St. John Neumann Church (11900 Lawyers Road) is looking toward the prospect of adding a nursery school to its facility as early as 2018.
According to information printed in a recent church bulletin, the preschool would be state-licensed and would be operated under the direction of the Office of Catholic Schools of the Arlington Diocese.
A parish survey that was conducted last year indicated an interest in pursuing the school, according to the Feb. 12 bulletin.
“We are working with the diocesan-appointed attorney and have submitted a Proposed Special Permit Amendment Application to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. It is important to emphasize that we are in the early stages and that barring any roadblocks, the soonest the preschool would open is Fall of 2018.”
According to Reston Association’s Land Development Tracker, the special permit amendment application was filed with the county Jan. 27, and it is being reviewed for quality control before acceptance.
Photo courtesy St. John Neumann Catholic Community
Fairfax County Public Schools are still growing, but they are not seeing nearly as many new enrollees as they have in recent years.
The district’s 2018-22 Capital Improvement Program, approved last week by the board, predicts an increase in enrollment of about 3,000 students in the next five years — from its current 187,202 to a projected 190,632. In the past decade, Fairfax County had been seeing that number of new enrollees each year.
South Lakes High School had an enrollment of 2,483 students at the beginning of the current school year, which is more than 300 above current capacity. A renovation project at the school is expected to increase capacity to 2,700 by the end of the 2018-19 school year, while enrollment is projected to remain relatively stable through 2021-22.
Enrollment had previously been expected to soar well above the 2,700 mark; however, in the CIP, Fairfax County Public Schools report a leveling-off due to changing demographics in the area:
“As the county approaches build-out, new housing is forecast to rise numerically in units, but its composition is likely to change. Forecasts of housing in Fairfax County and City of Fairfax include larger numbers and proportions of mid- and high-rise residential developments, which have typically drawn fewer families with school-aged children.”
The school’s ongoing addition project is scheduled to cost $14.5 million. That number breaks down to $8 million in FY2018, $5.8 million in FY 2019 and $300,000 in FY2020. About $500,000 has already gone into the project.
A new high school is proposed in the district’s most recent CIP; however, it is pencilled in for the middle of the next decade (FY2023-FY2027).
From the program proposal:
“Anticipation and completion of the Silver Line Metro has already spurred higher density residential growth along that corridor. This new residential growth, along with potential changes in families residing within existing residential areas adjacent to that corridor, may, in part, result in an increase in students within FCPS schools.”
The new high school, at a cost of $120 million, would be built in the western part of the county to provide relief for existing area high schools such as South Lakes and Herndon, as well as Centreville, Chantilly, Herndon, Oakton and Westfield.
Charts via Fairfax County Public Schools
A baker’s dozen of Edlin School students took top honors among 24 teams last weekend with their vision for making the world a better place.
The Future City project, according to its website, asks sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to “imagine, research, design and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue.” The theme for the 2016-17 competition is the Power of Public Space.
The Edlin School team competed in the Mid-Atlantic Region Competition on Jan. 21 in Baltimore. In it, they took top honors among teams from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC. In addition to the overall first-place award, they also won first place in the project plan and essay categories. They also received a Spirit Award trophy.
“The team assembled during the past summer and worked hard to plan, build and present their vision for this year’s competition,” said Linda Schreibstein, Edlin School director, in a letter.
Edlin School is a private K-8 school located on Sunset Hills Road in Reston.
Team members include the following:
- SIXTH GRADE: Pari Agarwala, Vinay Ayala, Will Ditmore, Barbara Heine, Katie Heine, Ethan Valentine, Ananya Yarlagadda
- SEVENTH GRADE: Armaan Ahluwalia, Arjun Giridhar, Ethan Qin
- EIGHTH GRADE: Logan Hyslop, Shadi Oveissi, Shaan Vardan
Parent coaches and mentors are Vasantha Ayala, Doug Hyslop and Paula Hyslop.
“After the competition is over, student participants are not only prepared to be citizens of today’s complex and technical world, they are poised to become the drivers of tomorrow,” the Future City project website proclaims.
The team now advances to the National Future City Competition, Feb. 18-21 in Washington.
Photos courtesy Indira Ahluwalia
For the second consecutive year, the South Lakes High School Robotics Team has advanced to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge Virginia State Championship. The team, called the <C://>Hawks, participated in the North Central Virginia Qualifying Tournament that took place at Orange County High School on Jan. 14.
