ALEXANDRIA, Va. — After a year of school safety discussions among Alexandria City and school officials, some Alexandria City Public School parents are taking their concerns into their own hands by creating a school safety survey and proposing school system recommendations.
“It all got started because I started seeing in the school system that our children were afraid to go to school,” Rene Islas, an ACPS parent of four said. "The fact that they were concerned told us there must be something there that we need to do dig into."
Islas, who has a background working in education and his own consulting firm, said he created a survey to send out to Alexandria parents and community members.
The survey said it had 179 responses. Of those, 83% said community remembers were concerned about school safety, and 61% said they believe that children feel unsafe in ACPS.
An ACPS official said the school district doesn’t have a comment at this on the surveys.
In a new ACPS Equity Climate survey of nearly 7,000 students, families and staff the number of students who said they feel safe at school dropped 17% this year compared to last.
“This is a real problem and as we started to dig into this issue realized that parents were concerned, that community members were concerned and more importantly that students were concerned, we decided that it was important for the community to come up with solutions,” Islas said.
Earlier this month an independent group of parents and community members recommended solutions.
The top recommendations are increased transparency from ACPS, the implementation of an early warning system for at-risk students, maintain school resource officers, and an increase of personnel in schools.
Islas said they’re already having conversations with city and school leaders about what they’ve learned from the surveys and feedback from the community.
“What is great is everyone seems engaged. Our school board members are engaged, I just heard from Mayor Wilson who wants to know more, wants to see these recommendations, wants to discuss them,” Islas said.
According to ACPS Chief of Facilities and Operations Dr. Alicia Hart, ACPS is working on enhanced safety and security measures that will be shared with families and staff next week.
“I know this is a long game and we need to support the school to make the changes necessary so I know it’s not going to be a quick fix but I do have hope that the school will be able to turn it around,” Islas said.