Alexandria School Board consolidates city middle schools

Alexandria School Board consolidates city middle schools

By Erich Wagner (File Photo)

Students at the George Washington middle schools will soon be studying and eating lunch with their peers across the hallway.

The Alexandria City School Board voted unanimously February 20 to consolidate the two George Washington middle schools that share a campus, as well as the three located at the Frances C. Hammond school building. But a few board members did try to keep the sole accredited middle school separate from the ones struggling before the vote.

Reuniting the schools at the Francis C. Hammond and George Washington middle school campuses reversed a landmark achievement of former Superintendent Morton Sherman, who retired unexpectedly just before the school year began.

Interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley believes combining the middle schools will allow faculty to better improve student performance across all demographics.

“I know this represents change, but we’re approaching this with a great deal of thought, compassion and interest in improving the outcomes for our middle schools,” Crawley said. “We need to have academic progress for all students, because currently, we have students not doing well.”

The plan places each school under the leadership of a single principal, with three academic principals working at the classroom level, supporting teachers and assisting students.

Despite Crawley’s assurances, though, qualms remained. Before the reconsolidation proposal passed, board member Marc Williams introduced an amendment that would have kept the George Washington campuses separate. George Washington I is the only fully accredited middle school in the city, while George Washington II has lagged behind on state testing standards.

“We have one fully accredited school already,” Williams said. “I have great confidence in the team there today that we can raise academic achievement there even further.”

But board member Patricia Hennig argued that keeping the schools separate did students a disservice.

“I think when you start isolating kids into pods, you’re not doing personalized instruction anymore,” she said. “When you have two students at different levels, teachers have to be able to reach both of them.”

Board member Kelly Booz had previously questioned the reconsolidation plan but said she supported combining the George Washington schools.

“For our white students, which comprise about 39 percent of the George Washington campuses, the divided approach was successful,” she said. “But when you look at the subgroup data, it has decreases since before the divide, and Hammond is actually outperforming GW [in those areas].

“So can we honestly say we’re succeeding for all students? No.”

Reconsolidation at both middle school campuses will occur in time for the 2014-15 school year.