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Schools and Future Development Come Under Focus at PRC Workgroup Meeting

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. to remove unclear information about the number of total available seats in the South Lakes Pyramid.)

Local citizen representatives pressed county and school officials on how the school system will mitigate the impact of planned and future development on Reston’s public schools Tuesday night.

The meeting, the third in a series on the county’s proposal to increase the community’s population density, highlighted a major obstacle in managing increased school enrollment: limited and uncertain funding to meet future needs.

Kevin Sneed, who oversees design and construction services for the school system, said new development is not expected to generate many students because of the style of new multi-family units.

Two residential buildings recently built in Tysons generated only 21 students, Sneed said. Student enrollment from new residential development in Reston is expected to increase in the next 20-25 years, he said. Meanwhile, the school system must balance the need for renovations at several schools. 

The site for a new high school in the area — especially along the Dulles Suburban Corridor where McNair, Coates and Hutchison Elementary Schools are served — is critical. However, the school system is constrained by lack of funding to purchase a new property. And current plans to mitigate the future impact of development on schools likely will not kick in until development actually takes place, Sneed said.  Development may go live years after it is approved by the county, he said.

Stu Gibson, a former school board member of 16 years, said building capacity only once the students impact the system is a “disturbing” strategy. Gibson said he was concerned that the county is planning for additional residences before the infrastructure is in place to handle additional growth — a mode of operation that he said goes against Reston’s comprehensive plan.

Instead of purchasing land, the county and the school system are relying on proffers from developers and negotiating with applicants to see if land for a new high school can be provided, according to Leslie Johnson, the county’s zoning administrator. So far, those negotiations have been unsuccessful. But talks are underway on the county-level to change the formula used to determine how much developers pay based on the expected impact of the development on area schools.

Others worried that viable land for a new school may be limited, especially when parking lots and aging office parks that could be the site for a future school are redeveloped into mixed-use projects.

Johnson said the county is closely evaluating the impact of each development proposal on fire services, schools, parks and other public infrastructure.

“We are keeping track of the cumulative impact, but, at some point, there will be a trigger for some type of development,” Johnson said.

When and how that trigger comes forward remains unclear.

File photo

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South Lakes High School Seniors Honored with Scholarships from Local Fund

Ten graduating South Lakes High School seniors received scholarships from the Reston Scholarship Fund of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

Awards, given for the second time, ranged between $1,000 to $4,000. The fund plans to award up to $16,000 to each of the students distributed over a maximum of six years as the students pursue their undergraduate careers.

A reception for students was held on June 16. Speakers included Kim Retzer, principal of South Lakes High School, Eileen Ellsworth, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and Monica Gomez, a NOVA Pathways Counselor.

Recipients of the award are below:

  • Diseye Fiobotei
  • Sohale Hessavi
  • Abdi Hobor
  • Emily Huaroco
  • Carla Jovel
  • Alexis Lemus
  • Abita Mahdi
  • Hamdi Shariff
  • Hebron Wakjira
  • Luis Zevallos Garate

This year’s scholarships were funded by The Sallie Mae Fund and Quadrant, Inc. and other local individuals and companies.

Photo via Elizabeth Blankespoor

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South Lakes Students Go To ‘Beautiful Lengths’ to Help Cancer Patients

The Fairfax County school district recently recognized South Lakes High School for their work in organizing a hair donation event benefiting cancer patients.

In partnership with well-known shampoo company Pantene, seniors Samantha Lowe and Sarah Wolfe along with teacher Rebecca Samba organized the “Beautiful Lengths” event, in which people with long hair could donate a portion of their locks to be made into free wigs for cancer patients.

Stylists from Maude Hair salon in Herndon and students from the Chantilly Cosmetology Academy donated their time to cut donors’ hair.

In all, 20 people–a mix of students, parents and teachers–donated more than eight inches of hair each during the event last week.

Photos courtesy of Fairfax County Public Schools

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Volunteers Needed as School Implements New Salad Bar

Hunters Woods Elementary in Reston will add a new, fresh salad bar to its daily lunchtime offerings on Wednesday this week.

