While many of us express concern that we do not see as many solar collectors on Virginia roof-tops as we would like, the Commonwealth is showing significant progress on turning sunlight into electrical energy. As with any major change there are some hazy areas that need to be considered as well.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) as reported in the August 2018 issue of Virginia Business magazine, Virginia currently ranks 17th nationally with 631.3 megawatts of installed solar capacity. The ranking is a significant jump from 2016 when the state ranked 29th nationally. Even with the advanced standing, only 0.59 percent of the state’s electricity comes from solar. By way of contrast, North Carolina is second in the nation in installed solar capacity with 4,412 megawatts brought about by generous tax incentives. For North Carolina that is nearly five percent of their electricity supply.
Virginia’s future with solar appears bright with 59 notices of intent with the Department of Environmental Quality to install 2,646 megawatts of solar according to the Virginia Business article. Driving the expansion of solar energy is a sharp drop in price from $96 in 1970 to 40 cents per kilowatt this year and an insistence on the part of technology giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, all of whom have a presence in Virginia, that their electric power come from solar systems. The Grid Transformation and Security Act passed by the General Assembly this year requires 5,000 new megawatts of solar and wind energy to be developed. Included in that total is 500 megawatts of small, roof-top panels.
Middlesex County Public Schools opened this year with two of its three schools powered by solar energy. Although a small, rural school system, Middlesex has the largest ground-mounted solar system of any school division in the state and is expected to save over two million dollars per year. Excess electricity generated is sent to the grid for credit for any electricity the schools takes from the grid at night through a net-metering arrangement.
Some shadows along the way can be expected with such a massive shift in the way electricity is produced. It takes about eight acres of land for each megawatt produced. Solar farms take up large amounts of land. Just last week the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors voted to deny a conditional-use permit for a 178-acre utility scale solar facility in the County. The supervisors indicated that they had questions about the project for which they did not receive adequate answers. One factor is likely to have been the results of a study by the American Battlefield Trust that indicated the project would be visible from some of the half-dozen signal stations around Culpeper County that were used during the Civil War to detect troop movement. The County depends on a high level of tourism based on its Civil War battlefields and apparently does not want to jeopardize its attraction to Civil War buffs.
The clouds will pass, and Virginia is on its way to a bright future with solar energy.
The school has been named a candidate for the program, effective March 1 2018, according to a new release issued by the school system. According to the program’s website, IB classes aim to nurture and develop students between 3 and 12 into “caring, active participants in a lifelong journey of learning.”
Two years ago, Belvedere Elementary School (6540 Columbia Pike) was the first Fairfax County public school authorized as an IB PYP school.
According to the school system, schools selected to participate in the program are driven by a common vision: a commitment to high-quality, challenging and international education.
The school will receive on-and-off-site consultation from the program. Teachers will have access to IB’s online curriculum center, which includes teaching materials and participation in online forums. Since its introduction in 1997, the program is taught in over 109 countries around the world. Students are encouraged to strengthen their knowledge and skills across and beyond subject areas. Studies are guided by six themes of global significance.
For more information, contact the school’s principal, Mie Devers.
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The Virginia Department of Education is considering changing the benchmarks required for graduation and school accreditation.
The board is looking at lowering the verified credit requirement for students to five credits for both standard and advanced diplomas. The credits would come from math, science, reading, writing and social studies courses.
The department has scheduled meetings to get the input of communities around the state. The first meeting was held recently in Fairfax County, the Fairfax Times reported.
Currently, students must earn nine verified credits for an advanced diploma and six credits for a standard diploma. Verified credits are earned in classes that culminate in a Virginia Standards of Learning exam, also referred to as the SOLs.
The state wants to move towards “authentic performance assessments” instead of the traditional standardized exams for social studies and writing. One critique over the past few years, from students, parents and even teachers, is that the exams don’t allow students to demonstrate all of their knowledge.
The move away from standardized testing would also change the way schools are accredited. Schools earn their accreditation based on student performance on the SOL — 75 percent of students must pass the language arts exams and 70 percent have to pass the math, science and history exams for a school to be accredited.
The system described in the proposal would create three classifications for schools. Level I schools would be those “at or above standard,” Level II schools would be those “near standard or improving,” and Level III schools would be those “below standard.” The drop-out rates, chronic absenteeism, College and Career Readiness Index, would be scored.
