By Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Ed.D.
There is much to look forward to and an abundance of opportunities as Alexandria City Public Schools 2023-24 academic year gets underway. It is exciting to see the division’s modernization plans for its school facilities coming to fruition. The doors open for students at the new Douglas MacArthur Ele- mentary School this month on the same site of the original building.
ACPS also continues its work to redefine the high school experience for future generations of Alexandrians with the High School Project. The new Minnie Howard Campus is expected to open for the 2024-25 school year. Upgrades are also planned for other division schools.
I realize the education of our youth is a partnership between the school division, our families, the community, partner organizations and volunteers. This year we are further strengthening our work within the Office of Community Partnerships and Engagement which is vital as it assists in continuing our commitment to support various aspects of our educational ecosystem.
During the last school year, we opened the Family and Community Engagement Center at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. This year we will be adding a division-wide Dari-speaking bilingual family liaison in addition to our bilingual Spanish- and Amharic- speaking liaisons. Family engagement blueprints will also be designed and implemented to best serve each school. Strengthening our volunteer program, we will work with our schools to identify needs and collaborate with all stakeholders to best serve our educational community.
ACPS is fortunate to have more than 160 community partners who impact our division from academic to social/emotional, health and wellness. We look forward to strengthening our partnerships including our work with Amazon, which donated more than 2,000 backpacks with supplies for the new school year and with the Virginia Tech Innovation Center, aligning its support with our 2025 Strategic Plan.
Moving toward another year of opportunity through relief funding, title and other grants, our division remains committed to maintaining as well as acquiring grants which provide funding support. This year we are also continuing our mission to provide no cost after school programming for students who meet the established criteria through the ACPS LINK Club. We are excited about strengthening this program through a strong curricular alignment and professional learning opportunities for all LINK Club and partner staff members.
Our school division is all about family engagement and ParentSquare has proven to be beneficial in helping to streamline and unify communications and open up greater dialogue between our English Learner families and schools. ParentSquare empowers our school community to stay connected and informed and ACPS is looking at additional ways to use this platform as we move forward.
I urge our families to check out our dedicated webpage where Back to School forms can be accessed via ParentSquare for English- and Spanish-speaking families or as a PDF file for others. It is important to fill out or update/verify information to help our schools keep in touch with our families. In addition, families that may qualify for free or reduced-cost meals for their children at school should complete a FARM application as it serves as a crucial tool in determining eligibility for various educational programs and services beyond meals. It is this type of support that plays an essential role in promoting students’ overall health, concentration and academic performance.
As superintendent, I eagerly await the return of our students, staff and families to school following their summer break. I encourage all ACPS families to help prepare their children so they come back refreshed and ready to learn.
In embarking on an exciting new school year in the coming weeks, I would like to stress that it begins with positive attendance habits. Being present opens the door to the many opportunities available at ACPS, including instruction, developing social skills and time spent with classmates.
School is where our students learn about the world, themselves and how they can help to further enrich our community. I wish all a great start to the school year.