Planning Funds Sought for New ‘Silver Line’ Elementary School

As phase two of the Silver Line opens early next year, Fairfax County Public Schools are looking to secure funds to begin planning for a new elementary school near the Silver Line.

On Tuesday, Nov 5., voters will consider a bond referendum for $2 million in planning funds for the project.

A site for the new school has not been finalized. A spokesperson for FCPS also declined to release the pyramid the school would be located in until a location has been selected.

“Fairfax County Public Schools is collaborating closely with Fairfax County land use and government staff to identify sites,” said Lucy Caldwell, the school system’s director of news and information.

Developer Pomeroy/Clark LLC plans to dedicate six acres of land for the school — a condition of approval for the developer’s mixed-use project at the intersection of Sunrise Valley Drive and Frying Pan Road.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project in June, which includes 2 million square feet of residential uses and an elementary school in five separate land bays spread over 44 acres.

The plan depicts a five-story, 135,000-square-foot elementary school — details that are contingent on the future approvals of the final development plan for the school and pending discussions between the school system and land use staff. 

The applicant worked closely with Fairfax County Public Schools on the site design to ensure that adequate parking, bus circulation, and recreation space can be provided for the school,” according to the county. 

School renovations and construction projects are financed through the approval of bonds.

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Fairfax County Schools Look to Hire More Bus Drivers

Fairfax County Public Schools are looking to hire more bus drivers.

To date, the system has 80 openings for bus drivers, according to a recent release.

A job fair is set for Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Gerry Hyland Government Center (8350 Richmond Highway) in Alexandria.

In order to qualify to work as a bus driver with FCPS, applicants must be at least 21 years old; have a good driving record; pass a physical exam, drug screening, and background check; complete a five-week training program, take the commercial driver’s license road test, and obtain a commercial driver’s license,” according to FCPS.

The current salary for a bus driver is $19.20 per hour. The position includes benefits like retirement, health, and dental plans and six paid non-working days. Drivers are also allowed to bring infant and preschool-age children on the bus with them.

Morning shifts typically run from 6-9:30 a.m. while afternoon shifts run from 1:30 to 5 p.m.

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Local Schools Recognized for Bridging Achievement Gaps in English and Math

Several local schools were acknowledged by Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Braband and the Fairfax County School Board for bridging achievement gaps in English and math.

Aldrin and Armstrong Elementary School were among the top ten schools in the county to achieve the highest average increase across all reporting groups in English.

Armstrong Elementary School, Herndon Middle School and Herndon High School earned the excellence in equity award for the highest average increase in math.

Lake Anne Elementary School was one of the top schools in the county to achieve the greatest reduction in the English achievement gap.

Awards were given based on school performance in the 2018-2019 school year and revised accreditation standards approved by the Virginia Board of Education in 2017.

Photo via Facebook

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Following Sandy Hook Shooting, Dogwood Elementary School to Upgrade Security Equipment

The security systems of Dogwood Elementary School are expected to get an upgrade after state Gov. Ralph Northam awarded five Fairfax County Public Schools a state grant.

The $236,102 grant pays for video monitoring systems, mass notification systems, visiter identification technology, two-way radios and other security upgrades.  It was established through the School Security Equipment Grants program, which was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Four other schools were selected for the grant: Crestwood Elementary, Parklawn Elementary, Riverside Elementary and Whitman Middle School. The grant is given to schools that are most in need of modern equipment, cannot afford the equipment, or have a relatively high number of offenses.

This year’s grant favored elementary schools at the recommendation of Northam’s Students Safety Workgroup.

A local match of 25 percent is required of most divisions to accept the grant.

Image via Google Maps

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Herndon High School to Expand Afterschool Programs for At-Risk Students

Herndon High School and Cornerstones have received $191,000 from the Virginia Department of Education, a grant that will allow the school to expand afterschool activities for at-risk students.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant will help the Herndon High School 21st Century Community Learning Center, which will provide afterschool programming to improve academic performance and support developmental wellbeing.

Students will receive guidance on college, careers, life skills, community involvement, and cultural awareness. An eight-week program will supplement the school-year program.

The program will be open to between 50 and 60 students. The success of the program will be measured through objectives like improved reading and math skills, increased family engagement, reduced dropout rate, and increased emotional and social learning competencies. Rising ninth-grade students will also be involved in the center.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education covers 32 percent of the total cost of the three-year program. Additional funding will be provided from the following community partners:

  • Herndon High School
  • Fairfax County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services
  • Cornerstones
  • Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services
  • Childcare Resources
  • Herndon United Methodist Church
  • Town of Herndon

Cornerstones will help develop the curriculum and activities for the project.

Photo via FCPS

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Fairfax County School Board Considers Pitch to Excuse Absences for Protests and Rallies

The Fairfax County School Board is considering a plan to grant middle and high school students an excused absence for taking part in protests, rallies and walkouts.

The board’s governance committee discussed the proposal earlier this week. If approved, students would be given one excused absence from school per year to take part in “civic engagement activities by providing prior notification to the school with evidence of a sponsored/organized event or activity,” according to the draft proposal.