Months of preparation put the team on solid ground to contend for the top awards. Their robot, Duchess, performed well on the field, managing the challenges without breakdowns. In their engineering notebook, members of the team’s art department recorded all the activities, including not only software and robot construction progress, but all the outreach activities of which the team has been part.
The <C://>Hawks promoted and expanded their team within the SLHS community and brought their robots and expertise to various community activities such as local Lego League teams and the NOVA Maker Faire. For these efforts, the team was honored with the competition’s Connect Award.
The Inspire Award is given to the team that demonstrates respect and gracious professionalism, is an ambassador for FIRST programs, and demonstrates and documents their work in their community. The <C://>Hawks took second place for this award.
The team will next participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge Virginia State Championship, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25 in Lynchburg.
Bechtel and Orbital ATK are sponsors of the South Lakes High School Robotics Team.
Photo courtesy South Lakes High School Robotics Team
A new way of learning at Sunrise Valley Elementary School is giving students the opportunity to stretch their creative thinking skills like never before.
Sara Balcanoff is the advanced academic resources teacher at SVES, as well as at Greenbriar West Elementary School in Fairfax. She has been helping students for the past year as they are encouraged to visualize, design and create to supplement their learning in core classes.
“The kids are impressive,” Balcanoff said. “They’re very imaginative.”
Balcanoff said kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes come in weekly to use the school’s “Makerspace” to experiment and learn to solve problems in creative and unique ways. Students also use the space to create projects related to units in other classes.
“It looks like trash, but they have to figure out how to make it work for their model,” Balcanoff said.
Projects can be made out of a variety of everyday materials including cardboard tubes, styrofoam blocks, bottle caps and more to help with fundamentals including creating simple machines and learning about force and motion.
“They have to use these materials to design a car,” she said of a first-grade project. “The car has to go a certain speed, it has to go a certain distance, it has to be able to stop in a certain location.”
Kevin West, Sunrise Valley principal, said Balcanoff’s work is an important part of creating a well-rounded learning environment.
“She really works on developing critical thinking with students, creativity, innovation, problem solving and collaboration,” he said. “It’s what we call in Fairfax County the ‘Portait of a Graduate.'”
Balcanoff recently applied for and received a $1,675 grant from Apple Federal Credit Union, which she will use to purchase a class set of programmable robotic toys called Spheros that she says can be used in a variety of educational ways.
“A lot of our students, outside of school, are starting to pursue an interest in coding,” she said. “I really want to bring that into school and into the curriculum a lot more, and have it accessible to more students.”
Balcanoff said she is hopeful the new technology will help get older students into the Makerspace more. Spheros can be used to design and create mazes, obstacle courses and other engineering challenges, she said, as well as to paint and draw.
“They have to code their way through them,” she said. “We can test it with weight limits and speed — there’s a lot that we’re going to work on.”
Balcanoff said she hopes to introduce another new coding toy, the Makey Makey, into the school later this year. The Makey Makey allows users to make everyday objects into keyboards, game controllers and more.
“The possibilities with this are endless,” she said.
West said the school is fortunate to have someone with Balcanoff’s innovative mind on staff.
“She is a great resource for our students and also for our teachers,” West said. “She’s very focused on providing very innovative educational opportunities for our students, a very dynamic learning environment for our kids.”
Olivia Beckner is fast, and she has her name all over the record books to prove it.
The South Lakes High School junior set her second school record of the month recently, eclipsing by nearly four seconds an SLHS top time for the mile that had stood for 29 years.
The record-setting performance came at the Virginia Showcase Invitational indoor track and field meet last weekend at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Her time of 4 minutes, 55.58 seconds beat out the previous mark of 4 minutes, 59.44 seconds set by Anne Evans during the 1987-88 season.
Earlier this month at a meet in New York, Beckner ran the 1,000 meters in 2 minutes, 54.06 seconds. That surpassed the record of 2 minutes, 58.47 seconds she had set last year as a sophomore.
Beckner leads the five-time defending Liberty Conference champion Seahawks into the conference championship, beginning today and concluding Jan. 28 in Landover, Maryland.
The SLHS boys are no slouches either. They enter the championship with eight consecutive titles under their belts.