Fairfax County Public Schools is partnering with the organization Real Food For Kids to bring fresh salad bars to all 141 elementary schools. School officials said they are gradually rolling them out, at a rate of around 30 schools per year for the next four years. The first schools received salad bars during the 2016-17 school year.

The Hunters Woods PTA described what the salad bar will be like and how it will fit in with current lunch offerings in a letter to families recently:

“Students will be able to go through the salad bar to get fresh fruits, vegetables, lettuce, proteins and other toppings. Students can purchase a stand-alone meal if they would like to get their fruits, vegetables, and protein from the salad bar, or they could get a hot entrée and a pretzel from the lunch line to accompany fruit and vegetable selections from the salad bar.”

The salad bar is scheduled to open this Wednesday, May 2, and the school’s PTA says volunteers are needed during the first two weeks to help ensure a smooth debut, and show students how to utilize it. Available volunteers can contact the school for details on how to help at 703-262-7400.

Photo: Fairfax County Public Schools

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Local Middle Schoolers Prepare for ‘Odyssey of the Mind’ World Finals

A seven-member team from Langston Hughes Middle School has advanced to the final round of the Odyssey of the Mind contest, an international educational competition that aims to develop creative problem-solving.

Students apply creativity by solving problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting an interpretation of literary classics.

The team won second place in the Virginia State Tournament this month, qualifying them for the 39th annual world finals. The championship takes from on May 23 through May 26 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

As the team prepares for the competition, it has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $14,000 to finance the journey, which includes expenses for housing, tournament registration and travel.

In March, the team won first place at the regional competition at Thomas Jefferson High School, where they were challenged to present a humorous, documentary-style performance based on a classic.

Photo via Kris Gabor

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Langston Hughes Middle School Students Stage Walkout

Roughly 200 students participated in a walkout on Friday (April 21) at Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road).

The walkout was in honor of the anniversary of 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting.

Students left the school building at 10 a.m.. Most students re-entered the building and returned to fifth period class while a small group of students remained to continue the walkout.

Below is a message from Langston Hughes Middle School Principal Aimee Monticchio:

FCPS respects the rights of our students to engage in peaceful protest and express their opinions through speech and other ways as long as it is done respectfully, does not interfere with the rights of others, and does not disrupt learning in the school.   Our school is committed to providing an environment where everyone is treated with respect and encouraged to help others.

Our teachers, administrators and staff continue to reinforce a sense of positive school community focused on teaching and learning in our increasingly complex world.  We thank you for your continued partnership in working with your child to discuss meaningful actions that they can take to engage in studies of all issues and participate fully in their community.

Similar walkouts happened at the school on February 21 and on March 14 in order to remember the victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

File photo

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South Lakes Student Leadership Will Collect for Flood Victims During Homecoming Parade

The South Lakes High School homecoming parade is scheduled for Friday, and students are taking advantage of the opportunity to support a good cause.

SLHS Leadership has teamed up with the Texas Association of Student Councils to collect funds for Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, where students and their families are still trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

The SLHS homecoming parade will begin at 5 p.m. Friday at Hunters Woods Village Center. It will proceed down Colts Neck Road to South Lakes Drive to the high school, where is is expected to arrive between 6 and 6:30 p.m., and it will be followed by the South Lakes Seahawks’ homecoming game against Langley.

According to information provided by the school:

There will be people in the parade walking with a float collecting donations. Additionally, there will be a collection area at the football game. We wanted to do something for a particular place, rather than just collecting for general purposes. Student leaders have been in touch with the student council adviser at [Barbers Hill High School], who will distribute whatever is collected to families who have been most affected by the devastation.

Donations can be made in the form of cash, gift cards, or checks made out to South Lakes HS, with “Barbers Hill HS” written in the subject line. In addition to during the parade and game, donations can be dropped off at the main office of the school (11400 South Lakes Drive). Lyn Fiscus, SLHS Leadership teacher, is in charge of the donations.

The theme of the homecoming parade is “Channel Your Seahawk Spirit.” There will be floats created by each class, high school teams, honor societies, administration, the band, JROTC, the dance team, feeder elementary schools and more. Food trucks will be set up in the school’s stadium-side parking lot after the parade, to allow participants and spectators the opportunity to grab something to eat before the football game.

