Wednesday, October 04, 2006

School Daze

It's official: Jefferson-Houston Elementary School will be one of only two schools in Alexandria not to be accredited this year by the Virginia Department of Education. (The other will be nearby George Washington Middle School, which was accredited last year.) Jefferson-Houston did, however, achieve AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress).

Some observers — even those who have been advocates for Jefferson-Houston in the past — have now gone so far as to suggest that the school should be closed. They propose that the children be transferred to a new school which may be built in the next few years at Simpson Field on Route 1 to serve families moving into the new homes in Potomac Yard.

Sounds pretty drastic, but as the Growler understands their reasoning, they feel the 1999 school redistricting basically resegregated the Alexandria schools, concentrating disadvantaged children with little parental support and involvement in Jefferson-Houston. And making it a "focus school" handed new parents in Parker-Gray an automatic out so they could send their kids to better schools elsewhere in the City. (Not that Parker-Gray moms and dads need this anymore; parents can also opt out based on Jefferson-Houston's performance under the "No Child Left Behind" program. And there's also a lottery.)

All of which only serve to further weaken Jefferson-Houston, which has also had to contend with constant turnover in principals and other key staff ever since the departure of the magnetic Dr. Lois Berlin some years ago.

The theory is that a new school at Simpson Field will presumably draw pupils from the more affluent and stable homes in Potomac Yard, creating a better environment for everyone.

On a less depressing note, Trey Hanbury over at the Upper King Street Neighborhood Association has been tracking the progress of the landscaping and playground improvements at the school. Click here to read his update.

Now if we can just get City leaders to attend to what goes on within the walls of Jefferson-Houston, maybe there's hope.