Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jumping the Shark

On Monday, June 4 at 7 :00 p.m. ACPS will hold yet another community meeting on Jefferson-Houston School.  Many substantive questions are still going unanswered, such as how school officials will prevent parents in cars from dropping their children off on N. West Street instead of taking the longer route into the proposed entrance in the interior of the site. 

Without such answers, these community meetings are becoming increasingly stage-managed and pointless, so it's no shock that attendance has fallen off by more than half since January. 

At these meetings, PTA parents now go after anyone who interrupts the consultants' canned presentation to ask questions.  Ironically, few of these PTA parents live near the school and will be affected by the exterior design and layout.  Instead, they come from places like Del Ray and Cameron Station.  The Growler recently learned that one man who states he has lived in the community longer than anyone else actually moved to Maryland in 2009, as he announced on his Facebook page.  His name was added a few years ago to the deed for a family property near the school, which apparently is how he can technically claim Alexandria is his principal residence. 

The process finally and definitively jumped the shark last month, when the issue of crime came up.  A long-time West Street resident asked about the ability to watch for "nefarious activities" through the two school buildings that will face his street, and was shouted down by the husband of the current PTA president for being "out of bounds." 

Why should a discussion about crime and safety be "out of bounds" for a community meeting about a new building in an area where historically there has been copious and well-documented crime around and on the grounds of Jefferson-Houston?  In fact,  prostitution and drugs were the reasons the hill behind the school was leveled more than a decade ago.  Residents stil regularly see suspected drug activity in the neighborhood, especially in the alleys and streets near Jefferson Village. 

The Alexandria Police Department sends its data to a public Web site www.crimereports.com, which gives users the ability to enter a street address and discover what arrests or incidents have taken place at and around the address for the past six months. 

The Growler entered the addresses for all elementary schools in Alexandria and asked to see drug arrests.  Jefferson-Houston has the unique distinction of being the only school with drugs incidents in the last six months on all of its perimeters.  Many schools such as George Mason, Douglas MacArthur, Mt. Vernon, James K. Polk, Lyles-Crouch and Patrick Henry had no such incidents in the surrounding blocks.  Others had only one or perhaps two.

The higher crime rate can be attributed in part to the presence of subsidized low-income housing, especially the Section 8 project at Jefferson Village.  Alexandria police are reporting a recent increase in PCP usage in the neighborhood, and have established that there is drug-related traffic between the Andrew Adkins housing project near Metro and Jefferson Village.  The new Jefferson-Houston School is now planned to be built on the current playing field, in much closer proximity to Jefferson Village than before. 

Click on the school name to see the map of incidents ("Q" indicates drug-related arrests, blue folders signify multiple incidents of drug-related activity).  The reports were run on May 22 and show activities since November 22.  (Crime reports.com only allows access to six months of rolling data.)

John Adams Elementary School
5651 Rayburn Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22311

Charles Barrett Elementary School
1115 Martha Custis Drive, Alexandria, VA 22302

Patrick Henry Elementary School
4643 Taney Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304

Jefferson-Houston School
1501 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
3600 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305

Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy
530 S. St. Asaph Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School
1101 Janneys Lane, Alexandria, VA 22302

George Mason Elementary School
2601 Cameron Mills Road, Alexandria, VA 22302

Matthew Maury Elementary School
600 Russell Road, Alexandria, VA 22301

Mount Vernon Community School
2601 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305

James K. Polk Elementary School
5000 Polk Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304

William Ramsay Elementary School
5700 Sanger Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22311

Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School
435 Ferdinand Day Drive, Alexandria, VA 22304


Anonymous said...

Suck it up Sherman! You gambled and lost. Now it's time to earn your pay! Let's resolve the educational issues before commencing school construction. There's no reason to fast track JH now.

By Carla Branch and Taylor Allen

The U. S. Department of Education announced yesterday that eight states, including Maryland, had been granted waivers from many of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Virginia’s waiver application was rejected.

The Virginia Board of Education voted in February to request the waiver. In May, the U. S. Department of Education asked Virginia’s Department of Education for clarification on several points. After those were provided, the Commonwealth’s waiver request was still denied.

For the complete story go to www.alexandrianews.org

Nat said...

Read alexandrianews.org. Thanks. Also looks like District A is finally mounting some candidates, maybe some internal competition as well. Wouldn't mind if Morris goes down in the November smoke! What has she done to communicate effectively with neighbors? She is hopelessly partisan. Maybe that's why compromise has been so impossible. Let's meet Morris halfway and all stay home tonight.

