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Alexandria, Virginia, is unique in that it offers two public school systems operated by two different governing bodies: Fairfax County Public Schools and Alexandria City Public Schools. Together, they provide more than 200,000 children with their educational services each school day.
While house hunting, you’ll find that leading with or emphasizing the name of the house’s zoned schools is a very popular marketing tool for homeowners within FCPS and ACPS. The expensive real estate market reflects access to top ranked schools and pushes rental and purchase prices well beyond what many consider budget friendly.
There’s a good chance your children will be attending a school within FCPS, either because you were aware of its solid reputation and wanted to take full advantage of the resource, or that the Alexandria, Fairfax County, borders are so encompassing you’ve simply moved within its boundaries. Either way, it's helpful to know, not only for educational purposes but for future home resale values, some facts and figures of the country’s 10th largest school system.
Within a school system that houses more than 187,000 students and maintains a fleet of 1,600 buses that could rival a small city’s bus fleet, there’s bound to be some issues that parents are unhappy about. But, because FCPS has so many resources to offer their students, there’s a generous amount of positive opinions and observations online to consider.
FCPS prides itself on offering a very diverse student population the tools they need for a successful educational career. FCPS reports that 200 languages are represented within its student body. Nurturing inclusivity of all types is also a hallmark of their education mission.
Because of the popularity of the school system, overcrowding and temporary classrooms are a continuous problem. School buildings adhere to a regularly scheduled slate of renovations and remodeling, which exacerbates the need for modular buildings to hold class.
ACPS has a distinguished and long history in public education. Its earliest iterations were created with help from President George Washington to educate orphans and poor children. Modern ACPS history includes the struggle of black Americans during the civil rights era and the challenges faced during the desegregation of schools.
Today, families continue to choose ACPS for many reasons, including their traditional academic and special education programs which are offered in addition to the Dual Language Program and the Talented and Gifted Program. The walkability to many of the community schools is also a huge draw.
Due to continued growth and overcrowding in some school buildings, the 2018-2019 school year was the first to have new boundary lines implemented. It's a good idea to check with ACPS to guarantee your home’s assigned school. Well-meaning friends and neighbors may be unaware of slight changes and offer outdated advice.
ACPS schools are often considered by incoming families due to their proximity to neighborhoods with easy commutes into Washington, D.C., Maryland, and nearby military and government offices. Several Metro stations offer service from the City of Alexandria.
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Alexandria parents should also note that Virginia’s winter weather is hard to predict. School officials are very cautious when deciding whether or not to open schools during inclement weather. Not only does the inconvenience factor increase when kids stay home, but parents find child care to be extremely difficult to lock down when schools are unexpectedly closed.
It's not uncommon for newcomers to have mixed feelings about Alexandria’s (and Northern Virginia in general) public education. In comparison to many school districts across the country, it is a fast-paced and competitive atmosphere. But, strong academics and a thriving student body continue to win over families looking for public education that includes some of the amenities private schools are known to offer.