Schools that are below standard would have the opportunity for accreditation under the new system. Level III schools would get accreditation, but would have to improve their performance within three years before losing accreditation.
The last meeting will be in August. The board is expected to review its plan in November before finalizing it at the end of the year.
The potential for a nursery school at St. John Neumann Church looks a lot more likely.
On May 17, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special permit amendment that will allow the addition of the nursery school. Located at 11900 Lawyers Road, the projected nursery and pre-school would be one of several in the Reston area.
The Rev. Joseph T. Brennan made the official announcement in the church bulletin last week.
“I want to share an update on the potential of a preschool at St. John Neumann. On Wednesday, May 17, 2017 the Board of Zoning Appeals for the County of Fairfax, Virginia approved the proposal to permit the addition of a nursery school. This is a significant step towards the possibility of a pre-school opening in the Fall of 2018. Please stay tuned as we continue to work out the next steps and examine the feasibility of this endeavor.”
A parish survey that was conducted last year indicated an interest in pursuing the school.
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
Reston resident Garrett Wilhelm, who for years worked at Sunset Hills and most recently was director of The Boyd School’s Westfield campus, and Rodney Berthold, formerly the middle school dean at The Boyd School, are teaming up for the Berthold Academy for the Gifted and Talented.
Berthold Academy will be the area’s first Montessori school that focuses only on grades one through eight, said Wilhelm. Most Montessori schools start with or are strictly preschool programs.
“There are 57 Montessori schools in Northern Virginia — 23 of them in Reston/Herndon/Great Falls,” said Wilhelm. “There are only four in Northern Virginia that do elementary and middle school grades. None of them are elementary and middle school only.”
Montessori education is an approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori that emphasizes independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.
Wilhelm says that method is ideal for children in elementary and middle school. Rather than lecture-based learning, students in mixed-age classrooms learn through self-directed discovery and small collaborative groups.
The school is not going for full accreditation by the American Montessori Society because it wants to mix in its own curriculum to prepare middle schoolers for traditional high school, Wilhelm said.
Tuition is expected to be about $15,000 a year. Fifteen students are already enrolled, and the first-year goal is to start with 40 students, said Wilhelm.
Berthold Academy already has a lineup of unique classes and speciality teachers, including:
- Yoga and Mindfulness – taught by certified yoga teacher Jessica Simpson
- Culinary Arts – taught by Emilia Cirker, a recent contestant on TV’s “Next Food Network Star.”
- Music Production – taught by Mix Major’s DJ Enferno, who has worked with musicians such as Madonna.
- Entrepreneurial Education – taught by founder of IFormBuilder, Sze Wong.
- IT/Coding/Programming – Taught by the team at IFormBuilder
- Gardening (Farm to Table) – A full gardening program taught by Emilia Cirker in which the children will learn the value of growing, harvesting, and cooking organic produce.
- STEAM program and Spanish instruction.
Wilhelm said the he and Berthold are very close to signing a lease for school space in Reston.
Want to learn more? Attend an information session Feb. 11 at The Harrison Apartments, 1800 Jonathan Way, Reston at 6:30 p.m. Babysitting will be provided.
More kids at Forest Edge Elementary School got moving Wednesday morning than at any other Reston school.
Students at the area’s eight public elementary schools got to class by participating in International Walk to School Day, created to promote physical activity and pedestrian safety.
Forest Edge had the most walkers, with 371 students participating, according to data compiled by Kelley Westenhoff, chairwoman of the Reston Association’s pedestrian and bicycling committee.
Lake Anne Elementary School was also recognized in the Reston Elementary School Challenge. The school had the highest percentage of students who walked to school Wednesday, with 364 of its 670 total students involved, for a 54 percent participation rate.
Thirty percent of Reston’s 5,583 elementary school students walked to school Wednesday, according to the data.
The winning schools will be awarded trophies at the November meeting of the Reston Association. A similar competition will take place in May, when kids will be encouraged to bike to school.
