Last week I had the opportunity to visit one of my grandsons’ school, and I was genuinely impressed. Parents were invited to come by last week to meet the teachers because his school started on August 15. It was one of the friendliest environments I have experienced–smiles everywhere, genuinely warm greetings for all, and an obvious feeling of caring for all children and parents and grandparents coming into the school. My grandson was clearly eager to get back to school and to see his teachers. He has some special needs that require additional understanding and assistance, and he is clearly getting it in his school setting.
The teachers and administrators wore the school’s special tee shirt and were giving high-fives all around. As one who taught in the classroom for several years, many old memories came back to me. I remember the need to always be “on” in the school day for students who needed help or attention. In most careers we can coast on a bad day and make up for it later; not so with teaching. You are always the center of attention and must be appropriately responsive to student needs whenever they occur. Students can learn as much about life from your body language and attitude as they can from the subject you are teaching them.
While teachers are assigned a grade level or a subject area, ultimately teachers are teaching children more than just content. I am convinced my son who teaches students in automotive technology is teaching as much about attitude, work habits, developing confidence and being a good citizen as he is about an automobile. Our daughter who teaches multiply challenged children at the elementary level is demonstrating for parents, the school, and the community the inherent value and potential for every student regardless of the challenges they might face. My wife who was a preschool teacher and director demonstrated how important it is that young children get off to a good start and is now teaching other teachers to do the same.
Increasingly school divisions are getting an exception to the “Kings Dominion Law” requiring that schools begin after Labor Day. Fairfax County Public Schools is one district now starting before Labor Day. I have always opposed the current law and have voted to repeal it many times. A bill carried over from the past session for further consideration would leave the decision of the starting date for schools up to the local school division based on the unique circumstances of the community.
The legislature can do much more to support the education of our children than dabble in the starting date for schools. Pay for Virginia teachers lags below the national average by about $4,000. Clearly, teachers do not stay in the profession for the money, but they should not have to suffer with low pay because they chose to educate our children. At least in the community, we can express appreciation and offer our thank you to our teachers for the important work they do!
It’s that time of year again: Fairfax County Public Schools will begin the new school year on August 28. Ahead of the new academic year, a “Back 2 School Bash” with one-stop-shop resources for getting ready to go back to school will be held on Aug. 18 at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive).
The event, which is free and open to all ages, will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local schools, government agencies and nonprofit providers will be on-site to provide information about resources, programs and services offered by community agencies and through other partnerships.
The bash is cosponsored by FCPS, Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, YMCA Reston, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Service.
For more information, contact LaTanja Jones, Collaboration and Outreach Director, at 703-390-6158, or [email protected].
A three-day sales tax holiday begins Friday in Virginia, giving customers a break on back-to-school supplies and other qualifying items.
From 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the sales tax exemption will be in effect for school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness items, and Energy Star and WaterSense products. According to the Virginia Department of Taxation, that includes the following items:
- School supplies, clothing and footwear
- Qualified school supplies — $20 or less per item
- Qualified clothing and footwear — $100 or less per item
- Hurricane and emergency preparedness products
- Portable generators — $1,000 or less per item
- Gas-powered chainsaws — $350 or less per item
- Chainsaw accessories — $60 or less per item
- Other specified hurricane preparedness items — $60 or less per item
- Energy Star and WaterSense products
- Qualifying Energy Star or WaterSense products purchased for noncommercial home or personal use — $2,500 or less per item
Before 2015, the three categories of items were available free of sales taxes on three separate weekends throughout the year.
Under current law, the sales tax rate is 5.3 percent — 4.3 percent for the state sales and use tax and 1 percent for the local option sales and use tax. In the Northern Virginia region, there is an additional 0.7 percent state tax for transportation.
For more details and a more extensive list of what items qualify for the tax exemption, check the Department of Taxation’s guidelines.
The school year in Fairfax County isn’t quite over yet, but schools are already looking forward to the generosity of the community to help equip students next year.
John Torre, Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson, said schools involved in the Cornerstones Back to School Drive look forward to being able to provide backpacks and other supplies to any students that need them.
