Filling in the Blanks with Ramee Gentry: Summer is busy for our schools

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Ramee Gentry is chair of the Alexandria City School Board.
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By Ramee Gentry

For many, summer is a time to slow down, relax a bit and take a break from the day-to-day to enjoy summer fun. At Alexandria City Public Schools, however, we swing into high gear over the summer.

First let me welcome our new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. He is already hard at work collaborating with staff and administrators, building relationships with the city manager, the mayor and city council and focused on the work needed to get our schools ready for students in September.

Because many of our school buildings are without children for much of the summer, it’s an ideal time to undertake projects that would be difficult or impossible to complete when our buildings are full of students and staff and alive with learning.

Each summer, all school buildings undergo a full inspection and routine maintenance to ensure that they are running safely and efficiently when our students return in the fall. We also undertake large-scale maintenance and improvement projects in some schools.

The kitchen and cafeteria spaces at George Washington and Francis C. Hammond middle schools are undergoing renovations that will result in more efficient serving and enhanced seating areas. Hammond will also undergo exterior improvements that will significantly improve the building’s climate control and overall appearance. GW will undergo improvements to its HVAC system that should eliminate some of the issues it had last school year.

Almost every school has projects that are being completed over the summer, including the painting and updating of classrooms and offices, playground improvement and storm water management projects, plumbing upgrades, energy efficiency LED lighting projects, a roof replacement, a basketball court renovation and more. You can learn more about these projects on the ACPS website at www.acps.k12.va.us/summerprojects.

Construction continues on the new Patrick Henry School and in our newest elementary community at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. Some members of the school board recently had an opportunity to take a hard hat tour of the Ferdinand T. Day building and see the beautiful classrooms with abundant natural light and views of trees. It’s really inspiring to see these new schools taking shape. We look forward to a meeting with the community on Aug. 9 and welcoming our students to their new school on Sept. 4.

Patrick Henry is slated to open in early 2019. You can see the work at Patrick Henry almost as it happens by viewing the time-lapse video at www.acps.k12.va.us/phproject.

While our schools are undergoing routine maintenance and additional facilities projects, some of our buildings and classrooms are abuzz with academic activity with the launch of summer school this week. Students at all grade levels have the opportunity to take part. T.C. Williams High School students are engaged in learning on campus and online.

The new T.C. Williams Governor’s Health Sciences Academy kicked off this week with enrolled students engaged in a bridge program that will ensure a strong start this fall. Some high schoolers will take the Advanced Placement Boot Camp designed to help students develop the skills needed to successfully complete an AP course.

Other students are getting algebra support through the Algebra Boot Camp. Students enrolled in dual language programs receive additional exposure to Spanish through the Summer Language Academy, while some will engage in free music and theatre camps and more. Later this summer, some students will attend orientation programs as they prepare to enter kindergarten, middle and high school to help facilitate the transition to their new schools and ensure they start the school year strong.

We also know that hunger does not take a break over the summer, so we, along with the city, participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture summer food program, which provides all Alexandria youth 18 and younger access to free breakfast, lunch and snacks at various school and city locations throughout Alexandria. Children do not need to be enrolled in a program in order to access the free meals. Just text the word “food” or “comidas” to 877877 to find the dates, times and locations nearest you, or visit www.acps.k12.va.us/summerfood.

Summer is really a busy time at ACPS. We’re steadfast in our commitment to serving our students throughout the year — with a different focus and intensity over the summer.

I hope that you are having a fun and relaxing summer. Have an extra dip of ice cream for all of us at ACPS.

The writer is chair of the Alexandria City School Board.

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