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Manassas Park proposes year-round school, increased childcare costs a concern

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Added intersessions would include college prep courses, internships, field trips

Brenda K. Foster

Foster

This week, Manassas Park City Schools held round table meetings for its community members to address concerns about the district implementing a new balanced school calendar.

The new calendar would begin August 17 and close again on June 20.  This new schedule includes week-long breaks in October and March, with the usual 10-day holiday vacation in December.  Additionally, two-week long intersessions will be added to the calendar in October and April.  Intersessions are optional for the students and would include everything from college prep courses to internships and field trips.  They would be of no additional cost to the students.

School Board Chair Brenda K. Foster said that they modeled the new calendar off of Galax City Public Schools, which successfully implemented it last year.

“I am excited about any calendar option that can help improve learning success for our students,” Foster said.  The meetings were a way to get parents and community members involved in finding solutions or ideas for potential problems that may arise with the changes.  Over the course of the three meetings, 300 people attended, a huge turnout, according to Foster.

Community members raised some concern over the changes, particularly about the effect it would have on finding childcare and the costs involved.

“I’m a little concerned about overall cost and additional effort required by the teachers to implement the sessions,” said Leeann Brogdan, a parent  

She added that she liked the concept but wasn’t sure if the execution was the best.

Another concern was how this would affect summer vacations.  The meeting participants sat around circular tables and were able to discuss their concerns with others seated at their table. Then, they listed them on flip chart paper and taped them to the wall so that everyone could share ideas and opinions.

Despite parent’s hesitation, teachers seem willing to try out the new format at the risk they’d have to work more. 

“I feel like teachers by nature are willing to do extra work to help children succeed,” said Sara Silber, a 5th-grade teacher at Cougar Elementary School in Manassas Park.

Children also supported the change.

“You can prepare for the tests and all of that, but that’s nothing compared to real-world experience,” said high school freshman Alex Petsopoulos said about the proposed intersessions.

Petsopoulos expressed excitement in the type of activities that might be available in that week.

Though he did have some reservations about the start date. 

“My birthday’s the 18th, and we start school on the 17th so that can’t happen,” Petsopoulos joked.

Foster and the rest of the school board plan on traveling to Galax City Public Schools on Feb. 11 through 13 to observe their spring intersession before the board votes on the new calendar on February 23. 

Blaze rips through Montclair home, residents displaced

A fire ripped through a home in the 15000 block of Holleyside Drive on Thursday.

Crews were called to the home in Montclair about 2 p.m. Flames were seen shooting through the roof and a 2nd alarm was called. However, crews on the scene were able to bring the blaze under control and then put it out, negating the need for the second alarm, said Prince William fire and rescue Battalion Chief Curtis Brodie.

The residents of the house were displaced. Brodie said no major injuries were reported.

Investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.

Potomac Local Wants You To Know

Move over 95 Express, toll lanes wanted on I-66

Dulles Metrorail Megaproject underway at Rt. 66 and 267, Falls Church.

New lanes will be tolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week

There’s a new plan for Interstate 66 that looks a lot like what just happened on I-95.

Virginia transportation officials want to build more of those famous “managed lanes,” or toll lanes between U.S. 15 in Haymarket in Prince William to the Capital Beltway in Fairfax County, just outside Tysons Corner. Two new lanes would be added to each side of the highway and, like the 95 E-ZPass Express Lanes, drivers will pay a toll 24 hours a day to use them. The new lanes would be free to drivers with three or more occupants in their vehicles.

Officials identified this 25-mile “outside the Beltway” stretch of highway as their target improvement zone because federal laws prevent I-66 from being widened inside the Capital Beltway. Arlington residents saw to that when the highway was built.

“For all of us who have ever traveled I-66, w know we have once choice: congestion. And, that congestion is getting worse,” said Virginia Department of Transportation Deputy District Administrator Renee Hamilton.

A round of winter weather forced the postponement the first few in a series presentations held to educate residents on the proposed changes. The agency held a meeting in Prince William and in Fairfax the past two nights, respectively.

After building toll lanes on the Beltway, and opening new toll lanes last month on I-95, VDOT has learned a thing or two about holding these public meetings. Display boards were set up in a large room, transportation experts posted around the room, and a court reporter made available to anyone who wanted to confess their concerns.

New commuter lots will spur slugging, officials hope

As to how the road will be built, the early favored design appears to be adding two new lanes in each direction with the lanes in the center of the highway, much like the E-ZPass Express Lanes are on the Beltway. The early favored plan also calls for the addition of new park and ride lots that would be served by a new bus rapid transit system in Prince William and Fairfax counties.