In a letter submitted to the board in February, board member Ryan McElveen said county schools enforced inconsistent policies when students organized walkouts in response to recent school shootings. He wrote the following in his proposal to the board:

A year ago, the devastating tragedy in Parkland galvanized students, parents, and citizens around the country to call for an end to gun violence, a powerful movement demanding action by our elected representatives that continues to this day. The Fairfax County School Board amplified this advocacy through our Resolution on Gun Violence Prevention, which became a national model for School Board resolutions around the country. School systems cannot oppose nor endorse any specific calls to action, but they are constitutionally obligated to recognize and uphold the first amendment rights of students choosing to engage in political activities that do not infringe on the rights of others or disrupt the instructional day. While FCPS provided guidance to schools about how to respond to students who wanted to walkout in support of gun violence prevention in 2018, there was inconsistent enforcement of those procedures in schools, including how schools designated excused student absences. I have spoken with many community members who would like clearer policy guidance in the event of future civic engagement activities.

The discussion is expected to continue on October 2.

At a September 4 meeting, board members sought to ensure that the proposal would not interfere with the school system’s efforts to curb chronic absenteeism. The school board is still seeking information on the absenteeism status of the county’s schools, whether or not other school districts have adopted similar proposals and the projected impact of the proposal on absenteeism.

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Herndon Teen Wins National Scholarship for Method to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has selected a Neeyanth Kopparapu, 17, of Herndon as a 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winner.

The senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is one of 20 students across the country selected for the program, which offers scholarships between $10,000 and $50,000 for developing projects that have the potential to benefit society in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, and music.

Kopparapu developed what the institute said is the first diagnosis system for early-stage Parkinson’s disease using an MRI scan. The Herndon resident was inspired to create the system — which is accurate nearly 97 percent of the time — after his grandfather was diagnosed with the disease at a late stage and was unable to use commonly-prescribed medication to fight the disease.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Davidson Institute for this recognition of my work in artificial intelligence,” said Kopparapu in a statement. “I am looking forward to meeting other Fellows and becoming part of the Davidson Fellows Scholarship community.”

Siona Prasad, 18, of Vienna, was also selected for the scholarship. Her work to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions successfully predicted an emission inventory for Washington, DC. A reception program to honor the fellows is set for Friday, September 27 in the District.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Davidson Institute for this recognition of my work in artificial intelligence,” said Kopparapu, a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. “I am looking forward to meeting other Fellows and becoming part of the Davidson Fellows Scholarship community.”

Photo via Davidson Institute for Talent Development

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Greater Reston Arts Center Challenges Students to Create Exhibit-inspired Artwork

As photographer Nate Larson’s work on centroid towns goes on display at the Greater Reston Arts Center later this month, the nonprofit organization is challenging students to create artwork inspired by its overarching theme and supporting concepts.

The new Emerging Visions program is part of GRACE’s efforts to take “its mission beyond the center walls” and create opportunities for students to interact with contemporary art in the classroom, according to its website.

GRACE worked with Fairfax County Public Schools to create an educators’ packet that relays the messages and themes explored by the artwork.

Larson’s upcoming exhibit — which is on display from September 28 through January 4 — explores centroid towns, which the U.S. Census Bureau classifies as the mean center of a population as it moves steadily west and south.

Students can respond to a theme by creating their own artwork in any medium. GRACE’s staff will select student artwork to be exhibited in the Emerging exhibition at GRACE from June 6 through June 27 next year. An opening reception is set for June 5.

For more information about the program, contact education and public programs manager Sarah Benz.

Photo via GRACE

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Free and Reduced-Price Meal Options Available for Students in Need

With schools officially in session, students in need of free or reduced-price meals have several options at Fairfax County Public Schools.

More than a dozen county schools — including Dogwood Elementary School — will offer breakfast and lunch daily through the Community Eligibility Provision program.

Students at other schools can have access to free or reduced-price meals depending on their household size and where they fall in the maximum household income bracket. Households that receive benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may also be eligible, along with children who are homeless, migrant or runaways. Applications are available at schools and online.

Afterschool meal and snack options are available for students at Dogwood Elementary School, Herndon Elementary School, Herndon Middle School, Hutchison Elementary School

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Local Mothers Launch Electric School Bus Campaign

A group of mothers from Fairfax County are banding together to push county schools to use electric school buses.

The group, Mothers out Front Fairfax, recently formed a local chapter of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front.

“Our county has a chance to be on the cutting edge of technology and to be a national leader in providing our kids with healthy air and clean energy future,” said Kathy Keller, a nurse at Inova Fairfax hospital, Mothers out Front Fairfax member and a mom with two children in county schools.

The group formally launched its campaign at Patrick Henry Library in Vienna on Tuesday (August 20). Fairfax County Public School’s school board member Pat Hynes spoke at the event.

Here’s more from the group about their initiative:

Electric school buses, with no tailpipe emissions, eliminate children’s exposure to dangerous diesel exhaust during their ride to school. They have lower global warming emissions than diesel, even when the source of electricity is taken into account. They have no engine, muffler, or alternator that requires tune-ups, meaning a lifetime fuel and maintenance savings over diesel buses of up to $170,000. They have a lower center of gravity than diesel buses and are therefore less likely to roll over. They are safer for our kids and cleaner for our environment.