Photos courtesy South Lakes High School/Mary Ann Magnant
One South Lakes High School student will remember the Alamo — and the Alamodome — for a long time after this week.
David Clark, a saxophone player in the SLHS band, is representing the school, Fairfax County and the state this weekend as part of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. The band, made up of 125 top high school marching band performers from across the nation, will play at halftime of the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl football game Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Clark told Reston Now this week that he is ecstatic for the opportunity to play on the big stage.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The member of the SLHS Class of 2017 has been in San Antonio all week preparing for the performance. He said Army Field Band members are acting as mentors for the high schoolers. His mentor is Staff Sgt. Daniel Goff, a saxophone player from Morgantown, West Virginia. (Clark said Reston native Staff Sgt. Pamela Daniels – a flute player in the Army Field Band – is also at the event working with another performer.)
Clark is the son of John and Mary Nell Clark of Reston. His participation in the event makes him the third South Lakes senior in the past three years to be so honored. In 2015, Samantha Gifford (trombone) was part of the show; in 2016, Brandon Coplen (percussion) made the trip.
Clark, who has been playing the sax since the fifth grade, is involved in a number of SLHS musical groups, including the wind ensemble, jazz band and pit orchestra, in addition to the marching band.
“I’ve (always) just really liked playing saxophone,” he said. “It’s a really awesome instrument; I think you can do a lot with it.”
According to information provided by the South Lakes Band Boosters, members of the band are “selected by the National Association for Music Education and the US Army from more than 2,000 applicants [and] the rigorous application process includes essays, recommendation letters, audition videos and academic records.” Clark said he was honored to be nominated by SLHS Band Director Grayson Fore.
“I wanted to take advantage of such an amazing opportunity where I could play with such elite, talented and motivated players,” Clark said. “I love taking advantage of all these opportunities.”
It hasn’t been all hard work in San Antonio this week for Clark and the rest of the band. He said they’ve had the chance to explore the city’s well-known attractions including the Riverwalk and the Alamo.
“My family is from Texas, so I’ve been (here) a few times,” Clark said. “We saw the Alamo (on Wednesday); I took a bunch of pictures there.”
The football game, showcasing top high school players from across the country, will air at 1 p.m. Saturday on NBC. The halftime show, featuring Clark and the other members of the All-American Marching Band, will be shown live and in its entirety at www.banddirector.com.
Photos courtesy David Clark and the South Lake Band Boosters
FCPS’ previous superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza tendered her resignation in September and closed out her tenure in December. She took a job as the CEO of an Ohio education nonprofit, even though she had recently signed a four-year contract extension.
Now, FCPS has hired the firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to conduct a formal search for Garza’s replacement. Dr. Steven Lockard, who had been the district’s deputy superintendent, is serving as interim superintendent.
As part of its search, HYA announced this week it will hold a series of 10 community forums to encourage local residents to voice their opinions.
“[We want to] allow Fairfax County residents to share their ideas and feedback on the characteristics they are seeking in a new superintendent,” representatives from the district and HYA said.
The closest forum to Reston will take place Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers.
The complete schedule of meetings is as follows:
- Monday, Jan. 9, 1 p.m., Gatehouse Administration Center, room 1600, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church
- Monday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m., South County High School, 8501 Silverbrook Road, Lorton
- Tuesday, Jan. 10, 12:30 p.m., Virginia Hills Center Library, 6520 Diana Lane, Alexandria
- Wednesday, Jan. 11, noon, Providence District Office and Community Center, multipurpose room 2, 3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax
- Wednesday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m., Mount Vernon High School Little Theater, 8515 Old Mount Vernon Road, Alexandria
- Tuesday, Jan. 17, 11 a.m., Herndon Council Chambers, 765 Lynn Street, Herndon
- Tuesday, Jan. 17, 1 p.m., Burke Centre Library, 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke
- Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Stuart High School Little Theater, 3301 Peace Valley Lane, Falls Church
- Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Chantilly High School Lecture Hall, 4201 Stringfellow Road, Chantilly
- Wednesday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m., Langley High School Auditorium, 6520 Georgetown Pike, McLean
In addition, a survey is expected to be launched on the district’s website Monday.
Each year, the school board pinpoints a number of important education issues it plans to advocate for in regards to state legislation. For 2017, officials said that they are honing in on a few key issues that they want to focus on when advocating for Fairfax County families with school-age children.
