ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Alexandria City Public Schools lost 3% of its student body to private or home-schooling during the pandemic. Now, ACPS is campaigning to recruit those families by encouraging those who left to re-enroll.
Sarah Cook withdrew her then 7-year old son who was struggling with virtual learning. “He started acting out in kind of extreme ways for himself. So, we decided to prioritize mental health and family relationships over academics,” said Cook. WUSA9 caught up with Cook via Zoom from her son Rogan’s former first grade class inside Mount Vernon Community School.
“In between working and managing our other kids too . . . it was too hard. So, we ended up hiring some college kids who were home,” the mom explained.
While Rogan navigated homeschooling, his brother Taber stayed at Mount Vernon. Now, both boys will be returning to Mount Vernon for in-person instruction in the fall. This school year, Rogan will be a rising 3rd grader and Taber is going into the 5th grade.
According to a district data analyst, a total of 468 students (grades Pre-K – 12) left ACPS last year. At Mount Vernon Community Elementary School, enrollment pre-pandemic was capped at 901, but only 838 students returned. That’s a loss of 63 children.
Alexandria City Public Schools are now campaigning to get those students back by actively encouraging those families to re-enroll. “Our message is we want you back, you are family and we have a seat for you. We sent out postcards, emails and text messages and personal phone calls in multiple languages,” said outreach manager Tanieka Taylor-Tukan, “to make sure we have adequate time for scheduling, transportation and making those classroom assignments.”
Mount Vernon is the largest, oldest and only language-immersion school in the District, serving the communities of Del Ray and Chirilagua. Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana said the staff has worked to make the school a safe place for staff and students. She hopes despite masks and social distancing, they’ll still feel the love.
“They have said this to me, ‘I will hug you with my eyes!’ laughed principal Burrell-Aldana, “and you see the expression in their faces and it just makes everything better!”