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