The health and environmental benefits of electric school buses are well documented. Studies show that that exposure levels to harmful chemicals can be between 4 and 10 times higher on school buses than in the surrounding environment.

The county has the second largest public school fleet of buses in the country, behind only New York City.

Mothers Out Front is a national advocacy group. Members are mothers who aim to “ensure a livable climate for all children,” according to the organization’s website.

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Local High School Students to Receive School-Issued Computers This Fall

Students at Herndon and South Lakes high schools will go home with a school-issued laptop in the fall as part of a new countywide initiative when schools begins in late August.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) plans to issue a computer to all high school students in the county through FCPSOn. By 2023, all students in the county could go home with laptops.

School officials say FCPSOn will transform learning for students and educators by providing “equitable access to meaningful learning experience and technology to support their learning.”

Devices will not replace teachers. Teachers are supported through ongoing, dynamic professional learning for teachers that will result in purposeful, collaborative student learning experiences,” FCPS wrote in a statement.

SLHS and HHS staff plan to distribute laptops during Teacher Advisory classes during the first week of school. A community meeting to discuss the initiative is planned for August.

The program requires an annual $50 fee for high school students. The fee covers technology support services and the potential costs of replacing equipment in need of repair.

FCPS also allocated $4.3 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget for the initiative. The budget was approved on May 23.

Students can use their own laptop instead of a county-issued laptop, but they must receive approval from their school to do so.

A pilot program first began in 2016 for schools in the Chantilly Pyramid.

More information about the rollout of the program in Reston and Herndon will be available over the summer.

Video via FCPS

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South Lakes High School Boys State Champion Soccer Team Embodies ‘International Spirit’

Over the weekend, South Lakes High School won its first state championship in boys’ soccer. School officials attribute the team’s success to partnership and cooperation between a team that is mostly composed of first and second generation immigrants.

Many of the players are English Language Learners who are assimilating into the general student body. 

“Not unlike its broader student body, the soccer team has drawn its strength from its diversity to bear the odds to make history,” Emily Burrell, an SLHS news liaison, wrote.

Last Friday, the halls of South Lakes high school were resonating with sounds of cheer and support as the community gave the team a royal send off to their semi-final and final games. This victory will resonate in the hearts and minds of the students as they build on their experience as part of the South Lakes soccer family and move ahead in pursuit of their version of the American dream. One can but wonder if this is not what Robert Simon envisioned when he spoke of creating an equitable community where “the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts.”

Students are from more than a dozen countries, including Taiwan, Nigeria, Sudan, Japan, Guatemala, Turkey and Afghanistan — a testament to the international nature of the sport itself.

The program was built by Coach Marty Pfister over the past 12 years. Because many students have jobs to help with family expenses, the team’s coaches were flexible throughout the year to help economically disadvantaged students balance school, work, and sports.

Assistant Coach Aanand Vasudevan says the struggle to juggle jobs and schools has helped make the students stronger on and off the field.

Photos via SLHS

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Herndon School Earns Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence

Carson Middle School is among four schools in the state to earn the 2019 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence — the highest recognition awarded for schools that excel in academics in the state.

The recognition, which is part of the Virginia Index of Performance awards, recognizes schools that go beyond state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals set by the governor and the Board of Education.

The school met all state and federal achievement benchmarks and checked off on goals for elementary reading. Two schools in McLean — Chesterbrook Elementary School and Cooper Middle School — also got a nod from the governor, along with Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church.

In the county, 28 schools were named recipients of the Board of Education Excellence Awards and 22 schools earned the Board of Education’s Distinguished Achievement Awards.

Photo via FCPS

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Renovations for Armstrong Elementary School a Few Years Away

Renovations for Armstrong Elementary School are in the works, but it’s going to be a few years.

A 10-year forecast shows the renovation process spread out from fiscal years 2022-2026 in the Fairfax County Public School CIP.

Planning for the project is expected to start in FY 2022 with funding from a 2021 bond, with permitting beginning the next year.

The school first opened in 1986 and since then, according to county documents, there’s been no substantial renovations except for capacity enhancements in 1990.

The Hunter Mill District’s School Board Representative, Pat Hynes, noted in a newsletter that Armstrong, Crossfield and Louise Archer elementary schools are all planned for additions and renovations over the next 5-10 years.

Photo via Facebook

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With End of School Year in Sight, South Lakes HS to Host Teen Job Fair

The end of the school year is approaching, which means that many students are thinking ahead about summer jobs.

South Lakes High School will host a job fair for teens on Thursday (March 28) to help connect students to potential employers.

The fair is set to take place in the main corridor outside of the cafeteria during the school’s four lunch sessions, according to Fairfax County Public Schools.

Reston-area employers will set up tables to offer applications and answer students’ questions about part-time employment.

Employers that have signed up already include:

Some of the employers are looking to hire teachers during the summer, according to FCPS.

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