Peg said...

"Wouldn't mind if Morris goes down in the November smoke!"

Her relationship with Sherman is mind blowing to say the least. It's as though she worships as his feet.

Anonymous said...

"Her relationship with Sherman is mind blowing to say the least. It's as though she worships as his feet."

Yeah, but some of the other candidates are as depressing because they too fear the responsibilities associated with, for example, Sherman's firing. How anyone can blindly agree to a $44 million building expenditure is beyond what I understand. Growler, I hope your crime analysis gets notice tonight.

Anonymous said...

Update from the fast-tracking, agenda-driven burgermeisters on J-H:

A Jefferson-Houston (J-H) School Families/Community Meeting was held on June 4thto discuss the interior and exterior designs of the new Jefferson-Houston School.The J-H project design team proposed a “contemporary” exterior architectural design for the school building. Participants were given an opportunity to provide feedback on essentially two contemporary architectural designs with some variations within each. (See attached presentation)The J-H proposed contemporary designs are somewhat reminiscent of building styles of the 1960’s and 1970’s and arguably could be classified as “Visually Intrusive” on the Uptown Parker-Gray Historic District survey. (See attached survey)Exterior architectural design options based on, or compatible with, historic styles prevalent in the Parker-Gray Historic District have never been presented by the design team for community feedback. The Parker-Gray Historic District has many historic architectural styles that can be drawn upon for inspiring the exterior design of the new J-H school. E.g., Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Italianate (many houses on West Street), Colonial Revival (Harvard St., 1400 block Cameron St.), Georgian (Christ Church), Bungalow/Craftsman (corner of Cameron/West), Romanesque, and Art Deco.These historic styles can simply be updated to accommodate the modern requirements and preferences for the new J-H school. For instance, a critical requirement of the new J-H school is an abundance of windows/glass. This requirement does not necessitate a contemporary/modern design. After all, large glass structures originated during the Victorian period (1837-1901) with the advent of float glass (e.g., the Crystal Palace, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Palace). Moreover, Frank Lloyd Wright architectural designs, which would be compatible with the Bungalow/Craftsman style homes in the area, incorporated an abundance of glass.An Uptown Parker-Gray Historic District survey was completed for purposes of having the area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The survey has an excellent summary on the architecture history of the district (Section 7, pages 2-14), a survey of each property within the district (most of the document), and a statement of significance (Section 8, page 278). The project design team is currently working with City Staff to improve the design of the new J-H building. The design process is moving very quickly. A review of a design by the Parker-Gray Board of Architecture Review is scheduled for July.I encourage everyone to provide constructive feedback and suggestions for the exterior design of the new J-H School.

Sincerely, K. Scott Brown J-H Project Key Communicator UKSNA Member

One of the telling parts:
"The project design team is currently working with City Staff to improve the design of the new J-H building. The design process is moving very quickly."

Of course it's moving fast; once you get behind closed doors and get past the pesky sham of public input, the faceless bureaucrats can get down to brass tacks with the well-paid architects and developers driving this project, which all about getting the latter paid rather than education.

Note that the notion of making this unnecessary upgrade costing millions also come with the requirement that those with children living within this area actually use the school still has no one "moving fast" to make that happen. Thus, nothing changes as far as the educational issues at J-H once this developer bailout of a project goes through; well, nothing except a step down in neighborhood quality of life, but certain sacrifices have to me made so that the above undersigned and the wizards behind the curtain get what they want.

Anonymous said...

"A review of a design by the Parker-Gray Board of Architecture Review is scheduled for July.I encourage everyone to provide constructive feedback and suggestions for the exterior design of the new J-H School."

Who should such feedback go to? The BAR or the school district or Planning and Zoning? I looked at the pictures and agree it is wholly out of character for a historic district.

Anonymous said...

New ACPS Educational Facilities Director named:


Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the latest version of the monstrosity. http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/icons/pz/bar/pg/cy12/071812/pdi03.pdf

Of course, they're not posting it on the ACPS website where people would normally think to look for it.

Mike said...

I'm sure there's an obvious answer to this question but does anyone know where the 600-800 students that will populate the renovated J-H will come from?

Anonymous said...

BAR approved it 4-1; on rolls th machine...

Anonymous said...

It's been a year. We miss you, Growler!