The new lots, officials hope, will spur slugging – a free, user-organized carpooling system in use on I-95 and 395 since the 1970s, and never yet implemented on I-66. Options to expand Virginia Railway Express or Metro along the corridor as part of this project don’t seem likely.

“For those asking ‘why not Metro,’ we’re not saying ‘no’ to Metro. We’re saying ‘not today,” said Hamilton.

In traffic congestion hot spots on I-66 in Fairfax County between Routes 29 and 50, a fourth auxiliary lane will be added as part of the project to allow drivers more room to merge on and off the highway.’

Land sits in the way

VDOT must take property to make this new vision for I-66 a reality. Segment one of the project between U.S. 15 in Haymarket and Route 28 in Centreville has 430 parcels of land standing in the way of development. Segment two between Routes 28 and 50 has 108, and segment three between Route 50 and the Beltway has 750 homes. About 70 families could be displaced.

The private firm, Australia-based Transurban was hired to build and maintain the E-ZPass Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-95. The company also maintains the Pochohantas Parkway in Richmond.

State officials guarantee this highway expansion, like the previous two in Northern Virginia, will be a public-private partnership – a contract that will be awarded to a company that completes the state’s bidding process. Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board will meet Jan. 18 to discuss what they want in a qualified bidder for the project, and a request for proposals should go out sometime this summer.

Construction of the new lanes is slated to begin as early as 2017. The new lanes will not open before 2021.

Wintry mix possible this afternoon, tonight

A winter weather advisory is not in effect for Prince William County, as well Fairfax County . There could be some rain mixing with some sleet for commuters on their drive home from work.

Here’s what the National Weather Service says about our chances for wintry precipitation this afternoon and into tonight:

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW...SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN.

* ACCUMULATIONS...SNOW AND SLEET ACCUMULATION LESS THAN ONE INCH.
  ICE ACCUMULATION FROM A TRACE TO A FEW HUNDREDTHS OF AN INCH.

* TIMING...THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING. THE BEST CHANCE FOR
  FREEZING RAIN WILL BE BETWEEN 2 PM AND 5 PM.

* TEMPERATURES...IN THE LOWER 30S.

* WINDS...SOUTH 5 TO 10 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 15 MPH.

* IMPACTS...UNTREATED ROADS AND SIDEWALKS WILL BECOME ICY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW...SLEET...OR
FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR
SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES...AND USE CAUTION WHILE
DRIVING.

As mentioned in the weather statement, temperatures will determine how much of any wintry mix we see tonight. 

How Prince William schools stack up, on average, for teacher pay

School teachers lined the sidewalks at Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road in Woodbridge Friday to protest a plan to freeze teacher pay rates for the next three years.

Neighboring counties pay entry-level teachers more

As the Prince William County School Board gears up for another budget cycle, it is timelier than ever to look closely at an important topic in local education – the current state of teacher pay in the county.

The average annual teacher salary, according to Jim Livingston, the Prince William Education Association president is $60,408 – a figure he pulled from a 2014 Washington Area Boards of Education  (WABE) report.  

Phil Kavits, spokesman for Prince William County Public Schools, stated that the average annual teacher salary in the county is a bit higher than Livingston’s figure at $61,525.

These averages are worth noting when considering a quick drive to the surrounding area school divisions can greatly alter the average salary that a public school teacher receives.

“The only school division that is lower in average teacher salary in the area is Manassas Park. The other [counties] are at least $2,800 to $3,000 more than us. For example, if you cross over to Fairfax County…that’s a $7,000 pay increase based on the average,” said Livingston of the county’s low pay-average.

Kavits stated teachers in nearby Fairfax County average $66,782 per year, and a Loudoun County teacher receives an average of $63,013 per year.

“The reasons that the salaries remain low, particularly at the entry level – that’s where we have the greatest difficulty – is quite frankly that our neighbor [counties] around us have simply determined that it’s in their best interest to try and attract the very best [teachers] that they can. And frankly, we’ve simply just not kept pace…” Livingston said.

The county’s School Board is facing a $20 million budget deficit. On Feb 4, it will meet to discuss some possible ways to fix the problem by proposing new cuts to the division’s billion-dollar budget. The cuts come as county leaders propose a lower tax increase of 1.3% than the original planned 4% hike in property taxes. 

Things like transportation for specialty programs at middle and high schools, and full day kindergarten in non-title one schools are all things being eyed by the School Board as items to slash from the budget.

Teacher pay raises, however, are not, according to School Board Chairman, At-large Milton C. Johns.

Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series that examines public school teacher pay in Prince William County.

