The Alexandria City School Board has been wrestling with how to accommodate the needs of a growing student body at T. C.  Williams and Minnie Howard Schools. Growing enrollment is working its way into the upper grade levels of the system and something must be done.

City Council urged the School Board to engage the community and the Board has responded positively. ACPS staff and the Board developed a four-step process under the headings Discover, Engage, Define and Evaluate.  They have worked for several years to discover and understand the situation here in Alexandria. They have also looked from a national education prospective so that the program in the high school or schools will be what students need in the 2020’s.

Now the process is moving to engage the community from those who send their children to our schools to those who employ the graduates of the system and everyone in between. Following months of engagement, the process will move to defining options for what the new school or school organization will be and then finally to evaluating those options so that the optimum solutions can be presented.

This is an ambitious undertaking and deserves to have far more than lip service. T. C. Williams has had a pivotal place in the last 50 years of history in Alexandria. Spending time and energy to develop plans for the next 50 years is time and energy well spent.

Nevertheless obstacles are present to doing the best possible job. The pressure of enrollment growth is relentless and time constraints are a serious threat to good consideration. We can not let this pressure reduce the quality of the work.

Decisions already taken or in the process of being taken are another obstacle. ACPS has been studying the renovation of the athletic stadium and has its own community engagement process underway on that issue. If the stadium is to remain then a host of options for school configuration are taken off the table. It might be wiser to delay the stadium to allow a fuller set of alternatives to be developed and evaluated.

Finally, the process will not work unless the stakeholders in Alexandria participate. This is a unique opportunity to shape the future of public education in our City. We citizens should grasp it and become engaged in the process.

In the end, we will get what we deserve only if many voices make themselves heard. We challenge our citizens to get involved. Let us build on the past to an even better future for our children.