Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: Our work on school facilities continues

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Dr. Gregory Hutchings (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)
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As we head into the holiday season – which also happens to be the start of the budget season in Alexandria – our thoughts go to what we need to keep our students engaged in high-quality learning with our schools warm, safe and dry in the colder months ahead and what our buildings need to be able to deliver this for many years to come.

The majority of our buildings in Alexandria City Public Schools are more than 50 years old, with George Washington Middle School, Mount Vernon Community School and Matthew Maury Elementary School close to 100 years old. We are fortunate to have built and opened four new schools in the past five years and this fall 2019 began the process to modernize Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. But our older facilities continue to require our full attention to ensure they remain warm, safe and dry.

To this end, ACPS carried out a Targeted Facility Condition Assessment on six schools during the summer of 2019. This has given us a clearer idea of our immediate facilities priorities in these six schools.

All of the items established as a priority one were either included in the superintendent’s proposed Capital Improvement Program Budget, previously funded or funded through the superintendent’s proposed Combined Funds Budget, which funds our school maintenance projects.

The School Board will vote on the superintendent’s proposed Capital Improvement Program budget on Dec. 19 after two work sessions to decide their changes.

These priorities include work to ensure the environments inside our schools remain healthy, safe and secure. They include resolving water intrusion issues in our schools – which are a frequent occurrence in any aging building.

Priorities also include courtyard redesign to redirect water at John Adams Elementary School and Francis C. Hammond Middle School, window replacement at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, continued roof replacement work and bathroom upgrades at George Washington Middle School and roof work at George Mason and Matthew Maury elementary schools.

The independent Targeted Facilities Assessment, alongside the expert opinions of our staff who are in all of our schools every week, have provided many pieces to a complex puzzle that our team needs to piece together and view as a whole.

You can follow the work being done at our schools through the Facility Modernization & Maintenance pages of our school websites. Every school has a web page where facilities maintenance updates are posted and shared publicly. ACPS has web pages for every large-scale modernization project. There are also new modernization project pages for each school so that you can follow the quarterly progress of all modernization projects, regardless of their scale. You can access these updates via our school websites, under the Quick Links area on each school homepage.

But what should you do if you still have a concern, inquiry or suggestion?

This month, we launched a new inquiries, suggestions and concerns procedure to ensure that you know how to get to the right person so we can resolve your situation promptly. Many questions or issues involving a specific school or student can actually be resolved at the school level.

Start by contacting your child’s teacher, school support staff or the front office, and then you can take the issue to an administrator or principal if it doesn’t get resolved at that level. We want to ensure we are addressing your issues where they can be addressed. You can find the flow chart at www.acps.k12.va.us/concerns, or via the Contact Us tab on the ACPS website.

Our goal each day is to provide a comfortable, safe and dry building in which all our students can learn in a high quality educational environment. We want to provide each of our students with an array of opportunities in a learning environment in which they can grow and thrive. Please know that this is our priority as well as yours. We will be able to better achieve this through collaboration and continued commitment to keeping education a priority in the City of Alexandria.

As we head into the holidays, I would like to wish you all Happy Holidays and a successful New Year.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

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