Popular ‘Attack the Fat Challenge’ starts Monday at Freedom Aquatic & Fitness Center

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Do you know about the Attack the Fat Challenge? It’s one of the most popular, effective, and fun weight-loss programs at the Freedom Aquatics and Fitness Center
 
It’s open to anyone, at any fitness level.
 
Robin Frey is a fitness program coordinator, certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and the director of Freedom Attack the Fat Challenge at Freedom Aquatics and Fitness Center in Manassas. We spoke with her to get the 
 
Frey

Frey

What is the Attack The Fat Challenge?

 
“It’s more of a full spectrum weight loss program and it runs for eight weeks…it’s based on focusing on weight loss but the overall effort that we do is that we want to promote and create lifestyle changes, not just during the eight weeks. For most people it’s just the starting point. A lot of people do it repeatedly because it works for them…and depending on the amount of weight they wish to lose, it may not happen in eight weeks.”   
 
What do participants do while in Attack The Fat Challenge? 
 
“Well actually the whole concept is they do train…and it’s based on percentage of weight loss…we make it a challenge so that it has some competitive edge to it but the overall focus is just to create a balance of accountability…to continue with fitness efforts for health, not necessarily for fitness. In other words, this is based on health and wellness, getting people appropriate nutrition and just trying to create a consistent effort with lifestyle change, it’s long term.”
 
 How much does the program cost?
 
“It [the program] breaks down to 20 dollars a session and the total cost is $480 but you’re getting 24 sessions, 24 full one-hour sessions…then in addition to that they get the support through nutrition tips and guidance…and body composition testing as well.” Frey also mentioned that there is an additional cost to non-members of the Freedom Center. 
 
 Attack-the-Fat-2015-flyer-791x1024How long does the challenge last? 
 
“Participants train three days a week with a trainer so it’s three one-hour sessions so they’re basically getting 24 training sessions as a group within that eight weeks, three times a week. In addition to that support that we offer is through our smart lab for evidence based testing for body composition or those types of things and also we do weekly weigh-ins”.
 
Is the Attack The Fat Challenge a seasonal program? 
 
“It’s twice a year, typically we do it  in February, March and then again in September.”
 
Is it too late to sign up? 
 
“The Attack The Fat Challenge  starts on Monday, Feb. 2. Registration does require you to be registered prior to the program but we work with people as well.”
 
Why did Frey get involved with the Attack The Fat Challenge?
 
“Well I started it, actually it’s been six years running now. I just felt that there was a need here at the Freedom Center to create programming in small groups that could be something that could bring more of an effort of accountability to each other, that tends to help. People can do training all the time but when they have other people depending on them to be part of their team, their group, it’s very successful. The success rate is much higher as far as them making the sessions, having to be responsible for that weekly weigh-in and then they bond and create groups that continue to train after that. We just didn’t have anything happening here in that capacity in programming.”
 
How does the Attack The Fat Challenge stand apart from similar programs?
 
“We were probably the original in this area. I know other facilities have programs similar to what we do, it’s a basic concept of accountability, through training, weigh-ins, and nutrition information…it’s just been very, very successful for us here. This our sixth year I believe, might even be longer. It tends to work. We provide a variety of workouts through different types of training. We may have them in the pool, TRX suspension training, circuit training, functional core…in other words we do a little bit of everything that we offer here…within those 24 sessions they’re getting a very large variety of different modalities of training.”
 
Why do people sign up?
 
Participants will] form groups and become friends and bond in that respect and want to continue to do it again, that kind of thing….plus we’ve had people that have lost over 100 pounds…it’s been very effective overall.” 

Keep Reading…

Updated: Stafford authorities continue search for missing teen

Update

The teenager who went missing last night in Stafford County is identified as James “Daniel” Martson. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

Stafford deputies responded to the area of Belle Plains Road at approximately 5:17 pm last night, January 28, 2014 for a report of a 17 year old male who had left his residence and is considered missing and endangered.  The 17 year old, white male is identified as James “Daniel” Marston who was last seen near Vance Way, located in Potomac Creek Estates in the 700 block of Belle Plains Road, which is the White Oak area of southern Stafford County.  James “Daniel” Marston is described as 6 feet, 1 inch tall, 155 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.  He is wearing dark blue jeans, a black hoodie and a plaid jacket.

Numerous units of the Sheriff’s Office, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team and Sheriff’s Office K-9 along with a Maryland State Police helicopter searched for James Marston last night.  The search is continuing today.

If anyone has any information as to the location of James “Daniel” Marston they are asked to contact the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400.

Original post

A 17-year-old boy is missing tonight in Stafford County.

Authorities released little information on the missing endangered teenager. They said the boy went missing from the area of Belle Plains Road and The Vane Way south Stafford.

