Reston, VA

As Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for virtual classes, some private schools in Reston and Tysons are bringing students back into classrooms.

Four private and parochial school administrators told Reston Now a high demand for in-person instruction and their ability to socially distance students are the main reasons they are offering in-person learning.

At Ideaventions in Reston, admissions staff noticed an increase in applications over the summer that they attribute to their in-person opening. The school serves students in fourth through 12th grades. The academy gained five extra students, bringing their student population for the 2020-2021 school year to 62 students as opposed to last year’s 56, Juliana Heitz, the admissions director at Ideavations, said.

“The summer was surprising in terms of admissions,” according to Heitz.”We had to reopen admissions because so many people were looking for that in-person instruction.”

Green Hedges School in Vienna also noted an increase in enrollment interest for the 2020-21 school year, according to Jennifer Bohnen, who is the head of the school.

After initially planning for a hybrid of in-person and online classes, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced in July that the public school system, which is the largest one in Virginia, would open virtually on Sept. 8 for the fall. Concerns about public health safety and staffing levels prompted the switch to fully online classes.

Unlike big public schools with larger class sizes, the private school administrators Reston Now spoke to said that they will be able to keep students spaced out.

Oakcrest School plans to move classes with 20 or more students outside, weather permitting. The school is looking to use its 23-acre campus near the Reston Presbyterian Church to keep its approximately 260 students safely spread out.

“We’re trying to implement as many safety precautions as possible without disrupting the normal rhythm of the school day,” said Miriam Buono, who heads up operations at Oakcrest.

To further ensure social distancing, Oakcrest is implementing unilateral stairways to avoid overcrowding in the halls. The school is also extending passing periods from five to 10 minutes to compensate for the stairways and to allow students to step outside for mask breaks.

In addition to figuring out how to keep students physically distanced, school administrators are also finding ways to deal with another new element: getting kids to wear face coverings for several hours.

“It’s a learning curve,” Kristen Rogers, the head of Academy of Christian Education in Reston, said. “We have little footprint stickers on the floor to remind them even when they’re lining up to go to the bathroom to stand 6 feet apart.”

To address the issue of mask fatigue, St. Joseph Catholic School in Herndon is allowing teachers and students to pull down face coverings when 6 feet apart or when alone. Additionally, the school is allowing students to remove masks while eating.

Even while many private schools in the Fairfax County area are planning for in-person learning, some are offering a virtual option for families with health concerns. The school administrators Reston Now spoke to also said that they have to remain flexible if new state guidelines or a COVID-19 surge require a switch to fully-virtual learning.

In addition to following Gov. Ralph’s Northam Phase 3 guidance, Heitz noted that Ideavations is also using Fairfax County’s COVID-19 dashboard and Harvard’s dashboard assessing COVID-19 risks levels.

Administrators want parents to know they are tracking the ongoing conditions to determine whether or not in-person classes are safe.

Photos via Oakcrest School/Facebook

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Fairfax County Public Schools isn’t the only regional education system unexpectedly working to transition into a digital learning environment.

Ideaventions Academy in Reston is a private school that caters to students in grades four through 12 with an affinity for science and math, according to it’s Twitter page. But unlike Fairfax County, the academy had practice using a remote learning system that made the transition much easier for both the students and teachers, Juliana Heitz the school’s vice principal said.

In February, the school actually had a flu outbreak that forced students and teachers to set up a remote learning system through Google Meet for several days. Though inconvenient at the time, Heitz said it might have been a blessing in disguise since roughly 70% of the teachers were already equipped to host class digitally.

“We had three days of practice,” she said.” When we actually had to close, for coronavirus, it was more incremental. It was really about getting those last few teachers to go virtual.”

When COVID19 first broke out, the administration made the decision close Thursday (March 12) and the students began classes again on Monday (March 16), Heitz said, adding that this likely would not have been possible without the “test run” in February.

In addition to the practice, the teachers already had, Heitz mentioned that teaching virtually is also easier for Ideaventions Academy because they have smaller class sizes as well. “The class sizes are limited to 10 students,” she said, which makes online discussion easier.

To supplement the student’s education, even though they cannot be with their peers, they are required to go on daily walks and keep track of them in a log. When it comes to extracurricular, through the school had to cancel the school play, the kids are still staying active with hands-on activities such as science and art projects at home, according to Heitz.

