Letter to the Editor: Prioritize Minnie Howard

Letter to the Editor: Prioritize Minnie Howard

We write on behalf of the Capacity Committee of the T.C. Williams High School Instructional Leadership Team (ILT). The ILT is composed of administrators, department chairs and program leaders at T.C. Williams. The Capacity Committee supports the rebuilding of Minnie Howard as proposed in the School Board’s adopted 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program Budget (CIP).

A senior Alexandria official asked recently, “What, in one paragraph, is the case for a new secondary school?” The case can be expressed in three sentences: the current and projected near-term enrollment numbers at T.C. Williams, Minnie Howard and the middle schools reveal overcrowding now with substantial increases projected for the near future. Second, the overcrowding at TC has numerous negative consequences including damaging the education of some of our neediest students. Third, rebuilding Minnie Howard is an opportunity to address the overcrowding and to design specialized spaces to serve all students better.

The CIP proposes rebuilding Minnie Howard as a secondary school with architectural and engineering work starting in 2018 and the new school opening in 2024.

The Feb. 15 enrollments are 2,972 at T.C. Williams-King Street, 792 at Minnie Howard, 1,426 at Francis Hammond and 1,345 at George Washington. The students in grades 6, 7 and 8 at Jefferson-Houston are not included.

There are no “alternative facts” about enrollment: the capacity crisis is here. Additionally, safety issues associated with the movement of large groups of students at passing times, assemblies, pep rallies, fire drills and dismissal continue to be a major concern.

The overcrowding at TC adversely affects class schedules (e.g., science classes are held in nonscience rooms) and other activities (e.g., students exit the crowded cafeteria in search of quieter and less crowded lunch spaces.) However, the greatest negative effects of overcrowding are felt by students who have the most difficult time in school. Our administrators say that at-risk students repeatedly say that there are just too many people at TC.

We work in the largest, and arguably most diverse, high school in Virginia without an effective alternative program for students who have difficulties in TC’s large and crowded environment. A rebuilt Minnie Howard is a chance to address overcrowding, design space that complements, not duplicates, the King Street campus and create specialized space for an alternative program.

Mark Eaton

Co-Chair, Capacity Committee

Beth Coast

Co-Chair, Capacity Committee