When it comes to funding, school board members said they would like Virginia to allocate previously promised money for teacher salary increases — funding that was taken away earlier this year due to state budget shortfalls.
“Reinstating state funding for teacher salary increases would bring an additional $12 million over the biennium in state funds back to Fairfax,” said school board member Ryan McElveen, who serves as the county’s state legislative liaison.
One of the larger positions the school board plans to take in 2017 is that local school boards should receive more flexibility and autonomy when it comes to designing instructional programs, including how many tests students have to take each year.
School board members said they plan to advocate for what they call “multiple paths to graduation.” Specifically, they said they would like to provide students with more opportunities “to explore their career interests” in preparation for secondary education.
School board members also said they plan to advocate for fewer state-mandated tests and evaluations required of students, to ensure “a balanced assessment system that helps to inform instruction.”
The Fairfax County School Board’s full report on its 2017 legislative priorities is here.
Last week, the Fairfax County School Board approved an August start date for the next school year, marking the first time in decades that area schools will start before Labor Day.
That means school will also let out earlier next year on June 15. In past years, students have gone to class as late as June 25.
Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said earlier this year the change is being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, provide enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines and to end the school year earlier in June.
Additionally, some FCPS parents have said they are glad for the change because letting out earlier in June will afford their children better summer internship and enrichment opportunities.
However, many families have expressed dismay over the decision, citing a number of reasons:
‘Traditional’ summer vacation — In a poll issued to FCPS families prior to the school board’s vote, 84 percent of those against the earlier start date said they preferred a “traditional” summer vacation schedule, giving kids all of August off before starting school in September. Others said it made no sense to them to start school before Labor Day when right away in the second week of school, they have a day off to observe the Labor Day holiday. Sixty-four percent of families said the new schedule would disrupt long-held vacation plans.
Shortening of summer/temporary status of waiver — Twenty-eight percent of families against the earlier start date pointed out that the waiver from the state, allowing FCPS to start school before Labor Day — which has long been mandated via the 1986 “King’s Dominion Rule” — is temporary, only allowing the district to start school in August through the 2019-20 school year. Many parents said they did not support the earlier start date if it is going to be temporary, especially if they would have to switch back again in a few years once the waiver expired.
Others pointed out that, in the first year of implementation, their children are losing a week of summer vacation with the early start.
Hot temperatures in August — Many parents say they are worried about students being in hot, under-air-conditioned classrooms in summer temperatures that are often in the 90s.
What do you think of the new August start date? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below letting us know why you voted the way you did.
The Fairfax County School Board approved the calendar for the 2017-18 school year this week, with school starting on Monday, Aug. 28, and ending earlier than usual, on Friday, June 15.
Although the law in Virginia — called the “Kings Dominion Rule” — mandates that school should start after Labor Day, Fairfax County Public Schools applied for a waiver from the commonwealth. FCPS was informed in February that it could get the waiver until at least the 2019-20 school year because the district had canceled school an average of at least eight days per year in at least five of the past 10 years due to inclement weather.
In the 2013-14 school year, FCPS was forced to add three days to the end of the school year due to missing more than the maximum number of school days allowed, Washington Post reported.
Following that school year, discussions began about starting the instructional calendar earlier. This past spring, the district polled families to gauge their support for moving the first day of school into August.
Parents who participated in the survey were fairly evenly split, 52 to 47 percent, between those in favor of and those opposed to the earlier start date, respectively. More than 60 percent of responding FCPS staff said they favored the change.
Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karan Garza had long advocated for the change as well.
“These changes are being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines, and to end the school year earlier in June,” FCPS officials said Thursday.
The 2017-18 school year will include a full two weeks off in winter, letting out Dec. 18, 2017 and resuming on Jan. 2, 2018.
The full 2017-18 calendar is on the district’s website.
Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools
Concerned that the governor’s office will propose these cuts before the delegation when they meet in mid-December, county leaders sent letters to both on Monday, asking the state to honor its commitments.
The letters are in response to McAuliffe’s already proposed $4.4 million cut from the state’s FY17 budget — and a potential $7.8 million cut from the FY18 budget — to be included in his 2016-2018 biennium budget amendments.
“The lower amount of expected state funding stems from a $266 million negative balance in Virginia’s fiscal 2016 budget, which McAuliffe’s administration attributed to lower-than-expected payroll and sales-tax receipts”, according to a Washington Post article in July.
