Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: A leap forward for Alexandria City Public Schools

Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: A leap forward for Alexandria City Public Schools
Dr. Gregory Hutchings Ed.D. (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)

As we enjoy watching the talented and hard-working Olympic athletes this summer, it is inspiring to see how every move they make has purpose and helps them reach their goals. The same is true as we in Alexandria City Public Schools prepare for our students’ return to the five days a week of in-person learning in the new school year.

Every small step and every giant leap we make now helps us reimagine education and prepare to provide the instruction and social, emotional and academic learning supports to meet our students’ needs.

Our return to five days a week of in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year has a similar feel of anticipation. After a challenging year and a half of learning, teachers and staff feel like returning to the classroom in-person and full-time with students is an exciting leap forward. The majority of ACPS families have chosen in-person learning for the fall, with some students participating in the Virtual Virginia program. As families prepare to send their children back into the classroom every day, we are here to support every single one of them.

At ACPS, our teachers and staff are ready and enthusiastic to continue to provide our students with the excellent education in which our school division takes pride. We know that students may need a reintroduction to classroom rules and procedures, review of any needed material and encouragement to rekindle friendships and meet new people. Families can feel assured that teachers and staff will help students adjust to our new routines and environment. That is the mission of SEAL, an ACPS focus that supports students with their social and emotional needs and recognizes their well-being as a top priority.

Like at the start of every school year, there will be a flurry of items for families to manage and new changes to get used to. School meals are available to all students free of charge. There will be PTA meetings and Back to School Nights for families to mark on their calendars. The Back to School packets will be all online this year, allowing families to update student information electronically and remain strong partners with us in their child’s education. We have a new check-in system for visitors to our schools that supports our safety and security efforts.

But what stays the same is our commitment to every student at ACPS. As we all recover from this unpredictable and challenging year and a half, it is more important than ever that we work to empower all students to thrive in a diverse and ever-changing world.

This is a great opportunity to reimagine education. Back to school does not mean back to how things were before the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism. The ACPS 2025 Equity for All Strategic Plan provides a pathway for our school division’s anti-racist journey, and we will continue to pursue racial equity in education and ensure that every child can succeed.

The ACPS 2025 Equity for All Strategic Plan informs our decision-making, professional learning, communications and engagement, monitoring, reporting and much more. Last year’s renaming process, under the umbrella of The Identity Project, received national recognition, and, as a result of this work, we look forward to welcoming a new chapter in Titan history as students enter Alexandria City High School for the first time, as well as creating buzz for the Brooks Bees at Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

Excited about the promise of a new school year, ACPS staff are working hard as we focus on opening our school doors soon and embracing our students in a warm welcome. We encourage all our students to create their own path to success, one that aligns with their individual strengths, hopes and needs. We are ready and waiting with great anticipation to welcome back all our students and staff and to kick-off another year of teaching, learning and leadership.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.