Image courtesy Lyn Fiscus, SLHS Leadership teacher

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Elementary Schools in Herndon Part of Effort To Collect Items for Hurricane Relief

Three elementary schools in Herndon are part of a group of schools that have “adopted” a Houston-area school district recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Fairfax County Public Schools’ Region 5 — which includes Coates, Floris and McNair elementary schools in Herndon — is raising money to support Fort Bend Independent School District in Sugar Land, Texas. According to information provided by Coates Elementary:

As you are well aware, our nation has recently been impacted by devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida. We have seen, and been deeply moved by, the images and footage showing this devastation and the impact it is having on families and children. Many FCPS parents, students, and staff have been asking themselves and each other, “How can I help? What can WE do to ease the suffering?” So we decided to start a fundraiser focused on helping schools and students!

Region 5, part of Fairfax County Public Schools, in Northern Virginia will “adopt” the Fort Bend Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Fort Bend ISD serves approximately 74,500 students from very diverse backgrounds which makes them a great match for us.

We are asking all Region 5 schools, made up of nearly 34,000 students, to team up and raise money to help children, families, and schools in Texas. We are a community of learners, and we are committed to supporting learning and families in our nation’s community.

A GoFundMe page set up for the effort shows a little over $7,000 has been collected as of Monday. The fundraiser has a $100,000 goal, according to the page.

Fort Bend ISD’s website reports that numerous schools in the district suffered flood damage during Harvey, and free meals and other services are being provided for students who are homeless or displaced as a result of the storm.

FCPS public information officer John Torre said while he isn’t aware of any similar projects taking place from other FCPS regions, there are other individual schools that have initiated their own hurricane relief efforts.

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Fairfax County School Board Vote is Tuesday

A vacant At-Large seat on the Fairfax County School Board will be filled in a special election Tuesday. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The position is nonpartisan; however, two candidates have been supported by political parties:

  • Chris S. GrisafeSupported by the Fairfax County Republican Committee. Has served as an appointed member of the FCPS School Bonds Committee, Superintendent’s Business Advisory Committee and Adult Education Advisory Committee. (Website)
  • Karen A. Keys-GamarraSupported by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. Endorsed by the Fairfax Education Association, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and the Washington Post editorial board.   (Website)

The other candidates on the ballot are:

  • Sandra D. Allen, the Minority Achievement Program Representative at James Madison High School (Candidate Statement)
  • Michael H. Owens, a former teacher and PTA member (Facebook page)

For more information about each of the candidates, go to their websites or check out the video from a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum last week in McLean. (Allen did not participate in the forum.)

The special election was necessitated after Jeannette Hough, who was elected to the Board in 2015, stepped down from the position effective June 1. The term will run through the end of December 2019.

Voting will take place in each of the county’s 243 precincts. Officials remind voters that 160 of the precincts are in schools, which will be in session. While they will be open all day, those voters are encouraged to visit the booth before or after school hours.

To find your polling place, visit the Virginia Department of Elections website.

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Welcome Back! Fairfax County Students Return to Classrooms for 2017-18 School Year

School’s back in session for Fairfax County students.

Classes began for the 2017-18 year this morning at all schools in the county. For the first time in decades, the first day of school is the week before Labor Day, meaning students and their families need to get familiar with their new routines during the last week of August this year.

Fairfax County officials are reminding residents that more than 1,700 buses travel around the county each school day to transport students. Drivers must stop in both directions when they encounter a bus with flashing red lights, except when they are separated from the bus by a median.

Here are some more safety tips to keep in mind when driving during the school year:

  1. Be alert. Children are unpredictable. Children walking or biking may show up suddenly and quickly; pay attention at all times.
  2. Drivers should not block crosswalks. Allow pedestrians plenty of space to walk safely.
  3. Pay attention to school zones, especially where they start and end. Those slower school zone speed limits are there for a reason. Follow the speed limit when the lights are flashing.
  4. Always stop when directed by a police officer or crossing guard.

To see more photos from and information about the first day of school, check out #FirstDayFairfax on Twitter.

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Herndon High School Teacher Releases Memoir About 32 Years in the Classroom

Doug Graney’s 32-year teaching career is the topic of his new memoir, “American Teacher,” now available.