For tests and such, Heitz said that the school is working with parents to proctor tests so students are still being held at a high academic standard.

Teachers also take daily attendance. “If they have a doctor’s appointment or something like that, the parent will still email us,” she said.

To avoid security issues that Fairfax County dealt with, the academy’s teachers were taught to invite students to the virtual classroom using an internalized email that students are given upon their enrollment, according to Heitz.

Image via Ideaventions Academy/Facebook

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Bill Phillips, a physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997, dove into physics and other topics with students at Ideaventions Academy for Mathematics and Science, an independent school for the gifted in Reston.

Phillips offered two presentations to students in 4th through 11th grade at the school. He discussed topics like atomic clocks, absolute zero and how physicists make atoms get cold. His presentation, which touched on topics like the National Institute of Standards and Technology and quantum principles, also included demonstrations with liquid nitrogen.

Here’s more from NIST on Phillip’s work:

Phillips began his experiments with laser trapping and cooling shortly after he arrived in 1978 at the National Bureau of Standards (the agency that became NIST), with the intent of creating a more accurate atomic clock. Several of his innovations in the following years became landmarks in the field. These included a device using a laser along with a magnetic field to decelerate and cool an atomic beam (the “Zeeman slower”); demonstrating the first device that trapped electrically neutral atoms (a magnetic trap); and measuring a temperature far below that predicted by the accepted theory of laser cooling at the time (known as sub-Doppler cooling).

The academy’s assistant head of school and director of admissions, Juliana Heitz, said that students enjoyed the presentation.

“One of our 5th graders said that Dr. Phillips’ visit was one of his two favorite days in school ever,” Heitz told Reston Now.

Phillips, a NIST fellow, shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Steven Chu of Stanford University and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. The team developed methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

Photo via Ideaventions Academy

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Ideaventions Academy for Mathematics and Science, a Reston-based school for gifted children between  grades 4 and 12, received an award recognizing the school’s emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The school is the first in Virginia to receive the certification, called AdvancED STEM, from AdvancedED, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that involves educational professionals around the world.

School officials said the certification demonstrates the school’s commitment to preparing students for future opportunities. In order to earn the certification, the school had to demonstrate it meets STEM standards across 11 indicators. The organization also interview stakeholders to verify the school’s commitment to connecting learning from the classroom to the local community and the world.

In a statement, Ryan Heitz, head of school, said the certification was a boost for the independent school:

This certification is a reflection of Ideaventions Academy’s commitment to preparing students for top colleges and universities and to becoming the leaders of tomorrow. In this age of tremendous technological revolution, struggling educational systems, and changing workforce needs, the STEM certification acknowledges us as an international model for preparing students for the future with real-world skills and experiences to succeed. It also signals the private-sector that we are committed to exceptional levels of student ability and achievement for their STEM pipeline.

Ideaventions Academy is located on 12340 Pinecrest Road. The academy has small class sizes of 10 students per class or less. To learn more about the certification, email [email protected]

Images courtesy of Dee Donavik

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Tuesday Morning Notes

 

Reston Saying Goodbye to Amazon Fresh? – Following its recent acquisition of Whole Foods Markets, Amazon announced recently it will be scaling back its fresh grocery delivery in parts of seven states at the end of this month–and parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland appear to be on the list. Currently, Amazon Fresh–a service available for a monthly subscription fee to Amazon Prime members–delivers fresh groceries locally in Reston as well as Oakton, McLean, Fairfax, Arlington, Annandale, Alexandria, Burke, Springfield, Fort Washington, Woodbridge, Dale City and Suitland. Reports indicate the only nearby areas that may see continued service are Baltimore and Washington, D.C. [Bloomberg News]

Reston School Becomes First to Receive STEM Certification – Ideaventions Academy For Mathematics and Science in Reston has become the first school in D.C., Maryland or Virginia to earn official STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) certification from the major education accreditation agency, AdvancED. The private school for children who want an advanced focus on science and math serves grades four through 12, with small class sizes. [Technically DC]

Photos: First Lady of Virginia Visits Reston Farmers Market – Dorothy McAuliffe, wife of Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe, visited the Reston Farmers Market recently to witness a check presentation and shop for local produce. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield representatives were on hand to present a donation check of $15,000 to Wholesome Wave as part of the Virginia Fresh Match Program (see photo above). [Fairfax County Park Authority/Flickr]