Cornerstones provides services for lower income families in the southwestern Fairfax County. The backpack drive is part of a partnership with Kids R First to provide the supplies to Reston-Herndon area students who qualify for free and reduced meals at school.
“The number of backpacks requested does not always match directly with the number of students in the free and reduced-price meals program because backpacks typically last for more than one year,” Torre said. “Students do have the option to not accept the donated item. The staff member may ask for a few extras to keep on hand for new students or as replacements for a worn-out item.”
Cornerstones community resource associate Nate King said that even though the official drive doesn’t start until August, donations are already coming in.
“It’s going really well, we have probably 50 backpacks already donated out of what we need,” said King.
Cornerstones is still waiting to get a quote from the schools to determine the exact number of backpacks they’ll need for this year, although they believe it will match last year’s number, 3,500.
“The basic idea behind the backpack program is that if a student needs one, they get one,” Torre said. “Of course, [that] depends on the generosity of the donors.”
In addition to backpacks, Cornerstones is accepting donations for underwear for elementary school aged kids and Payless ShoeSource gift card donations of $25.
Those interested in donating can register online or order bags online and have them shipped to the Cornerstones (11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210) directly from Amazon for free.
For more information about the drive, call King at 571-323-9569 or email [email protected].
Virginia used to have several sales tax holidays, but legislation passed in the Commonwealth in 2015 has combined them into one weekend, Aug. 5 to 7 this year.
So, if you are in the market for school supplies, clothes, appliances or emergency preparedness items, you will save.
Here is what you need to know:
Consumers can purchase qualifying school supplies ($20 or less per item); clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item); hurricane and emergency preparedness products ($60 or less per item)l and Energy Star and WaterSense appliances ($2,500 or less per item) without paying sales tax.
Clothing and school supplies: Items such as backpacks, calculators, lunch boxes, disinfectant wipes and tissues are exempt. So are shoes, belts, bathing suits and diapers. See this extensive list from the Virginia Department of Taxation for what is and is not included.
Qualifying Energy Star™ Items: dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, light bulbs, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators are tax exempt. WaterSense items include bathroom sink faucets, faucet accessories such as aerators and shower heads, toilets, urinals, and landscape irrigation controllers. See this list of what is and is not included.
Emergency and Hurricane Preparedness: Qualifying items include portable generators ($1,000 or less per item: gas-powered chainsaws ($350 or less per item); chainsaw accessories ($60 or less per item). Other items for $60 or less include batteries, smoke detectors, duct tape, bottled water and first aid kits. See a list of items.
In Reston, the firefighters (and hair stylists) will be at Southgate Community Center, 12125 Pinecrest Rd. on Thursday, Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
There will also be haircut events at Charles Houston Recreation Center, 901 Wythe St., Alexandria on Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Gum Springs Community Center, 8100 Fordson Rd., Alexandria, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 26.
The off-duty firefighters are teaming with the Progressive Firefighters of Fairfax County, Inc., WKYS 93.9 FM, Apple Federal Credit Union, Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue, SENTEL Corporation, and local barbers to provide free haircuts for local kids on free or reduced lunch plans.
Children will also be provided backpacks with school supplies.
As Cornerstones and Kids R First team up for their annual back to school drive, the nonprofits have found more need in the community than ever before.
Cornerstones is seeking donations of 3,200 backpacks to give to Reston and Herndon children in need. That’s 1,000 more backpacks than last year, Cornerstones says.
The backpacks, which Kids R First fills with school supplies, are given to Cornerstones’ clients as well as students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty.
Here is how to donate:
Visit Cornerstones to pledge the number of backpacks you plan to donate.
Purchase new backpacks (no wheels or corporate logos, please). There is a need backpacks for students at all levels.
Deliver the backpacks to Cornerstones Administrative Office, 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston. Drop off backpacks weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Aug. 12.
Backpacks can be purchased through Cornerstones’ Amazon Wish List, and the backpacks will be mailed to Cornerstones.
In addition to backpacks, Cornerstones’ case managers are requesting donations of new underwear for elementary school age children. Payless gift card donations ($25) are also welcome so that Cornerstones’ young clients can get a new pair of shoes.