Although state funding represents less than 20 percent of the total cost to implement a two percent salary increase for teachers, it is an important part of the county’s school budget equation, the letters said.
Despite any decrease in funding from the state, county school officials say they will find a way to honor its overall promise of $40 million in teacher raises for FY17. However, it’s unclear how they will raise funds beyond an already adopted plan to increase property taxes by an average $304 per year.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia ranks in the top 10 nationally for income, but the bottom 10 for school funding,” said Board Chairman, Sharon Bulova (D), in a press release attached to the letters.
Officials also requested that the governor and GA delegation decelerate funding of the Virginia Retirement System in order to make it easier for both localities and the state to balance their budgets in FY18. This would save the county over $25 million while retaining its commitment to future solvency of the state’s retirement system, according to the letters.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a comprehensive plan amendment that will allow the Planning Commission’s Schools Committee, the School Board and the school district to work together and consider more creative options for designing schools in busy “activity centers.”
The county identifies activity centers as high-commercial, high-development areas such as Reston, Herndon, Bailey’s Crossroads, Tysons Corner, Seven Corners and Richmond Highway.
Those areas generally do not have locations suitable to accommodate schools large enough to keep up with their rate of growth, according to a county report. And even if they do, the areas are often too costly for construction, officials said in the report.
With traffic congestion often high in such areas, locating schools in high-rise buildings closer to public transit could also help solve many headaches, officials said.
“Future schools and education facilities in activity centers will need to be compatible with the higher densities, mix of uses, and pedestrian and transit accessibility found in such areas,” the report says.
So, county planners are literally looking up.
Officials said a move toward more high-rise schools could also allow schools to go inside mixed-use buildings with recreation centers, public libraries and other facilities that are useful for children.
High-rise schools could also mean that elementary, middle and high schools could operate in the same buildings. This arrangment could help the county save money by sharing common facilities, like cafeteria and gyms, officials said.
The idea of a high-rise school is not new to Fairfax County. The county already tested the waters in 2013, when it purchased an existing high-rise office building in Bailey’s Crossroads and retrofitted it into the current Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, which has served students in grades three through five since September 2014.
Officials will likely see more such proposals in the future as the population continues to grow, with the number of school-aged children growing right along with it.
“There will be greater need for alternative education facilities and transitional schools in the future,” the report says. “In response to changing demographics and instructional needs, buildings designed for commercial uses may be particularly suitable for these types of facilities, as well as have the potential for community use.”
Photo courtesy of Fairfax County
South Lakes High School has been celebrating Homecoming at school all week, but here comes the big public celebration.
The annual Homecoming Parade marches from Hunters Woods Village Center to South Lakes High School at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The bands, floats, cheerleaders, students from elementary schools in the SLHS pyramid, and more will make their way from Hunters Woods to the school on Colts Neck Road, then in the eastbound land down South Lakes Drive. Traffic on those roads will be blocked during the parade.
The best places to watch (and catch candy thrown from the floats) are on the east side of South Lakes or right outside Hunters Woods Village Center along Colts Neck.
South Lakes Homecoming football game begins at the school at 7 p.m. The undefeated Seahawks (8-0), ranked No. 8 in this week’s Washington Post poll, host Hayfield.
Hayfield is 7-1 and has won five straight games.
SLHS’ Homecoming king and queen will be crowned at halftime.
Ideaventions launched in Reston in the Fall of 2015 with 18 students in grades 4 to 8.
Ideaventions’ mission statement is to allow students “to experience a personalized education in an environment where they can grow and explore their interests as they prepare for college. ”
“Too often, our schools are overly-standardized, uninspired, and test-driven,” school co-founder Ryan Heitz said in a release. “They are focused more on processes rather than people. … We are a vibrant community designed for the intellectually curious — those who seek to engage in significant endeavors that reach beyond the classroom.”
The Ideaventions Academy Upper School is now accepting freshman applicants for the 2017-2018 academic year. The first high school class will graduate in 2021.
Heitz says the Upper School academic program will have a specialized focus on research and innovation, requiring students to pursue an individual research project over multiple years.
There will be an open house for prospective students and their parents on Saturday, Nov. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The school is located at 12340 Pinecrest Rd.
For more information on the school, visit Ideaventions Academy website.
Photo: Ideaventions Academy/Credit: Ideaventions