Filling in the Blanks with Melanie Kay-Wyatt: Redefining the high school experience

Filling in the Blanks with Melanie Kay-Wyatt:  Redefining the high school experience
Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Ed.D.

Eyeing the new Alexandria City High School Minnie Howard Campus that’s under construction, I envision what the future holds as The High School Project structure rapidly approaches its August 2024 opening. 

The project, though, is more than a new building. It redefines the high school experience to meet the future business needs of our community. Looking forward, there is a feeling of anticipation on the impact this will have on preparing our students for life, college and career. 

As the new year approaches, the academic advisement process accelerates and our Alexandria City Public Schools families play a vital role. I urge our families to sit down with your student and page through our Program of Studies as it thoroughly outlines the information essential to help you understand the profile of a Virginia graduate and the key attributes critical for a favorable outcome for each student. Encourage your child to connect with our Student Support Teams to support them in this process. 

The POS provides a listing of some 400 course offerings for grades six through 12 that are intellectually challenging based on grade-level skills and content. Course selection is an important step in preparing students for life, college or a career, ensuring they will graduate with the ability to demonstrate the five competencies – the Five C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship. 

Our school counselors work with students to guide them in making course selections that support their future goals. I urge our families to engage in the process by reviewing the POS and making a list of potential classes as well as helping to identify one or more ACHS academic Academies and Pathways in alignment with your student’s aspirations. 

I also encourage families to inquire about the advisory lessons students receive in the classroom and are available on Canvas in December and January. Families are invited to attend Academic Orientation and Curriculum Nights, where you can learn about specific programs and learn how to utilize the online course request feature in the PowerSchool parent portal. 

The course selections students make during their one-on-one meetings with their school counselor in February and early March are instrumental in their future plans. Prior to those meetings, we invite all families to take full advantage of the resources made available to assist in supporting your student. 

Academic and career planning is an ongoing process throughout a student’s educational career and begins on the day each student first enters school. Family engagement plays an important role in the process through your encouragement and enlightenment. That is why I ask our families to keep track of your student’s academic progress so we can work together as a team to ensure success. 

Partner with us in promoting positive attendance to include planning vacations that align with our school calendar. It is so important that every child is in class every scheduled school day as we do not want them to miss out on daily instruction that cannot be made up afterwards. Regular attendance also helps to increase a student’s likelihood to graduate from high school on time. 

As we prepare to usher in 2024, it brings us a step closer to the opening of the new ACHS Minnie Howard Campus. It also takes the school division a step forward as we redefine the high school experience, offering multiple pathways to prepare all students for college, career and life. This is in keeping with ACPS’ core values. 

I encourage our families to stay involved in your students’ education as the benefits multiply, socially, emotionally and academically, making for a future filled with incredible opportunities. 

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.