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The High School Project

The Minnie Howard Update: 

Gilbane is seeking City approval to start earlier work on Saturday morning, beginning at 7 am, through September 2022. The earlier start time is necessary for the project to allow Gilbane to conduct necessary hauling operations. If you have any concerns, please reach out to the project team at hsproject@acps.k12.va.us.

Design and Permitting Update

The project design started in March of 2021 and is being finalized by May of 2022 with the site and building permitting to continue through the summer months of 2022. The new Minnie Howard Campus was designed with a  capacity of 1,600 students to serve 9th to 12th graders, and is expected to open for the 2024-2025 school year. The Minnie Howard fields completion is planned by summer of 2025.

Construction Information

ACPS hosted a groundbreaking event in late March and construction began in April of 2022. Gilbane Building Company, the construction manager, will be leading the Minnie Howard Redevelopment project construction efforts. For Project Update Summary please check out the Project Dashboard.

During construction, the existing Minnie Howard building will continue to serve the 9th graders. The Minnie Howard fields will not be available during the construction. ACPS and RPCA will continue to collaborate on alternative fields for school and community use until new athletic fields are complete.

The High School Project Pinwheel Concept Shematic
The High School Project Pinwheel Concept Shematic

Alexandria City High School - Connected High School Network Expansion Project

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is redefining the high school experience for future generations of Alexandrians to meet the future business needs of the D.C. metro region and address the challenges of growing student enrollment. On Sept. 26, 2019, the School Board voted to do this by expanding Alexandria City High School into a Connected High School Network and building on the Minnie Howard Campus.

After presenting three original concepts for the Minnie Howard site to the School Board and school/community stakeholders followed by a presentation of a refined version of the Hand and Pinwheel concepts based on community and internal feedback, the School Board voted to pursue the Pinwheel Concept as the design for the new Minnie Howard. The Pinwheel option features a main entrance and prominent civic presence from Braddock Road, a strong relationship between learning spaces and the heart of the school and a bus loop situated along Braddock Road. Pinwheel also offers the most open space, parking and flexibility for future expansion. 

Learn more about the Pinwheel Design

The Challenge

In order to continue to provide a high quality education and better prepare each student for the future, Alexandria City Public Schools is doing more than building capacity, we are using this opportunity to rethink the high school experience. 

Today, Alexandria City High School (ACHS) offers 400 courses and has space for approximately 3800 students between its two major campuses, King Street and Minnie Howard - currently, being used as a ninth grade campus. By 2025, ACPS anticipates there will be 5,000 high school students. At the same time, ACPS plans to educate ninth- through twelfth-grade students together. 

Bottom line: we need additional space to teach students and enhance our course of studies to give  students the skills they need to compete in the 21st century. 

This capacity issue has given us the first opportunity to rethink the high school experience since 1965 when ACHS established. Whether we build a second high school or expand ACHS, our goal is to shape Alexandria City Public Schools into a better, more equitable and richer learning environment for thousands of young people. For that reason, it behooves us to know our history, which will afford us an opportunity to refine our approach and learn from our past.

ACPS is making a concerted effort to avoid repeating mistakes. Tuscaloosa in Alabama, for example, integrated schools in 1979 into one unifying high school that thrived garnering National Merit Scholarships, math-competition victories and sports successes. Faced with the need for learning space in 2000 the school was divided into three. Today, unfortunately, that city is experiencing resegregation.

This is not to say that building a second or third high school in our city would automatically invite the same fate, but we are saying that cannot happen on our watch. We need to be extremely vigilant. We need to own, that right now, our upper level classrooms are not as diverse as our hallways. It is our role and responsibility to ensure that all students we serve today do not experience inequities, acts of oppression and racism.

The High School Project endeavors not only to change current practice, but also to discover a way forward that embraces all our students and provides each with the opportunity to become successful. 

Now, is the time to be bold and courageous.

The History of Alexandria's High Schools

Alexandria City High School initially opened its doors as T.C. Wililams High School 1965, and graduated its first class in June 1967. At the time, it was one of three public high schools along with George Washington High School and Francis C. Hammond High SchoolParker-Gray High School, which served black high school students from 1950 onward, had begun to phase out grades in the early 1960s. By 1964, its students had been integrated into other schools. In order to build ACHS in the 1960s, land was acquired by eminent domain from the community of African-Americans who owned the houses on and near the current Parker-Gray Memorial Field.

The new high school was named after former ACPS superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams (mid-1930s - mid-1960s), a supporter of perpetuating segregation, and a man who did everything possible to slow down the process of integration in Alexandria.

In 1971 the city consolidated all high school students into ACHS, so that the school became Alexandria's only public senior high school serving 11th and 12th graders. The city's freshmen and sophomores attended Francis C. Hammond High School and George Washington High School. Although ACHS and George Washington were already integrated in 1971, Hammond was nearly all white, while the city was about one-fifth black.

The story of Alexandria’s struggle to desegregate its schools is immortalized in the Disney movie, Remember the Titans (2000), a film about the high school's 1971 football team.

Alexandria City High School’s current building opened in 2008 on the same site as the original 1965 building. The gym was named after Gerry Bertier — a member of the Titans' 1971 state championship football team — who was paralyzed in a car crash. The basketball court was named in honor of Earl Lloyd, who attended Parker-Gray High School and was the first African-American to play in the NBA. The football stadium is named Parker-Gray Stadium in deference to the former pre-segregation high school.

In 2020, ACPS launched the first phase of The Identity Project, a campaign to obtain community feedback on potentially changing the name of both T.C. Williams and Matthew Maury. On November 23, 2020, the School Board voted to rename both T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School, consigning to history two individuals whose legacies have no place in ACPS. In June of 2021, the former T.C. Williams High School became Alexandria City High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School became Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School. 

