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Terraset Elementary School Cuts Out Single-Use Plastic Straws

Students at Terraset Elementary School are reducing their plastic use — one straw at a time.

Since the beginning of the year, students are no longing using single-use straws in the cafeteria. Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday (Jan. 15) that the straw initiative is saving up to 400 straws per day.

An estimated 80,000 straws will be eliminated over the period of one school year.

In addition to the single-use straw ban, Terraset is now encouraging students to trade disposable water bottles in for reusable ones and to use canvas totes instead of plastic bags.

The school’s initiative and recent urging are meant to help students make environmentally-friendly choices.

“Terraset’s students are helping to save the planet and oceans by individual actions that make a big difference,” according to an FCPS press release.

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Public Schools Cancel Afternoon, Evening Activities

With an inch of snow anticipated tonight and tomorrow, activities at Fairfax County public schools or on school grounds are canceled for this afternoon and evening.

FCPS wrote in a tweet today (Jan. 17) that the “expected wintry weather in our area tonight” prompted the decision.

The School Age Child Care Program will remain open until 6:15 p.m. tonight.

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Fairfax County Public Schools to Open Two Hours Late Tomorrow

(Updated at 8:30 a.m.) Fairfax County public schools are set to open two hours late tomorrow (Wednesday).

FCPS tweeted that tomorrow’s scheduled delay is due to “unexpected refreeze of roads and sidewalks overnight.”

School offices and central offices will open on time tomorrow.

Morning preschool classes will be canceled while afternoon preschool classes are set to start on their regular schedule. Full-day preschool and Family and Early Childhood Education Program-Head Start classes will start two hours later than the regular schedule.

Adult and community education classes are set to start on time.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Updated: Fairfax County Public Schools Cancel Tonight’s After School Activities

Updated at 12:30 p.m. — Fairfax County public schools will close by 6:15 p.m. 

“Due to the expected refreeze of roads tonight, FCPS facilities and school grounds will be closed starting at 6:15 p.m.,” FCPS tweeted at 12:26 p.m. today (Jan. 15). “All activities scheduled in FCPS schools or on school grounds for this evening must be completed by 6:15 p.m. or are canceled.”

FCPS tweeted last night that it would open two hours late today.

The delay was meant to allow more daylight for drivers and students who walk to school, according to the FCPS website.

School offices and central offices will open on time.

Morning preschool classes were canceled while afternoon preschool classes were set to start on their regular schedule. Full-day preschool and Family and Early Childhood Education Program-Head Start classes started two hours later than the regular schedule.

Adult and community education classes were set to start on time.

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This story has been updated

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Digital Device Initiative Heading to FCPS High Schools This Fall

A new digital initiative is aiming to start in the county’s public high schools this fall for the 2019-2020 school year.

FCPSOn provides students with access to a device to use for learning, which each student can access at school and may be able to take home, based on the school and grade level. The initiative supports the FCPS Strategic Plan, which includes access to contemporary and effective technology as a component of the “Student Success” goal.

The Fairfax County School Board directed Superintendent Scott Brabrand to incorporate necessary funding for FCPSOn’s expansion to all high schools in his fiscal year 2020 proposed budget, South Lakes High School Principal Kim Retzer wrote in an email to the school’s community.

“It will help ensure they have equitable access to technology and to instructional practices that support their development of Portrait of a Graduate attributes including communication, collaboration and critical thinking,” Retzer wrote. “Employers will expect these skills, along with tech fluency and innovation, from tomorrow’s workforce. FCPSOn helps prepare students to meet those demands.”

The 2020 proposed budget sets aside $4.3 million to implement FCPSOn in high schools.

“The financial model for FCPSOn takes an approach of sustainable funding that includes shared cost between schools and central offices as well as student user fees. Funding and a new staffing formula will support an additional [18.5 positions],” according to the budget.

The budget includes a new technology fee of $50 per student per year for grades nine through 12 beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Meanwhile, students eligible for reduced meals will pay a reduced fee of $25 per student and students eligible for free meals will no fees. Overall, the fee is expected to generate $2.2 million in revenue.

FCPSOn launched during the 2016-2017 school year to all of the schools in the Chantilly High School pyramid and five high schools that receive funds as part of the Virginia Department of Education e-Learning Backpack Grant. Phase 1 included a total of 15 schools and was funded through a combination of FCPS and the VDOE e-Learning Backpack grant funding.

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Hunter Mill School Board Rep Won’t Seek Reelection

Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes announced today (Jan. 9) that she won’t seek reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.

Hynes has been a member of the 12-member board for the last seven years. Previously, she was an elementary school teacher in the county’s public schools from 2002 to 2011 and has worked as a lawyer with Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett in New York City and community organizer, according to her bio.

