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With swelling student population, Alexandria looks for solutions

T.C. Williams students celebrate their graduation. (Courtesy Susan Hale Thomas)

WASHINGTON — The City of Alexandria in Virginia has a problem, and it’s looking for solutions, but at least it’s a good problem to have.

Turns out that Alexandria is too darn popular. Young families are staying put. They aren’t heading farther out into the suburbs.

And, obviously, neither are their school-age kids — which has led to overcrowding at Alexandria’s lone high school: T.C. Williams.

The school has even had trouble finding space on campus for the six trailers it needs to instruct additional students, Helen Lloyd, director of communications for Alexandria Public Schools, told WTOP.

Enrollment is projected to exceed 5,000 students over the next 10 years.

And all those kids need to go somewhere.

But Alexandria Public Schools is being proactive about the issue, Lloyd said.

A task force, which includes three people from the school system and six from the city government, was created and allocated funding to certain projects, including the high school project.

The goal for Alexandria leaders is to deal with the question of where and how to build new spaces before actually starting any construction. The school division is reaching out to the community to find solutions.

Any new facilities would hopefully be finished by 2023. Design work won’t begin until after May, Lloyd said, with construction starting some time well after that.

Lloyd told WTOP that the work now for the school system consists of figuring out what programs they want to create and then finding the space to house those programs.

They are optimistic about the challenge.

“It’s very exciting,” Lloyd said.

She said she believes that the goal for the education system in the city is to become a beacon of ingenuity. And not just for the Washington region.

“We want our students to be able to leave Alexandria and compete globally,” Lloyd said.

Does that mean Alexandria will get a second high school?

“It’s possible,” she told WTOP, though any future plans have not yet been finalized.

Lloyd noted that around 500 students join the education system every year.

The population growth for the city itself far outpaces the national average, census data show: 14.3 percent compared to 5.5 percent nationally.

Alexandria jumped from about 140,000 residents in 2010 to 160,000 in 2017.


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