valid reason to be considered as part of the MacArthur school district.

A simple, honest talk with teachers in each or even some of our schools is a wake-up call to the magnitude of the number of kids sitting in our classrooms that dont belong there. I simply dont understand why everyone is not required to re-register every year with three matching, valid pieces of evidence proving Alexandria residency. How much could that possibly cost the Alexandria City Public School System given that the responsibility for assembling this material is the parents and is easily obtainable if they legitimately live in Alexandria?

It appears that the ACPS administration feels the administrative and financial burden is too great for a system-wide effort. In that case I suggest that some of our schools be made test cases to see what happens. From what I understand, both Fairfax and Montgomery counties have well-developed and accurate screening mechanisms for their school district residencies; Have we (ACPS) spoken with these jurisdictions about these programs? And given the rigorous but fair standards for acquiring a DMV-issued student ID establishing such residency, maybe submission of that one item is enough?

I fully understand the administrations thoughts about cost correlation that even if 100 illegitimate students were found within our system that the savings would not be $1.9 million since they would not be all within the same grade or school. I also understand the class size and budget issues related to squatters. However, just last week I was chatting with a long-term kindergarten teacher who recently finished the year at John Adams Elementary. She noted that one of the most disruptive children in her classroom was a child driven in from Woodbridge every morning. I believe that there are way too many similar situations in our system to continue to ignore this issue. The current lax residency registration system only encourages continued abuse of our schools and all Alexandria residents tax dollars.

I am confident that I am not the only citizen or parent interested in this. I think a continued dialogue with our school board, administration and city officials is necessary as we work to solve a most important issue relating to the City of Alexandrias children and their educations.

Susan Hyre
Alexandria

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