After starting his career teaching in Connecticut and upstate New York, Graney came to Herndon High School as a social studies teacher in 1992.

Graney has been honored with awards including Herndon Optimist Club Teacher of the Year (1997), Virginia Education Association Excellence in Teaching Award (2007), Horace Mann Teacher of the Year/Finalist for National Education Association Excellence in Teaching Award (2008), Dulles Area Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year (2011) and Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year (2014). He became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2003, and his certification was renewed in 2013.

According to publisher Mascot Books:

“American Teacher” details Doug Graney’s journey to becoming a celebrated teacher at Herndon High School. Following a career packed with political and historical field trips, holding government officials accountable including Colin Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor and many members of congress, generating spirited debate, and creating the largest congressional intern placement program in the country, “American Teacher” is the story of a man dedicated to his students and their education, no matter what.

Graney’s book can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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New Herndon High School Junior ROTC Cadets Learn Important Lessons at Camp

Herndon High School freshmen who are joining the school’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps learned all about the program last week during a New Cadet Introductory Course camp.

The incoming cadets learned how to march, how to wear and care for their uniforms, and how to handle a rifle among other valuable lessons. In addition, they participated in community service, including a cleanup of Dranesville Road near the school.

Students also learned the importance of physical fitness as a cadet, including through completion of an obstacle course.

Awards were presented to the top-performing cadets for academics, drill and physical fitness during the orientation course.

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Local Teachers Getting Ready for School Year to Start Next Week

Fairfax County teachers, including in Reston and Herndon’s public schools, are in classrooms this week for training, preparation and a little fun before their students return to class Monday.

Take a look at some pictures that have been shared from the schools on social media so far this week as teachers and staff ready themselves for the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Welcome back, Terraset staff! Our friend and former Terraset student, Uche Agu was our special guest speaker this morning. He discussed his experience at TES and what our passion and purpose meant to him! 🙂

Posted by Terraset Elementary School on Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday’s solar eclipse provided a unique bonding opportunity for school staffs.

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Work on South Lakes High School Track Now Expected to Continue Into September

Construction work to improve the track and other features around the stadium at South Lakes High School is now expected to continue into September, meaning some sports activity will be affected.

“We are moving scrimmages for football,” said Andrew Duggan, the school’s assistant director of student activities. “There may be an impact for a couple of field hockey games and lower-level football.”

The SLHS field hockey teams have home games scheduled for Aug. 30. The varsity football team has a home scrimmage slated for Aug. 18, while the JV and freshman teams have two scrimmages in late August, as well as home games on Sept. 7.

The South Lakes High School varsity football team starts its season with three consecutive road games. It won’t play at home until Friday, Sept. 15, when it hosts Dominion.

Duggan said additional information about the progress of the project will be provided on the South Lakes Athletics website, as well as on its Twitter account.

The work was originally scheduled to be completed before the start of the coming school year. However, Duggan said, the wait will be worth it.

“While the project is behind schedule, we are looking forward to the upgrade our facility is getting,” Duggan said.

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‘Back 2 School Bash’ on Saturday Designed to Help Kids Get Ready for Fall

An event this weekend will help get kids ready for that dreaded time of year — the end of summer and the return to the classroom.

The “Back 2 School Bash” is an opportunity for families to receive important information to help prepare children of all ages and grades for the coming school year. Students and parents will have the chance to learn about resources, programs and services provided by community agencies and partnerships that will help with the transition.

The free event will feature local schools, government and nonprofit providers of services, resources and activities for Reston community members. It is co-sponsored by Fairfax County Public Schools, Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, YMCA Fairfax County Reston, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Service.

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive).

Due to construction at the high school that is limiting parking, Fairfax Connector is offering free shuttles to the event. One shuttle will run between Dogwood Elementary and SLHS, and a second will run from Forest Edge Elementary School to Lake Anne Elementary School to SLHS. The first pick from Dogwood and Forest Edge will be at 10:45 a.m.

For more information, contact LaTanja Jones, collaboration and outreach director at Reston Community Center, by calling 703-390-6158 or emailing [email protected]. You can also follow the event’s Facebook page.

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