Take A Free Ride — Motorists can earn free tolls on the 495 Express Lanes next week. If you register on the 495 Express Lanes website this week, you can spend the week of Sept. 22 riding the lanes for free from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. [WTOP]
Bring Your Own Device — It wasn’t that long ago that area school systems banned cellphones and other personal technology. Now they are embracing personal tech as an aid to learning. [Washington Post]
Football Wrapup — The South Lakes Seahawks dropped their third straight game, falling 34-21 to Washington-Lee on Friday at home. The Seahawks are now 0-3. Herndon is now 1-1 after the Hornets were defeated by West Springfield 51-28. Herndon hosts South Lakes on Friday.
Virginia Tourism Tops $20 Billion — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced last week that Virginia generated $21.5 billion in revenue from tourists in 2013, a 1.4 percent increase over 2012. In 2013, tourism in Virginia supported 213,000 jobs, an increase of 1.4 percent in employment, and provided more than $1.42 billion in state and local taxes. [Office of the Governor]
South Lakes High School’s DECA marketing and management students earned two first-place titles and qualified 25 students for international competition in May at last weekend’s Virginia DECA State Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach.
The 36 SLHS students tested their skills in role-play events, rebranding plans, entrepreneurship and defended marketing research and public relations campaigns.
- Individual Role Play Events: Food Marketing Top 20 — Vikky Batra; Restaurant & Food Service Management –- Finalist Gabe Davis; Social Media Top 16 — Molly Sheets.
- Team Decision Making: Travel & Tourism Marketing Team Decision — Top 20 — Cole Palley and Micky Kumbi
- Written Events: Sports & Entertainment Research Top 16 — Angela Barrale, Henning Baussus and Nik Baussus; Business Services Research Finalist — Rachel Heatherly, Paige Barlow and Ted Madden; Buying and Merchandising Research First Place Finalist — Allison LeMair, Hans Baussus and Joe Li; Entrepreneurship Written Finalist — Mallika Suri, Chance Konnor and David Logan; Entrepreneurship Written Finalist — Jasmine Shuey, Katie Wolfe and Matthew Crump; Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan Finalist — Shannon Meehan, Lindsey Cohen and Joshua Forrest; Entrepreneurship Innovation Finalist — Sneha Kuchipudi, Sweetlove Reyes and Brentan Walters.
- Chapter Events: Chapter competition requires group participation of DECA members. The event involves planning and execution of a public relation campaign and a creative marketing research project held in the business community.
- Public Relations Project: Capitol Hill campaign lobbying for campus fire safety, “Contain The Flame” — State Finalist — Kelly Carney, Virginia Bulger and Gavin Brown.
- Creative Marketing Research: Study to determine how and why residents keep their porch lights on, “Light’s ON, Crime Off”– First Place State Finalist — Tad Mich, Dania Rivas and Nicky Kandola.
- Advisor Virginia Bulger was elected to lead 14,000 Virginia DECA Members for the 2014-15 school year.
Herndon’s Mainor a future medical leader — Seara Minor, a sophomore at Herndon High, recently attended the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Washington, D.C. This honors-only program is designed for exceptional high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research, and is sponsored by the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. Mainor represented Virginia at the conference, and was nominated based on her academic achievement, leadership potential, and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.
Hughes Student Wins NOAA Art Contest — Elizabeth Shaw, a student at Langston Hughes Middle, has been named winner of the 2014 Marine Debris Art Contest, sponsored by NOAA. Shaw’s drawing of marine debris was selected from over 400 entries across the U.S. and will appear on NOAA’s 2015 Marine Debris Planner, an annual planner used for marine debris education and outreach.
Have some Reston-area school news? Send it to [email protected]
The 2013 school bond referendum, which was proposed by the FCPS School Board last May, includes $42 million for new construction, $8.2 million for school expansion, and $276 million for school renovations.
More than $20 million of those improvement and expansion dollars will have an impact in Reston. Three schools set to benefit from the bond: South Lakes High School ($1 million expansion); Terraset ES ($20 million renovation); and Herndon High School ($4 million renovation).
Overall, more than $24 million is included for schools’ infrastructure management, including roof replacements, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) replacements, athletic infrastructure, security enhancements, asphalt paving, technology upgrades, and upgrades required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), FCPS said in a news release.
The 2013 bond referendum also includes $10 million for site acquisition costs for a new high school in the southwest part of the county. In addition, unspent proceeds from prior bond issues have reduced costs for this bond by $109 million, FCPS said.