A sheriff’s spokesman did not release the name of the boy, age, or could tell us the circumstances of the teenager’s disappearance. Keep Reading…

Prince William dog licenses due Feb. 1

Get your dog license in Prince William County yet? If not, Fido needs a tag by Feb. 1. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

Dog owners are reminded that in Prince William County all dogs age 4 months and older must be licensed by Feb. 1, 2015.

Any dog not having a 2015 license tag by February 1 will be in violation of County Code and owners will be subject to a fine. The license fee is $10 per dog.

If you received a dog license renewal form in the mail, please follow the instructions on the form in order to obtain a license. Forms must be returned by January 15th to ensure that you receive the new license by February 1.

If you did not receive a renewal form, owners must present a valid rabies certificate for each dog to obtain the license. Licenses may be purchased in person at any of the following locations:

 – James J. McCoart Administration Building –1 County Complex Court in Woodbridge

 – Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building – 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge

 – Sudley North Government Building – 7987Ashton Avenue in Manassas

 – Animal Control Bureau – 14807 Bristow Road in Manassas

If you prefer to apply by mail, an application form is available on the County’s web site at www.pwcgov.org/tax.

For questions about dog licensing, call 703-792-6710 or email Taxpayer_Services@pwcgov.org. For all other animal control questions, call the Animal Shelter at703-792-6465; after 5 p.m., call 703-792-6500.

Virginia authorities search for missing teen who may be headed to Florida

Virginia State Police say a 16-year-old girl is missing and that she appears to be in danger of sexual abuse.

Here’s more in a police press release: 

THE VIRGINIA STATE POLICE AND THE VIRGINIA MISSING CHILDREN
CLEARINGHOUSE HAS ISSUED AN ENDANGERED MISSING CHILD MEDIA ALERT ON
BEHALF OF THE CHRISTIANSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT ON 1/28/15 AT 1145 HOURS

THE CHRISTIANSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT IS LOOKING FOR AYSIA MONIQUE LEWIS,
16 YEARS OF AGE, HEIGHT 5’3, WEIGHT 155 LBS, WITH BROWN EYES AND BROWN
HAIR, WEARING: BLUE JEANS, BLACK FLEECE JACKET AND TAN MOCCASISNS.

THE CHILD IS BELIEVED TO BE IN DANGER AND WAS LAST SEEN AT
CHRISTIANSBURG HIGH SCHOOL.  THE CHILD MAY BE IN THE COMPANY OF DONALD
QUESENBERRY, WHO IS CONSIDERED A SUSPECT.  THE SUBJECT IS DESCRIBED AS, 33 YEARS OF AGE, HEIGHT 5’7
FEET, WEIGHT 195 LBS, WITH BROWN EYES AND BROWN HAIR.

THE SUBJECT MAY BE DRIVING 2002 NISSAN ALTIMA 4D WITH ILLINOIS
REGISTRATION V975074.  POSSIBLY HEADING SOUTH TO FLORIDA

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:  CHILD IS BELIEVED TO BE IN DANGER OF SEXUAL
EXPLOITATION

PLEASE CONTACT THE CHRISTIANSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT AT 540-382-3131 OR THE VIRGINIA STATE POLICE AT 1-800-822-4453.  (1-800-VACHILD)

Suspicious fire investigated at Triangle

083111 Dumfries fire truck

Fire officials in Prince William County say they arrested a man in connection to an apparent arson in the Triangle area. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

On January 26, 2015, at 4:46 AM, the Prince William County Public Safety Communication Center received a 9-1-1 call reporting a fire in a two story home in the 4400 block of Forestburg Lane in Triangle, Virginia. Fire and Rescue units responded and arrived within six minutes of dispatch to find fire on the second floor extending into the attic. Once ensuring the residents were out of the house, Firefighters from Dumfries-Triangle VFD, Prince William County DFR, Occoquan VFD, Dale City VFD, and Quantico MCB, were able to bring the fire under control within 33 minutes of being on scene.

The fire was quickly identified as suspicious in nature and the Prince William County Fire Marshal’s Office was brought in to investigate.

As the investigation began, Prince William County Police took a person into custody in the area for an initially unrelated call. Through the combined investigative work of the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Prince William County Police, an arrest was made for the intentional setting of a fire in an occupied dwelling, by an occupant of the home. Additional charges are pending and more information on the arrest will be forthcoming.

The house was destroyed by the fire and the building was posted unsafe by the Prince William County Building Official. The Prince William Chapter of the American Red Cross was brought in to assist 6 adults that were the other residents of the home.

The suspect’s name was not released by fire investigators. 

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