T.C. Satellite Campus Holds Grand Opening at Landmark Mall

The new learning center has space for 100 students in a non-traditional environment.

Andrew, a senior at T.C. Williams High School, struggled with the traditional school schedule but was hesitant to attend the school’s new T.C. Satellite Campus at Landmark Mall because there wasn’t a teacher leading the class and he was afraid he couldn’t handle the workload on his own.

“But from day one, if I had any questions, there was always someone there to answer them,” Andrew told school officials and others at a ribbon-cutting for the new campus Tuesday morning. “Satellite has been a big help for managing time, which helps in the real world. Satellite is a dream come true.”

School officials and local dignitaries gathered at the mall Tuesday to mark the official opening of the new campus, which serves up to 100 students and already has a waitlist. The campus is the first comprehensive, non-traditional satellite campus in Northern Virginia and utilizes an online curriculum to serve up to 100 students at a time.

The core curriculum is online, and the center is staffed by teachers to guide students through their courses. The campus is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Speaking Monday, Alexandria City Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Madye Henderson called the campus the next step for education in ACPS.

“We’re making a mark within the state, as well as this region,” she said. “We are the first, fully-comprehensive satellite campus, which is giving students the opportunity to get their education in a hybrid-learning environment.”

The center aims to help decrease dropout rates and help remove obstacles that students said got in the way of graduation, such as a full-time work schedule.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille told the crowd the students at the campus have already shown dedication to their education by enrolling in the new program.

“Just because we do have our challenges, there are opportunities for us to get above those challenges and do better and greater things,” the mayor said.

Sheryl Gorsuch, chairman of the Alexandria City School Board, said the satellite campus puts students in control of their own destiny. “Students needs our support to be successful,” she said. “Sometimes they need a listener. Sometimes they need an advisor. Sometimes they need a quiet place to study, and sometimes they need a new option.”

Superintendent Morton Sherman told listeners that ACPS is on the right track. Since 2005, the number of students taking advanced placement courses at T.C. Williams has more than doubled, and their scores are at an all-time high, he said. SAT participation last year was at a nine-year high, and scores went up last year compared to the year before, he added.

But a traditional school setting doesn’t serve every student, Sherman said. He called the satellite campus a model for ACPS in the future.

“This school is a satellite,” he said. “It’s tethered, as the moon is tethered back to the earth through gravity, this satellite is tethered back to that remarkable organization called T.C. Williams. But just as the moon, just as satellites that go around the earth have their own independence, their own personality, so does this school."

Gregory Forbes, ACPS director of secondary school counseling, said a variety of students are utilizing the satellite campus.

“We have students that are here because they are on track to graduate and want to graduate early,” he said. “They know for sure what they want to do with their lives, and really going through a four-year-program at T.C. is not the best fit for them. … Then we have students who have been retained in previous years. Maybe they were retained at elementary school or middle school and they’re looking to accelerate their learning so that they can graduate with their peers in the class that they were supposed to. And the satellite campus gives them the flexibility to be able to do that.”

Other students work full-time during the day and utilize the satellite campus in the evenings, he said. Other students work late at night in local restaurants and come to the satellite campus later in the morning after getting a full night’s sleep.

T.C. Satellite Campus Principal James Wilson thanked the school district and satellite campus staff for their support. 

“The vision is clear,” he said. “We’re here to support the Alexandria City Public Schools’ vision. Yes, we have a non-traditional program. Yes, we work in conjunction with T.C. Williams, the middle schools and the Alexandria City Public Schools, but I am saying to you, the satellite concept is ingenious.”

The campus has been under development for four years as part of the district’s strategic plan. Henson said there are six teacher spots, four of which have been filled. 

The student learning center covers 3,400 square feet, and a nearby administrative center is about 2,400 square feet. The rent is less than $6,000 per month.

View a photo gallery of the event here.

Patricia A Hennnig October 03, 2012 at 03:33 PM
“We’re making a mark within the state, as well as this region,” she said. “We are the first, fully-comprehensive satellite campus, which is giving students the opportunity to get their education in a hybrid-learning environment.” - Not Really - I guess the ACPS staff has conveniently forgotten the fact that Fairfax County Public Schools had a satellite campus for their merchandising and retail classes for more than 15 years at Landmark Mall - when they moved out the West End Redevelopmen folks took over the space. Lot of revsionist history doe eventually get corrected. Pat Hennig
Tia October 03, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Bad idea .. To put it in the mall . Watch I bet something gonna go worng Like skipping classes .. Why dont put in another building close to the school area in king st.
NoBS October 03, 2012 at 06:38 PM
I understand kids not wanting to walk in to TC Williams after dropping out, but I don't think we should be paying for an off site facility because some kids are embarassed. Night classes or online learning would serve the same purpose. Or a room in another city facility perhaps? I agree with Tia that having school in a mall is probably not the best idea. Too many distractions. We have rec centers, public libraries and various conference and other space in city facilities that could be used far more cheaply. However, I think the real impetus behind this was an attempt to rid TC of a certain kind of student. Mort Sherman isn't fooling anyone.
Marianne Hetzer October 03, 2012 at 11:35 PM
TC Williams' King Street and Minnie Howard campuses are fully utilized during the day (8am - 3pm). TC King Street is utilized during the evenings by adult ed and multiple other events. Weekend hours at King Street or Minnie Howard would require additional security and custodial services. ACPS enrollment is increasing beyond the capacity of our existing facilities. Don't ask why the new TC wasn't built to accommodate 3,000+ students - that's excessive for any high school. And I have no clue where we would build another "traditional" high school within the city limits. If 100 or so students can get what THEY WANT at another location, fully supervised by ACPS, everyone wins. At Landmark, one appropriately sized facility can serve students day, evening and weekends. No one is "assigned" to Landmark; students CHOOSE to complete their high school education on their time, on their terms. I invite anyone to negotiate appropriate space and time at local rec centers, public libraries and conference centers for 100+ students, including the accompanying cadre of administrators, counselors, social workers. I'm not familiar with Fairfax County's program of studies offered at a satellite campus, but if their course offerings are limited to merchandising and retail courses, then it is not the same as TC's comprehensive program of all courses needed for graduation. I am a proud Titan (class of '83) and current TC Williams PTSA President.
Edmund Lewis October 04, 2012 at 12:16 AM
How long does ACPS project this campus will be housed at Landmark? Redevelopment of that property is in the works. What is the cost of this campus? Facility, staff, resources, transportation, etc. When overcrowding and understaffing are major concerns within ACPS, how can the district justify dedicating over 3400 sq ft and seven school positions to a site which will not see all 100 students at the same time? How will the effectiveness of this program be assessed? Future school board members and local media are encouraged to press for answers to these questions.


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