Nearby Commuter Garage To Close For Two Weeks – Due to construction of the new Fairfax County commuter parking garage at the future Metrorail Silver Line’s Herndon Station site, the access road from Sunrise Valley Drive to the Herndon-Monroe park and ride facility will be closed starting this Friday. Nov. 10 through Sunday, Nov. 26. Commuters who wish to use the existing Herndon-Monroe garage during this time will need to enter and exit the facility via the Dulles Toll Road (Rt. 267). This detour will require drivers to pay a $1.00 toll upon exiting the garage with an E-Z Pass or exact change. Commuters are encouraged o consider using the Reston South Park and Ride located at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Fox Mill Road, where parking is free but limited, or the commuter parking garage located at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station, where parking costs $4.95 per day, payable by SmartTrip card, or credit and debit card only. Fairfax Connector bus commuters in the area should expect significant felays during the construction. [Fairfax County Government]

Image: Check presentation at Reston Farmers Market / Courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

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Friday Morning Notes

Giving Back to Emergency Responders — Firefighters from Station 25 presented a certificate to a Reston woman who adopted a fire hydrant in her neighborhood. The woman was involved in a serious motorcycle crash in 1994 and credits emergency crews including fire units with saving her life, and she has loved and supported them ever since. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Guinea Pigs on Twitter Thanks to Local Students — At Ideaventions Academy, a specialized STEM school in Reston, students have built a computer and are using censors to get classroom pets to tweet out randomized messages. You can follow along @PepperNCaramel. [WUSA]

County Map Shows Youth Crash Locations — A map released Thursday by Fairfax County plots the locations of all 1,840 vehicle crashes involving youth drivers (ages 15-20) in 2016. In Reston, locations including Sunrise Valley Drive, the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and Sunset Hills Road, and the intersection of Reston Parkway and Route 7 had the most incidents. [Fairfax County]

Another Capital BikeShare Station Opens — An 11-dock Capital BikeShare location has opened on Town Center Parkway near Sunset Hills Road, at the RTC West complex. [Capital BikeShare/Twitter]

Map courtesy Fairfax County

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Construction at Ideaventions AcademyIdeaventions Academy, a new Reston private school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) says it will open for the 2015-16 school year with 18 students in grades four through eight.

Crews are putting the finishing touches on the new space at 12340 Pinecrest Rd. Tuition is $24,500 annually.

Ideaventions founders are Juliana and Ryan Heitz, area residents and graduates of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. They said they had an unsuccessful search to find a science enrichment class for their son, so they created their own teaching science center and started Ideaventions as an extracurricular and homeschool science program in 2010.

The Heitzes say Ideaventions is the only elementary/middle school in the country to offer computer science as a core class.

A Ideaventions spokeswoman says 18 students has “filled enrollment for the 2015-2016 academic school year. ” There are 10 students enrolled in the sixth and seventh grade class and eight students enrolled in the fourth/fifth grade class. The school expects enrollment to double next year. Read More

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Rendering of Ideaventions Academy common area/Credit: Ideaventions

Reston is getting a new private school where the focus will be on science, technology engineering and math (STEM).

Ideaventions Academy for Mathematics and Science, opening this fall, will serve students in grades 4 through 8. Its founders say it is a the only elementary/middle school in the country to require computer science as part of its core curriculum.

The school plans to break ground on its new location at 12340 Pinecrest Rd. on May 18.

Ideaventions founders are Juliana and Ryan Heitz, area residents and graduates of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. They said they had an unsuccessful search to find a science enrichment class for their son, so they created their own teaching science center and started Ideaventions as an extracurricular and homeschool science program in 2010.

“At Ideaventions, our mission is to empower young minds to understand and improve the world,” Heitz says in his welcome letter on the school’s website. “The Academy is geared to active learners with a passion for the sciences and mathematics. Inspired by the educational ideals of Thomas Jefferson, the Academy will encourage independent thinking by nurturing the inventive, quirky, and fearless spirits of its students.”

Ideaventions, which will cost $24,500 annually, says it will combine hands-on, project-based learning with classical education, while providing a collegial environment where students help design their schedule.

Among the planned courses: computer science, cellular biology, computational design, iOS and Android app development, engineering; arts, music, humanities, foreign languages and physical education.

Another new Reston school, School For Tomorrow, also plans to open in Fall 2015.

Rendering of Ideaventions Academy common area/Credit: Ideaventions

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