What’s being done to keep Alexandria students away from local shopping plaza during school day

Fewer major incidents involving students have occurred since Alexandria, Virginia, police and school leaders increased their presence in a local shopping center where a student was stabbed last May, some business leaders said.

An Alexandria City High School student was stabbed in a fight at the Bradlee Shopping Center on King Street last year and later died from his injuries. The incident came during a brawl that police at the time said featured dozens of students.

At a recent City Council meeting during which leaders discussed crime trends, Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt said she and other staff members conduct walk-throughs of the plaza to direct students who are supposed to be on school campuses back to class.

“We identify who they are, work with the school-level staff to engage with the families to see if there’s any supports that we can put in place,” Kay-Wyatt said. “So it’s not just myself, of course, and the (police) chief, we do have a large number of our senior leadership team. We do have a rotation, a schedule that we go, sometimes you’ll see us in the mornings and middays and afternoons.”

The school system’s high schools, Kay-Wyatt said, are “a closed campus.”

“When you see those students out and about, we are making every effort to remind them to get them back to the school campus and engaged in some sort of support from some of the school counselors and other programs that we have around attendance,” Kay-Wyatt said.

The city is working to collect information about whether the students are skipping class entirely, or if they’re able to leave school grounds.

Since the start of the school year, some business leaders in the plaza said fewer students have been congregating around the strip mall.

WTOP has contacted Alexandria police and the school system for data on recent incidents there and whether school leaders have reported finding fewer students there during school days.

Mason Fiedler, assistant manager at Batteries Plus Bulbs, said there were many more students in the shopping center — some of whom were escorted away by police — last year.

Many students spend time in and around the McDonald’s at the front of the plaza, Fielder said.

“They used to be in the Fresh Market, just sitting there all day,” Fielder said. “But for the most part, it’s just McDonald’s and right after school, but no fights or anything. So that’s definitely an improvement.”

Victoria Lopez, manager of shoe repair shop Best Foot Forward, said she’s noticed more police in the shopping center. Sometimes, she said, they enter the store to check in.

“There’s a lot of students that skip school, and there’s a couple of schools around the area here that come to the shopping center,” Lopez said. “It’s a meeting ground for a lot of people. This year so far, I feel like it’s been a lot better.”

Still, some workers said the stabbing and gathering of students is a deterrent for customers.

Kathrynn, manager of Massage Heights, said some students like to scream and bang on storefront glass. Some of the shop’s guests “don’t really want to come into the afternoon, because that’s when a bunch of kids come, and it’s just too much for them,” she said.

There are more officers in the plaza, she said, but “with students walking, there’s still a bunch that walk around here.”

Lan, who owns the barber shop in the plaza, said some of the shop’s customers are reluctant to come after school gets out.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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