The Alexandria City School Board passed a budget that focuses on ensuring all classrooms have the teachers and materials they need to match growing enrollment, while attracting and retaining the best teaching staff for the future.
The $299.7 million FY 2019 Combined Funds Budget and $474.7 million Capital Improvement Program Budget were approved in a process that has been viewed as an indication of increasing alignment between Alexandria City Council and the School Board.
In May, the City Council approved 99.5 percent of the original School Board approved budget and accepted the Capital Improvement Program Budget with minimal changes. This year the City appropriation will be $14,053 per student, 1.9 percent more than last year.
“This budget is the result of genuine collaboration between the City and schools around funding the needs of our rapidly growing student population. We are confident that it will have a meaningful impact on the educational experience of our students. It ensures that teachers have the materials they need and increases facilities support for our aging buildings, while continuing to attract and retain exemplary staff,” said School Board Chair Ramee Gentry.
This coming school year’s Operating Funds Budget supports the purchase of a new K-5 literacy program. The current program has not been updated since 2004. The new textbooks and materials will be aligned with current Virginia Standards of Learning. Schools and Central Office departments rallied to pull together additional funding needed from this year’s budget on top of the funds approved in the FY2019 budget to ensure the reading program can be updated this coming school year.
The budget includes the creation of 67 new teaching and support positions, the majority of which are tied directly to enrollment increases. One new position was created following the recommendations of the recent talented and gifted evaluation. Two positions have been added to Operations, following a reorganization of the department that oversees facilities, safety, transportation and nutrition. The School Board has set aside an additional $37,000 to support the rollout of ALICE, a violent intruder response-training program.
In line with a continued focus on attracting and retaining good teaching and support staff, employee salary scales were adjusted to eliminate the lowest step and add a step at the top of the scale. This will encourage experienced staff to stay longer and ensure that ACPS salaries are competitive and attractive to new external candidates. Staff was awarded a full step raise in the budget with an average increase of 2.6 percent.
The School Board approved a study around high school capacity to take place next school year, as well as $8.7 million for the design and project management for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in 2022 and $44.6 million for the construction in FY2023. The City Council approved an additional $30 million to be held in reserve for property acquisition. Modernization for George Mason Elementary School and Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology are also in the ten-year Capital
Improvement Program Budget. A gym for the new Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School is scheduled to be ready for 2021.