To the editor:
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Alexandrians. It has compounded issues of long-existing inequality, cracked the social web of our community and threatened people’s retirements, their homes and their ability to make a living.
Perhaps most in tune with these realities, and most affected by these intersecting crises, are our students. Even before the pandemic struck, aging infrastructure and a ballooning school-age population were quickly becoming serious threats to our education system. However, Mayor Justin Wilson and City Council responded by passing a comprehensive plan for five new schools over the next decade. This work will assure that our educational system is safe, modern and accommodates the student population.
Like many other parents, Wilson spent this year balancing two jobs and two kids cooped up at home – and saw the challenges that online learning created both for students and their parents up close. This experience is one we need as our city works to overcome learning loss and restore students’ and their parents’ lives to some semblance of normalcy.
Wilson’s experience was on full display recently when Alexandria City Public Schools leadership initially indicated it would continue a six-foot social distancing policy, despite updated CDC guidance that three feet was sufficient, enabling more students to return in person. Wilson recognized the implication of this choice: ACPS would struggle to offer in-person learning opportunities to additional students this academic year.
Wilson responded swiftly, publicly stating, “We need to get our kids back in school full time. Money will be no object; facilities will be no object. We will make sure that we get our kids back in school, and that is what I’ve said from the beginning of this effort.” He also leveraged his strong relationships with members of the School Board to press ACPS leadership to do what he has done time and again with the city’s staff: find a solution to do what is best for our citizens.
Thanks to that leadership, the board’s unanimous vote to adopt a three-foot social distancing policy in the schools will help more students receive in-person instruction to begin the road to learning recovery.
There was no flashy statement, no hand wringing, no public conflict that would benefit no one – just a decisive action in a difficult situation that will ultimately benefit all of Alexandria’s students.
Wilson, as he so often does, made the right call at the right time. This is the leadership we’ve come to expect from Wilson and the mayoral leadership that needs to continue as we rebuild from COVID-19. We hope you will support Wilson in his bid for re-election to ensure we continue to have at the helm a pragmatic advocate for students.
-Kelly Booz, former member, Alexandria City School Board; Kelly Chmielewski; Candi Ellis; Amanda Hazelwood; J. Glenn Hopkins; Julie Jakopic; Stephanie Kapsis, former member, Alexandria City School Board; Cynthia Skinner, Alexandria