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Troubled Alexandria School To Get New Building, But Will It Make A Difference?

The old Jefferson-Houston School, at left, will be demolished in the next few weeks after the new school, at right, opens its doors.
Michael Pope/WAMU
The old Jefferson-Houston School, at left, will be demolished in the next few weeks after the new school, at right, opens its doors.

School leaders in Alexandria are preparing for a new school year and a new start for a long-troubled school.

The construction crew is hard at work building a new $45 million school facility for Jefferson Houston School, a facility that offers Kindergarden through eighth grade. Bea Porter has two grandchildren that attend the school, and she says hopes were high three years ago when the school got a new principal.

"When she first came in they brought in a CEO they brought in other staff, new principals, new vice-principals. They took away half the teachers, brought in new teachers. That hasn't made a difference," she says.

Now school leaders are looking for yet another new principal, the sixth new principal in the last twelve years. Test scores here have been so low for so long that the state was threatening to take over the school until a judge decided the effort was unconstitutional. Rosa Lyn lives across the street from the school, and says she probably will not send her daughter there.

"It is one of the failing schools in Virginia, and I just don't want to risk that. I think she needs to be in an environment in which other students believe in achievement," she says.

If it wasn't for several Head Start classrooms that were added after the site plan for the school was approved, the building would be half-empty when it opens this fall.

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