Our Values

Our students will tell you that our diversity is our strength and we agree, but we have a history of sometimes allowing differences to create division that inhibits learning. That is why we cannot let our past dictate the future. 

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings said, “This is going to set the stage for the next generation and will change the trajectory of ACPS.”

ACPS has outlined the values for this redesign: 

The driving force behind the project is equity, but let’s be clear, equity is not equality, instead, it’s providing the opportunity, the access and the resources and supports each student needs to help them achieve success.  Whether that means heading to university or getting a job that earns a livable wage, we want every ACPS graduate to have access to what they need to make that happen.

That is why the Educational Design Team embraced the following values when they developed programming options for the future high school experience:

ACPS also wants to expand student learning into the Alexandria community where more hands-on options can be provided. It is important to take advantage of this city’s location, and proximity to the Nation’s Capital, to build partnerships with businesses and higher education. 

The High School Project has assembled an Industry Advisory Board with members who work in the areas of: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, the arts, education and human services, business and government who will provide educators with guidance on specific qualifications, certifications, skills, experiences and coursework students need. These partnerships will lead to internship opportunities and real life experiences for our students.

Our Programs

Alexandria’s high school programs are comprised of the King Street Campus, Minnie Howard Campus, Chance for Change and the Satellite Campus at Central Office. Alexandria has outgrown these physical spaces.

Alexandria City High School offers several academies that offer programs in specialized subject areas. These include: The Finance Academy, the Governor's Health Sciences Academy at Alexandria City High School, a STEM program that started in 2013 and an International Academy. Career Technical Education (CTE) was established at least 45 years ago at the high school and was started as a vocational program.

The current high school model is based on a single high school, Alexandria City  High School. Although viewed as one large high school by the community, in practice it has multiple academies and alternative programs sometimes co-located, sometimes located elsewhere with/without formal leadership:

  • Connected Community
  • Diversity as Strength
  • Experiential Learning
  • Equity of Opportunity & Access for All Students
  • Relationships & Community
  • Student Achievement
  • Student Choice & Flexibility over Multiple Pathways to a Diploma
  • The main King Street Campus houses 3,065 students in grades 10-12, including 700+ International Academy students, a STEM Academy, Academy of Finance, multiple Career and Technical Education pathways
  • The Minnie Howard Campus houses 884 ninth-grade students
  • The Satellite Campus offers online courses for 100 students on the second floor of Central Office and has its own principal
  • Chance for Change program houses 25 to 40 students at South Peyton Street with its own principal
  • In August 2018, the Governor’s Health Sciences Academy was launched, located primarily at Minnie Howard but with some courses located at George Washington University

Formal talks are taking place with Northern Virginia Community College about an Early College Program

 

Updates

Feb. 24, 2022 - Superintendent's Advisory Team Meeting

The Superintendent's Advisory Team met on Feb. 24, 2022 to discuss the updates to the Minnie Howard design, construction timelines, and construction site logistics.

Feb. 23, 2022 - Virtual Community Meeting
On Feb. 23, 2022, the High School Project team hosted a virtual community meeting to provide an update on the Minnie Howard design, construction timelines, and construction site logistics.

Jan. 4, 2022 - Presentation to Planning Commission
On Jan. 4, 2022, the High School Project team and its partners in the Planning & Zoning Department for the City of Alexandria presented its application for the Design Special Use Permit required to rezone the Minnie Howard site and begin construction on the new Minnie Howard building. The Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the application to the City Council. The application will go to a public hearing in front of the City Council on Jan. 22, 2021. 

Dec. 9, 2021 - Superintendent's Advisory Team Meeting

The Superintendent's Advisory Team met on Dec. 9, 2021 to discuss the operational aspects of the new Minnie Howard building. 

Dec. 7, 2021 - Virtual Community Open House

On Dec. 7, 2021, the High School Project team hosted a community open house to provide an update on the operational aspects of the new Minnie Howard building.

Sept. 29, 2021 - Superintendent's Advisory Team Meeting

On Sept. 29, 2021, the High School Project team hosted a Superintendent's Advisory Team meeting to discuss the current design plans for the redevelopment of Minnie Howard, specifically the sustainability, traffic and parking aspects. 

Sept. 27, 2021 - Community Open House

On Sept. 27, 2021, the High School Project team hosted a community open house to provide an update on the sustainability, traffic and parking aspects of the Minnie Howard design.  

Aug. 11, 2021 - Superintendent's Advisory Team Meeting

On August 11, 2021, the High School Project team hosted a Superintendent's Advisory Team meeting to discuss the current design plans for the redevelopment of Minnie Howard, including the aquatic facility. 

Aug. 10, 2021 - Community Open House

On August 10,2021 the High School Project team hosted a community open house to provide an update on the design for the new Minnie Howard building, including the aquatic facility.  

June 29, 2021 - Community Feedback Form Results

The High School Project team invites you to review the results of these short feedback forms released on June 20, 2021. The forms were used to capture the Alexandria community’s feedback on the design of the campus. 

June 23, 2021 - Superintendent's Advisory Team Meeting

June 21, 2021 - Community Open House

The High School Project team hosted a community meeting on June 21 to provide an update on the design for the new Minnie Howard building and collect community feedback. 

May 4, 2021 - Superintendent's Advisory Group Meeting

The Superintendent's Advisory Team met on May 4, 2021, to review community comments/recommendations on the progress of the Schematic Design Phase. 

May 3, 2021 - Community Open House

The High School Project team hosted a community open house on May 3, 2020, to provide an update on the schematic design phase and obtain community feedback.

April 28, 2021 - Presentation to the Federation of Civic Associations

The High School Project team delivered an update on the status of the Minnie Howard redevelopment to the Federation of Civic Associations.