Filling in the blanks: Thinking outside the box to achieve T.C. Williams stadium upgrade

Filling in the blanks: Thinking outside the box to achieve T.C. Williams stadium upgrade
School board chairwoman Karen Graf

By Karen Graf

One of the key goals of the Alexandria City School Board and the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan is to provide the best learning environment, opportunities and resources for our students to succeed. Alexandria City Public Schools is continually analyzing how to best meet the needs of the student population. It is our goal to continue to move our division to be high-performing and competitive in all its offerings.

As part of this desire to see the best learning environments for all students, ACPS has been planning for at least the last four years a total modernization of Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium at T.C. Williams High School. The project includes planning for a press box, a sound system, safety and stadium lighting, track facilities, a replacement field turf and improvements to both home and visitor’s side bleachers.

Additionally, ACPS has continued to improve its maintenance practices over the last year, including addressing issues at T.C. Williams. Unsightly storage containers were moved; the grass was cut and maintained; repairs were made to the buffering, and trees that had died over the years were replaced. Our city is growing rapidly as families choose to stay in Alexandria. Our community is facing the need for upgrades of school buildings and, along with that, upgrades to outdoor facilities as well. Play, exercise and athletics are crucial in the development of social and academic skills. Our outdoor facilities are just as essential to our schools as the indoor spaces.

Youth sports run through the city also are growing and those students will require space and facilities as they reach the high school level. Field time is already hard to find and secure around Alexandria, so we need to ensure we are doing whatever we can to maximize the space we own.

But with limited funds, we have to ensure we remain fiscally responsible. Of course, ACPS must have the ability to improve school properties and plan for future use. But in a constrained fiscal environment, we may be able to look outside the box for funding by expanding our community partnerships and private initiatives. Renovating Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium is the perfect project for this type of community involvement.

In December, ACPS announced that it would be moving into the design phase. This entails procuring a design firm and then working with them to create a design. ACPS anticipates having a proposal ready before the summer break to share with the community in a thorough engagement process.

ACPS is committed to caring for our investments and our properties so that our citizens and students can have pride in them. This is one of the goals of ACPS 2020: that will help students achieve a well-rounded education and learn about future opportunities through sports, the marching band and just being a spirited spectator at Alexandria’s only public high school: T.C. Williams. Remember the Titans?

The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria City School Board.