The announcement arrived in her newsletter. In one section, she wrote:

As you may know, my current term as your school board member expires at the end of 2019. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the welcoming, resilient, creative people of Hunter Mill for the last seven years. But I’ve decided not to seek reelection after this term. My first calling is the classroom and I’ve been teaching full time in Arlington these last two years. (The law does not allow me to serve on the board and teach in FCPS at the same time.) I was hopeful that I might be able to balance the time commitments of both jobs, but it really is not reasonable and I find myself stretched too thin too often. I look forward to the next year of work and progress on your behalf, but I also think it’s time for someone else to step up. I’m sure we will all be engaged in the November election and I have no doubt Hunter Mill will choose an excellent new school board member.

Her term expires at the end of 2019.

Until then, she outlined in her newsletter several school board issues on her radar, including climate change and equity.

With Virginia’s General Assembly starting today, Hynes said “we are fortunate here in Hunter Mill to have state representatives who fight for public education and other critical needs of families and communities.”

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Herndon High School on Track with Renovations Set for Fall Debut

The Herndon High School is on track with its renovations as the school works to have new additions open by the time the 2019-2020 school year kicks off.

Assistant Principal Jim Hannon told Reston Now that the school plans on having the north addition ready for students and staff for the start of the new school year in the fall.

The 74,000-sqaure-foot addition will house the science and world languages departments, along with new classroom space for the mathematics, computer science, career and technical education and English as a second language (ESOL) programs.

Meanwhile the front addition will have the main office and Student Services Office on the main level with a new 18,000-square-foot library on the second floor, he said. That addition is also slated to be ready for the start of the 2019 school year.

“We are very excited about the pace of work, the progress and the coordination between Fairfax County Public Schools Design and Construction, Hughes Group Architects and the general contractor — Grunley Corp.,”  Hannon wrote in an email.

The rest of the project includes renovating locker rooms, art rooms, the gym, music rooms, the cafeteria, the stadium press box and tennis courts. 

This is the school’s first renovation since 1991.

By the 2022-2023 school year, more than 100,000 square feet of space will have been added to the school.

Photos via Jim Hannon

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Langston Hughes Middle School Begins Renovations, Expansion

(Updated at 5:12 p.m.) While kids were off from school during winter break, Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road) kicked off 2019 with renovations as a part of its planned expansion.

The first move of the school’s renovation took place during winter break, Principal Aimée Monticchio wrote in an email to the school community today (Jan. 4).

“We look forward to a new, modern and larger building after the renovation,” she wrote.

Originally constructed in 1979, the expanded school is set to be 189,000 square feet and serve 1,250 students, according to Hughes Group Architects.

The $39 million improvement program will be done in phases with the occupied construction project spanning five phases across three years.

The project includes a central court called the “Hall of Nations” — a collaborative and flexible space meant to serve as an auditorium, a classroom or a breakout space.

The project also includes renovating the cafeteria and adding a new dining courtyard.

With work already underway, seventh grade core classes, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Spanish classes are now housed in “Panther Town” — modular trailers on the field adjacent to Ridge Heights, Monticchio wrote.

Construction is estimated to be completed in 2021.

Images via Hughes Group Architects and Fairfax County Government

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School CIP Leaves New High School and Additions Unfunded

The Fairfax County Public School’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), scheduled for review later this month, still leaves a planned nearby high school unfunded as local crowding increases.

The new high school is planned for somewhere along the Dulles Suburban Corridor to take students coming up through McNair, Coates and Hutchison elementary schools.

The high school’s location has not been selected yet, and school officials at prior meetings said they are relying on proffers from developers and negotiations with applicants to see if land for a new high school can be provided.

While South Lakes High School sits at 92 percent capacity, the surrounding Herndon, Madison and Oakton high schools all exceed 100 percent capacity. The CIP’s school capacity chart for the 2018-2019 school year shows Oakton High School at 131 percent capacity. The school year 2023-24 projections show South Lakes High School’s capacity increasing from 92 percent to 97 percent.

The CIP also notes that capacity enhancement additions will be needed at Madison High School to accommodate for the forecasted capacity needs, though those additions remain unfunded.

The high school planned for the western party of the county to relieve schools around Oakton and Herndon is not the only new school lacking funds. A new elementary school along the Metro’s Silver Line also remains unfunded.

As plans move along for greater levels of residential density in Reston, local residents expressed concerns at meetings last year that FCPS is waiting until new development starts to overcrowd the schools before taking action to address capacity. School officials stated that the new developments are not anticipated to bring in high numbers of new students.

A public hearing for the CIP will be held next Tuesday (Jan. 8) before a final decision, which is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Photo via FCPS

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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.

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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.

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